Last week we finished Matthew 24, but we didn't finish the Olivet Discourse. Matthew 25 is still dealing with the unbroken discourse which Yeshua delivered to His disciples. The chapter division here misleads us by putting the break in the wrong place. In Matthew 24:3, in response to Yeshua's prediction of the destruction of the temple, his disciples have asked him a two-part question: "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
In this parable, He is still answering their questions and continues the solemn declaration of the uncertainty of the "day and hour" of His return and of the necessity of being ready for such an event.
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:1 ESV
The opening word "then" is important in a two-fold way. First, it is a link binding the previous chapter and this one together. There was no break in our Lord's discourse, as is clear from the following comparison.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42 ESV
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 ESV
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13 ESV
"Stay awake" in 42 and "Watch" in 13 are both grēgoreuō which means to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.), be vigilant, be on the alert. Both chapters emphasize the need of being prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, Yeshua the Christ.
The word "then" also provides the key to the interpretation. When will the Kingdom of Heaven be like ten virgins? When He comes at the consummation of the age. The previous parable of the householder and servants, this one of "The Virgins," and the next one of "The Talents," all belong to the same period. They speak of the forty-year time period between the ascension and the second coming in A. D. 70. All three parables speak of an absent Lord, but in each case, He returns to deal with those who, during His absence, were left with certain responsibilities.
The parable concerns an absent bridegroom, and it is only incidentally about him because our Lord's focus is primarily upon those who are waiting for the bridegroom. The wedding, in this parable, is an Eastern wedding. In the East, customs are different than they are in the West. In the Eastern wedding, the bridegroom and not the bride is the important figure.
Our Lord is spotlighting the experience of ten young virgins who were waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. Their experience is described for us in the first six verses.
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Matthew 25:1-6 ESV
"Then the kingdom of heaven"–the terms "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of heaven" correspond with what Daniel says about "the God of heaven setting up a kingdom."
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, Daniel 2:44 ESV
Daniel had foretold of a coming time when the everlasting kingdom would be established. Christianity is the kingdom of God. And notice that Daniel says that this kingdom will "stand forever." The kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven is quite simply the rule and reign of God.
"Will be like"–this is the future tense; it is looking ahead to the end of the age. "The kingdom of heaven will be like Ten virgins"–this means, when the Son of man returns in judgment, it will be as it was in the case of ten virgins in a marriage ceremony. The parable deals with the onset of the consummated kingdom. The Lord is still dealing with the disciples' questions about the destruction of the temple, the Lord's parousia, and the end of the age. We could put it this way–the end of the Jewish age and the consummation of the kingdom of God will be like the coming of a bridegroom to a waiting bridal party.
"Virgins"–although the word parthenos is used to describe them, nothing is made of their virginity as such. The term should be understood to simply denote that they were young enough not to have been married yet. What age would this be? They would be under the age of puberty. Let me show you this in Ezekiel,
I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. Ezekiel 16:7 ESV
The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says this: "This verse speaks of a young maiden having reached the age of marriageability: her breasts are formed and her pubic hair has grown. These references should be taken as conventional tokens of marriageability in the ancient Near East, as attested by an almost identical text found in an Inanna/Ishtar hymn."
Ezekiel goes on to describe Yahweh's marriage to Israel. Hopefully this gives you a culturally accurate picture of these young girls.
Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Matthew 25:2 ESV
Yeshua made a distinction between the "wise" and the "foolish" at the beginning of His teaching in Matthew by an allegory of two builders, one wise and one foolish. The wise one built his house upon the rock of obedience to Yeshua's teaching and the foolish one built upon the sand of ignoring what he said in Matthew 7:24. The two adjectives used to describe these women are the same as the ones used to describe the builders on the rock and on the sand in chapter seven.
The wisdom commended here was also the hallmark of the faithful slave in the preceding parable. The term for "foolish", moros, has given us our term "moron." The contrast between the wise and foolish is a frequent feature of the wisdom literature of the Tanakh, especially in Proverbs.
Here we see the kingdom of heaven compared to an Eastern wedding. If we look at this parable with western twentieth-century eyes, it may seem an unnatural and made up story. But, in fact, it tells a story which could have happened at any time in a Palestinian village and one which could still happen today.
