What the Bible says about Parable of the Ten Virgins
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Parables of the Olivet Prophecy
Parable Verses Lesson
Always be prepared for His coming.
Faithful and True Servants
God's servants must be faithful and wise in carrying out their responsibilities and relationships in the Body of Christ.
Christians must have constant contact with God to deepen their relationship with Him.
Christians must constantly work with and improve upon the gifts God has given.
Sheep and Goats
By serving fellow Christians, one serves his Savior.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
The six parables of the Olivet Prophecy can be summarized in the following six principles:
- Though not knowing the day or hour of Christ's return, we can know the signs.
- God requires us to live in expectation with vigilance and constant watchfulness.
- God requires faithfulness to duty and wisdom in dealing with our fellow man.
- God requires preparedness through spiritual development, working on our relationship with Him, and increasing the Holy Spirit.
- God requires us to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
- Christ will judge us by how we treat Him and our brethren. We cannot fool the King—He can discern true love from false love. Nobody will pass under the rod through hypocrisy.
Jesus understood what the end time would be like, and thus He gave commensurate instruction on how to overcome it and how not to be drawn into this world's distractions. A Christian cannot afford to succumb to these pressure-packed, enervating, and distracting times that we live in. These God-given principles apply to a multitude of specific circumstances: how we conduct our marriages and careers, how we rear our children, how we run our homes, how we drive a car, how we dress, how we talk, how we entertain ourselves. In every case—always—the Kingdom of God covers all parts of our lives. It covers everything all the time for those who are called in this age.
We look to the future, but we live in the present. Are we living by what we believe? Are we truly living by faith? We look for a city whose builder is God, and as His representatives we witness for Him in the way we live our lives. The Laodicean is distracted—he is living by what he sees—and is useless to Christ because he is not a faithful and true witness. The righteous live by faith not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). And so we must live and grow as the return of Christ nears day by day.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and LaodiceanismRelated Topics: Duty | End Times | Jesus Christ's Return | Laodiceanism | Parable of the Faithful and True Servants | Parable of the Fig Tree | Parable of the Sheep and the Goats | Parable of the Talents | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Parable of the Thief | Preparedness | Prophecy, Olivet | Relationship with God | Relationships | Watching | Witness | Worldliness
In the introduction, we see revealed important characteristics about the two groups that obviously describe two different types of attitudes. These traits make the two groups' approaches to the wedding celebration predictable, summarized by the contrasting behaviors of sincerity and superficiality. The two have some interesting similarities that cause them to appear the same outwardly.
Both groups were in the same place going to meet the bridegroom (verse 1). The spiritually unprepared Christian may sit right beside the spiritually prepared Christian in Sabbath services, similar to the state of the tares and wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). They both seem interested in the same things and seem to have the same character. Both may diligently give tithes and offerings and serve their brethren. It may only be in a crisis that the real differences show up, and then attendance may begin to wane, and their monetary support of the church may slow or even stop.
Both groups were carrying lamps (verse 1), so these vessels are not a sign of who had prepared. Similarly, a person carrying a Bible to church does not show that that person has prepared by study and prayer during the previous week to overcome sin and produce spiritual fruit. Neither does it show that the Holy Spirit exists within a person.
Both groups slumbered and slept (verse 5). Even the most dedicated and sincere saints may temporarily become spiritually lethargic. The fact that the Bridegroom delayed His coming is one of Jesus' many hints that His return may be much later than expected. From the perspective of the first-century church, Christ has delayed for almost 2,000 years! Nevertheless, we should not allow ourselves to become lethargic about His eventual return (Habakkuk 2:3). The word "slumbered" is actually nod, a transient act, whereas "slept" should be sleeping, a continuous act. Thus, we see the progression of lethargy. First, the virgins nodded their heads as if napping, and later, they slept continuously and deeply. Initial weariness is the first step to further spiritual decay. It is vital to catch temporary apathy early to prevent permanent disillusionment.
The ten virgins' service and reverence to God is done perfunctorily. It is more of a habit than a sincere zeal, and this is seen in Christians' routine attendance at Sabbath services. They obey God almost mindlessly, developing it into a routine over time. Their lack of emotional maturity and forethought carries them through life in lightheaded bliss, and so they remain with the church, just filling a seat or attending only occasionally.
The biblical writer uses an interesting clause to relate the child's continued state of death: "there was neither voice nor hearing." Today, we would say, "There was neither pulse nor breathing," but the Hebrew author highlights speaking and hearing as signs of life. Why?
Obviously, the Israelites knew that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11; see Genesis 9:4), and that God "breathed into [Adam's] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). The writer of II Kings, then, is not giving medical or clinical proof of the child's death but commenting on the state of death. When someone is dead, they can no longer speak or hear; communication is impossible.
What makes this especially interesting is that God frequently speaks of spiritual enlightenment as "life" and spiritual darkness or degeneracy as "death." Speaking of the uncalled, Jesus tells a potential disciple, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22). He tells the church in Sardis, "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). Paul writes, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). In Ephesians 5:14, he says, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
The child typifies the individual Christian. He is dead and can neither speak nor hear. What happens to the Christian who dies spiritually? No longer does he communicate God's way in any fashion—by deed or speech; he cannot "talk the talk" or "walk the walk"! Nor are his ears open and attentive to God's Word. As Jesus says in Matthew 13:15:
For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.
