Sermon title:  LOCKED OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Matthew 25:1-13

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, November 17, 2019

 

 

 

When you arrived at church this morning,

did you have any trouble getting in?

 

Did you find the door locked?

 

Imagine yourself arriving at church

with cars in the parking lot

and the sound of Natalie playing the organ inside,

but you find the door is locked.

 

And, when you knock,

you hear a strong voice from inside

saying, “Go away!  We don’t know you!”

 

Now, suppose it’s not the church door,

but heaven’s gate,

where you are turned away like that.

 

We see a scenario like that

in Jesus’ Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.

He shows us 5 foolish virgins being turned away—

locked out of a wedding banquet—in the parable,

so we won’t be turned away

from heaven’s gate.

 

The parable is about 10 virgins

arriving at the door of a wedding celebration.

 

That’s sort of an odd concept to us—

not something we usually see at modern weddings.

 

I suppose the closest thing to it

would the way brides today have bridesmaids.

 

Some of our elaborate weddings

might have as many as 10 bridesmaids.

 

This originates in a tradition of young virgins,

friends of the bride,

accompanying her to the wedding.

 

Well, there were similar traditions in Bible days.

 

We see an example in Psalm 45.

This psalm is prophetic

of the relationship between Christ and his Church,

which we’ll talk about later.

 

But, if we look at Psalm 45, beginning with Verse 13,

we’ll see an example

of how bridesmaids—or young virgins—

accompanied brides to their wedding

in ancient times.

 

It speaks here of a royal wedding,

a princess about to marry a king,

and her bridesmaids are calledher virgin companions.

 

Psalm 45:13 says,

 

13 All glorious is the princess

within her chamber;

her gown is interwoven with gold.

 

14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king;

her virgin companions follow her—

those brought to be with her.

 

15 Led in with joy and gladness,

they enter the palace of the king.

 

So, we see that age-old custom

of bridesmaids or “virgin companions”

accompanying a bride to her wedding.

 

Now, here in Jesus’ Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,

we have a somewhat different scenario,

where the virgins

are expected to go out and meet the bridegroom,

as he arrives.

 

And it’s at night, so they need lamps to light their way.

 

We find it at Matthew, Chapter 25, beginning at the first verse,

and we also have it printed in our bulletin

as this morning’s Responsive Reading.

 

But, before I read it,

I should explain that our Lord opens the parable with the words,

 

"At that time

the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins.

 

At what time?

 

Well, it would be the time Christ had already been speaking about

throughout most of the preceding chapter, Matthew Chapt. 24.

 

The disciples had asked him privately

for a sign of his Second Coming,

and Jesus gave them a lengthy answer

that fills most of Matthew 24 and 25.

 

In 24:14, he said,

 

“this gospel of the kingdom

will be preached in the whole world

as a testimony to all nations,

and then the end will come.

 

So, he’s talking about the time when the end comes.

 

Then in Verse 27, he said,

 

27 For as lightning that comes from the east

is visible even in the west,

so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

 

So, he’s talking about the time when he will come again.

 

So, he’s talking about the time of Christ’s Return

when he begins this parable with the words,

"At that time . . .”

And that’s the time Jesus is still talking about,

in Matthew 24:37 when he says,

 so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

 

And in Verse 39 when he says,

39 . . . . That is how it will be

at the coming of the Son of Man.

 

And in Verse 42, when he says,

 

42"Therefore keep watch,

because you do not know

on what day your Lord will come.

 

And again at Matthew 24:44 where Christ said,

44 So you also must be ready,

because the Son of Man will come

at an hour when you do not expect him.

 

It’s sort of repetitive,

but Jesus keeps repeating the same message here,

because he loves us,

and he wants us to be ready when he comes for us.

 

So, he gives us also this Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,

beginning here at Matthew 25:1,

where he says,

1 "At that time

the kingdom of heaven will be like

ten virgins who took their lamps

and went out to meet the bridegroom.

 

2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

 

3 The foolish ones took their lamps

but did not take any oil with them.

 

4 The wise, however,

took oil in jars along with their lamps.

 

5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming,

and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 

6 "At midnight the cry rang out:

'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'

 

7 "Then all the virgins woke up

and trimmed their lamps.

