The Bride And The Bridegroom
This parable is part of an address given by Christ in answer to three questions, which His disciples asked Him, which you will find in the first part of the 24th chapter of Matthew. The questions are these:
First: When shall these things be?
Second: What shall be the sign of Thy coming?
Third: What shall be the sign of the end of the age?
A Test Of Christian Profession
Now our Saviour answered these three questions in the 24th chapter. Then He gave three illustrations; the first a test of Christian profession, the second a test of Christian service, and the third a picture of the judgment of the living nations when Christ comes in His glory. These three illustrations we have in this 25th chapter in the order that I have referred to.
We will confine ourselves to the consideration of this parable, The Bride and the Bridegroom, which is the test of Christian profession.
I consider that this is one of the most important parables that our Lord ever spoke; first, because of the time at which it was spoken, and second, because of the matter which it contains. When He gave the parable, He was just in the shadow of the cross, and these are among the last words He spoke before His death.
Then the words are very solemn because of the matter they contain. This parable has been in all ages a witness to the church against worldliness, carelessness, and indifference. It cries to the sinner “Awake,” and to the church, “Watch.”
The Marriage Scene
We will consider first the figure that He uses here, that of an Eastern marriage scene. It was customary for the groom and his friends to come for the bride along about the midnight hour. The bride and her attendants when they saw the glow of the torches would arise, light their lamps, and go out to meet the bridegroom’s procession, and with it return to the marriage chamber. When once the bridegroom entered, the door would be shut and no one else allowed to enter. It is quite probably that something of this sort was taking place at the very time Christ spoke the parable, and it would be well understood by the people to whom it was addressed.
What It Means
The bridegroom represents Christ coming to claim the church which is His bride.
The virgins represent the whole professing church, five of them real, and five unreal. Five of them were ready and five of them were not.
The midnight cry tells of the revival of this glorious truth of our Lord’s second advent, and its call to the church to be ready.
The marriage itself tells of the rapture of the believers at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the account of which you will find in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and also Revelation 19.
Now I want you to consider some of the great truths that this parable illustrates. First, the professing church will be a mixed body until the Lord Jesus Christ comes.
Good And Bad In Church To The End
I do not make this statement only because it is suggested by the parable; it is the plainest kind of teaching in the New Testament. Take for instance the seven parables in Matthew 13. They teach exactly this truth. No matter how we interpret it, there is the mixture of the good and bad until the end of the age. The wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest, and the harvest is the end of the age.
Five of them were wise and five were foolish. The wise were those who had come to know sin and who loathed it and had turned from it. They had accepted the Saviour and the Holy Spirit had come into their lives, for surely the oil typifies the Holy Spirit. They had a light, they knew where they were going, and other people could see them too and see where they were going. It suggests also that they were winners of souls for “they that are wise shall shine,” “and they that shine shall turn many to righteousness.” It surely becomes us as professors to examine our lives and see if we have the evidence of being among the wise virgins.
The foolish virgins had been accepted, seemingly by everyone, as being genuine Christians. No one questioned their standing and they seemed to have deceived themselves, only to discover their mistake when it was too late.
Many Professors Not Possessors
I may say right here that I do not believe any real believer will be shut out from the marriage supper of the Lamb. The order of the resurrection is “first Christ, then they that are Christ’s at His coming.” But I cannot help but believe that a great many professing Christians are represented by these foolish virgins, and they have not the oil of the Holy Spirit. Among this class we will find those who are ever asking such questions as, “Can’t I do this and be a Christian? I don’t see any harm in theaters, dancing, card playing, etc.” To all such I would say, “Examine yourselves and see if you are really in the faith.”
Second, we learn that the church has always been in danger of neglecting this truth. “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” And is this not a fact, that for some reason—and just why I cannot possibly explain—this truth has been and is being shamefully neglected? There are at least 318 direct references to this subject in the New Testament, and yet very few ministers ever attempt to preach a sermon of any kind on the Lord’s return.
Once In Fifty Years
By request, a few months ago, I was asked to preach a sermon on the Lord’s return in a church not far away. I talked to a packed congregation for over an hour on this glorious theme, and I am sure there was a keen consciousness of blessing upon that meeting, but at the close of my address an old gentleman came forward, grasped my hand and said, “This is the first sermon I ever heard on that subject, and I have been a member of the church for over fifty years. And,” the old gentleman added, “it’s a mighty comforting truth, isn’t it?”