The point of the story lies in a Jewish custom which is very different from anything we know. Marriage ceremonies in the East were conducted with great pomp and solemnity. They were a great occasion. The whole village turned out to accompany the couple to their new home, and they went by the longest possible road in order that they might receive the good wishes of as many as possible. The Jews have this saying: "Everyone, from six to sixty will follow the marriage drum." The Rabbis agreed that a man might even abandon the study of the law to share in the joy of a wedding feast.
The details of what was going on at this wedding are vague, and different Bible scholars have different opinions as to whether the main characters are waiting at the bride's house for the groom to pick her up or whether the attendants are waiting at the groom's house while the groom is going out to fetch his bride.
Kenneth Bailey in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP, 2008), says that "The groom is heading back with the bride to his house, where the attendants are waiting for them. The Groom is taking the longest route possible through the town to let everybody in town know that they are getting married. Marriages, Bailey adds, were usually held in the summer, and night-time (once things have cooled off a bit) was the time to be outdoors having such festivities."
The job of these ten girls was to go out to meet the groom when he arrived and escort him in. It was an important job, and if they did it well, their reward would be to join in the wedding feast.
Dr. J. Alexander Findlay tells of what he himself saw in Palestine.
"When we were approaching the gates of a Galilaean town, I caught a sight of ten maidens gaily clad and playing some kind of musical instrument, as they danced along the road in front of our car; when I asked what they were doing, the dragoman told me that they were going to keep the bride company till her bridegroom arrived.
I asked him if there was any chance of seeing the wedding, but he shook his head, saying in effect: 'It might be tonight, or tomorrow night, or in a fortnight's time; nobody ever knew for certain.' Then he went on to explain that one of the great things to do, if you could, at a middle-class wedding in Palestine, was to catch the bridal party napping.
So the bridegroom comes unexpectedly, and sometimes in the middle of the night; it is true that he is required by public opinion to send a man along the street to shout: 'Behold! The bridegroom is coming!' but that may happen at any time; so the bridal party have to be ready to go out into the street at any time to meet him, whenever he chooses to come….other important points are that no one is allowed on the streets after dark without a lighted lamp, and also that, when the bridegroom has once arrived, and the door has been shut, late-comers to the ceremony are not admitted."
Like so many of Yeshua's parables, this one has an immediate and local meaning. That is the background of the picture our Lord draws here. Here are ten virgins waiting to join the wedding party. They are waiting expectantly for the bridegroom. Is the number ten significant? As the number seven among the Jews denoted perfection, so ten was the number that made a thing complete. A company was considered complete if ten were present.
There was an ancient Jewish law that wherever there were ten Jews, a synagogue could be built. There were ten witnesses present when Boaz married Ruth (4:2), and this would seem to fit with Jewish tradition on what constitutes a quorum for a formal event. Ten was probably a usual number on such a wedding occasion. The company of those who attended as mourners at a funeral was fixed by rabbinical authority to ten at least, and this number seems to have been thought necessary to form a company. Ten, then, is the number of completeness and as used here, implies the church.
Who are the virgins? In the flow and purpose of this parable, the "virgins" who are expecting the Bridegroom would be the church. Notice how Paul uses this analogy of virgins:
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV
In his commentary on this, the Syrian Orthodox monk, scholar, physician and poet, Ibn al-Tayyib, of the eleventh century points out that in the Gospels the church is always feminine.
But we must be careful not to try to press too much meaning into these figures. Many commentators discover a spiritual significance in the virgins, as if this term denoted those specially devoted to Christ but this necessitates a forced interpretation of the conclusion of the parable. The virgins were the usual companions of the bride and her proper attendants on such an occasion. They are, therefore, naturally introduced as part of the imagery of the parable.
Do you remember what we said last week about parables? It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Bernard Ramm, in his book Protestant Biblical Interpretation, says, "The golden rule of parabolic interpretation is — Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach." We must keep this in mind or we will get lost in all of the details and miss the main point. Others have put the rule this way: Don't make a parable walk on all fours.
Our objective, therefore, as we study this parable, is to find its one central message. That central message is this: preparedness is essential for the time is coming when getting ready will no longer be possible; the door will be shut. The overriding theme is preparedness for the coming of the Son of Man. It should be clear that this parable is an amplification of one word which our Lord gave to his disciples after he had outlined the course of events. He said to them, "Be alert!"
Some folks try to make each item in the parable mean something symbolic and they end up with all kinds of strange ideas. One commentator claims that the virgins represent Jewish scholars, the lamps depict Torah, and the oil stands for good deeds. The foolish virgins are Jewish scholars who study Torah but who fail to practice good deeds. They are, therefore, excluded from the Chamber of Instruction.
