In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us a shocking illustration of the parallel between these ten bridesmaids and the people of God living before Jesus comes, but before we get to that, here is a story.
A hiker in the foothills of the mountains chanced one day upon a beautifully landscaped and meticulously groomed country estate. He stood before the polished wrought iron gate at the entrance to this estate and looked admiringly at all the beautiful flower beds. He saw how neatly every stone, that surrounded them, was kept in place. He noticed that the lawn had been cut just the right length. It was green, lush looking and well fertilized. He could not even find a stray weed growing anywhere.
Not far away the gardener was on a ladder pruning one of the cherry trees. When the gardener saw the visitor looking in at the grounds, he came to the gate to greet him. The visitor said to him, “This is a beautiful estate. It caught my attention. I have not seen anything so lovely anywhere.”
The caretaker said, “You see, sir, I am keeping it like this because I am expecting my Master to come and I want him to find everything just right.”
The hiker said, “Well, I am sure you will have no problem in doing that. How long have you worked here?”
“Oh, I have been here, sir, for thirty-four years.”
“I suppose you see your Master often?”
“Oh, no, sir, he has never been here.”
“He has never come? Not even once? Then, why do you go to all this bother if he does not come frequently?”
“You see, sir,” the caretaker said, “when he comes, I want him to find it perfect, and so I prepare it every day as though that were the day my Master would come back.”
There is a lesson in that little story for you and me.
In this week of prayer reading, we will study Matthew 24 and 25. We will begin with the story of the ten virgins which is a good introduction to Matthew 24.
Matthew 25 contains the exciting story of the wedding party. Jesus told this to His disciples as they were gathered on the Mount of Olives. The sun has set and the lights of the little village can be seen below. These bright lights announce that a wedding is going to take place.
The groom and his procession, as is typical in the Middle East, have gone to the bride’s home to fetch her and bring her back to the groom’s house. Jesus likens this to His kingdom.
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Matthew 25:1. In this experience the groom would take his entourage over to meet the bride. The bride would have her group of celebrants there ready to meet the groom when he came, and then with great festivity and celebration, they would march back to the groom’s new home.
These ten young ladies were waiting to join in the procession when the bridegroom would come. “Now five of them were wise and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” Matthew 25:2–4.
The story says that five of them had oil in their vessels and five did not. This shows that they all had flagons to carry extra oil, but five of them came with extra oil and five left their vessels empty. “The bridegroom was delayed.” Matthew 25:5. That is typical of many parts of the world. In America if you arrive for an announced wedding at three o’clock and no one is there, you might wait ten or fifteen minutes. Then you would conclude that someone was confused about the time, and you would get in your car and go home. But not so in Asia and in many other parts of the world. And so the bridesmaids waited.
“When the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept.” They did not expect him to be so late. They expected him perhaps to delay an hour or so, but now it was almost midnight and they were all sound asleep. They had left their lamps gently burning, because in those days, they did not have other lights to turn on. There they were sleeping soundly with their lamps burning beside them.
“And at midnight a cry was heard, ‘Behold the bridegroom is coming. Go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.” Matthew 25:6, 7.
When the cry was made they all woke up. They grabbed their lamps, and began to trim them. But the foolish realized that their oil was almost gone. They said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil. Share with us.” And the wise bridesmaids said, “No. We do not have any extra. You must go and buy your own oil.”
“The bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.” Matthew 25:10. It is a terrible thing to imagine the door being shut and some, perhaps us, being left outside. This is what Jesus said, “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25:11–13. Jesus here gives us a shocking illustration of the parallel between these ten bridesmaids and the people of God living before Jesus comes.
Some Are Not Prepared
These ten bridesmaids represent members of the church. They all believe in the Three Angels’ Messages. They all come to church on Sabbath. They warm the pew and they sing the hymns. But five are not prepared.
What do the lamps represent? They represent the Word of God. The Psalmist said, “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105.
The oil represents the Holy Spirit. There are many who claim the name of Adventism, who say they are part of God’s true church. They can show their diploma of baptism and are proud of theirmembership, but they are not prepared for the coming of Jesus.
This door that Jesus talks about is a door that you often find in Scripture. It represents the door of probation. How sad it will be if we found that we did not have the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives which would have prepared us to go through that door. What a tragedy it would be to be found outside.
