“I want you all ready at the time I return” I told my son firmly. We were to attend his cousin’s wine-carrying ceremony and we had looked forward to this day. I had no intentions of being delayed by any of my children on my return from the HCF meeting. I said further to him in the presence of his siblings “As soon as I leave bathe and get ready.” ”I have some things to do first…” he said. “The best way to be sure you are ready is to do so once I leave” were my parting words. All of them are my children, but I have once left my child behind during school runs when he delayed unduly in the morning.
As a child I many times heard the horn of my father’s car at the gate when he was coming home. We were playing inside and had done none of his assignments. The sound of the horn led to a frenzy of activity to give the impression we had indeed obeyed him, but too late! His displeasure was evident as he asked “What have you children been doing since I left?” We had procrastinated in obeying him though we heard his parting instructions clearly and had the means to carry out his instructions. And so as a father I warned my own children against that procrastination: the delay in doing what you were instructed to do. This delay often results in forgetfulness, in the needful being subsumed by other matters, until suddenly the master is back, and attempts to do what should have been done earlier meet with his rebuke and displeasure.
It occurred to me this was like the parable of the ten virgins. Mat 25:1-4 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Many issues are raised in this parable; such as the fact that all ten are virgins (which implies those expected to accompany the groom i.e. the born-again), that half were wise and half foolish (which implies there can only be 2 outcomes, not 1 or 3; and perhaps that any virgin, I mean born again, can either be wise or foolish at the time of the end). However in interpreting parables there is a main point being emphasized which must not be missed, and by which one gains true insight to the teaching. Let us seek that main point.
This parable starts with the word “Then” or “At that time”. Which time is being referred to? The time of His appearing: Mat 24:39-42 so also will be the coming of the Son of man. Then will two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord cometh. These are the statements the Lord made before the parable which is the second of 2. He told these parables because some people will miss it and not be taken; and that must not include you. He said it because you do not, and will never, know the hour of His appearing in the sky. Therefore we have but one choice: be ready at all times. So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him Mat 24:44(GNB).
In this parable we meet 2 sets of people. All are virgins, all are clear about their purpose: waiting for the bridegroom. All of them also have lamps, and did you notice all the lamps had oil? The difference between the virgins here was the extra vessel with oil. Some got oil in their vessels and waited, others waited without taking vessels with oil. The difference between the wise and foolish would not have been apparent if the groom came immediately or was not delayed. That is how you know those with extra oil in their vessels and those without: what happens when Jesus delays.
Delay on Jesus’ part; how do we handle it? Make sure from the outset you are prepared in the event God’s intervention in your life delays beyond your expectation. I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Lk 18:8. Make sure like Martha you have faith that “Even now whatever you ask God will give it” when Lazarus is dead and no one in history had been raised from death after being buried, and that for four days. You will experience delays whilst waiting for His intervention in your life too occasionally. Whenever it happens do not throw away your confidence, since it holds a great reward for youHeb 10:35. When I got born-again many years ago I knew of the signs of Jesus’ return and really expected His return within 5 years. More than 30 years have passed and I am kept by God, awaiting His coming. Some have started the race and under pressure yielded to the deceit that He is not coming back again, or “The resurrection has passed” (2Pt3:4; 2Tm2:17-18). His delay will reveal those who have the endurance and separate them from those who cannot wait: and because lawlessness will increase, the love of many people will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved Mat 24:12-13. The seed on stony ground sprouted but could not endure to the time of maturity. Demas started the race but could not continue because he was in love with this present world. If there was no delay these would not have been separated from those who endure to the end. Child of God circumstances that separate the wise and foolish must come. How do you handle delay on God’s part? Does it make your faith run out? Jesus is saying His coming will apparently delay beyond everyone’s expectation! This is food for thought for those keen on dates. Even the wise virgins slept off while waiting and had to be wakened: 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.’ Mat 25:5-6. But they were prepared beforehand for that eventuality. Be prepared also.
What was the oil? It was to be purchased, not given out as a gift. Salvation is not paid for by you and I: it is a gift. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God Eph 2:8. So it strengthens the supposition all the people described had been born again before. What do Christians buy? Jesus asked a church to buy. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see Rev 3:18 . You have received salvation as a gift beloved. Are you now working out your salvation with fear and trembling as you present your body a living sacrifice, present yourself and all your resources, giftings and opportunities as instruments of righteousness as you labour in God’s harvest field? The foundation has already been laid; will you purchase the gold to build on it? Lk 14:28-30 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. He will first sit down and estimate the cost to see whether he has enough money to finish it, won’t he? Otherwise, if he lays a foundation and can’t finish the building, everyone who watches will begin to ridicule him and say, ‘This person started a building but couldn’t finish it.’ vs:33 In the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.” The wise virgins paid for their oil;we must pay the price also.
It is also clear one virgin’s readiness could not compensate for another’s un-readiness: 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.’ Mat 25:8-9 No matter how closely they had related, no matter the shared fellowship and experiences. Fellowship sister are you ready? They were all in fellowship, all experienced sleeping, heard the cry, and all trimmed 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 Mat 25:5-7. But shared experiences, hearing voices and seeing visions do not equate to readiness for His return! Mr “I don’t know my gift” are you ready? You that see visions and receive messages and manifest gifts; are you ready?
Are you hoping perhaps that your husband’s readiness, your father’s readiness for the return of Jesus might somehow make up for you? That though you refuse to pay the price as he prays for you it will compensate for your waywardness? Be warned. Each virgin must purchase her own oil. Every one of us must pay the price to be ready!
Did I say there is a main point? Yet many were raised. The issues of delay, endurance, believing unto the end, counting the cost and paying the price, the individual nature of the race all are highlighted. Is there a main point? Jesus told 2 parables after His statements in Matt24:4-44; the first warns against a change in attitude when the master delays; this second one against deferring the readiness until the announcement of His arrival. Procrastination. This is the point we must take home. In all the parables about His return all those who refused to get ready from the outset had regrets.
So how did my children fare? On my return 3 of them met me at the entrance fully dressed for the occasion. As I entered the house and climbed the stairs another ran down, dressed and ready, to my embrace. But there was one who had been there at the gate when I was leaving that was not dressed up when I came back. It turned out she had actually dressed up with the others, but when I delayed (in their eyes) she removed the dress and watched TV with the rest until my car stopped at the gate.
Some people contend that those believers who are not ready at His coming will not go to hell; that they simply will be saved as by fire. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire 1Cor 3:15. You know my advice? Do not wait to find out. Be wise.