Parable of Ten Virgins

By Mary Kroeger

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent (wise). For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." Matthew 25:1-13 (NASB)

Jesus spoke many parables in which He compared the kingdom of God/heaven to something in the seen realm. Since God's kingdom is an invisible spiritual kingdom, we need help to understand it. In this parable Jesus compares it to ten virgins. The word 'virgin' has nothing to do with gender; a virgin can be either male or female. Spiritually speaking, it is a descriptive word conveying the idea that no adulterous relationship has occurred in his/her spirit.

These ten virgins take their lamps and go out to meet the bridegroom. They are not the bride, but they have, or think they have a relationship with the bridegroom that would entitle them to attend the wedding celebration once the bridegroom arrived. But the time of his coming was unknown to them.

The customs at that time were very different from the ones we are familiar with. The custom of virgins going out to meet the bridegroom is unfamiliar to us. Jesus knew customs would change, yet for the message He wanted to convey, He needed this custom. Parables both reveal and hide a certain truth. Although we may think we know the difference between wisdom and foolishness as it pertains to the kingdom of heaven, Jesus knew that this is not the case. As we study this parable we'll understand its importance.

First of all we notice that the difference between the foolish and the wise does not seem very important. The foolish did not take any extra oil with them, but the wise did. Its importance became evident when it took longer for the bridegroom to come than they had expected. As they waited they all became sleepy and fell asleep. While they slept, the lamps kept burning, and by midnight the oil in their lamps had been used up.

It is quite obvious that wisdom had prompted the wise to take the extra oil, but the foolish had not thought of this probability. Oil is the energy that produces light, and therefore essential to produce light. Light brings understanding.

Oil is not found in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! Since it is not in humanity's knowledge of good and evil, it cannot bring understanding! The light the virgins had was the light of the law, for the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out. So let's continue our search for the truth Jesus was conveying in this parable.

The wise virgins acted upon the insight they had received from the law. They had received some understanding from their association with the law. In their great desire and effort to keep all the law, they had recognized their repeated failures. Their own efforts were insufficient, and they needed help! They needed more light! The recognition of their need qualified them to meet the bridegroom.

The foolish virgins did not recognize their need. They were content with their laws, doctrines, rules and rituals. Their confidence in the light they had kept them from taking extra oil with them. If we think that our good deeds can make us righteous, we too belong in the foolish category, for these deeds are rooted in self-effort. Our Lord classifies self-effort as being foolishness! The good deeds that have their origin the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cannot atone for evil, for both are rooted in disobedience!

Outwardly, the good from the tree of knowledge and the good from the tree of life may look the same, but the trials in life will reveal the source of the fruit. For a period of time, both the foolish and the wise may walk together, but a time of separation will come. When the storm clouds gather and difficulties arise, the wise will know their God and go on to a greater understanding of God, while the foolish will wallow in their confusion and inability to understand that the law does not have the ability to help them in their need.

This shows us the importance of having a relationship with Christ! The bridegroom's coming (and His coming is the coming of the Spirit) had been announced! It is important for us to realize that the Lord is the Spirit! (2 Cor. 3:17) Both the wise and the foolish were waiting for the bridegroom, but their understanding of Him differed! The wise were waiting for their Messiah, the anointed One, and the foolish were waiting for an earthly kingdom to be established. Understanding what the law teaches, prepares us for the coming of the bridegroom.

The bridegroom's coming was announced by John the Baptist! (Jn. 3:29) John the Baptist was not the true light, but he was a witness of the true light. (Jn.1:9) John was a temporary light, proclaiming the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. John called people to repentance in preparation for Christ's coming.

The wise had received light and understanding from the law. They knew hat the law could not bring them into the righteousness of God. These could meet the bridegroom, for they recognized their need to come out of the law - the place where they were living. This deliverance could only take place by a meeting with the bridegroom.

An intimate relationship with Christ (the bridegroom) is impossible without repenting of our wrong ideas. Only then can we receive the truth! Jesus Christ is the true light, and only His coming into the world can enlighten every man!

Christ, the anointing, is the truth, and He has always been the truth! He is invisible to human eyes. In the Old Testament we see Him in types and shadows, and in the New Testament we see the anointing in Jesus, but He is veiled by the flesh. The Lord is the Spirit, so when He came again at Pentecost, He remained in the unseen realm. Because we cannot see Him, many types are needed to reveal His true being to us.

He existed as a Man in heaven before He was born of Mary. He was, and always is the Son of Man who came down from heaven! He was in the prophets; He is the Lamb slain from the disruption of the world!

Once we see Christ as spiritual truth, we recognize the progression in the various stages of revelation God has released to us. The stage of the law was to bring us to repentance. If it does not produce repentance in us, we will, like the foolish virgins, remain in the natural man. The preaching of the cross and repentance is foolishness to those who perish, for they cannot understand why they should have to repent. Jesus was killed because people did not understand their need to repent. They had a wrong idea of the law. To the foolish, the truth is foolishness!

The wise realized that they could not give their understanding to the foolish, so they told them to go to the dealers and "buy for themselves". The law is a "buy for yourself", isn't it? Since the five foolish virgins had to buy oil, they were too late to meet the bridegroom.

"Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.'" (vv. 10-12)

Here is an interesting concept. The lack of wisdom barred the entrance of the foolish to the wedding feast. They were "good" people. They had a virgin spirit, for they had not had a relationship with false religions. They were like people today who go to church and adhere to the doctrines of their church, but fail to have a relationship with Christ, the bridegroom.

In scriptural language, when a husband "knows" his wife, it produces progeny. The heart attitude of these virgins did not lend itself to having a close relationship with the bridegroom. Christ did not know them because they were not ready to enter into a relationship with Him who is the truth and the life!

Outwardly, those who have a true relationship with Christ and those who only have the form may look alike. But the time comes when a separation takes place. So He said, "Be on the alert, then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." (v.13) This parable was spoken to the Jews who thought they knew God. They had the law and the form, but they did not know God. Had they known Him they would not have crucified Jesus Christ!

Day refers to light (understanding) and hour refers to time. The Jews (like many today) did not understand that Jesus Christ came as the bridegroom as well as the Son of Man. To understand that Christ came as a spiritual man in the image of God requires the wisdom that comes from hearing the voice of God. Calling Jesus "LORD", but not listening to Him and obeying Him, is meaningless.

His coming as the bridegroom shows us our need for a relationship with Him that goes beyond the law! This can only be attained by being born of the spirit. This is a new birth, a spiritual birth that brings us into a union and relationship with Christ! It is much superior to a law relationship.

The law is good, for "through the law is the knowledge of sin." Before the law came, humanity was ignorant of its sinful state. The law was not a solution, but the way to the solution. It was to bring us to a place where we would see our need of a Saviour and Redeemer!

Once we enter into a vital relationship With Christ, we are no longer under the law of sin and death. We have a new law of the Spirit of life in Christ! So we see that the law covenant is only a temporary arrangement that leads us to Christ. A law relationship with God that reveals our sinfulness is necessary, for without it we would justify ourselves, set up our own standard of righteousness, and continue in our self-righteous way. But it is not enough!

It is very difficult for us to receive this teaching. The righteousness of the law appeals to us, for it fans our superiority and pride, and give us reason to rejoice in the punishment of the unlawful. We need to believe what the law teaches. In fact, if we don't believe what the law is showing us, neither will we believe Christ! If we don't have the wisdom to know that we can cry out to a loving Saviour for mercy, we cannot receive what God wants to give us.

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise... So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is... Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed." (Eph. 5:14-15,17; Rom. 13:11)

The hour is now! God is not pleased with those who will not awaken to their need of a Saviour - with those who try to deal with sin in their own strength. Trying to obtain righteousness through self-effort is foolishness. Wisdom recognizes that God knows everything and that we don't know anything! Wisdom recognizes that we need to believe Christ and obey Him!

Obedience is foundational to serving Him! It recognizes that God is the supplier of our needs! It recognizes the foolishness of thinking that we can advise God and get Him to do our will. Wisdom sees the advantages of doing God's will!

Man's thinking is foolishness. It is completely opposite to God's. It is immersed in its knowledge of good and evil and psychology and man's choices. This knowledge then forms the basis for knowing God, for explaining who they are and the cause of their problems. Their studied knowledge of human behaviour tells them how to make the necessary corrections, and how to function in given situations. Testimonies are used to prove that it really works. This is foolishness.

Doctrines attract people and they tend to congregate and camp around them. Truth and the counterfeit (error) have a close resemblance at the start. Like a crescendo mark, they then increasingly become more divergent! Jesus explains this principle in the parable of the wheat and the tares. At first there is a great resemblance between the wheat (truth) and the tares (error), but the difference is easily discerned in the fruit they bear.

Humanity's foolishness cannot understand spiritual realities. It explains the scriptures on a natural level. Instead of realizing that Christ has come back in the Holy Spirit, they think He is coming back as a physical man to finish His work on earth. They overlook the fact that on the cross Jesus said that His work (as a physical being) was finished.

Foolishness wants Christ to come back to earth instead of wanting Christ to bring us up to where He is. Foolishness feasts on the knowledge of the Adam man. It does not know that the law is not enough. It does not recognize error, and that camping on a certain revelation produces denominations and stagnation. Foolishness walks in the path of human reasoning and popularity. It feeds on the substitutions for truth. Foolishness worships the false instead of the true. It is under the bondage of certain days, and lets "the day" control them.

Since Christ is life and truth, in our union with Him, He has become our righteousness, redemption, sanctification, and wisdom! The new spiritual creation that we are in Christ needs spiritual food. Wisdom recognizes the necessity of submitting our will to God's will! It sees the importance of growing, maturing, and producing fruit. To produce an abundance of healthy fruit it needs to let go of all that hinders growth. Wisdom sees the need of building on a foundation of truth instead of on the many ideas of man. Wisdom will cause us to walk in the revelation that we have received. As we welcome and obey the revelation we have received, more will follow.

True wisdom knows the difference between shadows and reality; between a dead image and the living image of God that Christ is! Wisdom brings us into a vital relationship with Christ!

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" (1 Cor. 1:31-32) This is wisdom! Let us rejoice in Him, for He is our wisdom!

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