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.”
Today we continue by looking at three more ways in which the two sets of women in the parable of the ten virgins were similar. We start with number five.
5. All confessed Jesus as their Lord. The New International Version translates the word they used to address the bride groom as “Sir” but it is actually the word kyrios, which is usually rendered “Lord.” In fact, it is translated as “Lord” later on in the chapter (vv. 37-44).
6. All believed in and in some sense were waiting for Jesus’ second coming. This is all highly commendable. In fact, if most ministers today had a church filled with such people, they would consider themselves greatly blessed. Here are people who had heard the gospel invitation, had responded to it, professed love for Christ, had joined the church, acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and were now waiting for Christ’s return. Could anything be more desirable?
Thomas Shepard was a Puritan preacher who wrote a masterful study of this story, called The Parable of the Ten Virgins Opened and Applied (1660). He had so many wonderful things to say in praise of the foolish virgins that someone remarked about his description, “Oh, to be one of Shepard’s foolish virgins!” He meant being like them would be better than being like many of us are now. But in spite of their good qualities, the women were shut out.
7. All were alike in that they became drowsy and fell asleep when the bridegrooms coming was delayed. Unbelievers sleep; but so do the elect at times, like Peter, James, and John in the garden. But suddenly the bridegroom came, and immediately the similarities vanished and the critical difference emerged. Five were ready and five were unprepared.
The setting of these chapters is the time leading up to Christ’s return. So we must conclude that there will always be people in the church who have heard the gospel invitation, have responded in some sense and may even have some affection for Jesus, but who are not born again.
Don’t be sidetracked by trying to work out the meaning of the oil. Some have identified the oil as the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit is sometimes symbolized by oil in Scripture. But if we do that, we will think that a person can have the Holy Spirit and then run out of him, as it were, or that when one runs out he or she needs to buy more. The right thing is to forget about the oil entirely and think only about being ready.
But what does it mean to be ready? Charles Spurgeon saw it as an inner change brought about by regeneration or the new birth. He wrote, drawing on a lot of Bible imagery, “A great change has to be wrought in you, far beyond any power of yours to accomplish, ere you can go in with Christ to the marriage. You must, first of all, be renewed in your nature, or you will not be ready. You must be washed from your sins, or you will not be ready. You must be justified in Christ’s righteousness, and you must put on his wedding dress, or else you will not be ready. You must be reconciled to God, you must be made like to God, or you will not be ready. Or, to come to the parable before us, you must have a lamp, and that lamp must be fed with heavenly oil, and it must continue to burn brightly, or else you will not be ready. No child of darkness can go into that place of light. You must be brought out of nature’s darkness into God’s marvelous light, or else you will never be ready to go in with Christ to the marriage, and to be forever with him.”1
Which brings us back to the pressing question of these chapters: Are you ready? I do not ask: Have you responded to a gospel invitation? Have you joined a church? Or do you believe in Jesus’ second coming? I ask: Have you been born again? Have you believed on Jesus as your Savior from sin? Are you living for Jesus now? Are you truly ready, or are you only among those who seem to be prepared?
1 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Entrance and Exclusion,”in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, Tex. Pilgrim Publications, 1976), vol 43, p. 30
Why is it hard to grasp that the five foolish virgins should be condemned?
How did Charles Spurgeon describe being ready?
When you ponder what the ten women had in common, what points stand out to you?