Jesus loved to tell stories and He was very good at it. His stories, however, were life lessons for the hearers or teaching moments for His disciples. Several times He talked about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. Today, we’re going to look at the parable of the 10 virgins, found in Matthew 25:1-13.
Have you ever wondered who the 10 virgins are that Jesus mentioned in this parable? Let’s see what we can find out about the wise and foolish virgins and what we can learn from them. It’s time to dig in to see what vital life lessons we can learn.
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Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:1
Let’s read the text found in Matthew 25:1-13, as Jesus is teaching His disciples on the Mount of Olives. They had already talked with Him privately for the explanation of His statement about the temple buildings not left standing in Matthew 24:1.
It was at this point that Jesus began to teach them about the signs of the end times, so in chapter 25, He continues to teach about the kingdom of heaven as He compared it to 10 virgins of whom five were wise and five were foolish. The virgins were to wait for the appearance of the bridegroom but as the evening wore on, they got drowsy and fell asleep. However, five virgins were wise enough to prepare their oil supply before they fell asleep. The other five virgins who are called “foolish virgins” did not prepare extra oil so that they would be ready upon the bridegroom’s arrival.
Download your free Study in a Nutshell on Matthew 25 – The 10 Virgins … link located at the end of this post.
Let’s look at the outline that leads to a vital life lesson:
- The Expectation of the Bridegroom’s Arrival, Matthew 25:1
- The Separation: The Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virgins, Matthew 25:2
- The Bridegroom’s Delay, Matthew 25:5
- The Oil Crisis, Matthew 25:8
- The Bridegroom’s Denial, Matthew 25:12
The Expectation of the Bridegroom’s Arrival
As we begin this passage, Matthew 25:1 tells us that the 10 virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
There is an expectation of his arrival.
In the wedding custom of Jesus’ day, the groom and his bride would leave from the bride’s family home to lead the wedding procession to his house for the wedding feast. Those in this particular wedding procession included 10 virgins, or, young maidens. There is no mention of others in this procession but there usually were both men and women who were part of the wedding party.
The interpretation of this parable is that the bridegroom is Jesus, the Messiah, and the 10 virgins, or, maidens, represented, [according to the New Bible Commentary Revised, page 846,] “professing Christians.”
There are other interpretations of this passage and Walvoord & Zuck of The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 79, indicate that further separations will happen when Jesus returns in glory. The first separation involves the church as seen through the wise and foolish virgins. The parable of the sheep and the goats is another separation as read in Matthew 25:31-46.
Back to our current parable, Jesus is the bridegroom and His return is imminent and coming at a time when we least expect Him, see Matthew 24:27, 44.
The Wise and Foolish Virgins
Matthew 25:2-4, “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.” NASB
Right away, we see a distinction between the virgins as they were classed into two categories: wise and foolish virgins based on their preparedness or lack thereof.
All the virgins took their lamps with them, however, only five virgins brought extra oil. They are called wise virgins. It is possible for believers to be with other believers and not know their true intent. Are they really ready to meet the Groom?
The foolish virgins took only their lamps. The significance is that they knew the tradition that the bridegroom would arrive when least expected. They waited as if they intended to meet the groom but they were not fully prepared for the occasion.
The wise virgins took their lamps plus extra oil in flasks. They knew that the groom would come when least expected and they wanted to ready for the wedding procession.
Let’s look a little deeper at the foolish virgins. All 10 virgins brought their lamps with them but with no oil in them as it was still light out and they could see where they were going. Any oil that was in the wick would have been residual. It would appear that the foolish virgins thought only of the ‘here and now’ as they did not bring any extra oil while they still had time to get ready.
The wise virgins were prepared to wait for the groom as the ceremonial process would begin upon his arrival. These virgins knew that the unexpected could happen and they were ready with extra oil in case it was needed. They had enough oil for themselves with none to spare for the foolish virgins, Matthew 25:9.
The interpretation of this part of the parable is that Jesus will return at a time when believers will least expect Him, Matthew 24:44. Those who are ready to meet Him will be part of the wedding celebration as His Bride.
The Bridegroom’s Delay
Matthew 25:5, “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.” NASB
Nothing is said or misspoken of the virgins getting tired and falling asleep. This point is about the groom’s delay to lead the wedding procession to the marriage feast at his house.
While we do not know why the groom was delayed, it is important to know that he will arrive in due time.
The interpretation of this verse is that we do not know the exact day and time of His return, however, He did tell us that we could know the general time frame as you compare with other parables in Matthew 24:42, 44, 50; 25:13.
We are to be watching, waiting and ready for His soon return. We don’t know when this will be but He won’t be late.
In Paul’s day, believers were expecting the Lord’s return at any time but the coming of the Lord has been delayed. It is now 2020 and we are still waiting.