A biblical euphemism for death is sleep. For instance, in I Corinthians 11:30, Paul explains that many had died for taking the Passover unworthily: "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." He uses this euphemism similarly in Acts 13:36: "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption" (see also Daniel 12:2; I Corinthians 15:20, 51; I Thessalonians 4:14).
Because the Bible connects death and sleep so closely, it also uses the metaphor of sleep for spiritual decline. The best known example of this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The lesson is that we must stay spiritually alert, especially as Christ's return nears, but Jesus prophesies that all of God's people will fall asleep on their watch! On this point, Paul advises us:
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)
In II Kings 4:31, Gehazi reports to Elisha and the Shunammite woman, "The child has not awakened." Like the individual Christian at the end time, this child is "dead"—he "sleeps" because of overlong exposure to the "fiery darts of the wicked one" (Ephesians 6:16), from which he had no protection. His only hope of revival lies in the mercy and power of God and the faithfulness of His true minister.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children
Verse 2 begins a dream sequence. The woman is not really sure what is happening. Is it really happening? Many of us have experienced a simlar thing while in bed and dreaming, but the dream seemed so real that we wondered whether it was reality.
What is real when one is half asleep? The mind is still fogged by a state of drowsiness; it is simply not focused. Solomon presents this "dream" like this because many times, when we are fully alert and focused on what we are doing, much of what we are or think about is restrained or contained. But when we go to sleep, the mind begins to release the things the will has kept submersed. The subconscious begins to express itself when nothing restrains it.
This young lady is finding out that her love is not as deep and true as it needs to be for a successful marriage. She lies unclothed on her bed, which is reminiscent of the Laodicean: "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (Revelation 3:17). Her feet are washed; her work for the day is over, she thinks. She will not stir herself to do what is disagreeable to her at this most inconvenient time, even though her lover is standing at the door, knocking (Revelation 3:20). She delays responding to him, unsure if she is dreaming or not.
She finally begins to respond positively in verse 5, but it is too late. This is reminscent of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-12). The cry of the bridegroom goes out, but some do not have enough oil, causing them to respond too late to the bridegroom's voice. It is very interesting that oil of myrrh is mentioned both here and in Matthew 25.
In verse 6, she is struck with guilt and remorse for not having responded to his offer of love. She begins calling out for him and seeking to find him in the city.
The watchmen patrol the city, which represents the world. What is happening in the city, out in the world? The Tribulation! "The watchmen that went about the city found me. They struck me, and they wounded me: the keepers of the walls took my veil away from me." The stolen veil is a symbol of being shamed.
The watchmen are worldly people. They see only with their eyes, and thus they cannot see the deep and earnest repentance and yearning that is now within her. They do not see her as the bride, but as a woman—a common woman of the streets, which is why they beat her. They see her as a prostitute. So, without even bothering to find out who she is, they persecute her, tearing some of her clothing from her. Remember that clothing symbolizes righteousness in the Bible.
In verse 8, she turns away from the people who are persecuting her, represented by the watchmen, to the daughters of Jerusalem, from whom she would expect to receive sympathy. She hopes that they might relate to what she is going through. She asks them in her agony to try to help her to find her love, Christ, but we know that He will be gone for the 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation.
The daughters of Jerusalem respond with a question, "What is he like? Tell us about him, we don't know who he is." She begins in verse 10 to describe him. What she is doing, of course, is making her witness before the world. The Protestant Evangelical churches would say that she is giving her testimony of her beloved, of what he is like. She describes him in the most glowing of terms. Here, because of the theme, it has to be done in physical terms, but we understand that He is not just physically attractive. She also describes what He is spiritually to these people. She is complementing the preaching of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:3-12), through her own personal witness, while she is in tribulation.
The point of all this is that it will be this way for some, but it does not have to be this way for anyone. If she had given of herself to him when he was courting her, this would never have happened. We are being courted by Jesus Christ right now. We are being led toward a marriage—the marriage of the Lamb to the church of God.
If she had really been working on yielding to Him—developing her relationship with Him—she would have known His love for her and would have made any sacrifice for Him, no matter how inconvenient. This is what Jesus teaches in the series of parables beginning in Matthew 24 after the Olivet Prophecy.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 3)
Isaiah 55:1-3 contains an appeal, continuing the theme that there is a spiritual food that nourishes the inner man and fills one's life in a way and with abundance that all of a person's material things cannot. That God is speaking about His Word is seen in the word "listen," which is directly connected to the phrase "eat what is good." This food is, of course, spiritual, and its source is God. Interestingly, He says to come and buy, but not with money. This food cannot be purchased with material wealth. All the money in the world cannot purchase it, but it still must be bought. Recall that the foolish virgins in Matthew 25 are advised to go out and buy oil from those who sell in preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom.
