THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
SPIRIT LESSONS PT. 4
In Matthew 25, Jesus relays the parable of the Ten Virgins. In the previous chapter, He began His discourse on the last days while providing many prophetic insights into the future and the era leading up to His return. The parable of the Ten Virgins is simply a continuation of that discourse. As with all of Christ's parables, the story of the Ten Virgins is replete with symbolic meaning and profound truths that are highly relevant to our time. But to best understand its message, let's begin by reviewing the content of this parable:
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Mat. 25:1-13).
Ten virgins embark on a journey to meet their Bridegroom while taking their lamps with them (v. 1)
The ten virgins represent the Church (the Bride of Christ), the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and this parable describes His return. We can be certain of this because Jesus is depicted as the Bridegroom of the Church throughout the New Testament (Jn. 3:27-30; Mat. 9:15; Mrk. 2:19-20) and the Church is described as the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25-32).
Since lamps produce light, the lamps in this parable, which the virgins took with them, simply symbolize light. This is because Christians are called to be a light in the midst of a dark world:
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mat. 5:14-16).
According to Matthew 5:16, the Christian's light is their good works. A Christian's good works will set them apart from the wicked deeds committed by those around them who refuse to submit to God. This is an important detail to keep in mind when attempting to understand the meaning of this parable.
Five were wise and five foolish (v. 2)
As mentioned before, the virgins represent the Church or the Christians who comprise it. The fact that there are two groups of virgins, five wise and five foolish, indicates that God does not view all Christians (those who claim to know Christ) the same. In this parable, half of all professing Christians are foolish and lack a vital component in their relationship with God that qualifies them as being "wise".
The wise took oil with their lamps, while the foolish did not (vv. 3-4)
What's interesting about this parable is that ALL of the virgins had lamps in their possession and looked very similar. In fact, we may have easily assumed that all of them were prepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom. But clearly that was not the case. Merely having a lamp was not enough. With no oil a lamp is virtually useless. A lamp cannot burn without a good fuel source such as oil or kerosene. And so it is with the Christian. The Christian can't be who they are without spiritual fuel. Therefore, it's what's inside the Christian that matters most. This leads us to an important question. Are we focused on the outside of our lamp or do we care about what’s inside?
In the Bible, oil consistently represents the Holy Spirit. This correlation is drawn from the fact that only oil was used to perform an anointing (Exo 30:25, 31; Lev 8:10; Num 4:16; Psa 23:5; 1Sam. 16:13) and the New Testament describes the Holy Spirit as our "anointing" (Luk. 4:18; Act. 10:38; 2Co. 1:21; 1Jn. 2:27).
But the Holy Spirit is merely the presence of God... since God is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 4:24). So when the Christian lacks oil in their lamp, they lack the presence of God. And the presence of God inside us is what sets us apart from the world and enables us to be an effective light. Without God's Holy Spirit presence we simply can't produce those good works Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:16. Because of this, we are commanded to be filled at all times with the Holy Spirit:
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).
While the Bridegroom tarried the virgins slumbered and slept (v. 5)
Many Bible commentators believe that God's people will fall into a general state of spiritual "drowsiness" just prior to Christ's return, especially as temptations increase and evil abounds (Mat. 24:12). It will seem as though the Bridegroom is delaying His coming and even the most devout may grow remiss with some degree of carelessness.
At midnight they heard the cry, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him" (v. 6)
The "midnight" mentioned here is understood to refer to the era of the Great Tribulation. During this time, the antichrist will reign briefly and the world will be plunged into great spiritual darkness. The age of grace would have ended as God's wrath is unleashed on mankind in the form of judgement plagues (Mat. 24; Rev. 1-18). Just like in Noah's time, when God's mercy was no longer extended to men once the ark doors were shut and the flood rains began, the Great Tribulation will seal off salvation from mankind.
But it's not all bad news. Just before the Tribulation commences, God's people will be warned with an awakening cry. And at the end of this dark era, Christ will return to reclaim the earth and set up His eternal Kingdom.
