Imagine lying awake nights, knowing your betrothed could arrive any moment. That’s how it was in Jesus’ day—a bride-to-be would prepare for months. At times, she’d even sleep in her wedding clothes since no one knew when her groom would come. Though our modern experience of nuptials is very different, it’s a powerful metaphor for Christ’s relationship with His church. He’ll come for us one day. Are you ready?
Jesus often referred to the Hebrew Scriptures as He taught. Here, while talking about future events, He reminds His disciples of the Old Testament account of Noah and the flood. (See last month’s Bible study for an exploration of that story in Genesis 8:1-22.)
Does your life show “alertness” to Christ?
- Describing conditions that will surround His second coming, Jesus says only the Father knows the timing (Matt. 24:36). Why do you think God wants an element of surprise? To help you answer, consider the difference between smiling for a camera and being caught unawares. Which photo would capture your true mood?
- Verses 37-39 reveal humanity’s complete unpreparedness for the flood. What might have contributed to their unwise lack of concern? Ignorance? Fear? Unbelief? Make a list of possibilities, including mindsets you notice today. Consider whether any of the words you’ve written apply to your own heart.
- The story that Jesus chooses as a warning for the future is one of utter disaster—all but a few people died. How might this relate to His return and the effect it will have on human life?
- Jesus refers not only to those who perished, but also to “Noah [who] entered the ark” and survived (v. 38). The description of Christ’s return makes the comparison clear: The church—all who are in Him, as if in an ark like Noah’s—will be preserved. So the first and most important step of preparedness is to trust in the Savior. Scripture urges us to examine ourselves to see if we are genuinely in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Take a moment to give thanks in prayer for the perfect safety you find in Christ—or to ask for true and deep faith.
- We at times think the demands of life make vibrant faith—and practices like prayer and serving—hard if not impossible. But earthly toil and deep intimacy with God aren’t incompatible when the heart is focused on Him. How does Matthew 24:40-41 illustrate this?
CONTINUING THE STORY
In the next chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Here the Lord offers us another way of thinking about the importance of preparedness in Christian life.
- Read Matthew 25:1-13. Verse 2 indicates what the main distinction is between the virgins who are prepared for the bridegroom’s arrival and those who miss it: prudence versus foolishness. Prudence might not be a very exciting word, but in this case, it makes the difference between eternal life and death. How is prudence acquired? Set some intentions to increase this quality in your heart and mind right now.
- Since oil is often used to symbolize God’s Spirit, how might you explain its role in the parable?
Jesus’ presence makes the impossible possible.
- Believers are to both walk in His peace (John 14:27) and stay alert (Matt. 24:42; Matt. 25:13; 1 Pet. 5:8). Though rest and vigilance seem mutually exclusive, companionship with Christ resolves the contradiction. Seek His presence and fix your heart on Him, wherever you are.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
A wedding is meant to be a much-anticipated, joyful occasion—one for which both bride and bridegroom have carefully prepared. Jesus chose a betrothal story as a metaphor to describe His return, and some theologians believe the Parable of the Ten Virgins symbolically depicts the moment when believers will rise “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). The wedding itself, of course, follows the bridegroom’s arrival. The stunning comparison that our Lord introduced is continued in the book of Revelation, where His union with believers is referred to as “the marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7).
- Though the verse says the union “has come,” the vision is future and hasn’t yet been fulfilled. How does patience help you wait for this extraordinary occasion? Does impatience also have a role?
- The angel tells John that Christ’s “bride has prepared herself.” Is this true about you? How?
- At the coming communion with Jesus, this will be the attitude of our hearts toward God: “Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him.” Are you nearing this state of mind? If it feels foreign, take a moment to pray for greater alertness and expectation.
- “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9). An eternity of blessing rests on your faith in Christ and your life in Him. Let this knowledge motivate you to watchfulness, quiet you with peace, and fill your days with joyful anticipation—for He is coming quickly (Rev. 22:7).