The "food" in Isaiah 55 and the "oil" in Matthew 25 can be bought only by means of the dedication and commitment of one's life in submission to Christ. By being a living sacrifice in prayer, study, meditation, and obedience, one becomes energized by the food of God's Word. In addition, one can "purchase" it only from those appointed by God to "sell" it. It can only be bought from those already converted and provided by God with the gifts to teach it to others. In most cases, this is the ministry of the true church.
Jeremiah 3:15 provides us with clear Old Testament evidence that the principle of feeding the mind with the correct instruction leads to good spiritual health: "And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." God clearly states that a mind fed with the right things can produce wisdom, holiness, and happiness. In other words, He promises that those who hear Him will be fed the elements of an abundant life through shepherds who exhibit godly character. God's Word, if it is believed and practiced, produces a unique perspective of life and a balance that cannot be found through any other means. Nothing that man has produced through philosophy or religion can even come close. These elements of human society have played major roles in producing restless, anxious, violent cultures.
We must choose to secure the best diet for the mind to utilize and assimilate into one's moral and spiritual character, as well as other expressions of personality. The world produces an almost overwhelming amount of spiritual junk food and outright spiritual garbage, and it is within easy reach of any mind anywhere no matter where one lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)Related Topics: Assimilation/ Feeding Process | Bible Study | Eating | Eating as Metaphor | Feeding the Mind | Hearing | Hearing God's Word | Living Sacrifice | Meditation | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Prayer | Spiritual Diet | Spiritual Food | Spiritual Health | Spiritual Junk Food | Spiritual Nourishment
Uncleanness, or the defilement of this world, can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot. Likewise, righteousness, character, and preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person because they represent internal qualities, matters of the heart.
Holy character and righteousness are personal matters, intangibles that accrue from spending long periods of time learning, applying, and honing spiritual skills in the daily experiences of life. It is too late when one needs a skill immediately, and it is not there. The same is true of character: It cannot be borrowed. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot borrow a relationship with God.
This ought to teach us that opportunity knocks and then passes. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the foolish virgins fail to anticipate the possibility that the Bridegroom might come later than they expect. When they are awakened, there is no time to do anything except fill their own lamps. This proves that nobody can deliver his brother. Each person, within his relationship with God, determines his own destiny.
The Laodicean's faith, however, has become perfunctory. He attends church and is involved with brethren socially, but privately, he merely goes through the motions in much the same way as the Israelites did in Amos' day. Absent is the fervency that develops through careful analysis and evaluation of the world and its corrupt promises against God and His holy promises.
God shows that the unprepared will not be admitted to His Kingdom. We should not construe this as a calloused rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire, but we should realize that the Laodicean has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis over a long time! God is not unfair in His judgment. He gives the Laodicean what he showed he wanted. God reciprocates in kind.
Perhaps we can understand God's judgment if we imagine what ours would be if we were engaged to someone who never prepares for our upcoming marriage. What person would want a wife or a husband who had no enthusiasm for the marriage? Or perhaps we can compare it to a person who meets someone who would make a wonderful mate, but despite having ample opportunity and mutual admiration, the relationship never develops due to the other's being constantly distracted.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year
This is interesting in terms of Matthew 25 and the Ten Virgins, who were asleep. The angel comes and has to waken the prophet out of sleep. Could there be some sort of a parallel? Perhaps. Yet, at this point, the prophet himself had to be awoken out of sleep. Maybe it is a key to the timing of the revelation of the Two Witnesses and the other events of the end time.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Four)
In addition to a wake of vultures being a symbol of God's judgment of shame, a gathering of vultures also indicates a diseased spiritual condition. In Revelation 18:2, Babylon the Great is described as being “a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird.”
Vultures are undoubtedly at the top of the list of unclean and hated birds! End-time Babylon is the focal point of demonic spirits, which are likened to unclean birds. Both of them prey on the sick and the injured, and they gather where death is.
Even so, our greatest threat is not the Tribulation at the end! As bad as it will be, far worse is being spiritually unprepared when Christ returns and being judged as unworthy to enter the Kingdom. This is what the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Wedding Feast describe. This is the substance of the warnings about Christ's return being like a thief in the night—coming when He is completely unexpected. This is why He warns us against neglecting so great a salvation and against being led astray by the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of life. Jesus warns us to keep us on the path of life, so that we do not fall to the birds of prey that stalk the spiritually dying.
We are given the charge to come out of Babylon, so we do not share in her sins or in her judgment (Revelation 18:4). If we have a discerning heart, we should have a good idea of what will attract the vultures, as it will be giving off the smell of spiritual death. God gives us that discerning heart, so we can make good choices.
Do we really believe the scriptures about the swiftness of Christ's return? It is easy to look at world events and compare them to our understanding of prophecy; we know that things are bad and getting worse—but the end still seems to be just over the horizon. Because it is not here yet, it is easy to conclude, even subconsciously, that there is no need to become serious just yet.
However, this conclusion is filled with assumptions. One is that our understanding of end-time events is correct! A second assumption is that, even if we do have correct understanding, we will never lose it through deception. A third is that our faith will remain constant until the end. A fourth is that, when we do decide to get serious, that we will have ample time to build character, take on the image of God, and complete our sanctification. A fifth is that our Creator will go along with our agenda of pushing Him off until the last minute.