The virgins rise and trim their lamps; the foolish find they have run out of oil; the wise have enough for the journey, but not enough to share with the foolish (vv. 7-9a)
The notice of Christ's approach and the call to meet him will awaken the virgins out of their complacent condition. The wick trimming is symbolic for being purified from sin. A blackened wick, representing sin, will not burn unless it is trimmed. Clearly, the virgins are concerned about getting right with God and eliminating the sin from their lives in preparation for meeting the Bridegroom. It would appear that the foolish are dealing with sin superficially and with the wrong motive--self preservation. It is also apparent that the wise virgins have an extra store of oil. Their extra spiritual reserves will be enough to carry them through their journey to meet the Bridegroom, but not enough to share with the foolish.
There are several things to be noted here. First, we shouldn't wait till the very last moment before attempting to deal with the sin in our lives... since we may be too late. The time to practice spiritual preparedness is long before the crisis strikes, not while it is happening. Second, we should always strive to maintain a relationship with God based on love, not self-preservation. Finally, real Christians will maintain the presence of God in their lives by being continually filled with the Holy Spirit just like the wise virgins in this parable. As such, they will not be caught unprepared when the Bridegroom calls.
The foolish are directed to buy oil from the oil dealer; while enroute to do so, the Bridegroom arrives; the wise virgins go in with Him to the marriage; the foolish are barred from entry and permanently cast out; Jesus warns us to always be watchful for we know not the day or hour of His coming (vv. 9b-13)
When the foolish realized they had no oil for the journey and were in trouble they attempted to solicit help from the wise. However, the Tribulation period had already begun and their efforts to prepare were too late.
The five virgins without the oil represent false believers who enjoy the benefits of the Christian community without true love for Christ. They are more concerned about the party than about longing to see the Bridegroom. Their hope is that their association with true Believers (“give us some of your oil” v. 8) will bring them into the kingdom at the end. This, of course, is never the case. One person’s faith in Jesus cannot save another. The “Lord, lord” and “I do not know you” of verses 11 and 12 fit very well with Jesus’ condemnation of the false believers in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
Note: Words in red are copied from an online source.
So when the Bridegroom came, the wise were immediately admitted into the marriage feast while the foolish could no longer enter. The foolish virgins were ultimately rejected and barred from heaven because they were unprepared for Christ's return. The fact that their Master "knew them not" indicates that their relationship with God had always been superficial, insincere, and marred by sin (lawlessness).
Jesus concludes this parable with the following warning: Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Mat. 25:13).
The overarching theme of this parable is that Christ will return at an unknown hour and that His people must be ready. But being ready for Christ’s return involves the following all-important steps. It involves being born again through faith in Jesus Christ and symbolically partaking in His death, burial, and resurrection (Jn. 3:16; 14:6; Rom. 10:9-10; 1Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Christ's death on the cross represents men's death to self and their sin nature. His burial represents the permanent loss of our old way of life. And His resurrection represents the taking on of a new life modeled upon the actions of Jesus Christ.
If we are truly born again then saving faith will manifest itself in every aspect of our lives. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) will begin to show and a desire for greater holiness will be apparent. Also, a consistent looking for Christ's coming will mark our lives. Titus 2:11-14 is one of the best passages demonstrating what saving faith looks like:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
The next thing to recognize is that the wise virgins were filled with the Holy Spirit, represented by the extra oil. We should strive for the same. It is critical to seek for the Holy Spirit's baptism now while it is still available. Being filled with the Holy Spirit will enable us to manifest saving faith and produce the good works Jesus requires of us. Remember, the Christian's light is their good works (Mat. 5:16) and apart from the Holy Spirit, we cannot produce them.
We should also be ready to persevere in our spiritual walk regardless of the cost or sacrifice. As true Christians we must determine that, whatever occurs, be it lengthy time or adverse circumstances, when Jesus returns, we will be looking for Him with eagerness. May we not be found “going away to make the purchase” (v. 10) when Christ returns. Take the time now to fill your lamp with Holy Spirit oil, and take extra along. Keep waiting and watching with joy and anticipation.
Note: Words in red are copied from an online source.