September 7, 2007

A Wedding on the Calendar

Next weekend we have a wedding in the family. A niece is getting married and I’m sure she is making preparations and very excited about her wedding day. We look forward to it also, not only the wedding part, but the opportunity to see family that we haven’t seen for a long time. The date is on the calendar and our niece knows exactly when she is supposed to be ready for her groom to step forward and receive her as his bride.

During New Testament times, weddings involved the bride preparing for the groom’s arrival at her home. When he showed up, she would go with him to his house and the festivities would follow. Jesus used this custom to illustrate the importance of being prepared for His return. He spoke of ten young women who were to meet the bridegroom and escort him to the bride’s home. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’”

Since he came at night, the ten needed torches or lamps to guide him. However, in this parable, only five were ready. The rest did not have oil in their lamps and while they went to get some, “those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.”

For centuries, date-setters have predicted that precise moment when Jesus will return, even though the Bible says no one knows the day or the hour. What is certain is that we must be ready. However, as I read this parable, I’m thinking this story is not for Christians.

The Bible calls us the “bride of Christ” and we WILL be ready because He has made us so and the ceremony is a certainty. The parable is instead about those who hang around, perhaps those who know us and want to be part of what is going to happen, but they are missing something; they are not ready. If they are not prepared when He comes, they will not be admitted to the festivities when Christ is united forever with His Bride.

This parable is recorded in Matthew 25 between two others that both say the same thing. Of two servants, only one was looking for his master’s return and the other was not ready. Of people given talents, two used them wisely while the third had misconceptions of the master, didn’t use his talent, was called an “unprofitable servant” and “cast into outer darkness.” Jesus is calling those who don’t know Him to be ready before He comes again.

Christians long for the return of Christ. We want to see Him, to finally fully know and understand Him, worship and adore Him. Everyone else either fears His coming, or mocks it and doesn’t believe it will happen.

The latter group is foretold in 2 Peter 3:2-4. He says, “Be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

This passage goes on to say they willfully forget about the flood that destroyed the world because of sin, and ignore the warnings of God that He will judge the earth with fire. These warnings are also mocked.

But the passage offers an explanation of why it is taking so long for Jesus, like the bridegroom in His story, to come for His bride. Verse 9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward you, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Verses 10-12 continue, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the great day of God . . . ?”

So those are my marching orders for today. I’m to remember that God promised Jesus will return and this world will be judged. I’m to live accordingly, demonstrating holiness and godliness in my own life. I’m to give my full energy to my responsibilities yet keep His return in mind. I don’t know when He will show up, but I want to make sure that this bride is ready.

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