In Matthew 24, Jesus declared that the Temple would be torn down and the Disciples were greatly disturbed because it was prophesied that when Messiah came, He would come to His Temple. They then asked Him –
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” – Matthew 24:3
Jesus then revealed the various trials and events that would occur before His return. He warned them repeatedly to watch and pray that they be not deceived –
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” – Matthew 24:42
He next uses a series of parables to explain conditions that will exist when He comes and what will be needed on the part of believers to be ready. The parable I want to focus on is that of the Ten Virgins –
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose 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, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” – Matthew 25:1-13
First, this parable is concerning the kingdom of heaven, or the Church, at the end of the age. Earlier, Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grew into a large tree that the birds could come and lodge inits branches –
“It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” – Luke 13:19
Not all of the birds were good but, they found refuge in the tree. That is certainly the condition of the Church today. Much of it is apostate. Paul warned “there will come up from among your own group, those who will depart from the faith, seeking to draw men after themselves, and many of them departing from our very Lord.”, and that is true. Many ministers of Seminaries and churches deny the Virgin Birth and the truth of the Word of God. They accept things God calls abominations. Money and influence are more important than truth. That is why some politicians can claim they are Christian even though they sponsor and vote for things the Word of God clearly condemns – such as abortion, homosexuality, or the marriage of two men or two women to each other! They are like the Church of Thyatira in Revelation chapter 2, whom the Lord will cast into “great tribulation” unless they repent. Not all that sit in the pews of an earthly church are members of the Church of Christ!
Second, there are wise and foolish virgins, who represent those calling themselves Christians. The one distinguishing trait between them is “oil in their lamps” – the wise had it and the foolish didn’t. The oil represents the Holy Spirit –
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” – Ephesians 6:17
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
Many believe they can do the work of the Lord by their own abilities and strength but such works are not pleasing to the Lord. As David of old, we must be anointed by the oil of the Spirit to do the work of God –
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. …” – 1 Samuel 16:13
You cannot buy your way into the kingdom of God or buy the anointing of the Lord by degrees you earn, or gifts you give, for the Word declares –
“Ho, every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” – Isaiah 55:1
There is only one way you can get oil for your lamp – receive it as a gift!
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” – Luke 11:13
Once you have received Him (the baptism in the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:4) it is your responsibility to continue the relationship –
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30
“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” – Acts 5:32
Obedience is required to maintain the Holy Spirit’s presence and disobedience grieves Him so that He withdraws from us. That is why the 5 foolish virgins ran out of oil.
Thirdly, this parable teaches that the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, is coming back for a bride and when we hear the warning shout we are to go out into the dark with our lamps burning brightly! Isaiah prophesied about this time –
“For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” – Isaiah 60:2
Those who will shine for the LORD must be willing to be different, to be ‘pilgrims’ and ‘strangers’ in this world, as the Bible declares. We will go out to greet the coming Lord by bringing light to those lost in the darkness. If you show kindness to those who reject you, if you forgive when wronged, if you look for the good in every situation when most are accusing and condemning, you will certainly stand out as different!
Fourth, I must tell you, there is a time coming when the Lord’s grace runs out and judgment begins. To the foolish virgins the door was shut. They waited too long to take advantage of the promise of the Lord –
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” – Revelation 3:8
There is an urgency to the oil lamps of the wise virgins. They know that ‘today’ is all we really have to get right with God –
“but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:13
Don’t wait, being deceived by the devil, thinking you will get right with God tomorrow. We all are just one heartbeat away from eternity. The message of the wise virgins is –
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” – Hebrews 3:16
Fifth, why are there 10 virgins? And why are 5 wise and 5 foolish? While it is always a bit risky to speculate on Biblical numerology, Jesus does say that every element of the word of God is important and will be fulfilled. So what can we glean from their meanings in this parable?
10 in the Bible often relates to human government, the 10 commandments for example. These ten virgins represent the whole church on earth and all those that count themselves part of it, for whatever reason. Jesus taught that in the end days judgment would begin with the house of God and here we see the separating of apostate believers from faithful believers in the church.
The number 5 in the Bible is often associated with Grace. For example there were 5 Levitical offerings (Leviticus 1-5) and Jesus multiplied 5 loaves into 5000 in Matthew 14:17. The lesson is – we are saved by the Grace of the Lord and not by our works, or abilities, or intellect.
The most frightening aspect of this parable is how quickly and silently the hour of testing came upon the foolish virgins. It was exactly as Jesus warned the church of Sardis –
“Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.“ – Revelation 3:3
There is much more that could be learned from this parable and many varied interpretations as well. I have given what my limited understanding is. One thing that is common to all the differing interpretations is – 1) The Lord is returning, 2) We must be alert and ready, 3) A separation is coming between the wise and the foolish.
My prayer is that we will all use the time given to us to seek the Lord while He may be found and endeavor to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we may shine in the darkness of this world.