The "Liberty Commentary" says this: "The parable of the Ten Virgins explains the place of Israel's true converts of the Tribulation period in relation to the church. The one bride of Christ is the church, John the Baptist is the best man, and the prepared virgins are the saved of the Tribulation period. The fact that they all slept, implies a period of Jewish inactivity during the Church Age, while the bride is gathered." Now, how they get all of that out of this parable, I do not know. It takes a vivid imagination.
Another commentator writes, "That's why this parable is so important. It tells us about what it takes to get into heaven." So, the Lord is telling his disciples how to get to heaven? Sounds like salvation by works.
As in the previous parable of the household which was waiting for its absent lord, this parable obviously is intended to describe those who lived between the Lord's ascension and His second coming. Our Lord knew at this time that he was soon going away. He knew there would be an intervening period of time before his return, and he is describing, by means of these three parables, what he means by his command, "Be alert." This parable stresses the need for preparedness in the face of an unexpected delay.
Last week we saw that the first parable indicates that watching involves understanding and obeying the Word of God. They needed to understand the Christian doctrine so that they would not turn back to Judaism.
In this story about ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom's coming, certain clues are given to us to reveal our Lord's meaning.
Notice, first of all, that there is a division among these ten. They fall into two groups: five were wise and five were foolish. The first question, therefore, that immediately confronts us is, "What makes the difference?" In what way are five wise and the other five foolish? You can see immediately that there were certain very similar things about all ten of them. They all intended to meet the bridegroom and to escort him to the place where the festivities were to be held. Because they all had lamps, that seems not to be the ground of division. Also, they all had oil when they started, so it is not that. Furthermore, they all were expecting the bridegroom's coming; they all had a sense of expectation, and when he was delayed, they all went to sleep.
As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. Matthew 25:5 ESV
In each of these parables, the Lord clearly indicates that there is going to be what seemed to them as a long delay before His parousia. After all, forty years is a long time isn't it?
But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' Matthew 24:48 ESV
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. Matthew 25:19 ESV
Commenting on the long delay, Stephen F. Hayhow writes, "Both parables, the parables of the virgins, and the parable of the talents, speak of the absence of the bridegroom/master, who is said to be 'a long time in coming' (v. 5) and 'After a long time the master of the servants returned' (v. 19). This suggests, not the events of A.D. 70 which were to occur in the near future, in fact within the space of a generation, but a distant event, the return of Christ."
He is saying that the delay that Yeshua speaks of will be some 2,000 years. We must understand this delay in light of all that the Scripture says about his second coming. Scriptures indicate that he was to come back within a forty-year period. The early Christians expected him to return within their lifetime because that is what he, himself, had said he would do. From the time Yeshua spoke these parables until he returned in A. D. 70 was about forty years. Now, let me ask you a question: "Is forty years a long time to you?" Yes, to those waiting for His return, forty years must have seemed like a very long time.
One expositor writes, "But Jesus did not teach a soon return at all. He clearly indicated, not only by implication and indirect statement, as in this parable, but also very specifically that it would be a long time before his return. The bridegroom would be delayed. In the previous parable of the household there is the same thing. The servant says to himself, 'My lord delays his coming,' (Matt 24:48). Also in the following parable we find it even clearer. 'After a long time' (Matt 25:19) the master comes to demand an accounting from his servants. Jesus clearly taught that it would be a long time before his return to earth again."
He said, "Jesus did not teach a soon return at all." I guess we would have to define "soon." He is correct if he is saying that Yeshua did not teach that he would return in a year or two or even in ten. But He very clearly taught that He would come in the lifetime of those to whom He spoke.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Matthew 10:23 ESV
Those of us who take the Bible seriously must take Yeshua at His word. The cities He referred to are long since buried under centuries of dirt. We must conclude that sometime in the first century this prophecy was fulfilled. Yeshua has come.
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:28 ESV
If some standing there were to see his coming, He must have come in their lifetime. Yeshua told them that he would return to that generation:
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV
This long delay must be seen in light of all that the Scripture has to say about the second coming. Gary DeMar has this excellent comment on the delay. "The parables of Matthew 24-25 are clear on the duration of the delays–the two masters who go on a journey return to the same people they left. There is no need to allegorize these parables to force them to depict a distant coming of Christ. In addition, the delay of the bridegroom in the parable of the ten virgins is not very long, unless the virgins are related to Rip Van Winkle. The virgins get drowsy at dusk, and the bridegroom returns at midnight (25:6). How can this 'delay' be turned into a span of time nearly two thousand years in length?"