Some of God’s people are shallow in the study of God’s Word. Consequently they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and are unprepared to meet Jesus! That is why Jesus said, “Watch, therefore.”
What does it mean to watch? Among the definitions of this word in Webster’s Dictionary is “to be awake, to be alert.” A reason why we should watch is also found there. This is “to ward off danger or to seize an opportunity.”
Today in the world around us there is danger. In the church there are dangers as well. It is extremely unfortunate when a historic Adventist who has espoused all the teachings of the pioneers of Adventism says, “I do not want to be a historic Seventh-day Adventist.” For one to say this, somehow the oil must have gone low. The tragedy is that there are hundreds of people who will believe whatever they hear from an appealing leader, and will become confused. They too, did not have enough oil in preparation. They had not immersed themselves in the study of God’s Word and the Spirit of Prophecy.
Some people are disillusioned. One individual gave over one hundred thousand dollars to a historic Adventist ministry, and later saw that ministry turn around and reject the foundation on which historic Adventism is built. This question was asked with tears: “What shall we do?” Jesus warned us that before He comes, apostasy in the church will become as dark as midnight. “Not only is Satan leading the world captive, but his deceptions are leavening the professed churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. The great apostasy will develop into darkness deep as midnight, impenetrable as sackcloth of hair.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 414. It requires a preparation to stand in these days.
Jesus said “Watch therefore, for you do not know the hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:42–44.
The ten bridesmaids all went to sleep because they did not know when the bridegroom was coming. Matthew 24 and 25 is a message from Jesus to His last church to be ready. It is a call for all to be faithful, to be watchful and not to fall asleep.
When I was a student in college, I had a classmate named Bill, who was in his last year of studying for the ministry. He was a good friend of mine. Our friendship was such that we discussed things together. On Friday nights different ministerial students would have the evening worship service.
He preached one Friday night and his message was terribly disconnected. He would go here and hit a point, and then over there and hit another point, but it was not together. It was clear that he did not even have an outline. I felt sorry for him because he was going out to preach the gospel. First he needed to learn to prepare for a sermon.
On Monday morning Bill and I were together in Bible doctrines class. I said to him, “Bill, I heard your sermon on Friday evening. I appreciate the message that you gave, but just a little word of advice from one of your friends. The next time you preach, let me suggest you make up an outline to guide you so you know where you are going.”
Bill was horrified!
He said, “Oh, I could not do that!”
“Why not?” I questioned.
He said, “I have to allow the Holy Spirit to move me.”
I exclaimed, “But, Bill, the Holy Spirit is not going to move you someplace that you have not already studied out.”
That is a mistake we sometimes make. We believe that because we are Christians, that the Holy Spirit is going to move us. He will give us thoughts to remember and to speak, without us having to make the preparation. Yes, the Holy Spirit will guide us, but we have to prepare ourselves through a full commitment and daily study of God’s Word.
Signs of His Coming
The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Tell us, Jesus, when are You going to come back? Could you give us some signs that we can have to guide us so we will know when Your coming is near?” Jesus, evidently, agreed to do that because He said, “Take heed that no one deceives you.” Matthew 24:4.
Where it says, “Do not let anyone deceive you,” I am going to use the words, “Do not let anyone fool you.” “For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive (fool) many.” Matthew 24:5.
Jesus says, “And many false prophets will rise up and deceive (fool) many. Matthew 24:11. All through this chapter Jesus warns us about being fooled, until finally He says, “If anyone says to you, Look here is Christ! or There! do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders so as to deceive (fool), if possible, even the very elect.” Matthew 24:23, 24.
How can that be? Adventism is a simple message. The problem that people have, is committing themselves to abiding in the message. Some people think that you have to be able to quote the Spirit of Prophecy by heart before you can become a Seventh-day Adventist. It is much simpler than that. We all can be historic Seventh-day Adventists. We believe that old message that can be completely proven from God’s Word and is testified to in the Spirit of Prophecy.
Adventists are deceived because the deception comes right from within the walls of the church. How else would it be possible to deceive the elect? If someone tells you that Jesus is coming and He is over here in a city park, we all know that is not true. But when mixed messages come into the flock of God today, it could, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. I know of some people who at one time cherished the message of Adventism, who now have given up belief in the significance of 1844. They no longer believe in the sanctuary in heaven, or that you can overcome—and their names are still on church books.
