By Diane Caston
Our parable is a very familiar one. The background for this parable is the question the disciples asked Jesus about his return. It is a continuation of the Olivet Discourse which began in Matthew 24 when the disciples asked Jesus “When will these things be (the destruction of the temple that He just told them about), and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” This discussion continues through Chapter 25.
Throughout Chapter 24 we see Jesus telling the disciples what the signs of His coming will be. Then He transitions into warnings in a few parables. Many commentators like to say this section is not about the Rapture of the church, because it’s speaking to the Jews, not the church. But if you take these verses in context, you’ll see that He is talking to the Jews and also to the church. Like many other places in prophetic scripture, this passage has dual fulfillment – for the present day and again for the future.
The point of our passage today is the reminder that we can see the signs of His coming, but not respond. We need to remind ourselves. We need to be informed. I recently had a Christian I know say that he is not concerned with prophecy and the second coming. He is just interested in salvation. That’s all well and good, but if it’s not important, then why did Jesus spend so much time telling us about His return and warning us to be ready? It is so easy to be caught up in the cares of this world, but like a soldier trains for battle we need to discipline ourselves! We need to remember that all of this world is passing away- all going to burn. (weekend estate sale) Jesus has given us an indication of the things that will happen before His return.
I personally can’t imagine living in this world w/o that outline of the things to come. It’s like an alarm – a wakeup call. Earthquakes!? Remember! Wars!? Remember! Lawlessness!? Remember! False Teachers!? Remember. The key issue in prophecy is the return of the Jews to Israel. Ezk 37 tells us of those dry bones – the almost dead nation of Israel and how they would come to life again. We see that in the renewed nation of Israel. Ezk 38 tells us of the war of Gog and Magog. Do you know that right now the 5 nations mentioned in this prophecy, Russian, Iran, Turkey, Libya and Sudan are aligned at this moment for the first time in history. This wasn’t true even 2 years ago. There is a reason the Lord reveled these things in scripture. We should be looking up, but as Peter predicted there are scoffers. Who would have know that these scoffers would be in the church itself.
But as in the days of Noah- the people did not prepare, because they did not believe. It was just the same in this Christ rejecting world today. In Noah’s day they continued doing what they were doing right up until the flood came. Then it was too late.
Luke 17:26-30 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
In chapter 24 we see the good man of the house knows when the thief is going to come. He prepares. He is ready.
The steward, who is the one returning, expects a gain on the talents given. Accountability is part of the response.
All of these stories are a part of the Olivet discourse. Jesus uses this story of the bridesmaids, the virgins, the bride of Christ and the bridegroom who is to come.
Parable – the word means ‘to cast alongside’. It’s a picture to help explain an issue, but is not meant for doctrine. You can’t take every point of a parable and make it doctrinal.
Let’s read our parable:
Matt 25:1-13 “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.
So, we see in our parable they are 10 virgins. This cannot be taken to mean they were all believers. The bridesmaids would be virgins. Fornication was a capital offense punishable by death. All of the unmarried bridesmaids would have been virgins.
The ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom : There were three stages to a Jewish wedding in that day. The first was engagement – a formal agreement made by the fathers. The second was betrothal – the ceremony where mutual promises are made. The third was marriage – approximately one year later when the bridegroom came at an unexpected time for his bride.
During this year while the groom is building a home for his bride, sometimes adding on to his father’s house. The date of this end of the espousal period is not set, so the Groom could come at any time to get his bride. Behold bridegroom comes…
“To see the bridegroom as Jesus himself seems warranted in light of Matthew 9:15. And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
This would be a bold figure for Him to use, as the Old Testament frequently describes God (not the Messiah) as the bridegroom, and Israel as the bride (Isaiah 54:4-5; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 1-3, etc.).” (France) Jesus was always pointing out who He is.
The point of this parable is preparedness. These virgins - 5 were wise/ 5 were foolish The wise virgins were prepared. They knew they might have to wait. They brought enough oil to carry them through until the bridegroom’s coming. The foolish took no oil, they were not prepared. The oil is the central point of this story.
