“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:35-40
The parallel passage for today’s passage is Matthew 25:1-13. Which says this:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘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.’
“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.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
This parable (a brief story that makes a specific point or teaches a lesson) points out that all who believe in Christ must constantly examine their own spiritual condition in light of Christ’s coming at an unknown and unexpected time. They must remain true to their faith in Christ no matter what, so that when the day and hour arrive they will be ready for him and he will receive them when he returns. Failure to be in a devoted personal relationship with the Lord when he returns will mean being left out of his kingdom. And there are four key things that we can take away from this parable.
(1) The difference between the foolish and the wise virgins is that the foolish failed to recognize that the returning Lord would come unexpectedly, without obvious signs as the time approached.
(2) Christ indicates here and elsewhere that a large portion of the church will be unprepared at the time of his return. He makes it clear that he will not wait until all churches and professing believers are prepared for his coming.
(3) Notice that all the virgins (both faithful and unfaithful) were taken by surprise at the bridegroom’s coming. This suggests that the parable of the ten virgin applies to believers living before the tribulation and not to those living during the tribulation, who will have adequate signs preceding Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation. It seems that all the virgins may have to one time been ready for the groom to return, but the foolish failed to prepare for the wait. Perhaps they planned to take care of things later but instead they fell asleep. By the time they awoke, it was too late. This should as a challenge to all those who make a decision to follow Christ. That initial choice is one thing, but sticking to that decision and staying ready for Christ’s return takes persistence and dedication. If Christians do not stay active and grow spiritual-or if they view his return as being distant-the sense of urgency will easily fade. However, if we maintain a high level of expectancy, we will be ready at a moment’s notice.
(4) The fact that both the faithful and the unfaithful “fell asleep” does not seem to be an issue in this story. In fact, if we are spiritually prepared, we can be at peace and enjoy rest in life. Then, when Jesus returns unexpectedly, we will be ready to go with him.
Both Matthew 25:1-13 and today’s passage are telling us the exact same thing. They both tell us three important things that we need to remember about Jesus’ return. (1) As followers of Jesus we must be so attached to him as our greatest love and treasure that our deepest hope and longing is for his return. (2) We must be spiritually dressed (living with his character traits and serving his purposes) and ready as we with for the uncertain time of Christ’s coming. (3) Christ could come at any time, so we must be waiting and looking for Christ himself, not for a series of signs or end-time events that might begin at any time.
The whole point of these two similar passages is to remind us that Christ could come back at anytime and that we need to be ready when he does. And the way to be ready for that coming event is to expect it happen at any moment, not at some future far off date and time. You must live your lives as if Jesus were going to come back today.