Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” Matthew 25:6. Christ, with his disciples, is seated upon the Mount of Olives. The sun has set behind the mountains, and the heavens are curtained with the shades of evening. In full view is a dwelling house lighted up brilliantly as if for some festive occasion. An expectant company mill about, indicating that a marriage procession is soon to appear.
In many parts of the East, wedding festivities are held in the evening. The bridegroom goes forth to meet his bride and bring her to his home. By torchlight the bridal party proceeds from the house of the bride’s father to the bridegroom’s house where a feast is provided for the invited guests. In the scene upon which Christ looks, a company is awaiting the parents of the bridal party, intending to join the procession. Lingering near the bride’s house are ten young women robed in white. Each carries a lighted lamp and a small flagon for oil. All are anxiously waiting for the appearance of the bridegroom, but there is a delay. Hour after hour passes; the watchers become weary, and they fall asleep. At midnight the cry is heard, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.”
The sleepers suddenly awake and spring to their feet. They see the procession moving on, bright with torches and glad music. They hear the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. The ten maidens seize their lamps and begin to trim them in haste to go forth, but five have neglected to fill their flasks with oil. They did not anticipate so long a delay, and they have not prepared for the emergency. In distress, they appeal to their wiser companions, saying, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.” Matthew 25:8. But the waiting five with their freshly trimmed lamps have emptied their flagons. They have no oil to spare, and they answered, “[Not so]; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” Verse 9. While they went to buy, the procession moved on and left them behind. The five with lighted lamps joined the throng and entered the house with the bridal party, and the door was shut. When the foolish virgins reached the banqueting hall, they received an unexpected denial. The master of the feast declared, “I know you not.” They were left standing in the empty street in the blackness of the night.
As Christ sat looking upon the party that waited for the bridegroom, He told His disciples the story of the ten virgins, by their experience illustrating the experience of the church that shall live just before His Second Coming. The disciple Matthew is the only one of the four gospel writers to record the account of the parable of the ten virgins. Having been a Jew who was converted to Christianity, perhaps his focus was now centered on his fellow countrymen, many of whom had embraced the Christian religion.
The parable of the ten virgins is focusing on the coming of the Son of man. The common motif that runs through this parable is readiness for His coming. The parable brings to full view the visible church. It is clear that all who attend church are termed Christians. All who went out to meet the bridegroom were virgins. They all had lamps. They all looked alike. The difference in their character was proved by the results. The folly of the foolish virgins is seen in the fact that at the time of action they were unable to do the work assigned to them.
The story is told of a watchman who was employed at a railway crossing to wave the lantern during the night when the train was coming so the oncoming vehicles could stop. However, one night, unfortunately, the watchman fell asleep. While asleep he heard the train coming. Awaking, he grabbed his lantern and rushed out into the street to wave it before the oncoming vehicles. But the vehicles did not stop. He had to jump out of the roadway, and the vehicles and the train collided.
The watchman was accused of negligence and taken to court. When the judge asked him, “Did you hear the train coming?” He replied, “Yes.” Then the judge asked him, “Did you wave the lantern?” The watchman again said, “Yes,” then continued, “but because I was sleeping while the train was coming, I had no time to light it.” That is why there was a crash.
Jesus spoke this parable of the ten virgins just after concluding the signs that would signal His glorious return. In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of His disciples concerning the signs of His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from His first to His second advent—namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church on the pagan and papal execution, the darkening of the sun, and the falling of the stars. After this, He spoke of His coming and His kingdom, and related the parable described in the two classes of servants who looked for His appearing.
The Shut Door
Chapter 25 of the Book of Matthew opens with, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.” Here is brought to view the church living in the last days, the same that is pointed out in the close of chapter 24. There is a striking parallelism that exists between the early Adventist expectancy imbedded in the Millerite movement and the end time church, and as it relates to the parable of the ten virgins. What do I mean by that? There were the signs, the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, the midnight cry, the tarrying, the expectancy, the delay, the apostasy. There was also the shut door and the open door experience.
We are told that in 1844 Christ had shut the door of the holy place at the end of His ministration in that apartment, also signifying that some human beings’ probation had been closed as a consequence of their rejection of the present truth then proclaimed. The open door in 1844 by Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, was the opening of the door of the most holy place. Based upon the early Adventist belief, they thought that in 1844 the door of mercy was forever shut. That is how the theory about the shut door was developed, but clearer light came with the investigation of the sanctuary question. While it was true that the door of hope and mercy by which men had found access to God was closed, another door was opened, and forgiveness of sins was offered to men through the intercession of Christ in the most holy place.
One part of His ministration had closed only to give place to another. There was still an open door to the heavenly sanctuary where Christ was ministering in the sinner’s behalf. The parable of the ten virgins is specifically applicable to God’s professed people living on the earth just before the return of Jesus. So what we need to understand is that the ten virgins’ parable is specifically referring to Seventh-day Adventists. It is our parable. It is our message. It is our warning.
