“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, ‘I do not know you.’ ‘ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:11-13, NKJV).
One of my pieces of electronic equipment is damaged, and though it still works for now, I have been looking for a good opportunity to replace it. Returning from an out of town business trip I checked my email and found a good sale on precisely the item I need. The only problem was it was headed “This Day Only”, and dated two days previously. Looks like I missed out.
Some things cause us a little regret, but no real adverse consequences if we miss the opportunity to avail ourselves of them. Some things, however, are far more serious. All husbands who have forgotten their wives’ birthdays or their anniversaries can attest to that. (In theory, it should work the other way also, except that wives just don’t forget those things – that’s not in their DNA).
Missing a sale on a desired item costs us a little money. Other failures are far more serious. One may forget to take necessary medicine, or to pay a bill on time. I have (rarely, thankfully) forgotten appointments.
One of my most serious “forgets” was to leave my passport in a bank security box over the weekend, when I was due to fly overseas early Monday morning. That cost an extra day of travel as well as ticket exchange fees for the new flight.
Sometimes it is not our memory that fails us, but neglect or lack of preparation. Jesus told of ten virgins who were to be part of the groom’s procession in a wedding (Matthew 25:1-13). They were stationed at a particular place where they were to be met by the wedding party. Five of the young ladies had prepared for an indeterminate wait by bringing extra oil for the lamps they were to hold to illuminate the procession. The other five brought only the oil already in their lamps.
Before the groom reached them the lamps of the five who were poorly prepared ran out of oil so that they had to go for replacements. While they were gone the procession passed and they were left. When they came to the place of the wedding and asked for admittance, they were refused. The point of the story? “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man is coming.”
Jesus, who is the groom to which the Church is betrothed as a bride (Ephesians 5:22ff), has promised to return to this earth to reclaim those who are his. Our responsibility is to be ready for his coming, whenever that time might be. Over and over he has warned us to “watch” (Matthew 24:42) and to “be ready” (Matthew 24:44). His coming will be unexpected and surprising, just as the great flood caught everyone without warning as in “the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37-39), and like the coming of a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43).
Just like my missed sale which was for “this day only,” so Jesus will return one time and only one time, after which all creation will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10), the dead will be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and all will stand before the throne of Christ to be judged “according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will be ready for his coming, or we will cry out in vain, “Lord, open to us.” There will be no later opportunity.