While they were waiting for the bridegroom, the ten virgins fell asleep. Here again some who read this parable misinterpret it and say that this is wrong because these virgins should never have slept. But there is nothing in this story to indicate that it was wrong for these girls to sleep. It was a perfectly natural thing for them to do. After all, it was night, and since it was a festive occasion and they could not do any work, there is no reason why they should not sleep.
They were simply waiting for the bridegroom to appear; and when he was delayed, it was only natural for them to catch a few winks while waiting. Our Lord never indicates any blame toward these virgins because they slept. The foolish slept and the wise as well. We must be careful in interpreting these stories not to read into them things that are not implied.
It is, perhaps, suggestive that our Lord records that they all slept. This indicates that when he said, "Be alert," he clearly did not mean that they were to be constantly staring out the window looking for his return.
But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Matthew 25:6 ESV
The same words here for "cry" and "meet" are used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians in describing the coming of Christ which he also said would be "like a thief in the night."
But now, according to the story, the cry came at midnight: "Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him." That immediately plunges us into the rest of the story,
Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:7-13 ESV
The word translated "lamp" in most English Translation is lampas which can be translated as lamp or light. Some say that this was a torch formed from a bundle of sticks which was dipped in oil rather than the pottery lamps with a wick which are called luchnos. These are the torches used by the arresting party in John 18:3.
Unlike lamps, which have a reservoir and so can burn for some time, torches go out quickly and need to be dipped in oil repeatedly to maintain their light. "A torch without a jar of oil was as useless as a modern flashlight without a battery" ((R T France, NICNT, p 949).
But then Eighteenth-Century Bible Commentator, Dr. John Gill, cited the Jewish Mischna (Ib. 8), describing this kind of lamp or torch as "an earthen vessel in the form of a reed, at the top of which was a proper receptacle, in which they burnt old rags dipped in oil." So, if this is the case, it would be like a modern-day Tiki torch.
It is immediately evident from this that the crucial difference between the wise and the foolish lay in the fact that the wise had extra oil. They all had oil to begin with, but the wise took along an extra supply. That is what made it possible for them to endure the unexpected delay of the bridegroom.
What does the oil symbolize? (Who cares, it doesn't matter). A big deal is made of the oil because many think that it is what divides these virgins. I think they are wrong, but let's look at what they have to say about the oil. Cook writes, "The flame of the lamp is outward and visible; the oil which feeds it is inward and invisible. The foolish virgins had an outward show of religion, but were deficient in the inward source from which true religion springs, and by which it is maintained."
The majority of commentators take the "oil" to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit and believe that the wise, having oil, represent the truly regenerate. But they both had oil to begin with; the foolish virgins simply ran out. How can the oil refer to the Holy Spirit? Do we run out of Holy Spirit?
The theme of this parable turns on the bridegroom's delay. The foolish virgins do not forget to bring oil, but the delay of the bridegroom shows they did not bring enough. The oil cannot be forced to mean "good works" or "the Holy Spirit." It is merely an element in the story showing that the foolish virgins were not prepared for the delay and so missed the joy of the wedding feast. It is preparedness that distinguishes the wise from the foolish virgins. The wise were prepared to last through the delay.
The five foolish virgins probably expected that the bridegroom would come very soon and, therefore, made no provision for the delay. The wise virgins knew that the time of his coming was uncertain, so they were prepared for a delay.
Without a light, these maidens could not get into the marriage feast. Our Lord does not say why, but it is obviously clear that without a light they would not be admitted.
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Matthew 25:10 ESV
Circling back to the main point of this parable, remember that the word "ready" found in this verse was also used by Yeshua back in Matthew. 24:44, when He said,
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 ESV
When the bridegroom came, only those who were ready went in.
The word "ready" is hetoimos. It means ready or prepared.
The same idea is seen here.
The foolish virgins were not ready; they were unprepared and so they didn't get in.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13 ESV
The Greek word for "watch" here is gregoreuo. It means to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.):—be vigilant. It is the same word that was used in:
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Matthew 24:42-43 ESV
It should be clear that the idea in this parable is the same as we saw in the previous one. To not watch would cost the first-century saints dearly. It could cost them their lives.