These are a lot of assumptions! If we are misjudging these things, we may hear those terrible words, “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23)!
If we are delaying the time to start seeking God, the vultures may be eyeing us as ones who may not spiritually survive what lies ahead. Perhaps all of us have seen this happen to people we care about. If we are spiritually sick or injured, there is no time like the present to seek our Healer and Protector to beat off the hated birds!
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the foolish ones thought they had more time. They were probably aware that their reserves of oil were not as full as they could be, but they may have assumed that they could always attend to that later. They did not count on falling asleep. They did not count on life happening, that something would prohibit them from taking care of preparations they had put off.
A lesson we can draw is that, if we are not putting everything we have into our calling right now, how much time is left does not matter. If that is the case, we may find ourselves, like the foolish virgins, suddenly awake and realizing we cannot get ready in time. What we claimed we wanted will have slipped through our grasp, one day at a time.
Judgment is coming on the world, but it is on the house of God right now (I Peter 4:17). A gathering of eagles—a wake of vultures—is a symbol of God's judgment on those who stubbornly resist coming into alignment with Him. Vultures will literally gather for those who rebel against God in the final battle (Revelation 19:17-21), and they are metaphorically already circling those who cannot tear themselves away from Babylon—those who are on such good terms with the world that they are giving off the scent of spiritual death.
The multitude of warnings and prophecies means that it is a possibility for us, because it is a certainty for some. Yet, with all that God makes available, there is no good reason for that judgment to fall on us.
David C. Grabbe
Where the Eagles Are Gathered
The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.
In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.
The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.
Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.
When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.
The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.
No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.
Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!
The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
Our responsibility today is not just mental preparation, as in the case of a diligent athlete. Nor is it physical preparation, as in David's case. All the same, our responsibility is much like David's in that we are gatherers. Our duty is to gather: to gather faith, patience, wisdom; to gather God's Holy Spirit. How much do we need? Well, Christ tells us that a "night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). In His Parable of the Ten Virgins, He says that the Bridegroom came at midnight (Matthew 25:6). Midnight is well into the night. The wise virgins were those who had enough oil - representing God's Spirit - to last the night. Indeed, we ought to gather God's Spirit like David gathered bronze, "in abundance beyond measure."
On Your Marks . . . Get Set . . . Go!
Matthew 25:1-4 shows all the virgins have the same beliefs, represented by the lamps they carry with them. The lamps represent the Word, the laws, and the statutes of God. Five of the virgins are foolish and five are wise, showing that the end-time church is composed of two types of members. The foolish have the Word of God but lack a sufficient level of His Holy Spirit, which opens the converted mind to understand and live God's way of life. The wise are actively using God's Spirit to enhance their understanding and have sufficient amounts of it to last them.
Y2K: You-2-the-KingdomRelated Topics: End-Time Church | Foolish Virgins | God's Holy Spirit | Holy Spirit | Lamp Image | Lamp of Truth | Lamps as Metaphors | Law and Prophets | Law and Prophets, Reading of | Law, Prophets, and Writings | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Spiritual Preparedness | Virgins | Wise Virgins | Word, God's | Word, The
Because of its abundance of well-known symbols, the Parable of the Ten Virgins is perhaps the easiest to understand in a prophetic light. The Bridegroom, of course, is Christ. Virgins are often symbols of churches or individual Christians, most likely the latter in this case. Lamps are vessels that contain oil, a common symbol of God's Spirit, thus they represent our minds, which, when filled with the Holy Spirit, provide illumination for the path to the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 2:10-16). The wedding refers to the marriage of the Lamb to the church (Revelation 19:7).
Jesus flatly states that this parable deals with conditions just before His second coming (verse 13). It does not take much interpretation, then, to understand what will happen - maybe has happened in part. All of God's people will go to sleep spiritually, but only half of them have enough spiritual strength to prepare for Christ's return. When He does return, our Savior shuts the door on the other half, proclaiming that He has no relationship with them (compare Revelation 3:7, 20). The warning to us is to draw close to God now because we do not know when Christ will come back.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables and ProphecyRelated Topics: Bride of Christ | Bride/Bridegroom Analogy | Christ as Bridegroom | End Times | End-Time Church | Foolish Virgins | God's Holy Spirit | Lamp Image | Lamps as Metaphors | Marriage Supper of the Lamb | Oil | Oil as Analogy | Oil as Metaphor | Oil as Symbol | Oil Imagery | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Parables, Prophetic Nature of | Spiritual Lethargy | Spiritual Preparedness | Vigilance | Virgins | Wise Virgins
Knowing that human nature loses heart over time without the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus understood that His church would need encouragement to be watchful while awaiting His second coming. For this reason, He gave the Parable of the Ten Virgins to some of the twelve disciples just days before His brutal crucifixion. The parable pictures ten virgins waiting for the Bridegroom's return. However, half of the virgins are unprepared because they lose heart in the face of their uncertainty, and as a result, they do not prepare and persevere to the end.