 

8 The foolish ones said to the wise,

 

'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'

 

9 " 'No,' they replied,

'there may not be enough for both us and you.

 

Instead, go to those who sell oil

and buy some for yourselves.'

10 "But while they were on their way to buy the oil,

the bridegroom arrived.

 

The virgins who were ready

went in with him to the wedding banquet.

 

And the door was shut.

 

11 "Later the others also came.

 

'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'

 

12 "But he replied,

'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'

 

13 "Therefore keep watch,

because you do not know the day or the hour.“

 

So, the lesson is to “keep watch” for Christ’s return

and to “be ready”—

not like the 5 foolish virgins

who were not ready,

and were locked out of the wedding feast.

 

Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven” will be like that,

when he returns.

 

Those who aren’t watching and aren’t ready

will be locked out of “the kingdom of heaven.”

That’s the primary lesson of the parable.

 

It’s the lesson that Jesus repeats over and over again

in Matthew Chapters 24 and 25—

       to “Keep on the watch!” and to “Be ready!” for his coming.

 

It’s a lesson of vital importance.

-------------------------------------------

 

But there’s also a lot more that we can learn from this parable.

 

Christ is the King of “the kingdom of heaven.”

 

He died as a suffering Messiah,

nailed to the cross of Calvary,

but he returns as the triumphant King—

King of the universe.

 

And he tells us that, when he comes back,

it will be like what happens in this parable.

 

It will be like

ten virgins who took their lamps

and went out to meet the bridegroom.

 

Christ is also compared to a bridegroom

elsewhere in Scripture.

 

And the Church is spoken of in Scripture

as the Bride of Christ.

 

It’s a comparison, for purposes of illustration,

that’s found throughout the Old and New Testaments.

 

In the Old Testament, God speaks of himself

as a husband, married to the nation of Israel as his wife.

 

At Jeremiah 31:32 God speaks of

 

the covenant which I made with their fathers

in the day I took them by the hand

to bring them out of the land of Egypt,

My covenant which they broke,

although I was a husband to them."

 

God calls himself “husband” to the nation of Israel.

 

At Isaiah 54:5 he says to Israel,

 

For your Creator will be your husband;

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

 

But Israel proved to be an unfaithful wife.

They worshiped pagan idols,

instead of worshiping the true God.

 

And they made alliances with pagan nations

to protect them,

instead of relying upon God.

 

At Jeremiah 3:20 God told them,

“ ‘like a woman unfaithful to her husband,

so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,’

declares the LORD.”

 

At Ezekiel 16:32, God said to the nation of Israel,

“you are an adulterous wife who takes in strangers

instead of her own husband.”

 

So, God divorced Israel, and created the Christian Church.

 

In Isaiah 50, Verse 1, God speaks to the people of Israel,

and refers to their nation as their mother.   

We read there,

 

“This is what the Lord says:

‘Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce

with which I sent her away?

 

Or to which of my creditors

did I sell you?

 

Because of your sins you were sold;

because of your transgressions

your mother was sent away.’”

 

God divorces the nation of Israel,

and comes to earth in the person of the Son

to raise up a Church of believers

and to marry that Church

in the same way that God was married to Israel.

 

We see that illustrative language

prophetically in the Old Testament

and symbolically throughout the New Testament.

 

At Ephesians 5:24, we read that the relationship

between a husband and wife

reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church.

It says,

 

24 Now as the church submits to Christ,

so also wives

should submit to their husbands in everything.

 

25 Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ loved the church

and gave Himself up for her

 

All of us believers are being prepared,

in a spiritual sense,

for the heavenly marriage feast

where Christ takes the Church home to himself

as his bride.

 

It’s not a fleshly thing like human marriage,

but rather a spiritual thing—

like God’s husbandly relationship to the nation of Israel.

 

Christ takes the Church, collectively,

men and women as a whole church body,

to be his bride in a spiritual sense.

 

So, at John 3:29, John the Baptist

spoke of Jesus as the bridegroom,

when he said about Jesus,

 

"He who has the bride

is the bridegroom;

but the friend of the bridegroom,

who stands and hears him

rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice.”

 

Jesus also called himself a bridegroom,

when he spoke to the disciples of John the Baptist

at Matthew 9:14.