John E. McKinley Biola University
Among the more than 200 times that oil is mentioned in the Bible, the connection as a metaphor of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action is clear in the ritual of anointing prophets, priests, and kings. For example, when the prophet-judge Samuel anointed David with oil to be the new king of Israel, the next statement is that “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13 ). At this point in the history, we have already seen that God’s pattern with Moses and the elders of Israel, Joshua, the Judges, and Saul was to empower them by the Spirit through anointing for leadership and military prowess.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Functions of oil:
· Oil lubricates when used for that purpose – there is little friction and wear among those who are lubricated by the Spirit of God.
· Oil heals and was used as a medicinal treatment in Biblical times (Luke 10:34) – the Spirit of God brings healing and restoration.
· Oil lights when it is burned in a lamp – where the Spirit of God is, there is light.
· Oil warms when it is used as fuel for a flame – where the Spirit of God is, there is warmth and comfort.
· Oil invigorates when used to massage – the Holy Spirit invigorates us for His service.
· Oil adorns when applied as a perfume – the Holy Spirit adorns us and makes us more pleasant to be around.
· Oil polishes when used to shine metal – the Holy Spirit wipes away our grime and smoothes out our rough edges.
We see that all ten of the maidens slept, because the bridegroom was delayed. Today as we wait we go on with our daily activities, doing business until He comes. In this parable both the wise and foolish maidens slept, but the wise ones were prepared to act immediately when they were unexpectedly awakened. The five foolish virgins appeared to be ready for the bridegroom, because they had their lamps in hand. But they really were not ready, because they took no oil with them. The foolish maidens were not prepared. They all slept, but then a cry came at midnight. They all awoke, some were ready, some were not.
“It is a warning addressed specifically to those inside the professing church who are not to assume that their future is unconditionally assured; all ten are expecting to be at the feast, and until the moment comes there is no apparent difference between them – it is the crisis which will divide the ready from the unready.” (France)
Many people are fooled by religion and church. Some think that by doing religious things they are working their way to heaven. I grew up in a church like this. Christians are the ‘called out ones’ They have the oil of the Spirit. They are the ready ones. They are born again. They are obedient to the Lord’s word. They are dying to their flesh. These are the true followers
When the foolish virgins ask the wise ones for oil and are told to go buy some we see this is another indication the parable is a story. You can’t go and buy the oil of the Spirit. Another Christian can’t give it to you. You can’t leave it to your children in a will. It is not an inheritance. (Used to tell kids what the missionary CT Studd said. ‘God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children’). You have to ask for oil yourself from your Savior. You can only be ready by repenting and accepting forgiveness for your sin. Only way to be ready is through the blood of Christ.
Without oil the wedding party was not ready for the bridegroom. Without the Holy Spirit, no one is ready for the return of Jesus.
No one can be a true Christian without the indwelling Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:9: Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
In this parable Jesus probably did not intend a separation between “Spirit-filled” and “Non-Spirit-filled” Christians; the distinction is likely between true Christians and false believers.
Nevertheless, a key to Christian readiness is to be constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
Much of the weakness, defeat and lethargy in our spiritual lives can be explained if we are not constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The door was shut , “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you”: The penalty was severe for the foolish maidens. They were not allowed to come to the wedding, and the door was shut against them in the strongest terms.
Just like Noah the door was shut. The young women caught unprepared are denied entry. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming: The point of this parable is simple – be ready. The price for failing to be ready is too high.
Another distinction I would like to point out between the prepared and the unprepared. Each group had their own companions. It is important what company we keep. Our goal should be to spend our time with those who are actively preparing for the coming of the Lord. If we join the other group, before you know it, our goals will be the same as theirs. We will become distracted and unprepared ourselves. Reach out to those who need encouragement to be ready, but don’t enter into their passive lifestyles.
One of the best passages articulating what saving grace and faith look like
in a believer’s life is
, “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 five virgins who have the extra oil represent the truly born again who are looking with eagerness to the coming of Christ. They have saving faith and have determined that, whatever occurs, be it lengthy time or adverse circumstances, when Jesus returns, they will be looking with eagerness. 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” of verse 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 of 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.’”
In summary the point is to be wise virgins, repenting of any sin that might separate us from the Lord, asking for the filling of His Holy Spirit and being ready at any time for His return.
Romans 13: 11-14 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. 12 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. 13 Let us walk [ a ] properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.