Jesus gives ample warning in His teaching concerning the last days and the need for spiritual preparation for them. But He also realizes that His church would need spiritual focus while waiting for His return. Therefore, He warns that lack of adequate preparation for His coming can be eternally devastating. Jesus makes the purpose of this parable clear in its last verse. "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (verse 13).
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part One)
The characters of the parable are the "Bridegroom," also referred to as "Lord," who is Jesus Christ Himself, and, of course, "the ten virgins," representing those called of God (Matthew 22:14; Ephesians 4:1-6; I Peter 1:15; Revelation 17:14). The Bride is not mentioned because she represents the entire church, and the church is not presented here in its entirety. By implication, the Bride is represented in this parable more personally in its individual members (Psalm 45:14). But since the wedding feast could not be held without the Bride, and since five virgins miss the feast, all ten virgins cannot make up the Bride. These ten virgins, then, represent those individuals called into the church at the end time. "The daughters of Judah" are treated similarly in the Old Testament (Lamentations 2:13).
When Jesus gave this parable, the mystery of the church was not yet fully known (Ephesians 3:3-5). In it, the called are seen individually as "virgins" expecting the Bridegroom to come. In this way, the parable illustrates "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). Interestingly, the apostle Paul refers to the church at Corinth in its virgin character in II Corinthians 11:2, "I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Virgin character refers to the whole church, but virgins (plural) describes individual members of the body. Jesus makes this parable very personal to highlight the need for each individual's spiritual preparedness.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part One)
To us living in the end time, the major point of His instruction is not that the unwise virgins went to sleep, since the wise also went to sleep, but that the unwise virgins frittered away their time. Both sets of virgins had the same opportunities to use their time wisely. The unwise, however, so severely blunted their transformation that their redemption became impossible.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time
Jesus describes one of the groups as wise and the other as foolish. The wise virgins are intelligent, practical, and careful, but the foolish are dull-minded, unrealistic, and careless. "Foolish" is translated from the Greek word moros, from which derives the English word "moron." Their conduct warranted their uncomplimentary description—after all, are we not known by our fruit or the lack of it (Matthew 7:17-20)? The major difference between the wise and the foolish is found in their attitudes. The moronic attitude is spiritually poor, blind, and naked because it has no true vision of the future (Revelation 3:14-22), even though God and His Son have plainly set into motion God's wonderful plan of salvation. The foolish virgins do not recognize the presence of any real sin in their lives. They are spiritually lukewarm.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part Two)
There is a strong contrast in the diligence of the two groups. One takes sufficient oil with it, but the other does not. Since the procession is at night, and the lamps have only a small oil reservoir, they have to replenish the oil periodically. The wise virgins prepare by carrying extra oil for when the lamps run low. This pictures readiness for future needs, which requires forethought, planning, and dedication. The foolish virgins do not prepare, content to carry only enough to appear wise. They carry out God's instructions with the least amount of effort they think they can get away with (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The foolish are not spiritually concerned about their future, but the wise are, even though they have to carry the extra weight of an oil container. However, this extra preparation gives them the hope and faith they need to meet the bridegroom successfully and enter the marriage feast.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part Two)
At a time the virgins least expect it, a call goes out, requiring them to meet Christ, but again, both wise and foolish lack vigilance to watch diligently for His return. They had some good works, but they lacked the faith to believe that time was short and urgent. Half were not even working hard enough at overcoming to put fresh oil in their lamps.
A lamp is trimmed when the wick is turned either up or down to regulate the amount of flame. If a lamp is empty of oil, it does not matter how much one trims it—the lamp will go out when the oil is consumed.
Apparently, when events make it obvious Christ's return is immediate, the whole church wakes up in surprise. Its members get out their Bibles to find the answer to where Christ is waiting for them, but with the oil of the Holy Spirit producing only a dim light, they lack the spiritual insight to find Him. It is as though the foolish virgins are stumbling around in the dark trying to understand the Word of God, but they cannot.
At this point, the foolish are in a state of panic; they realize they cannot understand and do not have the faith to believe. They ask the wise for help in understanding
It was midnight, and the lamps were needed for the procession and the rest of the night. The reserve oil supply was only enough to supply oil for the lamps of the five wise virgins. So the inability of the wise to provide oil for the foolish illustrates that no one can give to another what he has done to add works to his faith (James 2:14, 17-22, 24, 26). Our faith must be our own through Jesus Christ; it cannot be borrowed. Moral character or spiritual gifts cannot be transferred from one person to another. To delay submission and obedience to Christ is to risk eternal death. Therefore, to delay preparation for His return is nothing short of spiritual negligence.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part Two)
While the foolish are busy trying to get their spiritual lives in order at the last minute, Christ comes to take the wise, and the doors to the marriage feast are shut (Matthew 25:10-13). Only those virgins who have a regular supply of oil and combine it with the lamp of God, the Bible, can hear the true voice of their Shepherd calling to them through His true ministers, including the Two Witnesses. The foolish virgins, representing many ministers too, will at first scoff at these two men and ignore their warnings. But when the Two Witnesses begin performing miracles, the foolish virgins will start to wake from their deep sleep; they will begin to repent and ask God for His Spirit.