We see too many good Christians who have been ‘in the Lord’ a long time grow slack in their zeal of watching and waiting for the Lord’s return because He hasn’t come yet. They still love the Lord but have left their first love, Revelation 2:4. The disciples found it hard to stay awake and pray with Jesus for one hour, how much more for believers to watch and wait for as many years as we have?
Yes, we need physical sleep. That’s not what this is about. We’re talking about spiritual readiness. Be watchful and ready in your faith and in your spirit.
The Oil Crisis
Matthew 25:6 But at midnight, there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” NASB
It’s now the time for the wedding march to join in with the bride and groom as they go to the groom’s home for the wedding feast.
At the sound of the groom’s announcement, the sleeping virgins woke up and five of the virgins, in preparing their lamps, found that they did not have enough oil to proceed with the ceremonial procession.
We can assume that as they were lighting the wicks, that any residual oil in the wicks quickly sputtered out. That is why all five lamps went out at the same time.
It was midnight and the path was dark. Remember, there was no hydro in those days, so there were no street lamps to light the way. No flashlights either, only their lamps. The oil lamps served the purpose of lighting their path to the bridegroom’s home. They needed oil.
The wise virgins refuse to share their oil with the foolish virgins on the basis that they themselves will not have enough for the ceremonial procession. It is better to have enough light to complete the procession than to run out of light during it, wouldn’t you think? These young women were ready for the unexpected.
This parable is about readiness, not about sleeping. Our bodies need physical rest as illustrated here. While all 10 virgins slept, only five were ready. For believers, this means that we continue to do the work of the Lord until He returns. Though the wait is long, Christ will come. His second coming is not forgotten, He will come for His bride!
When we least expect Him, He will arrive. Midnight represents the unexpected hour. We do not know the day nor the hour when Christ will return. It is an unexpected time but He will come and when He comes, we will go forth to meet Him. Those who are prepared, who have readied themselves, will be ready when they hear the sound of His approach.
Not much is said about the meaning of the oil though it is said that the oil could possibly represent the Holy Spirit and His work in redemption and salvation. It would be wise to all believers to be filled with the Spirit at all times, Ephesians 5:18, building up your faith, Jude 20, and spiritually ready for His sudden return, Matthew 24:44.
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The Bridegroom’s Denial
Matthew 25:10-12, 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.’ NASB
The unexpected happened, they were not ready for him. The announcement was made and the bridegroom arrived while the foolish virgins had gone to get more oil. The wedding procession began without them and the groom and his bride and the whole wedding party went into his home where the wedding feast would occur and the door was shut behind them.
When the foolish virgins returned, they found the door shut. They called out for the groom to open the door, to allow them entrance to the wedding celebration but heard a response they were not expecting. The ceremonial procession had been completed. They were not present for this process and now they were not allowed to enter the ceremony itself.
It was too late. He did not know them and refused them entrance. They were denied, their lack of preparedness caused this denial by the groom.
Jesus ended this parable with ‘Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh’.
Only those who are spiritually watching, waiting, and ready will gain entrance to the wedding ceremony.
Brethren, be watchful, be waiting, be ready!
He IS coming soon when the time is right. He will not be late and neither should we be late. Being ready means, among other things (and especially in this parable), trusting in Jesus, and having our sins forgiven, being filled with the Spirit and alert in the Spirit.
We now know who the foolish virgins are. They are those who go through the motions of Christianity. When it is time for the Lord’s return, they will find there is no time left to get ready. The time to get ready is today.
Ponder These Thoughts
Do you think it is possible for people to attend church and go through the motions of Bible study and prayer but not have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells believers to examine themselves to ensure their salvation. Be spiritually prepared to meet Him!
Are you truly born again? Or are you going through the motions, thinking you’ll have time later to make a decision to follow Christ? If so, then time is running out since you don’t know when Jesus will return to meet us in the air, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Paul taught us that if we don’t have the Spirit of God in us, we are not a part of the family of God, Romans 8:9. You don’t want to miss Him!
For an added study, read this quick post about The Wise and the Foolish Virgins from Words of Life Ministries.
Also, here is a “Study in a Nutshell – Quick Study” on this topic, Matthew 25 – The 10 Virgins that you can download to work through on your own.
If you are new to the inductive Bible study method, this post will help you get started with the 3 Elements of Inductive Study.
Life Lessons Learned from the Wise and Foolish Virgins
So, what have we learned from this parable of the wise and foolish virgins?
- We can expect Jesus to return for His bride, the Church.
- We need to be spiritually in tune with Holy Spirit, keeping the tank topped up daily.
- We need to be watching and waiting for His sudden return and not spiritually sleeping.
- Those who appear to be Christians but are not born again will be refused entrance to heaven. Only those who know Jesus and have accepted Him as Lord and Saviour and are Spirit-Filled will be caught up in the air to be with Him forever.
As iron sharpens iron, would you share your thoughts with me? I would love to hear from you.
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Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Facebook through 215 Ministry.