 

14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying,

 

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often,

but Your disciples do not fast?”

 

15 And Jesus said to them,

 

“Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn

as long as the bridegroom is with them?

 

But the days will come

when the bridegroom will be taken away from them,

and then they will fast.

 

So, to fully understand this Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,

we need to know that Christ is the bridegroom.

 

But, what about the virgins?

 

Well, in the parable they take a role similar to bridesmaids.

 

But elsewhere the Church is spoken of

as the “bride” of Christ.

 

At Revelation 9:7 it says,

 

7 Let us rejoice and be glad

and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

 

“The Lamb” refers to Christ, who is the sacrificial ‘lamb of God.’

 

So, Revelation 9 continues,

the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

 

8 Fine linen, bright and clean,

was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for

the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

 

9 Then the angel said to me,

“Write this:

Blessed are those who are invited

to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

 

So, the “bride” of Christ is the Church.

 

8 Fine linen, bright and clean,

was given her to wear,”

because the Church has been washed clean in the blood of Christ.

 

And “the righteous acts of God’s holy people”

maintain that clean status.

 

We play a part in that

through our choices

and how we behave ourselves—

the righteous acts of God’s holy people.”

 

In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11,

the Apostle Paul reminds us

that the Church is to be a pure virgin, as the bride of Christ,

but Satan the Devil

is trying to corrupt the Church

by false teachings

and sinful persons in the churches.

 

At 2 Corinthians 11, beginning with Verse 2, he says,

 

2 I am jealous for you

with a godly jealousy.

 

For I promised you to one husband,

to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

 

3 I am afraid, however,

that just as Eve was deceived

by the serpent’s cunning,

your minds may be led astray

from your simple and pure devotion to Christ.

 

4 For if someone comes and proclaims

a Jesus other than the One we proclaimed,

or if you receive a different spirit

than the One you received,

or a different gospel than the one you accepted,

you put up with it way too easily.

 

Ancient Israel acted like an unfaithful wife

by going after the false gods

of the surrounding pagan nations,

and by worshiping idols.

 

Paul was afraid that the Corinthian church

was too easily misled

into following a different ‘gospel’—

different teachings about Christ.

 

We see that in churches today

that fail to preach the Bible

and instead teach a different ‘gospel’

about a different ‘Jesus’—

an easy-going ‘Jesus’

who doesn’t call people to repent of their sins

but lets them keep on sinning,

as if that were OK with God.

 

Unfaithfulness like that

was going on in the Corinthian church,

so Paul reminded them,

that“I promised you to one husband,

to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”

 

So, in the churches today

we may find both wise and foolish virgins,

like in the parable.

 

In the parable,

 

2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

 

What does it mean to be foolish or wise?

 

For those virgins in the parable,

wisdom involved keeping watch and being prepared

with oil for their lamps,

so they could go out in the dark

and meet the bridegroom.

For us today,

wisdom involves keeping watch and being prepared

to meet our Maker

when our time comes to die,

or when Christ returns

to take the Church to heaven

for that great heavenly marriage banquet.

 

Isaiah Chapter 55 tells us now is the time to turn to Christ.

 

Beginning with Verse 6, it says,

 

6 Seek the LORD while you can find him.

Call on him now while he is near.

 

7 Let the wicked change their ways

and banish the very thought of doing wrong.

 

Let them turn to the LORD

that he may have mercy on them.

 

Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

 

At Proverbs 9:10,

the Bible defines what it means to be wise.

 

It tells that the wise are those who know and walk with God.

Proverbs 9:10 says,

 

 “The fear of the LORD

is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

 

Those who don’t fear God,

have not even begun to be wise.

 

Someone may have multiple college degrees,

bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees,

and may even be a college professor,

but if they don’t fear God,

they haven’t even begun to be wise.

 

And the Bible tells us that fools

are those who turn away from God.

 

Psalm 14:1 tells us,

 

“The fool says in his heart,

"There is no God."

They are corrupt, their deeds are vile.”

 

So, our Lord Jesus gives us

the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

because he loves us.

He doesn’t want us to find ourselves

locked out of the kingdom of God.

 

He wants each of us to “Watch!” for his return,

and to “Be ready!”—

because he will come back for us individually,

or to judge this world,

at a time when we don’t expect him.