God the Father has the authority and Jesus Christ has paid the price to enable us to have oil in our vessels. Everyone called by God must pay a price, obedience to God, to receive His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This means we must repent and overcome sin on a daily basis.
Y2K: You-2-the-KingdomRelated Topics: Faithfulness | Faithlessness | Foolish Virgins | Foresight | Foresight, Lack of | God's Holy Spirit | Holy Spirit | Holy Spirit, Symbolized by Oil | Oil | Oil as Analogy | Oil as Metaphor | Oil as Symbol | Oil Imagery | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Perseverance | Preparedness | Procrastination | Repentance | Spiritual Lethargy | Spiritual Preparedness | Two Witnesses | Watchfulness
The door is shut with finality. The verb tense says the door is shut to stay shut. Therefore, at that point, no one's repentance, prayer, or pleading can change that fact. Noah's ark having its door sealed shut is a similar vivid illustration of its finality (Genesis 7:16) - it was shut to stay shut throughout the Flood. All the pleading in the world would not open the ark's door to others after it was shut. Once Christ has come or we have died, our opportunity to be among the firstfruits of the Kingdom will have been decided. The door's closing is fair because everyone had ample time to prepare for the bridegroom's coming. He does not come early in the evening but late. He is even delayed (verse 5), giving extra time to be ready. We have our whole lives - all the years of Christ's longsuffering and patience with us - to prepare. Therefore, it is just and fair that the door is shut when our last hour comes. Isaiah recognizes man's tendency to procrastinate in his warning, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (Isaiah 55:6).
The foolish Laodicean attitude dictates that one needs nothing else spiritually, but such a one will be rudely awakened to realize his terrible unpreparedness. This attitude is bankrupt of vision and foresight. It sees no need to prepare for the eventualities of life either physically or, more importantly, spiritually. Opportunities come and go through life, and no opportunity is so greatly lost than that of the foolish virgins. They fail to realize that the bridegroom would probably come later than expected. They lack faithful perseverance in thought and action.
The lesson Christ emphasizes in this parable is to be prepared for the future, namely, the coming of Christ. The prophet Amos expresses this powerfully: "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Human beings have little trouble preparing for everything, except meeting God. The last verse of the parable (verse 13) makes its purpose ring in our ears: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part Two)
Following the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus continues without a break in His teaching to His disciples. This continuity of thought makes the Parable of the Talents (verses 14-30) a fitting complement to the preceding parable. Jesus is careful to balance His instruction by teaching another important requirement for His servants to fulfill prior to His return. He does not want His disciples to assume that the previous parable constituted His entire warning.
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus reveals the necessity of developing inward character, but in the Parable of the Talents, He combines that need with the encouragement to manifest good works. The virgins teach us the need to watch and be ready; the talents teach us our responsibility to work until His return.
Jesus knew the human tendency to think that, because He was there in person, His disciples did not have to work, leading to laziness and freeloading as a person becomes dependent on the support of another. Thus, He urges His disciples, not only to be ready by watching for His return, but also to work diligently toward it. The first parable portrays the virgins waiting for their Lord, which requires mental and spiritual preparation and watching, while the Parable of the Talents shows the servants of the Lord working for Him, which entails profitable activity.
The wealthy man (referred to as "lord" by his servants) is "the Son of Man," Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:13). His journey into the far country parallels Christ's departure into heaven after His ascension. The servants stand for the twelve disciples and thus all the followers of Christ down through the ages, and the talents they receive represent the spiritual gifts Jesus passes on to His servants. The absence of the lord from his home pictures the absence of Christ's visible presence on the earth, and his return is Jesus' promised return.
The trading that the servants are expected to do during their master's absence suggests the faithful use of spiritual gifts and opportunities for service that Jesus' disciples are expected to practice. On the master's return, he commends the servants, showing what will happen at Christ's return, when each Christian's service will be rewarded. The judgment on the one servant who failed in his trust is a warning against not using or misusing his gifts. [Note: The phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is" (verse 14), is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original, but was added by translators for clarity.]
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Talents (Part One)
The tragedy of the story and the focus of the parable is the man who hid his talent. From him we probably learn the most. First, the talent was not his in the first place; it was on loan. Second, Christ shows that people bury their gifts primarily out of fear. Third, the whole parable illustrates that regarding spiritual gifts, one never loses what he uses. That is a powerful lesson: If we use the gifts that God gives us, we cannot lose! The one who was punished never even tried, so God called him wicked and lazy. His passivity regarding spiritual things doomed him.
Comparing this parable to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we see a few interesting contrasts. The five foolish virgins suffered because they let what they had run out. This servant with one talent apparently never even used what he had. The virgins failed because they thought their job was too easy, while this servant failed because he thought it was too hard. On many fronts they seem to be opposites.
The servant's true character comes out in his defense before the master and in the master's condemnation. In verse 24 he claims, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." That is a lie! Not having this belief, the other two servants immediately go to work, never suggesting that they think their master is harsh and greedy.
