It was my wedding day just over 10 years ago and to everyones surprise, I was unusually calm. What added to my calm was the fact that both the bride and I had arrived with our parties early to the venue. The day and the church facility had a simple elegance to it. And I’ll never forget watching the doors at the back of the sanctuary open and seeing my beautiful bride walk down the isle. As she walked down the isle, and for the remainder of the ceremony, I had the biggest smile on my face. Why was I smiling? Because not only were we in love, but we were ready. You see the day of the wedding was not the time for me to get ready! Growing up as a child and treating my mother with respect was me getting ready. Growing spiritually and bettering myself professionally was getting ready. Serving in ministry was getting ready. Working out and trying to stay healthy was getting ready. And when Deedre and I did pre-engagement counseling, that was us getting ready. But! The day when I got down on one knee and proposed, up until the day of the wedding, was me announcing… I’m ready.
In our passage today, Jesus, the Bridegroom, prophetically looks down through the ages to the end of time and sees Himself marrying a bride who is ready. As Jesus sits on the Mount of Olives with His disciples, He continues His discourse on the last days. As He speaks, Ellen White, in Christ Object Lessons, tells us that He sees off in the distance, as the sun is setting, 10 bridesmaids or virgins awaiting the bridal party. And now in an interesting twist, instead of referring to His people in the last days as a bride, He now portrays them as these 10 virgins.
Today, most weddings are held on one day with a ceremony and a reception that follows and then its over. However in the time of Jesus, weddings lasted over a week and often up to nine days. What would happen is that the bridegroom would go with a bridal party over to the brides father’s house, were she lived, and get his bride, then begin the procession all the way back to his home, where there would be a banquet in honor of the couple that lasted over a week. As they would proceed to his house often participants in the wedding, like these ten virgins, would join the procession along the way to his home. And as Jesus would often masterfully weave in stories of scenes from the everyday lives of His listeners, He now incorporates the scene before Him to teach the disciples about the church just before His second coming.
He begins His parable with the phrase He often used in the Gospel of Matthew to refer His disciple making movement, “The Kingdom of Heaven” and He likens it to these ten virgins that are anticipating the coming bridegroom. Please understand that what Jesus is describing here is a last day continuation of His disciple making movement that are living in anticipation of His second coming. All of them have lamps, which is just symbolism Jesus is using to say that they cherish His word. Psalms 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Can we just celebrate for a moment that Jesus could see in the end of time a church that appreciates His word! However this church that He sees, that have their Bibles and love its teachings, has a problem. Five virgins are wise, but five are foolish. The wise are ready, but the foolish are not. Today Jesus says, He will have a ready people when He returns. The question is will you be apart of it? And in Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus gives you three ways to be sure you are ready when He returns.
So we already know that all ten of these virgins have lamps. So this church has elevated the importance of the Bible. And we know from scripture that the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. So evidently five virgins didn’t see the need for continually seeking for the Holy Spirit in there lives and were left unprepared for an apparent delay. However, before you rush to judge the foolish mistake of these 5 virgins, did you notice that the Bible said they all slumbered and slept? The wise went to sleep too! At some point all of them went to sleep spiritually, even though they had their Bibles. And this is the first thing that Jesus wants us to come to grips with in these last days. If you are going to be ready, then I declare to you that the body of Christ needs to…
This is not the time to be asleep spiritually! Wake up and recognize your spiritual lethargy. Wake up to the needs that are crying out to you from your community. Wake up to the prophetic condition of this nation. In the name of Jesus, I am calling those of us that are asleep to wake up! God is telling us that you can be looking forward to the 2nd coming of Christ, have your Bible, know a lot of information about it, go through the motions of church and still be spiritually asleep!
Last week I was preparing for a sermon this past Sabbath. I was excited. I went down to the conference room in our apartment to lock myself away and dig into the word. I took my Bible, my MacBook Pro and other material and with good intentions I began my preparation. Then at one point during my preparation, I just got stuck. It was like writers block. I began to pace the floor, hoping that the right thought would come to me in a moment of inspiration. Soon I began to realize that this block was delaying my sermon prep. I soon found myself distracted and scrolling on Facebook, until I just slowly fell asleep. Little did I realize that the room I was in, when it doesn’t sense any motion begins to slowly turn off the light until everything in the room is dark. When I woke up I found myself in a dark room. This is what some of us look like spiritually. We start of all enthusiastic, with Bible in hand. But we don’t make preparations for a delay and so we find ourselves going through the motions and falling asleep at the very moment that history is moving toward its darkest hour.
Jesus says that it was “at midnight a cry was heard…” Midnight is the darkest hour of the night. He’s saying that His coming will take place at the darkest hour of earth’s history. Are you sensing that history is moving in a dark direction? Well evidently someone was awake. Someone was woke, because a cry was heard at midnight. Ellen White commenting on this scene says,
And I can hear Jesus saying, “Come on. Don’t fall asleep on Me now.” If you find yourself in this condition, repent of your spiritual lethargy. Come to Christ. It is not too late. It could be for you that the cry is going out right now. Sometimes it takes a preacher to wake us up. Or an unfortunate life event. But when you become aware, when you wake up, go to God in repentance and ask Him to keep you spiritually awake. Take out your lamp! Get your Bible and get that devotional life in Christ started again.
Because now Jesus is going to show you how to stay awake spiritually…
“CJ” Claypole S. Cousins Jr. is simply a man who is in love with Jesus. His passion is to live, preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to preaching and teaching, CJ also loves to sing and write about Jesus. He also serves as the pastor for Grow Groups and RPCtv at Restoration Praise Center SDA Church.