Parable of the 10 Virgins: Summary, Meaning and Commentary

Parable of the 10 Virgins: Summary, Meaning and Commentary November 11, 2014

 

The Parable of the 10 Virgins has been a mystery for some but it is clear to others so what does this parable mean and what can we learn from it?

Parables Purpose

Jesus said that He spoke in parables to hide the meaning from the self-righteous but to make known the mystery of the kingdom to His own.  There is something special about the Parable of the Ten Virgins that many might.  He wanted to hide its meaning to those who thought they had a special relationship with God because of their being the children of Abraham but Jesus never taught about salvation belonging to a race but about salvation being about grace.   Even so, “They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham” (John 8:39) “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Matt 3:9).  Making them even angrier Jesus said “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires” (John 8:44).  Jesus always spoke the truth but they were blinded and again, that is part of the reason that Jesus spoke to them in parables like the Parable of the 10 Virgins, so here is a personal view of this parable that you may have a different opinion on and if so, please chime in on what you think this parable means.

The Ten Virgins

We should keep in mind that since Jesus is speaking during the Olivet Prophecy and is teaching about the end of the age, the Parable of the 10 Virgins is related to His second coming.  In this parable He is revealing the mystery of the kingdom of heaven but hiding its meaning from the Jews.  Matthew 25:1-4 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.”

If oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which it is throughout much of the Bible, is Jesus saying that some of these virgins were only professing to be waiting for the bridegroom but weren’t really part of the wedding party?  The term “virgins” could mean that they are believers who have been declared righteous before God on account of their faith in Christ (2 Cor 5:21).  The foolish virgins may have been foolish because they kept putting off their receiving of the oil of the Holy Spirit because they may have never truly repented and trusted in the Bridegroom, who is Jesus Christ and Who at His second coming will marry the church (2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7-9, 21:1-2).  It is one thing to profess faith in Christ but it is altogether another matter to be bearing the fruit of the Spirit, revealing that they are truly abiding in the vine (John 15).

The Bridegroom Arrives

Jesus continues the parable by saying “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps” (Matt 25:5-7).  Many are falling away from the faith today and by doing so, they reveal that they were really never in the faith.  John writes that “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19).  When the sower sowed the seed of the Word of God “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these haveno root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.  And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:12-14).  Just because someone says that they believe in Christ doesn’t mean that they are saved because even the Devil and his demons believe but of course, they are not saved, so these virgins who saw that the Bridegroom delayed, gave up and the cares of the world and times of testing came up and it chocked out the Word of God in their lives and the seed never took root as it did for those who after “hearing the word hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Shut out of the Marriage Feast

It was too late to repent and trust in the Bridegroom after He had already returned but “the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt25:8-13).  How tragic.  Jesus says that He didn’t even know them!  Remember that with Jesus’ delay “they all became drowsy and slept” and weren’t ready for His appearing even though Christ warned them “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  They didn’t watch but they slept, therefore when they try to enter the kingdom at the time of the marriage feast, Jesus tells them “I do not know you.”  It’s not whether a person knows Christ but whether He knows them.  Matthew 7:21-23 is strikingly similar to the end of the parable where He warns “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” The use of the double “Lord, Lord” is a sign of intimacy in Jewish literature and today many believe that they have a personal relationship with Christ but when they try to enter the kingdom, He warns that “many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”  Not a few but many will say that!  These words may be the most terrifying words ever spoken by Jesus and they will be the most horrific words ever heard by those who profess faith but don’t truly possess faith in Christ.

Conclusion

I have a friend of mine who claims that he was saved when he was young, even saying “I was baptized at age 9” but today, he claims to be a citizen of heaven will living like the Devil.  He swears profusely, he watches sexually immoral and violent movies and he regularly gets drunk.  He lives absolutely no different from the world.  I have tried to warn him but to no avail.  Who are the ones who enter the kingdom?  It is he who “does the will of my Father who is in heaven” and not everyone who claims to be a Christian or was saved.  I know of several people who live a life no different from the world and I fear that these “foolish virgins” will be shut out of the kingdom because of their works of lawlessness unless they repent and trust in the Savior.   If a person is not producing fruits of repentance, then they are a false convert and will not enter the kingdom but enter a place of no return (Rev 20:11-5).  Jesus said that you will know them by their fruits (Matt 7:16) not by their words.  Think about that.

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    Jesus is “terrifying” and “horrific.” You have said it yourself.

    A terrifying and horrific “Savior”—I wouldn’t let him into my wedding.

    Like you said, you know a person by their behavior (fruits.) Terror is absent on my list of good behavior.

    • Mirta Ana Schultz

      If one is a criminal and the law comes to arrest, judge, and sentence, the criminal justice system seems terrifying, but it is doing a good thing. Identifying lawbreakers and administering isolation for the good of the non-criminal. A judge is terrifying to the criminals. A judge is not terrifying to his children..

      • Jack Wellman

        Well said my friend. If we are not breaking the law, we have no fear of the authorities (Rom 12:2-3), so what you said, was spot on. Thank you.

  • First note that the “kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins” – the kingdom isn’t the wedding feast or the church building. But besides that, why did the groom shut them out and say he didn’t know them? Was it because they didn’t bring enough oil? Or because they left to get more? They were already invited to the wedding, or even in the wedding party, right? If you invited your best friends and family, or your CHILDREN, to your wedding, would you shut them out because they forgot their shoes, or the cake, or the ring even? No of course not. But what if they are so afraid that you will be mad at them, that they leave to go home to get what they forgot, and miss the introduction or even the wedding itself? THEN you might say, “What are you doing, i don’t even KNOW you! Don’t you know i don’t care about lamps or oil or the ring? I love YOU. If you don’t even trust that i love you unconditionally then i don’t know what we’re even doing here.”

  • Linda Diane McMIllan

    “…but hiding its meaning from the Jews.”

    Are you kidding me? The guys he was talking to were all Jews, just like he was.
    This essay of yours just leaves me speechless, it really does. How this passes for anything Christian is beyond my wildest imagination. It doesn’t even make any sense.

    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/11/11/parable-of-the-10-virgins-summary-meaning-and-commentary/#EOHqXTKxxORbHIsG.99

  • markd4lyph

    Letst’s face it, this parable is an evasive enigma. Every interpretation has some points of connection, but leaves other symbols an inconclusive mystery. I could say all virgins going to sleep means all the people who die before Jesus return. Daniel said many shall sleep in the dust and some will rise to life and others to shame and contempt. Wise and foolish. All die but only those who get filled with Jesus before they die will be allowed in to the wedding. Just because your a jew doesn’t include you. You have to be a saved jew.
    yet this interpretation would not explain everything. As such I have never seen one that does. maybe they are 3 dimensional stories meant to be interpreted from numerous angles. Each angle reveals something new but leaves something else out.