In the New Testament there are but fourteen direct references to baptism, and yet how much is made of this subject in comparison with that of our Lord’s return, which has such a prominent place in the Scriptures?
A clergyman said to me the other day, “I would undertake to preach on this subject, but I find so many difficulties associated with it,” and I had to say to that brother that the difficulties are all with the man who takes the post-millennial view of our Lord’s return. The man who believes that the prophecies regarding His return to the earth will have a literal fulfillment, will not have any great difficulty in preaching on the theme.
Jew Argues With Post-Millennialist
I heard of a Jew who had a conversation with a preacher regarding verses 31–33 of the first chapter of Luke. Said the Jew: “Do you expect me to believe the statement that a virgin was to give birth to a son?”
“Why yes,” said the preacher.
“Do you believe that that really took place?”
“Why yes,” replied the minister, “of course I do.”
“Well,” said the Jewish brother, “what about the verses following which say, ‘God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end’?”
“Oh,” said the minister, “I believe that is figurative language and refers to His spiritual reign over the church.”
“Why how inconsistent,” replied the Jew, “you expect me to believe the verse that seems to be absolutely incredible, and then you spiritualize that which is credible and which I believe will have a literal fulfillment.”
Preaching Christ To Jew
I find that this truth enables me to approach the Jew and to appeal to him in a way that I could not possibly do did I take the post-millennial view of our Lord’s return. I go to him with the 53rd chapter of Isaiah and I say, “This is your Messiah; He was wounded for your transgressions.” Etc. I expect him to accept it and believe it. He turns to the last chapters of the same prophecy which tell of the glorious reign of Christ upon the earth and the glory that shall rest upon the nation of Israel, and says, “What about these prophecies?” And I say to him, “These shall all be fulfilled, my brother. Christ came the first time to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and He is coming back again to fulfill every jot and tittle of those prophecies which refer to His earthly glory.” I cannot see how we can expect the Jew to believe the Scriptures concerning the suffering Messiah if we spiritualize away those passages that tell of His glorious earthly reign.
The Scoffers’ Jibes And The Answer
Then I find that with this truth I am able to meet the scoffer and the infidel. They say to me, “What about the power of your Gospel; 2,000 years ago the church started out to convert the world, but you are farther from it now than you were at the beginning? There were at the beginning of this century a hundred millions more heathen in the world than at the beginning of the last century. Why, look at the lands where Jesus and the apostles were born, where they preached and died. They are among the most unchristian of all the lands on the face of the earth today, and it is impossible for you to find a Christian government or a Christian city, town, or village; in fact it is very difficult to find an absolutely Christian home.”
Now these are facts that I cannot deny, and I am not asked to deny them; in fact I am told in the Scriptures that this is exactly what we may expect; instead of the world growing brighter and better spiritually and morally, we are taught that things will become worse and worse as this age nears its end. “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be, at the coming of the Son of Man.” “As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be in the coming of the Son of Man.” There is not a passage of Scripture that I know of anywhere in the New Testament that teaches or ever suggests that the world will be converted before Jesus returns the second time.
Coming As Lightning
The parable also suggests that Christ is coming suddenly and unexpectedly. “At midnight there was a cry, go yet out to meet Him,” and not only the world, but the professing Christians were sleeping. This is in keeping with the plainest teaching of Christ. He declared that His coming would be like a flash of lightning, like a thief in the night, that He would come as a snare upon all those that dwell on the earth.
Again, it suggests that there is going to come a great change over the ungodly portion of the church, “the foolish virgins.” They will get a new viewpoint of Christian experience. They will place a new value upon the Holy Spirit, and long for the experiences of some of those people whom they may have thought extreme in days gone by. “Give us of your oil.” “Our lamps are gone out.”
Yes, in that day profession alone will not count, nothing but the real grace of the Spirit will give comfort and assurance. Oh let us see that we are born of the Spirit, for this along assures us an entrance to the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a glorious day that will be for wise virgins, for men and women who have oil in their vessels, who really give light to those who are in darkness round about them. “They that are ready shall go in with Him.” Read the first part of the 19th chapter of Revelation. What a picture the Holy Spirit has given us of that marriage ceremony and supper. We cannot afford to miss it. God grant that none of us shall.
Now let me exhort you in closing, “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” I cannot say when He will come. I cannot say when He will not come, for no man knoweth the day or the hour. But watch, lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping.