Our reading this evening is taken from Matthew's gospel and chapter 25. Matthew chapter 25, and we're going to read the first 13 verses - again, these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ where He tells a parable. A parable, to put it in simple terms, is an earthly story with a heavenly, or a spiritual, meaning to it. He's trying to illustrate something to His listeners.
So, it's Matthew 25 and verse 1: "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh".
Let's take a moment to ask God's help with a word of prayer: Our Father, we thank Thee for our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that His word is true, that His word is powerful, and that the word of God and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Lord, we thank Thee that Jesus is coming again - we're sure of it, we're under no illusion or no doubt about it - one of these days He's going to break the clouds, and He's going to come down and take us home to be with Himself. What a blessed hope we have! But Lord, there are many in this gathering and they do not have such a hope. We pray this evening that Thy Holy Spirit may come into our presence, into our gathering, that He may bring the conviction of sin, that He may bring the conviction of judgement and righteousness, and that there would be many slain of the Lord in this place this evening. Fill me with the Holy Ghost I pray, oh God, and descend upon this gathering. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
This parable that we've read together this evening depicts and describes and illustrates for us the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's called the second coming of Jesus Christ, or the second advent. He came the first time as a babe to Bethlehem, but the Bible teaches, and the Lord Jesus Himself when He was upon the earth taught that: 'If I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also'.
There are many prophecies and predictions of the Lord's second return within the Bible. Both the Old and the New Testament are packed full of promises that Jesus will return again. In the Old Testament are 1,845 references to the second coming, there are 17 Old Testament books that give the Lord's return pre-eminence of theme. In the 260 chapters in the New Testament there are 318 references to His second return - 1 out of 30 verses speaks of Jesus coming again, 23 out of the 27 New Testament books refer to it over and over again and again. The only four books that don't, three of them are letters written to individuals about specific situations and subjects, and the fourth is the letter to the Galatians in which the second coming is implied, even if it is not mentioned.
Now, think about this: for every mention of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ within the word of God, there are eight mentions of His second coming! You know all the prophecies, you hear about it in Church perhaps at Christmas, where it talks about 'Bethlehem-Ephrathah, though thou be little among the cities and the tribes of Judah, you will receive the Messiah' - He was to be born there. You read about it in the book of Isaiah, about His crucifixion, you read about Him being called Emmanuel - God with us. So many prophecies within the Old Testament Scriptures about Jesus coming to the earth the first time, but listen to this: there are eight times more prophecies about Him coming back again!
Historians are more sure that the Lord Jesus Christ, His feet walked in Palestine on our earth, than they are about the existence of Julius Caesar - and you don't hear anybody discussing or debating about whether Julius Caesar lived or not, do you? It's an accepted fact - and it is an accepted, historical, documented fact - that Jesus Christ walked in flesh. No matter who you think He is, no matter what you think about Him, He walked down here. If you're sure about that this evening, listen: you can be eight times more sure that He's coming back again. Have you got it? Be under no disillusion about it: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is coming back again!
Ladbrokes, the bookmakers in London, has lowered the odds of a visit from outer space from 100-1 to 33-1, because of all things going on in America. Well, boy are they going to have a rude awakening one of these days! It'll not be an alien, it'll not be a green man with six eyes! It will be Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will burst through the clouds and come to this earth - and you, my friend, if you're not saved, you're going to have to reckon with Him!
The parable that we read about depicts His coming, about people being surprised because they aren't expecting it. In the chapter before, in chapter 24 and verse 37, Jesus said: 'But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be'. A lot of people and preachers would often say - and they're right in a way - that the days in which Noah lived were extremely sinful days, there were things going on that you couldn't even mention from this pulpit this evening, sins that made God so angry that He had to come with a flood and wipe man off the face of the earth. That is partly what it means, as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be at the coming of the Son of man - because things, the Bible says, will wax worse and worse. There will be so much sin - there is a cup of iniquity and it's being filled by the moment with all the abominations that we see in our land - and there's a day coming when it's all going to bubble over and overflow, and God's going to come in judgement.
