BE PREPARED

Matthew 24:32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. 36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

I believe there are some people caught up in end time ideology not because they wish to be prepared right now and always, but because they want to know when they need to start being ready. They wish to live as they please right now and only begin to get things in order when they feel the time is close at hand. That is not the right motivation for looking into end time Scriptures. A desire to be a ready as one can be at all times and to be equipped to witness to others is a good motivation for looking into end times passages.

Those who want to cheat the end are akin to someone who wants to wait until they are dying before they get serious about having a relationship with God. There’s just one problem with that, there’s no guarantee a person will get to know just when either one of these occurrences will take place. An exact date and time are never given.

But Jesus did say there would be signs telling us the time is near. Jesus was asked a question by His disciples that started this discussion.

Matthew 24:3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

From Matthew 24:4 - 14 Jesus spoke of false Messiah’s, threats of wars and actual wars, famines and earthquakes, but He said these signs would just be like the birth pains because there would be more to come. He went on to say His followers would be arrested, persecuted, killed and hated all over the world. He said many claiming to follow would turn away from Him and betray and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and deceive many. Sin will be rampant and the love of many will grow cold. But He assured them that those who endure to the end will be saved. He stated that the gospel would preached throughout the whole world so that all the nations hear it and then the end would come.

There have been numerous false Christian Messiah’s spanning from the first century till present date. Men and women who claimed to be divinely sent to save mankind. My research revealed greater than fifty such claims to present date.

I need not rehearse for everyone the idea of threats of wars and actual wars we have all lived through this reality in our day and time and are familiar with history as well as witnessing it occurring daily on the news. There’s talk now of a potential 3rd world war brewing.

Were you aware of the Great Famine in Ireland that lasted from 1845 -1853 and killed 1.5 million people? How about the Vietnamese Famine of 1945 that killed 2 million or the North Korean famine from 1994 - 1998 that killed 3 million? There is also the record of the Russian famine that took the lives of 5 million people in 1921. In Bengal India in 1943 it is estimated that 7 million people died from famine. In that same area of India in 1770 it is reported that 10 million perished due to famine. In 1958 - 1962 The Great China famine occurred due to the failures of communism and it cost the lives of 43 million people. These are just a handful of the many famines recorded in history. They come from the top ten list.

As far as earthquakes are concerned earths history from before the time of Christ until present date is filled with earthquake activity. During some periods of history there has been spikes in intensity and frequency making the charts look pretty much like a roller coaster over time. Our generation has been witness to the devastation of earthquake activity around the globe. If you live in Maryville it wasn’t that long ago you felt the effects of one.

It is easy to say the earth has been in birth pains for quite some time and we all know that birth pains do not go on forever. However, a mother experiencing them wishes they would hurry up and produce but feels like they will never end. The birth cannot come quick enough and yet it feels like it took forever for the child to get here.

But know this, a wise mom is prepared at the first sign of birth pains. Her hospital bag is packed, she has set up the babies room, there are clothes ready to bring the baby home in, supplies in place for when the baby arrives, and if the father were to try to tell her she is going overboard with preparation he’d better look out.

An eschatological PHD is not required for one to know that we are in the time of being called to always be prepared. I am not going to catalogue all Jesus had to say leading up to the section of Scripture I really want to deal with today. I think what I have shared thus far will do in preparing us for what I really want to say.

All this talk of the end coming leads into Jesus speaking about a faithful sensible servant given charge of His house and oversight of all the other servants. This faithful servant is to feed the other servants and if he is found to be doing this faithfully and responsibly great His reward. He will be given charge of all that Jesus owns it says. But if that servant is actually evil and thinks, the Master will not be back for a long time and starts to beat the servants, parties and gets drunk, The Master will return when the evil servant least expects Him to and he will suffer the anger of the Master. The evil servant will be cut into pieces and allotted his portion with the hypocrites. It is after this that Jesus tells His disciples the story of the ten virgins.

