The Return of the King - Are You Prepared?
There is a story of ten young ladies who went online to purchase tickets to see their favourite K-pop idol perform live on stage in their country. They were randomly selected to meet the pop singer backstage after his live performance. After the concert, they were to wait outside a special room. A token would then be sent to their mobile phones, and they were to display the token when the pop star personally opened the door. You can imagine how thrilled they were!
The concert ended later than expected. The ten randomly selected ladies ran to wait for the pop star to open the door. Five of the ladies didn't bring a battery pack and their phones had stopped working. They begged the other five to lend them their battery packs. The five replied that they barely had enough for themselves because the concert had finished late. Also, since they all had different phones, their charging cables would be different. Suddenly, the phones of the five ladies with battery packs started getting the tokens on their phones. The pop star opened the door and welcomed those who had received the online token. As he closed the door, the other five pounded on the door and begged him to let them in. “Sorry I don't know you”, he said as he closed the door, further telling them that they should have been better prepared.
Is the story reminiscent of a parable Jesus told his disciples? Do you recall which one?
Before going to Jerusalem to be crucified, Jesus told the disciples the signs of His coming into power and the end of the age. There were certain aspects of His coming that they did not fully understand yet. Jesus explained some of the signs of the end of the age (Mt. 24) and how believers and disciples should conduct themselves as they wait (Mt.25).
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt.25), the latter is addressed. It comes after He warns the disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt. 24:36, 44). As Jesus promised to return, He wanted His disciples to be spiritually ready and mentally prepared for His coming.
In the parable, Jesus is like a bridegroom, preparing for his wedding. Humanity is like ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come to the wedding feast. They know he will come at some point in the night, but do not know the exact hour, so they bring lamps with them.
Five of the virgins bring extra jars of oil to keep their lamps lit all night; the other five did not bring any extra jars of oil. They just brought their lamps. When the cry went out at midnight, the five who had oil were able to light their lamps and go to the bridegroom. Meanwhile, the five who did not bring extra oil, referred to in the parable as foolish, ask for the oil of the five wise virgins; “But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves’” (Matthew 25:9).
While the foolish were out buying oil, the bridegroom came, and all who were ready went to the feast, and the door was shut. The five foolish virgins came pounding at the door, but the bridegroom did not know them, and they were not permitted entry into the wedding party. Jesus ends the parable with the warning, “But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Jesus Christ is returning to establish His Kingdom on this earth. When? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We just know that it’s going to happen, and that the job of the Church is to be ready.
In the parable, it was the job of the ten virgins to be ready for the arrival of the bridegroom. It’s easy to focus on the fact that they all fell asleep, but that’s not the point. They all fell asleep. If anything, this emphasises the length of the delay. The bridegroom took longer than expected—so much longer that the virgins, wise and foolish alike, were too tired to continue without resting. The sleep itself wasn’t what determined who was wise and who was foolish.
The only recorded difference between the two groups—the one single detail that set them apart—was the amount of oil they took. The foolish took only what was in their lamps; the wise brought extra. In fact, the only recorded difference between the two groups—the one single detail that set them apart—was the amount of oil they took. The foolish took only what was in their lamps; the wise brought extra.
The point isn’t that the foolish virgins came completely unprepared—it’s that they didn’t come prepared enough. They were ready—as long as the return happened within a specific window. Outside of that window, they didn’t have enough fuel reserves to keep going.
That’s important. This is a parable of those who took the time to prepare and those who didn’t. The wise virgins were prepared to wait as long as it took. The foolish virgins weren’t. In the end, that lack of fuel cost them everything.
Christians—men and women, young and old—Jesus Christ is coming back to establish His Kingdom. When? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We just know that it’s going to happen, and that the job of the Church is to be ready.
According to the parable, the ten virgins were supposed to be ready when the bridegroom showed up. It's easy to focus on the fact that they all fell asleep, but that's not what matters. All of them fell asleep. This just emphasises how long the delay has been. Bridegroom took longer than expected -- so much longer that the virgins, wise and foolish, were too tired to keep going. Sleep itself didn't determine who was wise and foolish.
Only one thing set the two groups apart: how much oil they took. Only the foolish took what was in their lamps; the wise brought extra. It's not that the foolish virgins came completely unprepared, it's that they didn't come prepared enough. As long as the return happened in a certain timeframe, they were ready. Outside of that window, they didn’t have enough fuel reserves to keep going.
That’s important. This is a parable about those who prepared and those who didn't. The wise virgins were prepared to wait as long as it took. The foolish virgins weren’t. In the end, that lack of fuel cost them everything.
Christians—men and women, young and old—what should we take from this parable?
First and foremost, Jesus taught us to be watchful.
The key to being watchful is to be ready to act no matter what the hour is. All the virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. When they heard the cry, all the virgins woke up. Only the wise virgins noticed how much oil they had left. The wise virgins were prepared for a delay, so they were able to accomplish what they set out to do.
Our oil reserves—a measure of how spiritually ready and mentally prepared we are for the return of Christ—are not a shareable resource. I can't help you be more prepared by sharing my readiness with you - and you can't share yours with me. We can only build up our own reserves.
How? Christian living. Bible study. Prayer. Engaging with the Word of God and putting what it says into practice. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect in these things—but He does expect us to spend our lives pursuing them.
The Bridegroom is, from our perspective, delayed. The Church has been expecting Christ to return ever since He first left (Acts 1:6-11)—and now, here we are, nearly 2,000 years later. Still waiting.
Will our flames burn out as we turn our attention from the return of Christ to the distractions this world has to offer? We have to be prepared to keep waiting. There will be so many opportunities to let our oil dwindle—to get distracted by the things of this world, to lose focus on the things that matter. The Bridegroom is returning. The Kingdom is coming. No matter how long it takes, our job is stay watchful and be ready.
Are you prepared?
Let us pray.
Just as it is unwise to let our physical health slip, so it is with our spiritual health. Please help me stand guard and watch my spiritual life. Forgive me, Lord, for the times life got so busy for me and I neglected to spend time with You and Your word. Look inside my heart right now and show me where I need to make changes in my life. Bring correction to every weakness in my life.
In the wonderful and precious Name of Jesus I pray, AMEN.