“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
This parable is an extension of what Jesus taught in chapter 24. You never know when death or judgement is coming, so you must always be prepared.
The bridegroom represents Jesus, the wedding represents His coming on judgement day, and the brides represent us, everyday people. The oil is a little more abstract. It represents a heart that has been changed by Jesus and His message. The brides who brought extra oil represent Christians who were reading, whose lives were changed by Jesus’s message. The brides who brought no oil represent those who call themselves Christians, but who have had no change of heart, have made no effort to live a Christ-like life. And they are dealt with as if they are not Christians at all. If you put off reformation until tomorrow, you could be too late. We must be constantly living a Christ-like life, because death and judgement could be coming any minute.
Recently someone in my Sunday School class brought up the question of Hell. Like many people in our culture, she doesn’t understand how a loving God could also be a judgmental God. Maybe there isn’t a Hell, she said. However, the gospel of Matthew, particularly the most recent chapter, leaves no room for doubt. Hell is there. But another interesting question came up in the discussion. Is it possible that those in Hell get a second chance? That after experiencing separation from God they have the opportunity to repent? “I like to think so,” I said. But the late brides in this parable didn’t get a second chance. Based on this parable, it looks like the answer is no.
We’ve only got one life, one chance to live it right. We can’t waste it waiting until tomorrow to be better. Change must come NOW.