There is a wonderful book entitled, Receiving the Word, by Samuel Koranteng Pipim. It explains that the problem today in so much of Adventism is that scholars, teachers, preachers, and church members no longer want to take the Bible literally. They begin tearing pages out of it and throwing them away.
Is it possible that we could be fooled? The message of the second angel was that Babylon is fallen? Babylon means confusion and there is quite a debate going on today whether we can call the church Babylon.
Is there confusion in God’s church today? Let us make sure it does not come into our lives. Let us make sure that we have the preparation to stand firmly on solid ground with our lamps trimmed and burning. There are those today who have let the oil of God’s Spirit run low and their spiritual life becomes very shallow.
The servant of the Lord said that in the last days many would be led from the truth. Have you read that statement? “Every man and woman should be on guard when there are deceptions abroad calculated to lead away from the truth.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 73.
Some will say, “Oh, but we have to keep our minds open to differing views.” Actually, we need to close our ears to some of the messages that are being given to us out there! Referring to Jesus’ statement, that if it were possible the very elect would be fooled, Mrs. White says: “It is because of the many and varied dangers that would arise, that this warning is given.” Selected Messages, vol. 2, 16.
Those dangers are not only outside the church, they are inside the church. Today we find some rather strange worship styles in Adventism. It is shocking to realize that today there is a creeping trend toward Babylon.
“The end is near . . . New and strange things will continually arise to lead God’s people into false excitement, religious revivals, and curious developments.” Ibid. 17. This was written one hundred years ago. How did she know this? She continues. “With much that is truth there is mingled error that is accepted in its extreme meaning, and acted upon by persons of excitable temperaments.” Ibid.
Some Adventists go to worship service on Sabbath morning and dance around waving their arms. Why do they do it? They say, “We are free to let the spirit move us.” The Bible says to test the spirits. There are other spirits in the world besides the Holy Spirit.
Follow Only Jesus
“Not only is Satan leading the world captive, but his deceptions are leavening the professed churches of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 414. We must be careful that we do not get involved in following a person. We must be what we are because of Jesus Christ and His message and the power of His Holy Spirit.
The reason for much of the grievous disappointment in historic Adventism is because people have been following a person. People have been giving tens of thousands of dollars to support a person. This is God’s church. This is God’s message. It does not come because of the building or the cathedral, or the institution or the person preaching. It comes because we are a people who believe in keeping God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
There is a trend today to measure success in numbers. How many did you baptize? Unfortunately, that is too often the message we hear. They say there is joy in heaven over one sinner. It must be that there is twice as much joy over two. But we cannot be consumed with numbers. We cannot be concerned because the church may seem small. God is calling out a remnant. I want to be part of God’s remnant experience. I want my lamp to have plenty of oil and to be trimmed and burning.
The story is told of a coal miner who became a Christian. He worked in the mines where they used foul language. They ate and drank things that the Christian should not eat or drink. Whenthis coal miner became a Christian, his former friends began to make fun of him. They did everything they could to discourage him and make him feel bad. Finally, one day they devised a rather diabolical plan. Of course, they kept it all a secret. The miners worked down in the caverns of the earth all day, filling their train car with coal. At the end of the day they rolled the little car up the tracks, filled with coal that they had hacked away at, picked out and shoveled into their trolley. They were paid by the amount of coal they had dug out of the mine.
What these evil men did was to destroy the track in such a way that when the Christian miner’s trolley came up, his entire load for the day would fall over and be spilt. When he got to the top, his coal car rolled over and all of the coal spilled out—his entire day’s labor. The men who had done this were all hiding around, waiting to hear what he would say, expecting some cursing to come from his lips. Then they could jump out laughing and show him that his Christianity was only skin deep.
They listened. They watched. He stood there. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. He looked at his day’s work all gone, completely wasted. Knowing he could even be in trouble with the management. There he stood amidst his tears, and he sang, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” What a sermon those hardened miners saw that day. When times get hard, when the storms of life break and batter us, we too may sing hymns to Jesus.
In these closing hours of earth’s history, may God help us to have our lamps filled with the oil of the power of His Holy Spirit. May He help us to be watchful, to be ready. We do not know the day nor the hour when He will come back, but He said He is coming soon and that is good enough. That is the message we must give to the world. That is what we believe. Do not let anybody fool you.
Do not let these strange things that are happening, these strange winds that are blowing influence you so that the door will shut without you being inside. May God help us to be faithful.