Theme: Your neighbor may be ready for Christ’s return, but are you?
This week’s lesson teaches personal responsibility for accepting Christ’s invitation.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins has several more lessons that I also want to touch on, though briefly.
1. The coming of the Lord may be delayed. This is an unmistakable inference from the story and one that has bearing on whether the events of these chapters are to be understood as having taken place at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem or whether they look forward to an unspecified future moment. Actually, there are several suggestions that Jesus’ return may be delayed, among them Christ’s teaching that, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
2. The Lord will come without warning. This is why the parable ends with the words: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (v. 13). Jesus will come without warning either at the end of time or on the day of your death, which for you is much the same thing
Years ago, when I was first studying this parable, I called a pastor who had been a friend of mine in seminary. He had come from Wyoming and had gone back to pastor a church where he had grown up. I was calling because he had called me several weeks before, seeking advice about some trouble he was having. A woman answered the phone—it turned out to be his mother—and she told me that her son had suffered a sudden stroke just two weeks earlier, had lingered for ten days, and then had died. My friend was a believer. But death had come suddenly, and he was in the presence of his Lord.
3. Being prepared is not transferable. I do not mean by this that one saved person may not be used of God to bring the gospel to another, for that is how the gospel normally spreads. Paul speaks of the gospel being passed “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17, KJV). I mean that no person can get by on another’s faith. You cannot be saved by the life of Christ in someone else.
Many people delude themselves along those lines. They do not have true faith in Christ, but they have been exposed to it over a period of years and suppose that in the time of Christ’s judgment they will be able to appeal to Gods work in the life of someone close to them.
“What right do you have to come into my heaven?”
“Well, I don’t really know how to answer that, Lord. But consider my mother. She was a godly woman, and I learned a lot from her.”
“I didn’t ask that,” the Lord replied. “I asked: What right do you have to enter my heaven?”
“Look at my Sunday school teachers, Lord! They were godly people; they certainly went out of their way to teach me. They prayed for me, too. Dont forget them!”
Jesus replied, “What right do you have to enter heaven?”
This is how to understand the fact that the wise women refused to give their oil to the five who were foolish. Their refusal seems uncharitable. The selfless thing for the wise women to do would have been for them to share their oil, even if it meant that they themselves would have run out. But the story is not moving on that level. The meaning is that when Christ returns each person must stand on his or her own. Your mother’s faith will not save you. Your wife’s faith will not save you. You will not be saved by the spiritual life of your son or daughter. The question will be: Where do you stand? Are you alive in Christ? Are you ready?
4. Lost opportunities cannot be regained. The foolish women set out to buy oil. But the bridegroom was coming, and they were too late. So it will be when Christ returns in judgment! Those who are ready will be taken in to the marriage feast, and those who are not ready will be shut out.
Do not say, “I will turn to Christ later. I will repent after I enjoy a few more years of sin. There is always time for Jesus.” You do not know that. Today may be the last time you will hear the gospel. And even if it is not—even if you do hear it again and again—it will be no easier for you to turn to God later. In fact, the opposite is the case. The fact that you have rejected the free offer of God’s grace now will harden you so that you will find it much more difficult to repent later. The only wise thing is to come to Jesus now.
Explain why the five wise women did not share their oil.
Why is there urgency in the call to make a decision for God?
What role do you play in your family members’ salvation?
Do you live mindful of the fact that God could take your life at any moment?