Matthew 25:1-13(HCSB)“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them. 4 But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. 5 Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’
9 “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’
10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.
11 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’
13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.
Before we get to the parable, we have to remind ourselves of the context. In response to the disciples’ request to know what sign would signal our Lord’s coming and the end of the age, Jesus spoke to them about the last days. Matthew 24:3(HCSB)3 While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”, He made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and troubles. Our Lord issued various warnings (Matthew 24:4-28), because during these troubled times there would be many interlopers, who would seek to turn men’s attention and affections away from Jesus, the true Messiah.
Jesus immediately separates those who are awaiting his return into two types of individuals: the wise and the foolish. Notice that all of the virgins began their wait with full lamps, which seems to indicate that they all had anticipated that they were going to have to wait in the darkness for some time before the bridegroom came to bring them into the wedding banquet. Moreover, the wise anticipated that they might have to wait far into the night before the bridegroom came, so they brought extra oil in order to keep their lights burning as long as necessary.
We need to rid ourselves of the false conception that the five foolish virgins ran out of oil. The text is clear on this point; the five foolish virgins never brought any oil with them. A footnote in the NET Bible indicates that the word “extra” is not found in the Greek text, but has been supplied because the context implies it. I don’t think so at all. Surely the author is able to clearly supply this detail, so crucial to the interpretation of this parable. But he did not. Why do we wish to think they brought any oil with them? Perhaps it is because we read that the virgins claimed that their lamps were “going out” in verse 8. Would they all have been burning their torches for lighting the inside of the house where they all waited and slept? Would there not be the normal lighting in that place? Why would all five run out at the same time, just when they were preparing their lamps?
I would understand that the lamps were transported without oil in them. If they traveled in the daylight, these lamps would not have been needed on their journey to the wedding place. The reason the wise virgins brought oil was because the oil was carried in flasks and added to the lamps at the time of need. There must have been some residue of oil on the rag or wick of the five empty lamps, which quickly burned out, only moments after being lit. This would explain why all five torches went out at the same time. Perhaps, too, these foolish virgins minimized their foolishness by describing their plight as “running out” so as to look less foolish.
Not only is the text clear about the foolish virgins bringing no oil with them, it is difficult to interpret the parable if, indeed, they did run out of oil. The difference between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins is salvation. These five foolish virgins were not once saved, but then “ran out” of salvation. They were lost, and never had it. They never had oil. They were just empty lamps. They looked useful, they seemed to give promise of light, but they never produced it. Let us not seek to supply what the author has purposefully omitted (any oil) in a way that makes us feel better about the story. We are not supposed to feel good about these five foolish, oil-less virgins.
Weddings were a time of joyous celebration…The festivities lasted a whole week. Regular duties and religious obligations were dispensed with by law so that the wedding party and all the guests would relish the full delight of the occasion. The high point of the week of wedding celebration was when the bridegroom came to the bride’s house to take her to their new home. Great pageantry and drama had become a part of the tradition surrounding this event. The bride would ask 10 of her friends to be bridesmaids. Their special task was to be part of the processional from her house to her new marriage home. Usually this took place at night, so the major responsibility of the bridesmaids was to carry lamps to light the joyous way of the wedding party. The time when the bridegroom would come was kept secret. It was to be a surprise, and the bride and her bridesmaids were to be waiting expectantly.
Now it is obvious that Jesus in telling this parable and lifting this scene to a higher spiritual reality is casting himself in the role of the bridegroom. He is the one who having with his own blood bought the bride (the purified Church), is preparing to come and bring her to the marriage feast of the Lamb. And equally obvious is the fact that the virgins represent the church on earth (that mixed company of wise and foolish) who is waiting for that momentous event to occur. Thus we, those gathered in this place this morning, you and I, are numbered among the ten. And with the church universal we wait for the cry “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out and meet him!”
On the surface, there appears to be no difference among those ten who wait for the coming of the bridegroom. All are invited members of the wedding party, all have taken their lamps, all are waiting for the shout that announces the coming of the bridegroom. Indeed all ten fall asleep during the delay. What this means for us is that superficially, we can not discern who among us is a wise or a foolish virgin. Who among us will be rewarded and who of us will be excluded. All of us are members of the church. We all take part in its worship, its education, its opportunities. We all at least give lip service to the fact that we look for he coming of Christ again. And like those weary virgins all of us at times fall asleep.
The bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and this parable describes His return. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament represent Jesus the Messiah as the bridegroom. The Church is described in Scripture as the bride Ephesians 5:25-32(HCSB)25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body.31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. for the Messiah.
In those days when a man wanted to marry a young woman, he approached her father to ask for her hand in marriage. A brief negotiation followed where the price he was required to pay as compensation for the family’s loss of their daughter was determined. It was called the bride price. If acceptable, and if the daughter agreed to become the man’s wife, they were officially betrothed and he went away to build a home for them next to his father’s house. This could take some time, and the couple rarely met again until the father of the groom pronounced the newly built home fit for habitation. Only then was the date set, and the man given permission by his father to go collect his bride for the wedding.
During this time the young woman was to keep herself pure, watch and wait. She and her bridesmaids were to maintain a constant state of preparedness, since the wedding date would not be known to her until the bridegroom actually appeared. For his part, the groom would usually try to show up unexpectedly to surprise her, carrying her off suddenly “like a thief in the night” when no one would see them. When the bridesmaids discovered the bride had been “snatched away” there would be a great torch-lit procession, announcing to the whole town that the wedding banquet was about to begin.Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even bandits. The torch was either a lamp with a small oil tank and wick or a stick with a rag soaked in oil on the end of it which would require occasional re-soaking to maintain the flame. This was typically a seven day celebration during which the bride and groom were hidden away in their private rooms while the whole town made merry. The father of the groom picked up the tab for the festivities.
The meaning of the parable is that Christ will return at an unknown hour and that His people must be ready. Being ready means preparing for whatever contingency arises in our lives and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus at all times while we eagerly await His coming. As seen in the fact that all the virgins were sleeping when the call came indicates that it doesn’t matter what we are doing when Christ returns. We may be working, eating, sleeping, or pursuing leisure activities. Whatever it is, we must be doing it in such a way that we don’t have to “make things right” (get more oil) when He comes.
This explains where Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for us. He is the Bridegroom and we “the Church” are His bride. We are Betrothed to Jesus. We are to remain pure while He prepares the place for us.
John 14:1-6(HCSB)“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. 4 You know the way to where I am going.” 5 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me
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(ESV)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.’
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 oil and take extra along. Keep waiting and watching with joy and anticipation.
What follows in the parable are some of the sweetest and some of the saddest words in all of the Bible. Look at verse 10:Matthew 25 10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. “…the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut.” How wonderful it will be on that day when Christ comes for his people and ushers them into that glorious feast of heaven. Imagine the joy of sitting down with the saints of God in the presence of Christ the King. Imagine the wonderful reunions that will take place as loved ones separated by death are brought together. I love how J.C. Ryle describes the Christian’s great joy:
They shall be with their Lord, – with him who loved them and gave Himself for them, – with Him who bore them, and carried them through their earthly pilgrimage, – with Him, whom they loved truly and followed faithfully on earth, though with much weakness and many a tear.” Then Ryle goes on to write: “The door shall be shut at last, – shut on pain and sorrow, – shut on an ill-natured and wicked world, – shut on a tempting devil, – shut on all doubts and fears, – shut, to be opened no more.
What a wonderful description! Surely John is right in Revelation when he records these words: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of Lamb!”