But what I believe, primarily, Jesus meant when He said: 'As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of man', is that in Noah's day they weren't expecting it. It says they were eating, they were drinking, they were giving and taking in marriage - what's that? That's normal life, isn't it? They were going to school, taking the kids to school. They were going to their work, going to the office, going to the factory. They were going to their bed at night with a full belly and a happy heart, and everything was going well for them - day by day was normal, as usual - and all of a sudden: Bang! God came!
Och, yes, they knew about that idiot Noah. He was loopy-loo, a fool, he was building an Ark! 'Is his head away with it? Look at him! It hasn't been raining in ages, and this man tells us that God has told him that there's a great judgement coming upon sin - and look what he's doing! The whole family as well, away with it!'. They didn't expect it, and my friend maybe you're here this evening and you're like these people in Noah's day - you mock it. All these Christians talking about gloom and doom, and the end of the world, and: 'The end of the world is nigh!' - my friend, it will happen to you, the same as it happened to people in Noah's day. You'll not be expecting it, and you'll be going about your business, and the last thing on your mind and heart will be the Lord's return - and all of a sudden it will come upon you!
Peter says - and this was way back then, almost 2000 years ago when he wrote this wee book in the Bible - he says that people were mocking even then: 'Where is the promise of His coming? You Christians', at his time, 'for 50 years have been talking about Jesus coming back after He's went, and where is He?'. That was 50 years, and we're standing here in the year 2000, and it's almost 2000 years, and people are saying the same thing: 'What about it? Where is He? Didn't He say He was coming quickly? Didn't He say He was coming soon?'. I want you to listen if that's what's on your heart - if you have any doubts concerning this great thing, I want you to look at this parable in Matthew chapter 25.
The picture here is a wedding. In Palestine a wedding began at the bride's home, and then the bridegroom arrived at the bride's home, and they observed the wedding ritual, and they went away from that home, man and wife. There was a procession that went from the bride's home, and was led to the bridegroom's house for the festivities and the completion of the whole marriage. But from that journey, from the ceremony and ritual in the bride's home, to the completion and festivities in the bridegroom's home, there were these little girls - if you like, bridesmaids - that brought the procession, and led it through the dark with their little lamps.
That's what Jesus is talking about in these verses. Look at this: that He talks about, first of all, the wise and the foolish virgins - verses 1 to 3. He says: 'Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them'. Let's cut through it all: what was Jesus trying to say? Half of them were foolish, half of them were wise - and the foolish were foolish, first of all, because they were unaware that they were unsaved!
I want you to get this, my friend: ten of them intended going to the wedding, ten of them, but how many got there? Now, outwardly speaking, they were all dressed for the wedding, they had all the make-up on, they were groomed and trimmed and smelling wonderful, because every single one of them was looking forward, anticipating the wedding - as far as they were concerned, they were going to be there, they were going to meet him, they were going to escort him to his home, they had their lamps ready, they were expecting him to come before the day was out...but they didn't know exactly when he would be there.
But what about inwardly? To look upon those ten virgins, they were all the same - you couldn't tell any difference between them, but they were different: because Jesus says five of them were foolish, and five of them were wise, five of them were totally unprepared to meet the bridegroom - why? Because they had no oil! Do you see what Jesus is saying? My friend, you might look like a Christian, you might talk like a Christian, you might live like a Christian, you might think like a Christian - but, my friend, if you're not washed in the blood of Christ, if you've never had an experience on the road of your life where you've trusted the death of the Saviour, you're unprepared. You're not ready! And I here this all the time, people near and dear to me say: 'Well, sure look at him, he's a Christian and I'm far better than him!' - and you know, sometimes they're right! But, you see, that makes no difference with God, for God's not looking for how clean your clothes are, or how well you've brought up your children - although that's good - God's not looking about how soapy clean your tongue is, or your thoughts are, all that God is concerned with is if you have the mark of the blood of His Son upon you - that means that you're trusting in the death of His only begotten Son!
