Tonight we will read the first 13 verses of Matthew chapter 25. We ended chapter 24 with Jesus describing the end times and His second coming. In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus continues to reveal more about the nature of the second coming through the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.
In traditional Jewish wedding custom of the time, a bride would have attendants, or young women, typically virgins, that would help her prepare for the wedding. The groom would come to collect his bride at night once he was himself prepared to marry. One of the functions of the attendants, or virgins as they are referred to in this parable, would be to wait and watch for the groom’s arrival. The groom would be arriving to take the bride to the wedding ceremony and the virgins were to warn the bride of his coming. If the virgins were not there to warn the bride that the groom had arrived, he might have to wait for her.
This tradition applies to our life spiritually through the parable. Jesus is the bridegroom and the virgins, collectively with the bride, are representative of the church, or saved Christians. When Jesus the bridegroom comes to collect His bride, the church, the expectation is that we will have remained prepared and that we will not have lost our faith, our sense of obedience, or our loyalty to serve God in the interim.
This parable actually has much in common with the example of the wise servant and the wicked servant in verses 45-51 of Matthew 24. In both that story and this one, there is the prepared faction and there is the unprepared. The unprepared suffer the consequences of not being ready for God at His return and the prepared enjoy the blessings of being ready. The wise virgins were wise because they made the choice of bringing enough oil for their lamps to last until the bridegroom came, even if he was late.
But the difference in these two stories comes from the behavior of the foolish virgins that we get to witness. When they come to realize that their oil is too low to last until the bridegroom comes, they scramble for help from the wise virgins. But the wise virgins, in another wise choice, decline to help because they do not want to run out of oil themselves. They did counsel there foolish virgins to buy more oil, but that is when their choices caught up with them and the foolish virgins were not there to receive or announce the bridegroom. Because of their lack of preparation and their lateness, they were not allowed to attend the wedding.
Ultimately the wise virgins are approved of by God and welcomed by Him into that sacred union because they were prepared. They understood the import of their task and were responsible enough to think ahead and secure what was needed, even preparing for the contingency of a late groom. Contrast this with the foolishness of the other virgins. They brought their lamps without additional oil, assuming they would have enough to last. They did not think ahead and they did not put enough importance on their responsibility as attendants. This cost them. Surely, the similarities of being spiritually prepared for the Lord at all times are plain enough.
The primary lesson tonight is that we need to understand that to prepare ourselves for God continually is not only important, it is paramount. Because if we are saved, and yet remain in the world until the time of our death or His return, we shall not be saved. Rather we will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. A fearful fate and an awful price to pay!