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot–they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all– so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Luke 17:26-33 ESV
They needed to be prepared to flee Jerusalem in light of His coming. This is the scope or design of the whole parable. We also see here the idea again that they don't know the day or the hour of his coming and are, therefore, to always be watching. Notice that here the bridegroom is identified as the Son of Man. Like the coming of the bridegroom, his advent would be sudden and costly for those who are not prepared.
Notice here that the marriage of Christ (the bridegroom, v.10) occurs in connection with His parousia (v.13). Unless Christ is involved in more than one marriage, His marriage in Revelation 19 is also connected with the fall of Babylon (the city where Christ was crucified). Hence the destruction of Jerusalem is the time frame of His parousia and, therefore, of His marriage.
The warning of the parable is not to be confused by seeking too many spiritual meanings of the oil, the sleep, the vessels, and the lamps. The parable's burden is that of readiness for the bridegroom's coming. The parable is not addressed to those who have made no preparation for the Lord's coming but to those who have not made sufficient preparation.
Why were these virgins foolish? What was it that made them foolish? They were foolish in that they were not prepared. Likewise, those of the first century were unprepared for the Lord's coming because instead of remaining faithful to the Apostles' doctrine, they were turning back to the Jewish law system.
We saw last week that watching had to do with understanding and following sound doctrine. Near the end of the transition period, many turned away from faith and were going back under the law. The persecution and trials caused them to fall away. They turned back to the Jewish system, and thus were destroyed in the Jewish war. The door was shut. If they did not flee Jerusalem quickly, so they lost all opportunity to escape. The word used in Matthew 25 for foolish is the Greek word moros. It means dull or stupid. This same word is used in Titus 3.
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11 ESV
What is referred to as foolish here is the teachings of the circumcision party. These Judaizers were constantly demanding that the Christians keep the Jewish law. The conflict that raged in the New Testament times is to be understood in terms of two covenants. Outwardly, the Old Covenant order remained intact, and Jewish Christianity, as a whole, was blinded to the age-changing significance of Christ's death and resurrection. Paul dealt much with this subject in the book of Galatians. The Galatians were acting foolish in turning back to the law.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Yeshua the Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:1-3 ESV
Paul asked the Galatians, who were being pressured to be circumcised, and thus mix the old with the new, "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" Here, flesh and Spirit stand for the two modes of existence as determined by the two covenants. Paul's question is, "Does it take the old age of the flesh to make you perfect or complete in the new age of the Spirit, where the promise is being fulfilled?" The question, "Are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" is asking if they are made perfect by adding the ceremonial works of the law to the gospel. They had begun in the Spirit; they were Christians. But they were now turning back to the law which was foolish and would cause them not to be watchful.
This is the emphasis of the book of Hebrews: If they turn back to Judaism, they will be destroyed in its destruction.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV
This is speaking of a believer who was sanctified (v.29) but who turned away from the gospel by going back to Judaism.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." Hebrews 10:35-38 ESV
The Greek is very expressive and emphatic. The author used a word which signifies "a little while." Then, for further emphasis, he added a particle meaning "very." This he further intensified by repeating it, and thus literally rendered this clause as: "For yet a very, very little while, and He that shall come will come." He is coming in a very little while and you need to keep living by faith. If you draw back, you will be destroyed at His coming.
Yeshua had told his disciples that he would come in their lifetime, but they did not know the day or hour, so they were to always be watching. Those who were wise would be prepared for His coming and would escape the destruction of the city, thus rejoicing in His judgment on the Old Covenant world. If they were foolish and not watching, he would come unexpectedly and they would suffer great pain as the city was destroyed. Being foolish would cost them their lives.
This parable was given to first-century saints. They were to be watching and ready for His coming. Its application to us is found in its universal principle that those believers who know and obey the Word of God are blessed, and those believers who are not obedient to the principles of the Word of God will be disciplined by the Lord. We are not to watch for his coming, but we are to live by His Word. When we fail to do this, it will cost us.
Yeshua concluded the sermon on the Mount like this:
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
The issue here is obedience to Yeshua's teaching. When you build your house on rock (live in obedience), the storms of life will not affect it; but when you build on the sand (live in disobedience), the storms of life will cause your house to fall. Wisdom is equated with obedience and foolishness with disobedience. Where are you building your house?
Many of us don't heed its warning. We live our lives in disobedience to God's Word, and in doing so, we build on the sand. Living in disobedience to the teaching of Yeshua will cost us.