The wicked servant justifies his lack of growth by blaming it on God. "It was too hard, Lord." He accuses God of an insensitive and demanding evaluation. That is why Christ calls him wicked. He calls God a liar and accuses the master of exploitation and avarice. If he did work, he says, he would see little or none of the profit, and if he failed, he would get nothing but the master's wrath.
The master then asks, "Why didn't you at least invest my money so that I could receive interest?" The servant, in his justification and fear, overlooks his responsibility to discharge his duty in even the smallest areas. Blaming his master and excusing himself, this servant with one talent fell to the temptations of resentment and fear. Together, the two are a deadly combination.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
"Watching" points directly to the necessity of being ready for Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (Luke 21:36). It also includes patiently waiting, as is seen in Matthew 25:1-13, where the virgins must wait for the bridegroom. If the master's return is late at night or very early in the morning, the alertness of the servants is even more commendable. Jesus teaches that His disciples should always be ready because He would come at a time when they would not be expecting Him. The parable pictures several servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. They must remain constantly vigilant so that the master could enter the house immediately upon arriving at home. If they prove worthy by being watchful and ready, their master will care for them.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants
From this, we can see that expectant watchfulness is the normal posture of a Christian. Jesus wants us to be ready for His return at any time, and as servants, we are in no position to determine when to expect Him. He will come when He will come, and we must be prepared to welcome Him whenever that happens to be.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?Related Topics: Alertness | Faithful Servants | Faithfulness | Jesus Christ's Return | Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants | Parable of the Faithful and True Servants | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Readiness | Responsibility, Sense of | Servant | Stewardship | Vigilance | Watchfulness | Watching
In Luke 21:36, our Savior provides us with the two "tickets" we need—watching (careful, vigilant attention to overcoming our nature) and praying always—to be accounted worthy to escape the troubles at the close of this age and to enter the Kingdom of God. These two activities are pillars that support the foundation on which our Christian lives rest during these end times.
How important are these two pillars? Exactly what is Christ instructing us to do as we encounter the end of an age?
In Luke 21:36, when Christ says, "Watch," He is calling for us to scrutinize our lives in order to change them. We are not just to note the problems we see but to overcome them. How important is it to overcome? If God mentioning something twice establishes it (Genesis 41:32), how significant is a subject when He mentions it fifteen times? Not fifteen times throughout the whole Bible but in just one book! And not in just any book, but a book of special significance to us, one about the end time—Revelation!
In this end-time message, Christ says seven times, "I know your works" (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). What are works? They are simply the results of our efforts in overcoming, both the failures and successes. Jesus is saying, "I know the level of your overcoming." Then, for each church—whether era, group, or attitude—He comments on that effort. Overcoming is highlighted another seven times (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21), as Christ ends each of His critiques with a promise that begins, "To him who overcomes. . . ." As an exclamation point, Christ warns us seven times, a number signifying completeness, to heed what He says to all these churches (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
Finally, in Revelation 21:7, Christ addresses overcoming a fifteenth time. He makes a promise to those who successfully overcome: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."
Revelation shows us that "Job One" for a Christian is overcoming, especially for someone living at the end time. This is the message in Luke 21:36 also: We have to overcome to be with Him in God's Kingdom. Salvation itself hinges on our cooperation with Him in overcoming (Matthew 25:30).
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) demonstrates the importance of overcoming. The difference between the wise and foolish virgins is their supplies of oil. While water represents the power of God's Holy Spirit to cleanse, oil represents its power to work, to do good. Thus, the difference between the virgins is their good works ("I know your works"), how much they overcame their selfish human natures by acting in love toward God and man.
Both groups had oil, but the foolish virgins did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay (Luke 21:34-35). When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning but sputtering and about to go out. They were not prepared for the long haul. They had not continued to overcome. They were not enduring to the end. Their oil—their good works, their overcoming—proved insufficient for the task. In this one point, they failed, and what a foolish failure it was!
Emphasizing the importance of Luke 21:36 and watching, Christ makes a specific promise to those living at the end who are watching, that is, successfully overcoming: "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them" (Luke 12:37).
Praying Always (Part Two)Related Topics: Carefulness | Foolish Virgins | Overcoming | Overcoming, Urgency in | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins | Prayer, Growing Weary in | Prayer, Persistence in | Praying Always | Praying without Ceasing | Vigilance | Watch | Watch and Pray Always | Watchfulness | Watching | Wise Virgins
The church developed, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."
Why should we seek Him? Because He has the power and the willingness, if we will trust Him, to give us a completely new nature, breaking the vain, frustrating, repetitious cycle. Isaiah 61:1-2 adds helpful understanding:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God.
This is a prophecy that Jesus partially quoted as He began His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up (Luke 4:18-19). These passages suggest an element of movement toward something soon to happen. Isaiah 55:6 suggests we seek Him urgently because the Lord is moving on, and if we do not seek Him now, it will be too late. Time and events within it are moving. Isaiah 61:1-2 is similar: Now is an acceptable day for those called of God. If we wait, the acceptable day will pass, and the day of vengeance, even now moving toward us, will be here. It will be too late to avoid its destructive powers!
