As members of the Church militant, it is our calling to prepare for the return of Jesus. Scripture speaks to this in multiple ways. Possibly the most well-known such passage is found in Matthew 25. There, Christ gives the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them were prepared, having oil ready for their lamps, while the other five had none. The bridegroom “tarried” late into the night, and the virgins all slept. When he did come, however, the virgins who had no oil were forced to go and buy some. They arrived back too late and were not admitted into the wedding feast. Jesus finishes the parable with a dire warning: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh” (vs. 13). We must always have the oil ready – Christ’s return could be at any time. It is noteworthy that the parable speaks of the coming of the bridegroom being at midnight and of the virgins sleeping as they wait. The idea is that no one knows the exact time of his return, and the virgins must remain prepared even well after the sun has gone down. Even though they were all sleeping, the wise virgins still had their oil at the ready. Similarly, we are not called to simply forsake and neglect all aspects of our earthly life and focus only on preparation for the return of Christ. God knows that we are still human, and that we have human needs while on earth. At the same time, however, we are without excuse when we become wholly consumed by earthly life and neglect the upkeep of our lamps.
The fact that the parable takes place at night also plays well into another passage of Scripture dealing with our calling prior to the end times. In Isaiah 21, we read of a night watchman and his work. In verse 6, God’s command is that a watchman be set and that he “declare what he seeth.” The report is given in the following verses. Another important detail comes out of this as well – God calls out to the watchman in verse 11: “Watchman, what of the night?” It is not as though God takes no care for the Church as it awaits the end of this world. Rather, he watches us just as we watch for Him. He knows when we neglect our labors and whether or not we are truly invested in our watching.
So, brother or sister, God’s question to you and to me this day is, “What of the night?” Have we been keeping our eyes peeled, searching out the return of our Savior? Do we have plenty of oil with us, or have we grown lax in the maintenance of our lamps? If so, we need to analyze our priorities. We are not to leave all the labors to which God calls us in everyday life, but we must ensure that we are fulfilling our calling to watch. Indeed, the words of Christ ring true: “Watch therefore!”