Matt. 25:1 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ 7 “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ 9 “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ 13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

Now keep in mind this is not a literal story. It is an object lesson intended to teach a specific principle of importance to the disciples. It is not a story about bridesmaids and their responsibility in a bridal party procession. To make it about such things is to chase rabbits and miss the whole point.

It is a story about the importance of being prepared for the return of Jesus. The Master is coming back!

Since it is possible that someone called a servant can be evil it is also possible that someone called a bridesmaid can be foolish. Both of these stories depict people who do not take the call seriously. The call does not register fully with them and therefore they are light hearted about it.

They are very much like the generation of Noah in large degree. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

We are in the last days, the end is near and that is not a negative statement I am making. It is a positive statement for all who are prepared and longing for His appearing.

Prior to the birth of Jesus people were not praying, “God please delay the appearing of the Messiah, we would rather He not interrupt what we have going on right now.”

No, they were longing to see Him, they wanted Him to come. They believed He would make things right. Likewise, we are to long for His appearing, and we will if we truly have come to know Him and are filled with the Holy Spirit.

You see the ten bridesmaids represent those who are playing like they are part of the bridal party and those who are truly a part of the bridal party. Those who are of the true bridal party know to keep oil on hand so that the fire of yearning stays lit and can be boosted when they hear the call.

The Apostle Paul spoke of the need for believers to be being filled with the Holy Spirit daily. To be at the ready!

The five foolish bridesmaids paint a picture of happy go lucky oblivious attitude for us. But we are shown that such an attitude results in being unprepared for the call when it comes.

They further prove to us that there will be no one who can help someone else get in by giving them oil. The oil represented here is not to be given out to others but rather kept for ones own readiness. In other words the prepared bridesmaids could not play the role of savior for those who had been unwilling to make ready.

We do not rescue anyone, that is God’s work, we are just privileged to point people to the one who does the rescuing. Oil typically represents the Holy Spirit and there is no such thing as revelation without His help. Thus a person may have a glimmer of light based on Holy Spirit revelation but lack the filling to be ablaze thus indicating the initial revelation never truly took hold. I believe the five foolish bridesmaids represent false converts just as the evil servant represents a false leader.

What is a false convert?

I think it is someone who hears the testimony of Jesus, hears of His goodness, His mercy, His everlasting love, His willingness to forgive, heal and deliver and likes what he hears but struggles to believe it is actually for him deep down. It is just too good to be true in his case, he struggles to truly believe completely. He cannot argue against what he hears and would not do so. He actually agrees with it, but he cannot really believe that Jesus personally loves him so completely and has given such great things to him. He cannot reach the end of himself and receive what has been made available through faith in Christ.

I think those who teach the parable of the ten bridesmaids as if we can choose to be passionate or choose not to be are making a grave mistake. I believe I have no power to love Jesus unless I first truly believe He loves me and has forgiven me, has secured me in His grace, and has given me His promised Holy Spirit.

My Bible teaches me that I love Him because He first loved me. I am not the initiator, nor am I the maintainer. I am the receiver of the good things He has promised me according to His covenant with His Father on my behalf. It is when I believe this that the prospect of His soon return excites me.

If I am attempting to earn my own righteousness I cannot get excited about His return because I feel I am horribly unprepared if I am honest about my own shortcomings. If I am a legalist I make talk boldly right now when He is not appearing, but when He really appears I will shake in my boots as I become all too aware of my own shortcomings and my rejection of His grace. When the legalist is shown the poverty of his own attempts at righteousness he will tremble with fear and be filled with anguish knowing he has missed his opportunity.

I want to grow in my knowledge of Him, I want to grow in my faith in His faithfulness and power, I want to excel in trusting Him, and I want to always be filled with His Holy Spirit so I might walk with Him in revelation and understanding. I want to be confident in His grace towards me. This is what it means to be ready for His appearing. He is coming soon.

Are you ready for His return? Do you truly know Him? 

Tim Atchley