How Prepared Are You?
Matthew 24:25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since free there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 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. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
We come to a parable that’s deceptively simple. It compares heaven to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Don’t forget this is a parable. It is a metaphor, not meant to be strictly literal. So it’s not like one guy marrying 10 virgins. The Bible is clear in a lot of places that Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride. Which just means the 10 virgins represent Christians. That’s all the context we really need honestly because the message is really clear – be prepared. Don’t be like those who didn’t have oil in their lamps. Make sure you are ready for when the time comes. Be prepared.
And the parable gives us 2 reasons why.
Firstly, be prepared because some things can’t be borrowed.
5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 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.’
Just like the virgins didn’t know when the bridegroom would arrive, no one knows when heaven will be revealed. Nobody buys a plane ticket and gets on knowing and expecting to crash. I don’t think anyone went on a cruise hoping to get sick and die. We don’t know when we will die or if there will be a mass extinction event. All we know is that it’ll come like the bridegroom in the parable, at a time we don’t expect. Notice that they all slept. No one was awake. They were all sleeping when he came. We are all alive until we’re not.
So he comes and half of them have oil in their lamps and are ready to go in with him. The other half have no oil and so they tried to borrow some but couldn’t. What this shows us is that somethings can’t be borrowed. You can borrow money, borrow a house or a car. But when it comes to heaven, we have to have our own. You can’t get into heaven on someone else’s merit.
You all already believe this. We don’t think it’s fair for us to be punished because of someone else’s mistakes. If Hitler had children or grandchildren, do you think it’s fair to lock them up because of what their great grandfather did? If you think it’s not fair for God to send you to hell because your parents were evil, why do you think God should let you into heaven because your parents were Christian?
Do you see what the parable is teaching us? Somethings can’t be borrowed. Just because your family is Christian, all of your friends are Christian, you vote for the Christian party, doesn’t mean you yourself are a Christian. Jesus demands our individual allegiance. Christianity is not like Netflix. It doesn’t have a family pack membership. We have to get our own.
Secondly, be prepared because sometimes it’s just too late.
10 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. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Sometimes it’s just too late. By the time they went to the market, wait for the shops to open (remember this was at midnight), buy the oil they needed, and returned it was too late. The time to prepare their oil lamps was before the bridegroom came. The time to commit yourself to God is before heaven comes.
This is nothing complicated. On the morning of your exam is not the time to start studying. Don’t wait till semester’s over before you commit yourself to youth group or CU. Don’t wait till you have kids before you start attending a church. Because sometimes it’s just too late.
But, is it fair? Why can’t the bridegroom just open the door? Why does it have to be whether you have oil or not that is the deciding factor? Why can’t you be a good person and still go to heaven? Why do Christians insist that Heaven is only for Christians?
Look closely at v.11 onwards.
11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
The bridegroom doesn’t say, you’re late the party’s over. He says to them, who are you? He doesn’t know them, despite their calling him Lord. Despite them standing among the other virgins at the start. If you were to look at the 10 virgins, they would all look the same on the outside. They were dressed like one of the bridal party. Matching dresses with the other bridesmaids. And they each carried a lamp. Except you wouldn’t know that some of them contained no oil. After all, the wedding is during the day, why do I need to bring a torch? This is just for show right? I’m here, aren’t I? I’m a good person, no?
Can you guys see? It’s not that they were late. It’s not they didn’t make preparations. It’s that they weren’t prepared to wait. Don’t get me wrong, they were prepared enough to look like one of the other virgins and have your photo taken with your lamp, but no oil. Jesus is challenging us: how long are you prepared to wait for me? Or another way to ask it is: what do you have inside your lamp? Is it enough oil? Or something else? Or nothing?
How long are you prepared to wait? And this might surprise you, but the longer you are a Christian, the harder it is to wait. Because while you are waiting, everyone else is having a good time. There are a 1001 other things you could be doing instead of being here. Lots of other things you can spend your money on or give your life to. Do you not think that the devil will come to you when you’re 40 and single, and all your friends are married and have family, and whisper to you saying see, you should have gone out with him/her. If you didn’t choose to wait, this could be yours.
It could be a career, a partner, money, anything and everything except waiting for Jesus. And so this parable is challenging us: How prepared are you? You will have to decide for yourself how long you will wait for Jesus. Because somethings can’t be borrowed. Only you can decide how long you remain a Christian. And you have to make that decision each and every day. You can’t wait for next week or next year or when you’re 30. Let me take a gap year and go travel while I’m young. No. Because sometimes it’ll just be too late.
So what does it look like practically? Let’s say you decide ok, I want to do what this passage is telling me to do. Be wise, make sure I have oil in my lamp. But do I put petrol or diesel? What kind of oil? And here’s where I can’t help you. Everyone’s life is different, our circumstances are different. So what I’ve done is I’ve tried to think of some questions we can ask ourselves, to help you figure it out for yourself.
1. If you received a diagnosis this afternoon giving you just 6 months to live, what would you change about your life?
2. If someone were to pay you a million dollars a year to be in any job you want, what job would that be?
3. Is death the end of your life or the beginning?
May God prepare us for His return!