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Before It is Too Late

Matthew 25:1-13 

 

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. [2] And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. [3] For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, [4] but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. [5] Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. [6] But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' [7] Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. [8] And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' [9] 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.' [10] 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. [11] And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' [12] But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' [13] 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. [17] 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. [18] And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the water. [19] And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. [20] The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. [21] 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; [22] of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. [23] 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. [24] 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 you.

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 you.

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. 

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