Have you received the Saviour? Have you the oil of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you know the life of God, the abundant life? Do you know those waters welling up within you, of satisfaction, of refreshment, of true peace? The Lord spoke a parable about the sheep and the goats, and He said that on the day of judgement that God would separate the sheep and the goats - and, you know, in Palestine it's different than here. You can tell the difference, even I can tell the difference, between a sheep and a goat - but you see over there? You can't, they both look the same. You all look the same to me, you're all well groomed, aren't you? You all dress well, turned out well, you're probably all 'good living' and have done well for yourselves - but, my friend, there is a great divide that divides us all, and the gulf cannot be fixed now or in eternity, except through the blood of Christ!
You see, there's a form of godliness, and the word of God says that it denies the power thereof. A religious person, a church-goer, a church-giver, and - God help us - even some ministers in the pulpits, and they have a form of godliness, and if you listened to them you'd think they were saved, you'd think that they knew God - and they read God's word, and they pray to God, because they have a form of godliness - the outward appearance speaks that they know God, but they deny the power thereof! There's no oil in them, there's no life in them - God the Holy Spirit is not dwelling within them. There are people coming in and out of their churches, week after week, and they're careless! They're not forward-looking, they have an entire absence of personal preparation for the day when Jesus Christ will return again! They are guilty of inexcusable, senseless neglect of their soul! Is that you? Are you short sighted with regards to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?
This parable that we have before us describes marriage, doesn't it? You know, marriage is almost a battle that's lost in our land today and our society. Do you know why that is? Do you know why there's a group of devil worshippers in County Down praying - tonight, this very night - for the destruction of my marriage? Do you know why that is? Do you know why they fast today, on a Friday, and pray to god - their god? It's because the devil hates marriage. Do you know why? Because marriage, as it is a picture here: the bridegroom is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ coming for the bride, His church. The marriage relationship is a beautiful picture of what God has done in Christ Jesus for a sinful world! That's why Paul says in the book of Ephesians: 'Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it'. That's some love to have for your wife, isn't it?
My friend, do you see that beautiful relationship? Self-sacrifice, Jesus on the cross bleeding and dying for you, my friend! For your sins, for your wrong, for your transgressions, for your filthy thoughts, for your filthy words, for your self-religiosity and righteousness, for your church-going that you think will bring you to glory - Christ died for that, my friend! Christ died for every conceivable sin that any sinner who has repented has ever committed - He bore it all on the cross! He has borne our griefs, and He has carried our sorrow - the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all! The chastisement of our peace - the punishment in order to bring us salvation - was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Do you know what Paul says about the marriage relationship, also? He says this: 'Husbands love your wife, if you love yourself you'll love your wife, for', he says this, 'no man ever hated his body' - isn't that true? No man ever hated his body - you'd know to look at you that you didn't hate your body, that's why you comb your hair before you come to the meeting, you put a good suit on and you smell nice. You want to look well, you want people to be able to sit beside you without moving down the pew, isn't that right? No man ever hated his own body - but there are some of you, and if you neglected your body the way you neglect your soul, you wouldn't have a friend in the world. Some of your souls have an awful stench this evening, they're full of sores that are oozing and pussing - why? Because your soul is full of sin, and no matter what your outward appearance likes to show people in your church, in your community, even in your home, my friend you know - I hope to God you know - what your soul is like and the way God sees it!
That's why these five virgins were foolish. To look upon them, they were prepared - but they were unaware that they weren't saved. But secondly there were wise, and both the wise and the foolish - both of them it says - slumbered and slept. You could be here tonight, and you're a backslider. You once knew the joy of walking with the Lord, the joy of sins forgiven, but your sins and your iniquities have come between you and your God - and do you know what you're doing? You believe in your head that Jesus Christ is coming back again, but you're slumbering and you're sleeping. What if He were to come back tonight and find you doing what you're doing? Find you in the places that you're frequenting, and what you're doing in the dark that your mother and father and no-one else knows about, and you think foolishly that God doesn't even know about it - but He sees every move.
