Preparation for Heaven
William Nicholson, 1862
"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!" Matthew 25:10
[N.B. "At a marriage, the procession of which I saw some years ago," says Mr. Ward, "the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place the bridegroom was to come by boat. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, as if in the very words of Scripture, 'Behold! the bridegroom comes, go out to meet him.' All the people employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the procession; some of them had lost their lights and were unprepared, but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly-illuminated area before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of friends, and placed on a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut, and guarded by Sepoys. I and others expostulated with the doorkeepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable, as at this moment: and lite door was shut!" Bible Companion.]
This very instructive parable refers to Christ's second coming, when he shall gather together his people who have been made "wise" unto salvation, and admit them to that heavenly and eternal banquet which his grace has provided for them, and for the enjoyment of which his Spirit shall have prepared them.
The design of Christ in the parable is to induce watchfulness — a state of preparation for death which conducts to the judgment, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour!" Matthew 25:13
I. The Happiness Destined for the Followers of Christ.
This happiness is Heaven, with all its enjoyments, praises, and raptures. It is described in the text, "The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet."
1.This entering into Heaven, implies Christ's gracious approval of them. At the last day, Christ will come to his people as a Bridegroom; he will come in pomp and rich attire, and inconceivable glory, to meet them.
Now that the Bridegroom is taken away from us, we fast, ch. 9:15, but then there will be an everlasting wedding banquet. The Bridegroom then will come to fetch home his bride, to be where he is, John 17:24, and will rejoice over his bride, Isaiah 62:5, because she will be ready for his everlasting embraces of infinite love! 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. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Then the angel said to me, Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' And he added, These are the true words of God." Revelation 19:7-9
2.His people will be introduced by him into Heaven as . . .
his holy bride,
the purchase of his blood,
the travail of his soul, and
the gems of his crown!
John 14:1, 2, etc.
Yes, they will dwell with him in Heaven . . .
that delightful abode of immortality,
that splendid palace of the great King,
that inheritance of the saints in light,
the heavenly Jerusalem,
the city of the living God, with . . .
its atmosphere of perfect purity,
its tree of life,
its crystal river,
its streets of gold,
its gates of pearl,
so beautifully described in Revelation 21.
3.His redeemed people will be guests at the marriage feast. "The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet." This implies,
(1.) The consummation of the union of Christ with his Church, of which they will not only be the observants, but the participants. In this character, the Divine Being has declared himself to his Church, Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19, 20. "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!" Ephesians 5:25-27
This union will never be broken — it is an everlasting bond. "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of Heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name!" Revelation 3:12
(2.) They shall dwell in his immediate presence, and in the most intimate fellowship and communion with Christ — in a state of eternal rest and joy. They shall "see him as he is." "Be with him," who bled and died for them, "which is far better." "Absent from the body, and present with Christ." They shall "behold his glory!"
(3.) A marriage feast implies high festive enjoyment. Then choice food and wine are provided to gratify the taste, and exhilarate the spirits of the guests.
But in Heaven there will be no flesh and blood, and nothing carnal or material adapted to their cravings. But the immortal soul will have spiritual appetites for the hidden manna, the wine of the kingdom, etc., though we cannot now understand their sublime import.
Christ will feed them with light, with infinite discoveries, with inconceivable glories — and then will he shed his love abroad in their hearts in a measure infinitely exceeding whatever of that constraining love they ever experienced on earth. The wonders of his cross — the fruits of mediation — will be an everlasting spring of joy and rapture there.
(4.) A marriage feast implies social enjoyment. The guests may come from far, but they rejoice together. "Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast!" Angels will be there; we shall see them; we shall commune with them! Patriarchs will be there; prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors will be there. All the saved will be there! Hebrews 12:22, etc.
II. The Preparation Necessary for the Enjoyment of Heaven.
"The virgins who were ready." Alluding to the wise virgins who took oil in their vessels with their lamps — a wise precaution, that they might honor the Bridegroom at his approach. This readiness is illustrated by the wedding garment, Matthew 22:11.
What is the nature of spiritual preparation for death, and an interview with our Judge, etc.?
1. It is Divine. Not human — not self-righteous — not external religious rites and forms and observances, etc.
2. Spiritual enlightenment, to understand . . .
our sinful, impure, and perishing state,
the method of God's salvation through Christ, and
to see its superiority to every other religion.
3. Faith in the work of Christ. Resting the soul on that foundation laid in oaths, and promises and blood — depending upon his substitutionary atonement. And, as a consequence, realizing full pardon of sin, attested by the inward witness of God's Spirit — the removal of all guilt, the annihilation of all condemnation. Isaiah 12:1; Romans 5:1, and many passages.
4. An upright life, righteous conduct, purity, etc. — as effected by Divine energy; and which the soul develops itself in practical conformity to the will of Christ.
5. Constant expectation of, and preparation ["trimming the lamp," verse 7] for the coming of Christ. "They love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13. The second coming of Christ is the center in which all the lines of our religion meet, and to which the whole of the Divine life has a constant reference and tendency.
This preparation is real and lasting. It is both inward and outward. Not like the foolish virgins, verse 7. Mere professors have a lamp of profession in their hands, but have not in their hearts that stock of sound knowledge, holy dispositions, and settled resolutions, necessary to perseverance through the trials of the present state. They act under the influence of external inducements, but are void of spiritual life. They took lamps for a present show, but not oil for after use.
The real Christian resembles the wise virgins. The work of God is begun within, and that will maintain the profession. The heart is the vessel which God supplies, and that will make the profession consistent. Grace is the oil which he places in that vessel. It is derived from Christ the good Olive tree, and supplied to us, John 1:16.
III. The Significant Import of the Declaration,"And the door was shut!" This is usual when all the invited and responding guests are come. So it will be with the door of Heaven:
1. As an intimation of the happiness and security of the wise virgins. They have entered; the door is shut; their happiness is begun. They are now eternally secure, Revelation 3:12. Adam was placed in Paradise, but the door was left open, and so he went out again. But in Heaven, the glorified saints will be shut in.
2. It intimates the doom of the wicked — the foolish ones. "The door was shut!"
The state of saints and sinners will then be unalterably fixed, and those who are shut out then — will be shut out forever.
Now the gate is strait, but it is open; but then it will be shut and bolted, and a great gulf fixed.
This resembles the shutting of the door of the ark when Noah was in. He was saved in the ark — and all the rest perished.
"And the door was shut!" Heaven will never be seen and enjoyed by unrepentant sinners. Their probation is ended — their seedtime is over. "He who is unjust — let him be unjust still."
All the means of grace have passed away. The dispensation of the Gospel is closed. The Gospel trumpet will be heard no more. All instruments employed to convert and to save, will be employed no more.
God has owned his virgin people, accepted them, and conducted them through the gates into the city; and now those gates are shut!
The Spirit will strive no more. Hope is forever past.
No cries, however affecting and piercing, no petitions, however fervent and eloquent;
no tears, though numerous as the drops of the ocean;
and no power, though it might be a concentration of the might of all men and devils
— can ever open again the door of Heaven. It is forever shut against the wicked to keep them out! "Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' But he will answer, 'I don't know you, or where you come from.'" Luke 13:25.
"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life!" Revelation 21:27
Those holy gates forever bar
Pollution, sin, and shame;
None shall obtain admittance there,
But followers of the Lamb!
1. Be thankful that means of preparation are propounded by the Gospel; "wise" people will avail themselves of those means.
2. Let Christians be watchful, and trim their lamps — the Bridegroom is at hand.
3. How awful to have the door shut against us! Solemn thought! It will either open for us — or closed against us.