And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ (Matt. 25:6)
As we approach the darkest hour of human history, God is preparing a people whose light will shine brighter than the world around them (Isa. 60:1-2). Remember the plague of darkness released in Egypt that was so dark it could be felt (Ex. 10:21), yet still “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Ex. 10:23). In the same way, I believe the Lord will have a remnant of wise virgins who have paid the price of preparation to keep that light burning in their dwelling. But how will He ready a people for that hour to avoid burn out, resist complacency, endure persecution, and remain un-offended despite our flesh being weak? He will surely do this by placing a powerful message in the hearts of His loyal friends young and old, who will faithfully trumpet it with their mouths and lives, inspiring His bride to make herself ready. These ones, bought by grace, who have obtained a deep reality with God through a costly lifestyle of devotion will be the ones He uses to cry out in the midnight hour, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!”
At midnight a cry was heard: Jesus uses the word “midnight” in this parable to emphasize two things about the end-time hour: 1) It will be spiritually dark and 2) many will be spiritually asleep (Matt. 25:5). Still, there will be a cry (or message) that He puts in the mouths of the watchful and the wise that will be heralded throughout the land. It will come from the voice of a prepared people crying in the wilderness (Isa. 40:3). Isaiah 40 is the great forerunner chapter out of which John the Baptist discovered his own identity (Isa. 40:3; Jn. 1:23). It is a message of comfort (v. 1) for a time of great trouble when “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (v. 30). Jesus also said in that context, “men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Lk. 21:26). So what will that midnight cry be? What is the message that the shepherds and watchmen must proclaim in this hour?
The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” (Isa. 40:6)
You who bring good tidings (messengers of the gospel), get up to a high mountain (place of influence or authority)…lift up your voice with strength (do not quit or grow weary), lift it up, be not afraid (be bold; do not yield to persecution); say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ (Isa. 40:9)
Behold: This is the cry of a forerunner, to turn the attention of humanity to God in the hour of shaking. Our cry must always begin with, “Look at Him!” It’s a call for people to slow down, drop what they are doing and consider who He is, what He’s like, what He did, and what He is going to do. King David kept his heart alive despite his political responsibilities and difficult circumstances by making it his preoccupation to behold the beauty of the Lord (Ps. 27:4). The fuel for serving God is revelation of God, and the Church in this hour NEEDS revelation of God. Our hands are busy, but our hearts are empty. Jesus prayed that we would be with Him where He is, so that we could behold Him in His glory (Jn. 17:24). John was able to recognize Jesus saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” because he had been living a lifestyle of beholding Him (John 1:29).
The bridegroom is coming: The cry must emphasize Jesus as the Bridegroom God. The problem is, we must first know Him as the Bridegroom for ourselves before we can proclaim Him as one. John the Baptist also had this revelation, which is why he would say, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice” (Jn. 3:29). The Apostle Paul deeply understood this as well (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27). Understanding God as a Bridegroom causes us to see and relate to people differently (specifically people we might influence in ministry). They are no longer mere potential followers or members of our ministry who could help shine our lamp (make our ministry look good), but they are the very Bride of Christ whom He has entrusted into our care. How dare the friends of the bridegroom sleep with His bride to be while He is “delayed” (Matt. 25:5)!
The Parable of the Virgins was given in context to the end times (Matt. 24). In this midnight hour, God is revealing Himself more and more as a Bridegroom who is jealous for His bride. It critical that we grow in this revelation because we will need this paradigm to make sense of God’s coming judgments. When know Him as a Bridegroom, His judgments actually become righteous acts of love and mercy as He seeks to remove everything that stands between Him and His beloved bride. It is our privilege and responsibility as trumpeters of the gospel to proclaim more than the first coming of Jesus (He died for our sins) but also the second coming (He will return for His bride).
Go out to meet Him: We must prepare people to be ready in that hour to actively respond to God’s coming. Many mistake the sovereignty of God as a license to do nothing. This is un-biblical, irresponsible, presumptuous, and we will be held accountable for our indifference and silence. Proclaiming a gospel that gives people confidence to fold their arms in apathy as they wait for the rapture, being completely disengaged from God’s end-time plan, is just as bad as proclaiming a gospel that gives people confidence to live in sin. It is dangerous (especially as a preacher) to ignore the Bible’s clear emphasis of the end-times (150 chapters) in fear of causing division or having lack of clarity. Now is the time to gain intimate understanding of Christ’s leadership and purposes for the days ahead. We must truly know the end of the story better than ever. Now is the time to buy oil (deepen our relationship with God by His Spirit) though the price is on the rise (time is ticking), for only those with fresh oil in their trimmed lamps will be useful to God in that day. Notice in the parable that “ALL those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps” (Matt. 25:7). Everyone knows they have to trim their lamp (cut off the bad, repent, receive forgiveness, leave behind possessions, etc.) when He comes, but few want pay the price for fuel beforehand. Like any relationship, our relationship with God requires a sacrifice of time, money and energy, but in light of the outcome, it could hardly be called sacrifice (i.e. what father regrets spending time, money and energy with his kids?). Knowing this, we must prepare others, while we prepare ourselves, to “Go out to meet Him.”
In context to this midnight hour, Jesus repeatedly exhorted His disciples to “Watch” (Matt. 24:42; 25:13). Paul said, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). Isaiah said it another way, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). A cry from God’s faithful witnesses is already arising today as the clock ticks toward midnight, bringing light and removing confusion. They will help make sense of God’s judgment. They will bring supernatural conviction. I urge you proclaimers, as a mouthpiece of God, do not hold your peace, and do not rest “until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns” (Isa. 61:1). In the thickest night, when everyone else is asleep and silent, cry out.