I had a youth leader, and do you know what he used to say? I'll never forget this, he said: 'You know, David, if I could get my Bible and get a rubber stamp, and stamp on it a little verse in Peter, I would do it'. Do you know what the verse says? 'Seeing all these things shall be dissolved', he's talking about the second coming of the Lord - that the world is going to be pulled together like a tablecloth after your dinner, 'and seeing all these things shall come to pass, what manner of men ought we to be?'. Backslider, you look at that word, you look at that book, you think of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and think of the way He would find you, and He would find your hands elbow-deep in the dirt! What manner of man or woman ought you to be?
I speak to all of you now: if Christ were to come back tonight, how would He find you? How would He find you? Would He be taking you with Him, or would He be leaving you behind in this world, for all the vials of His wrath that He will pour out upon the whole of the universe, because of the world's sin and their rejection of the crucified Christ? How will He find you?
It was a wedding, there were wise and there were foolish virgins, but it was a wedding. There is a great wedding coming, my friend, were Jesus Christ will bring to Himself His church that He has bought with His own blood. But when He comes, will He find you watching? Do you know what these virgins did? They trimmed their lamps, all of them trimmed their lamps. They saw the Lord was coming back, they saw the bridegroom was coming to collect them, and they all clipped their lamps - they tried to be ready, but the difference was this: there was no life in their lamp! Do you possess God, my friend? I'm not asking you have you ever prayed a prayer, I'm not asking you are you a professor of faith - that you say you're saved - I'm asking you this: do you know the life of God in your heart? Do you know a change that has been wrought within you?
There are hundreds of people all over our land today, and do you know what they're doing? They're doing what these five foolish virgins did - do you know what they did? They went up, and they said: 'Give us some of your oil. I'm stupid, I forgot mine. Give me some of your oil, split it in half'. There are some of you, and you're hoping and you're counting upon the oil of Ulster. 'I'm a good Ulster Protestant', or, 'a good Irish Catholic' - and it's the oil of a forefather, or a vain tradition of your fathers, or even your dead Protestant religion! You're hoping for that, someone else's oil - maybe it's your mother or your father who's saved, and they go to church, and you go to church with them, and you think because they're alright you'll be alright, my friend, and you're borrowing their oil! You'll not get in on the salvation of anybody in your family, or the salvation of your husband or wife, my friend - and the sooner you realise you need the oil of God for yourself, that salvation is non-transferable from one person to another - whether he be a priest or not!
What did they tell them? 'Listen, I can't give you my oil, that's my oil, I'm going to need it. You go to the people that sell the oil, and you'll get it'. But what happened? They had neglected the sellers of the oil in the first place, and then when the time came it was too late. Can I say this to you all? You see when Jesus Christ comes back, you'll not see me for dust! I'll be away - praise the Lord - not because of anything I've done, but because I have trusted in Him, I love Him. He is mine, and I am His. When He comes back, He's coming for me! Do you know what might happen? You've been sitting in this mission, and you've neglected the means of getting the oil. You've come night after night, and - as an old preacher said before - you come back for more, even though I've beat you black and blue, you come back. I don't know why you come back, probably because God's dealing with your soul - but you still haven't come yet, and this mission's nearly over, and some of you might never come! But when Jesus comes, and Pastor Ward's not here and he goes to be with the Lord, and the elders aren't here - they go - and the deacons go, and the members of the church go, and your brothers and your sisters, and your mother and your father, and David Legge goes - and you could run and look for them in the phone book, and you can ring them as much as you like, but because you neglected the means of salvation, you neglected the sellers of the oil when they were here, it's too late my friend! It's too late.
He says that these five virgins came to the door, and they knocked. They were only a few minutes late you know, only a few minutes. They knocked, and the bridegroom came to the door and he said: 'Depart, go away, I don't know you'. Jesus says in that day - in another passage of scripture, Matthew 7:22 - He says in that day many, many will come - and how many people have you heard say 'Lord'? Sure, they're saying it all over the country, all sorts of religions, all sorts of backgrounds - and they all call God 'God', and Lord 'Lord', and they're all crying prayers unto God, some of them seven times a day - but Jesus says that means nothing! If you haven't got God's salvation, if you're not trusting in the way - Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life - and through His blood, and through His substitutionary death alone, it doesn't matter how many times you say 'Lord'!
