Those Who Were Ready
In Matthew 24, Jesus was asked three questions by his disciples. He had just cried over Jerusalem and lamented their refusal to turn to God. He had said their house would be left unto them desolate. When he had finished, the disciples showed him the buildings of the temple, perhaps to show Israel's house was not desolate. He responded by saying not one stone would be left on another.
The disciples asked, "When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" The remainder of chapter 24 is devoted to the Lord's answer. The disciples may have thought they were asking parts to one question. However, Jesus split his answer in two. The first part dealt with the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs preceding that event. The second part dealt with the end of the world and the signs, or really the lack of signs, preceding it. He continued in chapter 25 by giving three parables about the kingdom and the end of time.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
The Lord says, "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened unto ten virgins." In other words, the church is like ten virgins. Knowing the background, the word "then" clearly refers to the time of the Lord's return to earth. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the parable comes when he goes on to say, "Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish." Thayer defines the word translated "foolish" as, "imprudent, without forethought or wisdom" (Matthew 7:24‑27; Luke 12:13‑21). Such is precisely the problem Jesus goes on to describe.
McGarvey says weddings in Christ's day "began with a feast in the house of the bride's father. After this the bridegroom led the bride to his own home, and it was the duty of his servants and household (of whom the ten virgins in this case were part) to honor him and the bride with an enthusiastic welcome." Edersheim explains, "The lamps consisted of a round receptacle for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer...which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, on which it was borne aloft." Interestingly, he also noted Jewish authorities say there were usually ten such lamps in a wedding procession.
When the bridegroom delayed his coming, all nodded off to sleep. Around midnight, someone announced the groom was coming. The virgins began trimming their wicks and lighting their lamps to go out to meet him. The foolish, perhaps expecting to draw oil from a common supply, had brought no oil in their vessels in which the wick could be lain. They asked the wise to share. However, the wise declined saying they all might run out of oil before they could return to the house. They suggested the foolish go to merchants and buy oil.
While the foolish were out searching for oil, the bridegroom came. The wise entered into the wedding with him and the door was shut. Later, the foolish came knocking on the door. The Lord said he did not know them, in a favorable sense of the word. So, they were shut out of the wedding feast!
The Need for Preparation
The foolish virgins were expectantly awaiting the groom's coming. Their failure was in the area of preparation. The importance of preparation can be seen in the words of Jesus. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). The rich fool in Luke 12 assumed he would live for many years, so he focused his efforts on providing for the flesh. Of course, he found out eternal provisions should take priority.
Another reason for preparation is found in 1 Peter 3:15. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." Our readiness to preach the gospel can cause others to be ready to meet their God (2 Timothy 4:1‑2; John 8:32; 17:17).
Some Things Cannot Be Borrowed
The foolish virgins wanted to rely on someone else's provisions to be ready. It is apparent some people expect to get to heaven based on the efforts of the whole church. Like the man who drives around looking for time still on a parking meter, they hope to park on the other fellow's quarter. This parable clearly shows such will not be possible in judgment. There are some things that simply cannot be borrowed.
Character is one example.
Our parents' good character will not carry us through
deceitful and cheating ways we might have.
Obedience is another thing we cannot borrow from others.
"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God"
(Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Some are trying to live in a dream world where there are no
consequences for immorality or lawlessness.
However, Paul said, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked;
for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap
corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap
everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7‑8).
The Greeks pictured opportunity as a woman with long flowing hair in the front and bald in the back. Their thought was, if one does not grab her before she passes, there is nothing to grasp! Similarly, the Lord warned his followers to be watchful, or actively ready, because they do not know when his return will be. The Christian's opportunity to prepare for eternity will be past when this life ends at the second coming of the Lord.
The people around Noah abused over a hundred years of God's patience and failed to turn in time to be saved from destruction (2 Peter 2:5). The rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his brothers. Abraham made it clear God has given those on earth the opportunity to learn and obey the truth. "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).
In recent years, numerous books have been written on the end of time. Often a date for the Lord's return is confidently set forth. Yet, the Lord himself made it plain that knowledge belongs exclusively to the Father. "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matthew 24:36). To be truly watchful, we must be in a constant state of readiness. "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15‑16). Because the wise virgins were ready, they had the joy of entering into the wedding feast. We must learn from them to be ready so that we can enter into the joys of heaven!
1. What questions was Jesus answering at the end of Matthew 24?
2. What does "foolish" mean? What did the five virgins do to be called such?
4. List some ways a Christian might try to "borrow oil" from his brethren.