THE GOSPELS 105
BE PREPARED! NO ONE KNOWS WHEN HE IS COMING
Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, gave the warning signs that the people should heed and get out of the city, and said that it would happen during that generation.
It did, taking place about 40 years later. Then he addressed the other question the disciples asked by saying that the end of time would not coincide with this event. He warned
that they would suffer persecution and even death, that the world would see wars and famine and much worse before the end, but that no one knew when that would happen, not even
the angels or the Son Himself. However, he warned that each one should be prepared for it to come at any time. His emphasis was that those who were God’s people should always
live as if the end was at hand. He emphasized that each one was personally responsible to God for being ready for the final day.
The first of the parables Jesus used to illustrate his point of being ready was the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable ten virgins were invited to accompany a bride as
she waited for the bridegroom to come. In Palestine the custom was for the bride to go to the bridegroom’s house and await his arrival. He was at liberty to come whenever he
wished, and sometimes it might be a fortnight that they would have to wait for him. He could come by day or night. When he came, the bridal party had to go out into the street
to greet him, and woe to the bridal party if they were found asleep.
Once the bridegroom came, the bridal party and all the invited friends went into the house, where there would be festivities for the entire week, with the bride and groom being
treated as royalty. Once in the house, the door was closed, and no one was admitted for the rest of the week of celebration.
It was a law in Jerusalem that no one could be on the streets after dark without a lamp. The lamps they used were small and held very little oil. So the smart people always
carried an extra supply of oil. When the five foolish ones ran out of oil at the critical time, they begged oil from the wise ones. This the wise ones refused, not because
they were selfish, but because they had an obligation to the bride and groom, and they could not supply the foolish ones with that which was necessary for them to fulfill this
obligation. No one can supply us with what we need to fulfill our obligations to God. We are each individually responsible to Him for being prepared and ready to carry out His
righteous will. Neither the church nor any of its leaders can stand in my place, nor give to me absolution of my responsibilities to the King of Kings.
The second parable Jesus uses to illustrate His lesson on being prepared is a story of a man who went on a journey and left responsibilities to his servants. To one he gave
five talents, to another two and to another one. The writer says he gave them according to their several abilities. This is an important fact. God does not expect the
impossible of anyone, for He is a “Just God”. However, He does hold us responsible for responding to His will as far as we are able. When I was a young man I remember hearing
the great preacher, N.B.Hardeman, say, “If I arrive at the judgement bar unprepared, I would rather it be from deepest Africa than from Nashville, Tennessee”. He meant that
those who lived in Nashville had much more opportunity to know the will of God than those in deepest Africa, and therefore, much more responsibility for their behavior.
When the master returned, two of the servants had doubled their money, but one had made no effort with his at all. Consequently, the one talent was taken away from this servant
and given to the one who had ten. The principle stated was, “To him that hath shall be given, but to him that hath not will be taken away even what he has”. This sounds harsh
but it is a fact of life. The person with a strong and healthy body, who has eaten right and exercised, will maintain that body and gain more health if he continues working at
it. The one who is weak and sickly, because he has not done healthy things, will lose even more and become worse if he does not imitate the healthy one.
This principle is also true in the world of the Spirit. The man who studies, prays and tries to be a true Christian, will grow stronger and better able to handle the temptations
of life. The man who follows his own animal desires will grow steadily weaker spiritually, and will be condemned in the end. Your spiritual growth does not depend on the church
you belong to or the rituals you perfectly perform. It is a personal thing, which depends on your prayer life, and your response to Jesus as the Lord of your life.
In these two parables, Jesus is saying, “You will never know when the Lord will call you, so always be prepared”.