Jesus gave us a clear picture of what “readiness” looks like in his parable about wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-8:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’” (NIV)
Jesus then described the desperate attempt of the foolish virgins to obtain oil from the wise ones. They were unsuccess- ful, and while they left to buy oil, the Bridegroom came. The parable concluded with the five foolish maidens unable to attend the feast. Understanding Hebrew wedding customs of the time is essential to applying Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25. In Christ’s day, the wedding would commence when the bridegroom arrived and he would appear at the time of his own choosing. His coming could be within the range of certain days or weeks, so the bridal party had to be prepared at any moment. Often, the bridegroom would delight in trying to catch them napping. The ladies would often have a look- out who would stay awake during the night to warn the party of his approach. They then would meet the groom on the street, and then proceed to the festivities. The lesson of Jesus is that there are some things that cannot be left to the last minute, and there are some responsibilities that cannot be transferred to someone else. Each of us is responsible to be ready for the coming of Christ, regardless of the day or the hour. The oil that the wise virgins saved was the oil of the Holy Spirit, a common reference in the Old and New Testament. In Romans 8:9, Paul wrote that the indwelling Holy Spirit prepares us to meet Christ at His return. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that the Holy Spirit is the “engagement ring” or “deposit” for the believer that promises Christ’s commitment to His bride when we arrive at the heavenly wedding:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guar- anteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV
The Old Testament word `arab describes a security deposit, or an engagement pledge. The similar New Testa- ment word arrhabon connotes part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest. This wonderful word picture assures us that if we have the Holy Spirit inside of us as believers, we are guaran- teed a seat at the Wedding Feast.
Do you ever struggle with assurance of your salvation? Read 1 John 10:27-30. Have you invited Christ into your life? Then you are His little lamb, and He will not lose you. Spend some time thanking God for that promise.
If Jesus were to return today, would you be excited, ashamed, calm, or fearful? Why or why not?
• Do you have other “bridesmaids” in your life who are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit? Who are they? What character qualities do they demonstrate?