Back in the 1840s, a Baptist fellow was studying his Bible and decided he could calculate the date Jesus would return. He worked from the prophecies of Daniel, what he thought was the date of the order of the Persian king for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build the temple, and treated days as years. He believed Jesus would return in March of 1844.
He attracted some followers. Some quit their jobs, Abandoned their farms, and gathered on a mountain to wait for Jesus. As you know, Jesus did not return then and many were disappointed.
Then, in 1988, an engineer wrote a booklet with 88 reasons why Jesus would return in 1988. Again, some believed, quit jobs and abandoned their responsibilities. Even in our church, many people were concerned and the pastor had to preach a sermon about it. And, of course, Jesus did not return in 1988.
Sadly, these two men, and many others ignored Jesus’ teaching about how we should wait for his return. He specifically told us know one but the Father knows the time and it is not for us to know. And, he told us how we should act as we wait. In Matthew 24:44, Jesus said “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”.
So, let’s look at two parables Jesus told to deal with this matter of his Second Advent (or Coming).
The first is a parable that contrasts a faithful and wise servant with a wicked servant. This is in Matthew 24:45-53.
Jesus proposed a situation where a master went away and charged a servant with taking care of the household in his absence. This servant took his responsibility seriously. He worked at it faithfully until the master returned. Because of that, the master blessed him. He was promoted to a greater position because of his faithfulness and diligence.
In contrast, Jesus supposed a wicked servant. When the master was delayed, he decided he would not be held accountable for his conduct. So, he partied and mistreated his fellow servants. The master returned unexpectedly and punished him for his conduct.
Notice that the master’s return took longer than expected, but his expectations for his servants’ faithfulness was the same as if he had returned quickly.
Jesus has given his followers jobs to do in his absence. We are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them and baptizing them. (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to grow in holiness. (Philippians 2:12) We are to increase our knowledge of the Lord though the study of his word. (John 8:31) And we are to keep doing these things until he returns. If we do, he rewards us and blesses us.
If we do not continue in faithfulness, we show ourselves to be those who are hypocrites - those who say they are followers of Christ but are not - and will suffer God’s wrath.
The second parable parable concerns our need to be prepared for Christ’s return, as demonstrated by 10 virgins, or young unmarried girls. This is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13.
In this parable there are ten virgins with lamps who are to carry lamps or torches and meet the bridegroom. These are probably torches made from a stick that had cloths tied around one end. Oil was poured on the cloths and lit so that it burned with a flame that provided light. The “flasks” (ESV) or “jars” (NIV) contained oil so that it could be added anytime the torch began to burn out. The girls will join bridegroom in a procession to the get the bride at her house and go to the wedding feast.
As with the master in the first parable, the groom is delayed. He was late enough that the girls all fell asleep. Notice there is no criticism of their sleeping. It is a natural thing we do at night.
However, when the groom was sighted, at midnight, and they were told to go meet him, they awoke and prepared to join him. Some of the girls had not brought enough oil to keep their torches burning. They are called the foolish ones. To be unprepared in this circumstance would be considered inexcusable in that culture.
The wise ones had brought enough oil to soak the torches again and re-light them. They did not assume the Bridegroom would come soon and had prepared in case he was late.
However, the wise virgins did not have enough to give the foolish ones oil and still keep their lamps burning. They told the foolish girls to go buy more oil. So, the foolish girls went to buy oil and missed the coming of the bridegroom.
The wise virgins joined the groom and went into the feast. The door to the feasting place was closed.
When the foolish virgins returned, they were shocked to see the door closed and called for the bridegroom, now called “Lord” (or Sir), to open the door for them. The Lord answered beginning with “truly”, telling us his following words are very important.
Those words were “I do not know you”. They were not going to be allowed into the wedding feast. They would be left out in the darkness.
The Bridegroom in this parable represents the Lord Jesus. The time of his appearance is unknown, and later than expected, yet sudden and unexpected when it occurs.
The five wise virgins are those who believe in Jesus and stayed prepared for his return. The foolish virgins are those who have not committed themselves to Christ and who are not allowed into his kingdom when he returns. Jesus will say he does not know them. They are unprepared in the sense that they have not received Christ as their savior and lord when they could.
In effect, the door to eternal life and Jesus’ kingdom is closed. That is why the parable begins with the words “then the kingdom of heaven will be like…”.
Jesus summarized his teaching in verse 13. He said to watch for him since we do not know the time of his return. The return of Jesus is certain. Immediately after Jesus ascended to heaven, angels told the disciples that Jesus will return. (Acts 1:11)
But, the time of Jesus’ return is not known. It could be today at lunch. Or, it could be hundreds of years from now. We must remember that delay does not mean cancellation. He will come at a time we do not expect. When he does, the time for preparation is over.
It is the same way with death. There is no second chance for the lost to be saved. Hebrews 9:27 says “… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”.
Those who have placed their faith in Jesus and have been saved are charged with the responsibility of remaining faithful and working until Jesus returns. Those who do will be blessed and rewarded by him.
The end of the year is a great time to evaluate ourselves. We can reflect on our faithfulness over the past year. If we have not been faithful in working for the Kingdom, we can repent and re-engage in our responsibilities in the new year.
Those who have not placed their faith in Jesus must realize that they are in jeopardy of facing the wrath of God at any time. We are all sinners who have rebelled against God. God sent his Son to pay for that sin and rebellion by dying on the cross.
If we believe in Him, we receive the benefit of his payment for our sin and have eternal life rather than eternal punishment. If we do not receive him as our savior and lord, we will bear the punishment we deserve for all eternity. If this is your condition, I beg you to receive Christ today and receive eternal life in him.