************ Sermon on Matthew 25:13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 7, 1999
"No One Knows the Hour"
Can't you just imagine the ten virgins in the parable in front of us: excited, happy, all dressed up, holding their lamps, ready to meet the bridegroom, anxiously waiting to escort the couple to the groom's house.
But the appearance of the bridegroom took much longer than they expected. Maybe the two families could not come to an agreement on the bride-price – the compensation paid to the bride's father. Or, maybe it took the groom much longer than expected to get his home ready for the bride's appearance. Whatever the reason, no one quite knows when the bridegroom will appear.
So what happens with the ten virgins? They were all excited but their excited chatter died down, they became drowsy, and they fell asleep. Then, suddenly, they were startled by a shout that the bridegroom was coming. Quickly they trimmed their little lamps, which had burned up all the oil. Five of the girls had enough foresight to bring some extra oil, and they went out to meet the bridegroom with brightly burning lamps. But the other five had not taken any precautions and now found themselves without the lights they were supposed to carry. Since there was not enough oil to share, they ran off to buy some. But when these five foolish girls came running to the groom's house, the door was already closed. They were shut out. They were too late.
The points of comparison in this parable are rather obvious. The bridegroom is Jesus Christ, the heavenly bridegroom. The ten virgins are the expectant and waiting Christian community looking for the return of Christ. The lateness of the bridegroom is the seeming delay of the second coming. The sudden appearance of the bridegroom is the coming of Christ at a time when least expected. And the stern rejection of the foolish virgins is the Final Judgment.
In this parable Jesus teaches His disciples and the church two lessons. First of all, He teaches that He will return when least expected for no one knows the day or the hour of His return. Secondly, He teaches we must be ready for His return at any time.
I No One Knows the Day or the Hour
A At the end of chapter 24 and at the start of chapter 25 Jesus tells us the same thing five times: that He will return when least expected for no one knows the day or the hour:
(Mt 24:36) "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."Imagine this! The coming of Jesus is so unexpected that neither the angels nor Jesus as a man knows the day or the hour. It is God's intention to keep the time of the second coming a secret – the best kept secret in the universe.
I have with me here a booklet written by Edgar C. Whisenant. In this booklet he wrote 88 reasons why Christ was going to return on September 12, 1988. I remember showing the booklet to one of my elders and asking him if I should write the sermons for that Sunday. Of course, as you all know, the appointed day came and went without this momentous event taking place. So Mr. Whisenant sat down and recalculated his figures. When he discovered a mathematical error, he republished his booklet announcing the 88 reasons why Christ was going to return September 12, 1989. In an interview after this day too came and went he finally admitted what any student of the Bible knows: "I guess God does not want us to know the day or the hour." I become upset about people like him when I learned that some simple-minded Christians quit their jobs, sold their homes, and canceled all their insurance after reading his book. I became even more upset when I learned that he earned some $450,000 on the sale of his booklet. And, of course, many people are now excitedly predicting that Christ is going to return, January 1, 2000.
I'm reminded of the time the disciples tried to find out from Jesus the time of His return. But Jesus said to them,
(Acts 1:7) It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.Don't worry about the time of my return, says Jesus. Rather, concentrate on doing your work, on spreading the Good News of the Gospel, on being missionaries and witnesses.
Topic: Second Coming of ChristThat ought to be the Christian's attitude: we ought to be more concerned about doing our duty than about the actual day and hour of Christ's return.
Subtopic: True Attitude Concerning
Title: Working While We Wait
During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. One day in 1789, the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, "The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought."
B Scripture tells us that because the day and hour is such a well-kept secret, the time of Christ's coming again will be totally unexpected and will catch many people by surprise.
In Matthew 24 & 25 Jesus gives four examples to show us how unexpected the time of His coming will be. First, He compares the time of His coming to the days of Noah (Mt 24:36-41). Noah had told his neighbors about the coming flood. But they didn't believe him; instead, they laughed and smiled at him, mocked him, and ignored his warning. They ate and drank, they married and gave in marriage, just like they always did. The unexpected and sudden downpour of the flood caught them all by surprise. "That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man," says Jesus (Mt 24:39).
Second, Jesus compares the time of His coming to a thief in the night (Mt 24:42-44). This is a popular comparison – one that appears eight other times in Scripture. The point is that one does not know when a thief will strike.
Topic: Second Coming of ChristVery few victims of theft are as fortunate as that homeowner was because usually one is not warned when a thief will strike. Likewise, says Jesus, "the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Mt 24:44).
Subtopic: Time of Unknown
Title: Unexpected, Like a Thief in the Night?
A couple of years ago there was a humorous article in the London Free Press about a man who was awakened by the barking of his dog in the living room. When he got up and looked out of the window he saw two men creeping around his neighbor's house. While he watched, one of the men crossed the street, stuck his hand through the mail slot of his door, and tried to reach the door handle. Quickly the man grabbed the hand of the thief and yelled for his wife to call the police.
Third, Jesus compares the time of His coming to the unexpected return of a master (Mt 24:45-51). This master puts an overseer in charge of his household before he goes away. The overseer, thinking the master will not return for some time, begins to drink and party and starts beating the other servants. The arrival of the master on a day and hour he was not expected catches the overseer abusing his position and neglecting his duties; this in turn leads to his dismissal.
Fourth, in the parable in front of us, Jesus compares the time of His coming to the sudden appearance of the bridegroom. Just as the ten virgins were not sure when the bridegroom would come, so the church is not sure when Christ will return.
C When I read through the New Testament I can't help but notice that the human authors, especially Paul, expected the quick return of Christ (Rom 13:11ff; Phil 4:5; 1 Cor 7:29; cf Phil 1:10; 1 Thess 3:13; 5:23; I Cor 1:8). They certainly did not expect a centuries-long continuation of the present world order. Jesus' last words in Scripture are, "Yes, I am coming soon" (Rev 22:20). So, it seems they were right in expecting a quick return of the Lord.
As measured against our finite human standards there can be no doubt that the bridegroom is delayed. None of us knows why it is taking so long for our heavenly bridegroom to appear. None of us knows when He will return. God has not revealed to us the day or hour of His return. Instead, He reminds us again and again that the time of Christ's return will be unexpected. That's the first lesson Jesus wants to teach us.
II Always Be Prepared
A The second lesson our Lord wants to teach us is that we must be ready to meet Him at any time. In summing up the Parable of the Ten Virgins Christ Jesus says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
You and I are to "keep watch." What exactly does this mean?
One of the images Jesus raises here is that of the ancient night watchman. We must be as ready to meet Christ as the night watchman anxiously waits for morning light. Don't forget, the night watchman in the ancient world did not have killer guard dogs, remote-controlled cameras, electrified fences, or various kinds of alarm systems. All that he had were his senses. Only his eyes, ears, and nose warned him of coming danger. If he was not alert the city could be attacked by surprise and he, since he was on the wall, would be the first to lose his life. It is little wonder, then, that he was always waiting anxiously for the first light of the new day – for that meant his watch was over, that he could relax, that he and his city had survived another night.
The sad fact is, my brothers and sisters, that very few, if any, of us wait as anxiously for the coming of Christ as the night watchman waited for morning light. A study of Church History tells me that if we were persecuted for our faith, or if we were slaves, or if we were desperately poor and starving to death, then we would be anxiously waiting for Christ's return. But right now we are too well fed, comfortable, and happy with life to want Christ to come. The gratifying of the flesh, do you know what it has done? It has largely stopped or dulled the craving of the spirit. The better things are the less we want Christ to return. The worse things become the more we desire His return.
This, of course, is a travesty, a tragedy, that ought not to occur. Jesus taught us to pray "Your kingdom come." This petition we are to pray in good times and in bad, in prosperity and in sickness. We pray it alright, but not, I suspect, with all that much conviction. We don't really expect or want this prayer to be answered.
B To keep watch for Christ's return also means that we are to be ready at all times to meet Him and greet Him as our Savior. If Christ comes again and He isn't our Savior then it is too late. Boys and girls, young people, young adults, I urge you to be ready to meet Jesus; I urge you to accept and believe in Him as your Savior; accept Him before it is too late; accept Him because He could return at any moment.
To be ready for Christ's return at any day or hour requires more that just believing in and accepting Him as your Savior. To be ready you must also believe in and accept Him as your Lord. In other words, you must serve Him, you must put away sin and put on holiness, you must live the new life.
Like five of the virgins we are to be wise. We are to be totally prepared and ready to meet our bridegroom Jesus Christ.
Topic: Second Coming of ChristThis little girl had the right idea: we must always be ready for the return of Christ Jesus.
Subtopic: Time of Unknown
Title: Humor: Ready for the Rapture
The story is told of a little girl who had been taught about the second coming in Sunday School. She asked her mother about the lesson. "Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?" "Yes." "Could he come this week?" "Yes." "Today?" "Yes." "Could he come in the next hour?" "Yes." "In a few minutes?" "Yes, dear." "Mommy, would you comb my hair?"
Topic: Second Coming of ChristThat's the way it should be with us when it comes to the return of Christ. We shouldn't act as if He were coming back in the distant future or next month or even tomorrow; we should act as if he were coming back sometime today.
Title: Today Sir, Today
The story is told about a rich man who went on a long journey. While he was gone his gardener kept the flower beds, the bushes, and the lawns in tip-top shape. A neighbor admiring the grounds said to the gardener, "It looks like you expect the owner to return tomorrow." "Today, sir, today," was the gardener's reply.
C The Bible depicts in no uncertain terms the terror and dread that befalls those who are not ready to meet the Lord when He returns.
Matthew tells us that the day of opportunity, the chance for repentance, the season for faith in Christ, is over for those who are not ready to meet the Lord when He comes. For the five foolish virgins the door to the wedding feast was shut, locked, and bolted. There was no way they could gain entrance. The bridegroom even went so far as to declare, "I don't know you" (vs 12). Once the bridegroom has showed up, once Christ has returned, it is too late to try to get ready for His coming. You must be ready before He returns.
Those who are not ready will be left behind. Jesus says in chapter 24:
(Mt 24:40-41) Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. (41) Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.Now, it is never nice to be left behind. When I was 13 years old we drove the ten miles home from church and were just pulling into the driveway when we realized my 6 year old sister was left behind. Oh was she upset when we picked her up; she had imagined, of course, that we did not want her anymore.
Those who aren't ready for Christ's return when He comes will be left behind. They will be left in their sin and misery. They will be punished and put in a place "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt 24:51).
In this parable we are being taught something about the church. Remember, all ten virgins – both the wise and the foolish ones – represent the church. So we are being taught that there are two kinds of people in the church: those who are prepared for Christ's return and those who are not prepared.
Those who are prepared, those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, will be taken up into glory. But those who are unprepared, who have not accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, will spend life everlasting in hell.
I ask you, what kind are you? Are you ready to meet the Lord? "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
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