For in that day many will say: 'Lord, Lord, did I not prophesy in Thy name? Did I not cast out demons in Thy name? Did I not do all sorts of things?'. You might say: 'Lord, did I not take Communion in Thy name? Lord, was I not a Baptist? Lord, was I not Presbyterian? Church of Ireland? Was I not in the Roman Catholic faith, Lord? Lord, did I not do alms for Thee, and collect for charity, and give to the poor? Did I not confess my sins? Lord, did I not do all these things?'. All you will hear, my friend, is: 'Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire - for I never, never, never knew you!'.
I don't know whether He'll say this, but He has a right to. He might say: 'You sat in a mission for almost 14 nights, and you had a chance, and now you're coming rapping on My door! Why didn't you come then? You weren't willing to give up your sin!'. Do you not think when Noah was standing there at the Ark, and when the rains came down and the floods went up - and everybody got into a panic, and they realised what the man of God was saying was true - and it says that God shut the door! Do you not think that there were fingernails scrabbing down that door? Do you not think that the people who had mocked Noah and his family were battering on the door, and saying: 'Let us in! Let us in! Give us another chance, it's not too late! The water's not too deep!' - but it was too late!
There's a story told about a submarine that was under the water - it was during the war. There was this little man in a little room at the bottom of the submarine, and he had earphones on, and he had a little box in front of him - and he was to detect whenever enemy missiles were coming towards the submarine. The way it happened was: there was an alarm went off in his earphones, and there was a flashing went off on the monitor screen in front of him. Every day that was his job, he just sat there and he watched and he looked, sat and watched and looked, watched and looked. But then one day came, and all of a sudden there were missiles and torpedoes coming from everywhere to him! All the alarms were going off in his ears, and he couldn't even think to do what he had to do to save the vessel, and it sank! When an inquiry took place, it says this - the report wrote, and I quote: 'The operator indicated that he had turned off the audible alarm feature because too many signals were being received that were setting off alarms'.
Listen, my friend: you have come to this meeting, and God the Holy Spirit has set the alarm bells off. Some of you could be that terrified, you'll take the earphones off and you'll never hear again. The Bible says that this was the marriage that there was weeping at - and it wasn't the mother-in-law, it was the five foolish virgins that were shut out. The little hymn says:
'When the door once is shut, to entreat will be vain.
'Twill never, no never, be opened again'.
Let us bow our heads. My friend, I can't say any more than I have said this evening. I have pleaded night after night with some of you to come to Christ, but I'm afraid I can do nothing for you. Only Christ can save you, only the Holy Spirit can really speak to you - and the thing that I fear is not that you don't listen to David Legge, but that you don't listen to the Holy Spirit of God, for you'll not have to answer to me on that day, but you'll look into the face of God Almighty and then there'll be no excuses. You can trust Christ now, if you say to Him: 'Lord' - mean it from your heart - 'Lord, I repent of my sin, I turn from it, I forsake it and leave it, and I turn to Thee. I trust the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross to save me by His blood. Lord, save me, keep me, and take me and make me Your own in Jesus name, Amen'.
If you have trusted the Lord, please speak to me at the door - tell us, because we want to rejoice with you and pray for you. If you want to talk with me I will be at the door, I'll be here for as long as you like if you need any questions answered, or any help to trust the Lord. There are some booklets at the door. If you're a backslider and you want to come back to the Lord, don't leave this building like you have been doing. Come to Him tonight.
Our Father, we thank Thee for this time, and we pray now the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to be upon us all - and for the striving of the Spirit of God to remain with them that are without Thee, that they may come to Him whom to know is life eternal. We thank Thee for the comfort it is to know that Jesus is coming for me, to take me out of this old sinful world, and to bring us home to be with Himself. Lord, give somebody that hope tonight, that has never had hoped like it in their life, and may they jump and run out of this place knowing that they have sins were given and peace with God. We pray all these things in Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Second Coming" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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