The Ten Virgins
Prepared by Dr. Marshall
Matt. 25:1 (Holman) Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.
The Parable of the 10 Virgins is one of Jesus’ most famous stories. It is the inspiration for one of my earliest song recollections as a child. “Give me oil in my lamp; keep me burning; keep me burning till the break of day.”
The message in the Parable of the 10 Virgins is for us to be prepared, because someday preparation will no longer be allowed. In this parable, the bridegroom is Jesus; the virgins are people claiming to be Christ-followers.
In Israel, folks gathered prior to a wedding at the bride’s house. When the groom later arrived to retrieve his bride, everyone walked to the groom’s house for the party. The parade tended to take the longest route possible to extend the celebration. Everyone came out to the street to share in the party.
The 10 virgins, knowing the groom could come at night, brought their lamps lit. Due to night’s total darkness in ancient towns, people usually were not allowed on a street at night without a lamp. These lamps held by the friends were in essence streetlights lighting the path of the bridal procession.
Matt. 25:2-4 Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. When the
foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them. But
the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.
The parable hinges on the fact the groom delayed his coming longer than expected: a reminder the Second Coming may be delayed longer than expected. Five careless, unready virgins had lit their oil-fed lamps, but made no provision to keep them lit a long time. They didn’t bring enough extra oil.
These five virgins were called foolish. It is illogical, yea irrational, to be unprepared for Jesus’ coming. Don’t be foolish; eternity is in the balance.
The sensible virgins took extra oil in flasks. People can look alike outwardly yet be vastly dissimilar inwardly. Always be checking your heart.
Matt. 25:5 Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and
All ten dozed off. As an aside on this thought, A. T. Robertson noted, “Many a preacher has seen this happen while he is preaching.” This is true. Every church has members whose patron saint is Eutychus (AC 20), who fell asleep and tumbled out a second story window while Paul was preaching.
A lady who slept through all my sermons once told me, “Pastor, my falling asleep is a compliment to you; it proves I trust you.” One church member in St. Louis who regularly slept during my sermons snored loudly. I finally assigned a man to keep him awake by sitting next to him and jabbing him awake. Fortunately, the snorer had a good sense of humor about it.
Matt. 25:6-8 In the middle of the night there was a shout: “Here comes the groom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.”
The five foolish virgins were not necessarily hypocrites. They just did not stay faithful to the end. Their lamps did burn a while before going out.
They were satisfied with the here and now. Our calling is to be holy and stay holy, be faithful and stay faithful, be obedient and stay obedient, be virtuous and stay virtuous. Beware any spirituality that neglects an ongoing ever-strengthening relationship with Jesus. Many falter in their Christian life because they view it solely as conduct. When certain self-chosen sins are beat, some stop trying to make progress. We must help people see that the essence of our faith is not conduct, but a deepening fellowship with Jesus.
In our text, when the cry went forth, the virgins trimmed their lamps; this means they cut off the charred top of the wicks. The five foolish virgins quickly knew they were in trouble. The Greek word here for “going out” is the same that is translated “quench” in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. In our parable, the oil may not directly represent the Holy Spirit, but He is certainly the conveyor of whatever it takes to be ready. Stay near Him. “The atmosphere that surrounds His throne acts like oxygen on the oil-fed flame” (Maclaren).
Matt. 25:9 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.”
The wise virgins knew they had only enough oil for themselves. They were not being selfish. They were making sure they were ready to keep the bride and groom safe as they traveled. It’s dangerous to walk in pitch black.
This scene reminds us there will be no vouchers on Judgment Day. The ultimate issue for each one of us is to ever be personally relating to God well. Holiness matters most, especially individually. We cannot be saved on someone else’s credit. We must have grace of our own. Enough mercy for one cannot be made enough for two. Grace is nontransferable.
There is a limit to what we can do to help others. We can pray for them and witness to them, but we cannot be saved for them. “The saved cannot themselves become saviors” (MacArthur). We cannot do “anything instead of them” (Glover). We can only try to help them help themselves.
We can at best point sinners to the Savior, but we can and must do that. The wise virgins did not upbraid the foolish ones or condemn them.
They at least offered a plausible possibility. There was no reproach or reprimand. Instead, the wise virgins gave the best advice they could give.
Seeing our personal need for grace at the end will help us only if we saw our need for individual grace now. Beware the trap of trusting in the good works of others or of ourselves rather than in grace. Some think being born in a Christian family or nation will suffice. Actually, to have had Christians close to us can work to our detriment and be counted against us.
Matt. 25:10-13 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. Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, “Master, master, open up for us!” But he replied, “I assure you: I do not know you!” Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.
When God shut the door of the Ark, He included and excluded. Those within were safe; those outside were undone. Now another door is open. The entry is narrow, but totally open nonetheless. But in the end, it will be shut.
Jesus had already talked several times in this discourse about being alert. He wanted us to stay ready. Not knowing when He will come should make us careful, not careless. As we wait, be alert, and be alerting others.
Every day, stay ready to face the Lord. Keep all accounts up to date. Be at peace with God and others. Seek forgiveness often. Live every day as if it were your last day. It could be.
A final thought. How can we know we are ready for the final midnight crisis? A major indicator is how well we are responding to crises now.
Nothing better reveals our real self than a sudden, unexpected crisis. It shows whether we have the right stuff or have been leaning on false security.
Andrew Fuller said we have only as much religion as we can muster in a time of trial. Let’s take a moment to look on our past. Analyze it. How did we fare in recent dark crisis days? Our answer can tell us a lot about us.