Read again Matthew 25:1–13. Note verse 13, which says: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
If I were to ask you which group of followers or which group of virgins you would like to be among—the wise or the foolish—I suspect most people, if not all, would say the wise. That is a very noble response. No one wants to be numbered with the foolish virgins.
However, there is another group associated with the bridegroom that many people have overlooked. I would prefer to be a part of it, and that group is the procession. According to Matthew, the five wise virgins joined the procession at midnight. The procession, however, came at the eleventh hour, while the five wise virgins along with the five foolish virgins were sleeping. At midnight a cry was made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” Who made that cry? It was not the five wise virgins, nor was it the five foolish virgins. I would submit to you that it was the procession that made the cry, the cry that awoke the virgins.
So, the question is, Who is the procession? To answer this question, let us address briefly the time of the latter rain and the loud cry.
The Latter Rain
Concerning the time of trouble and the latter rain, Ellen White stated: “I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers and that the Sabbath is the great question to unite the hearts of God’s dear, waiting saints.
“I saw that God had children who do not see and keep the Sabbath. They have not rejected the light upon it. And at the commencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully.” Early Writings, 33.
“This view was given in 1847 when there were but very few of the Advent brethren observing the Sabbath, and of these but few supposed that its observance was of sufficient importance to draw a line between the people of God and unbelievers. Now the fulfilment of that view is beginning to be seen. ‘The commencement of that time of trouble,’ here mentioned, does not refer to the time when the plagues shall begin to be poured out, but to a short period just before they are poured out, while Christ is in the sanctuary. At that time, while the work of salvation is closing, trouble will be coming on the earth, and the nations will be angry, yet held in check so as not to prevent the work of the third angel. At that time the ‘latter rain,’ or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come, to give power to the loud voice of the third angel, and prepare the saints to stand in the period when the seven last plagues shall be poured out.” Ibid., 85, 86.
Now, that is the time of the latter rain. Let us connect a few passages with that to give an answer to the question and to show what is the result of the latter rain.
Result of Latter Rain
“I heard those clothed with the armor speak forth the truth with great power. It had effect. Many had been bound; some wives by their husbands, and some children by their parents. The honest who had been prevented from hearing the truth now eagerly laid hold upon it. All fear of their relatives was gone, and the truth alone was exalted to them. They had been hungering and thirsting for truth; it was dearer and more precious than life. I asked what had made this great change. An angel answered, ‘It is the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, the loud cry of the third angel.’ ” Ibid., 271.
“But I speak not my own words when I say that God’s Spirit will pass by those who have had their day of test and opportunity, but who have not distinguished the voice of God or appreciated the movings of His Spirit. Then thousands in the eleventh hour will see and acknowledge the truth.
“ ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed’ (Amos 9:13).
“These conversions to truth will be made with a rapidity that will surprise the church, and God’s name alone will be glorified.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 16.
“The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience.” The Great Controversy (1888), 612.
Eleventh Hour Workers
Sometimes we give our loved ones or our friends literature to read, but their friends, pastors, or family members discourage them from reading it and may, consequently, prevent them from accepting the truth. We become troubled, but we do not need to become troubled, because the Holy Spirit is doing His work.
“Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.” Ibid. This is referring to the period of the latter rain.
Who comprised the procession? “There are diligent students of the word of prophecy in all parts of the world, who are obtaining light and still greater light from searching the Scriptures. This is true of all nations, of all tribes, and of all peoples. These will come from the grossest error, and will take the place of those who have had opportunities and privileges and have not prized them. These have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, lest they should become deficient in doing the ways and will of God, while those who have had great light, through the perversity of their own natural heart, turned away from Christ because they were displeased with his requirements. But God will not be left without witnesses. The one-hour laborers will be brought in at the eleventh hour, and will consecrate their ability and all their entrusted means to advance the work. These will receive the reward for their faithfulness, because they are true to principle, and shun not their duty to declare the whole counsel of God. When those who have had abundance of light throw off the restraint which the word of God imposes, and make void his law, others will come in to fill their places and take their crown.” Review and Herald, June 15, 1897.
It is good to have been in the church a long time, but the question is, Has the truth been in you a long time? What have you done with the truth?
“There will be those who will come in at the eleventh hour, and they will receive an equal reward with those who have long known the truth.” Ibid., July 2, 1889.
Why is this? It is because they will use all their talents to the utmost of their abilities, and bring all their powers to bear on the work of advancing the light of the truth. They come in one hour before the work is over and, realizing the time is short, they put everything into the work. When the truth is brought to their attention, they accept it with joy. They are part of the procession!
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.