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Before It is Too Late
William Slagle has served just over ten years of his life sentence for
stabbing one of his students at Samford University to death. Why would
a professor at a Christian University kill one of his students? Apparently
the 20-year-old member of the debate team that Slagle coached wasn't prepared
for a match. (http://www.newsoftheweird.com)
Certainly, death is too harsh a punishment for something as common as
being unprepared for a test or a debate-a failing grade would have sufficed.
But the truth is that some things require advanced preparation or they
could result in death. A parachuter needs to prepare for a jump, an army
needs to prepare for battle and everyone must prepare to meet their maker.
Jesus made that point in his parable of the ten virgins. He said:
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took
their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.  And five of them
were foolish, and five were prudent.  For when the foolish took their
lamps, they took no oil with them,  but the prudent took oil in flasks
along with their lamps.  Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they
all got drowsy and began to sleep.  But at midnight there was a shout,
'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'  Then all those virgins
rose, and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the prudent,
'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'  But the prudent
answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go
instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'  And while they
were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who
were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.
 And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up
for us.'  But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know
you.'  Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."
(Matthew 25:1-13 NASB)
Jesus' story here is foreign to our culture, but would have resonated
with his hearers. It is a "slice of life" parable that evoked many memories
among the people of his day. In Palestine, young couples wouldn't go away
for a week-long honeymoon, instead, they would stay at their home and would
have a sort of "open house" for their friends. Everyone treated the couple
as royalty, the week following their wedding ceremony was undoubtedly the
best week of their lives.
Before the wedding, the maidens kept the bride company outside of the
groom's house as she waited for him to arrive. They'd bring lamps to use
while they waited because they were not allowed in the streets at night
without light. Because the groom could come at any time, even at night,
they had to stay and wait.
No one knew exactly when he'd arrive. They didn't print invitations
and invite people to come at a precise time for the wedding, it happened
whenever the bridegroom came. It could be today, it could be tomorrow or
it could be next week. When the bridegroom approached, a messenger would
go out into the streets and declare, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming"
then the maidens would accompany the bride into the house for the wedding
ceremony and the week-long celebration to follow. (Barclay 354)
There was a small window of opportunity to walk through the door into
the house. Once the wedding began, no one else was admitted. In other words,
it wasn't possible to be too early, but it was possible to be too late,
you couldn't just walk in and find a seat in the back, when the door was
shut, it was shut and it wouldn't be opened again.
So when Jesus told this parable, His listeners had a cultural point
of reference that made it come alive to them. They immediately got his
point about the importance of preparation.
Notice that the determining factor about whether the women were wise
or foolish was not their chastity-both groups were virgins, but it was
their preparation. Half of them had enough oil, half of them did not. Some
things just can't wait until the last minute, they require advanced preparation.
For 120 years, Noah prepared for the big flood by building an ark. At
the appointed time, Noah and his family entered the ark with the animals.
The scripture says, "And those that entered, male and female of all flesh,
entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him. 
Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days; and the water increased
and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.  And the water
prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on
the surface of the water.  And the water prevailed more and more upon
the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens
were covered.  The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains
were covered.  And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds
and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth,
and all mankind;  of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils
was the breath of the spirit of life, died.  Thus He blotted out every
living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to
creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from
the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him
in the ark.  And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and
fifty days." (Genesis 7:16-24 NASB)
The hand of God shut the door to the ark and created a clear divide
between those who would live and those who would die. Genesis 7:21 makes
it clear, EVERY LIVING CREATURE that remained on the earth perished in
the flood. When the door to the ark was shut, there was no provision for
those who remained behind to live.
During the age of grace, we have the chance to prepare to meet our maker,
but I don't want you to think that you have unlimited time-you don't. There
is a difference between unlimited time and an unspecified time. Like in
the parable, the maidens didn't know the specific time that the groom would
come, but that didn't mean their time was unlimited. How much time do you
have to prepare to meet your maker? I don't know. And neither do you.
YOU HAVE UNTIL GOD STOPS DEALING WITH YOU. Don't think for a minute
that God will always deal with you. In Exodus 8:15 Pharaoh hardened his
heart, it says, "But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened
his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said." Several more
times, the scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart and then in Exodus
9:12 it says "And the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not listen
to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses."
Pharaoh's deadline was unspecified, but it wasn't unlimited. The time
came where he could no longer do the right thing because God hardened his
heart. If the Spirit of God is dealing with you, don't waste away your
opportunity to respond, because today could be the day that He stops.
YOU HAVE UNTIL JESUS RETURNS. That is the major point of this parable.
There is the day when Jesus will return to get His bride (the church) and
when he does, we'd better be prepared or we will be left behind. And don't
think for a moment that you'll have another chance after He comes. You
won't. Just like the men in Noah's age didn't have a chance, neither will
Luke 12:40 says, "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at
an hour that you do not expect." The time is unspecified, but it is not
unlimited. You'd better be ready.
YOU HAVE UNTIL YOU DIE. The scripture says, "And as it is appointed
unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" ( Hebrews 9:27 KJV)
When will you die? Nobody knows. It is unspecified, but it is not uncertain-you
will die, and so will I.
One thing I know for sure, the only time you have allotted to prepare
yourself for to meet your maker is in this life, while God is dealing with
2 Cor. 6:2 says, "for He says, 'At the acceptable time I listened to
you, And on the DAY OF SALVATION I helped you'; behold, now is 'the acceptable
time,' behold, now is 'the DAY OF SALVATION'
Don't wait another day. Though I am uncertain how much time you have
to make this decision, I do know that it isn't unlimited. Your deadline
could come because God stops striving with you, or because He returns or
because you die. Accept His provision before it is too late.