In Solomon's complaint about time (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11), God was nowhere mentioned. Events just go around and around endlessly, effectively describing Solomon's frustration. However, in the prophet Isaiah's description, God is involved in the movement of events that impact directly on His people's lives.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors. It is as if God were appealing to you through us: we implore you in Christ's name, be reconciled to God! Christ was innocent of sin, and yet for our sake God made him one with human sinfulness, so that in him we might be made one with the righteousness of God. Sharing in God's work, we make this appeal: you have received the grace of God; do not let it come to nothing. He has said: "In the hour of my favor I answered you; on the day of deliverance I came to your aid." This is the hour of favor, this the day of deliverance.
These admonitions to "seek God now," "now is an acceptable time," and "do not let it come to nothing," all indicate a passing opportunity. The Christian is dealing with a specific period during which events are working toward the culmination of some process, and if he does not take advantage of the present opportunity, it will never come again. The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25:6-13 illustrates our need to make the most of this opportunity now. This parable's major lesson is that both life and time are moving. The precise time of Christ's return is unknown, so He urges us to take advantage of the knowledge and time we already have in hand. Those who reject His advice will find their way into the Kingdom blocked.
Recall that II Corinthians is written to Christians. Paul's message is a call to strike while the iron is hot! Both Jesus and Paul remind us that our calling is rife with possibilities, so much so that we can consider each moment as big as eternity. That is how important this "day of salvation" is to us! The New Testament's instruction to Christians is, "Now is the time!" Everything is in readiness for success. It is as though the New Testament writers are saying, "Don't be like the slave who refuses when presented with freedom, or the diseased person who rejects help when offered healing. God's door is open to us! Charge through it by cooperating with Him!"
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A FoundationRelated Topics: Day of Liberation | Day of Salvation | Days are Evil | Deliverance | Foolish Virgins | Frustration, Sense of | Futility of this World | Overcome Evil with Good | Overcoming | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Redeeming the Time | Redemption | Repetitious Cycle | Seeking God | Time Management | Time, God's Perspective of | Time, Man's Perspective of | Time, Perspective of | Urgency, Sense of | Use it or lose it | Vanity | Vanity of Physical life | Vigilance | Wise Virgins
Things are not continuing as they were, and the reason we know this is because God has given us discernment of the times and seasons in which we are living. Life is not going to continue the way it is: It will get worse before it gets better. So Peter is reminding us.
By the time Peter wrote this (scholars date II Peter in 64 AD), the world is in real turmoil. The world seems to be falling apart. Jerusalem, especially, is a powderkeg. Christians are being blamed for the trouble being incited in Rome.
However, the New Testament writers reveal to us that they saw the church going to sleep. We can imagine such a thing because many of us have experienced this in our own time. At the most critical juncture of history for the church, the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 shows the church asleep—all ten were asleep, not just five of them. The parable specifically spotlights the virgins slumbering and sleeping at the time of the end, and it happened in the first century too, just before the destruction of the Temple, which was "an end."
It is an incongruity that seems almost impossible to believe. With all this excitement going on, instead of being stirred up to press on toward the Kingdom of God, the church instead—much of it, anyway—was doing what the Thessalonians were doing, just waiting it out. Not everybody did that, and it is a good thing or Christianity would have died out.
The apostles were certainly stirred up. There is no doubt about it because they wrote about it. These people were doing exactly what the apostles were warning them of: They were walking after their own lusts or desires.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic
In Revelation 3:8, the phrase "open door" is being used, not so much as an opportunity, but as a reward. Young's Literal Translation shows this emphasis: "I have known thy works; lo, I have set before thee a door—opened, and no one is able to shut it, because thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name" (emphasis ours). Christ sets before the Philadelphian an "open door" because he has only a little capacity for mighty works, and yet he still keeps God's Word and does not deny God's name by the way he lives his life. He still is able to overcome.
The door Christ opens to the Philadelphian, the door no man can shut, may well be the door to the Kingdom itself! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the door is open to some of the virgins and closed to others (Matthew 25:10-12). In the description of New Jerusalem, the gate is open only to those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; 22:14). Christ opens the door to the Kingdom because of the Philadelphian's faithfulness, just as He promises to keep him from the hour of trial because of his perseverance (Revelation 3:10).
God may have given him only two talents, but He knows that if he is faithful with a small amount of power, in the Kingdom he will faithfully administer all of the responsibility and effectiveness that God bestows upon him. Individually, we may only have a little "power," but if we are faithful with what we have been given, God is pleased, knowing we will also be faithful with great power. As Christ says in Luke 16:10, ". . . faithful also in much. . . ."
David C. Grabbe
PowerRelated Topics: Church at Philadelphia | Church Eras | Church, Attitudes of | Church, Personalities of | Churches of Revelation 2-3 | Faithfulness | Faithfulness in Little Things | Faithfulness in the Midst of Trials | Parable of the Talents | Parable of the Ten Virgins | Philadelphia | Philadelphia, Church of | Philadelphian Attitude | Philadelphian Church: Little Strength