This is a parable needing interpretation using customs of the times and by using context. It simply will not make any sense attempting to interpret it with today’s customs or today’s dispensational theology. For example, why would the Lord marry ten virgins? Why would he ask ten virgins to marry him, and then say he did not know five of them? If these virgins represent the church and Christianity, why would the five wise not share their oil with the five foolish?
PARABLES OF JESUS
By Pastor Delbert Young
The Ten Virgins part 1
Scriptures: 1 John 4:1, 2 Peter 3:16, Matthew 25:1-13, Matthew 23:36-38, Matthew 24:3, Matthew 25:1-4
The Ten Virgins part 1
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
The scriptures give us warning after warning concerning the teachings we place ourselves under. John says to try the spirits whether they are of God. This tells us there are spirits not of God. How do we try or test the spirits? One way is to know those who labor among you (1Th 5:12). However, the first and best way to try the spirits is by knowing the word of God for ourselves. It is impossible to be deceived concerning something you know.
2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Peter said some of the things Paul wrote were difficult to understand. Those who are unlearned and unstable wrest what Paul said and they do also the other scriptures. The word translated wrestmeans distort or twist. Often people will twist the scriptures to mean what they want and not necessarily the truth. The solution is to make certain those to which we listen are not unlearned and unstable.
We find this the case in the parable we are about to study and all the parables surrounding it in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of Matthew. Hopefully by studying the parable in manners and customs, context, and history we can avoid wresting the parable.
Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
This is a parable needing interpretation using customs of the times and by using context. It simply will not make any sense attempting to interpret it with today’s customs or today’s dispensational theology. For example, why would the Lord marry ten virgins? Why would he ask ten virgins to marry him, and then say he did not know five of them? If these virgins represent the church and Christianity, why would the five wise not share their oil with the five foolish? Why does Jesus refer to himself as the “Son of man” in this parable? Why does the Lord say, Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto . . . in this parable, but in other parables he says, the kingdom of heaven is likened to . . . (Mat 13:24; 18:23)?
Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “It was a custom sometimes used among the Jews on that occasion, that the bridegroom came, attended with his friends, late in the night, to the house of the bride, where she expected him, attended with her bride-maids; who, upon notice given of the bridegrooms’ approach, were to go out with lamps in their hands, to light him into the house with ceremony and formality, in order to the celebrating of the nuptials with great mirth. And some think that on these occasions they had usually ten virgins; for the Jews never held a synagogue, circumcised, kept the Passover, or contracted marriage, but ten persons at least were present. Boaz, when he married Ruth, had ten witnesses, Ruth 4:2.” (1)
Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight says, “The streets of cities were dark, and it was necessary that anybody venturing forth at night should carry a lamp or torch. Those invited guests, who did not go to the bride’s home were allowed to join the procession along the way, and go with the whole group to the marriage feast. Without a torch or lamp they couldn’t join the procession, or enter the bridegroom’s house.” (2) This can be easily understood when we realize the light would light the face and make the person recognizable.
So we see the Lord was not marrying the ten virgins, or even five of them. They were the bridesmaids. As we today give the bridesmaids a bouquet which represents the freshness and sweetness of the bride, they were given a lamp with oil which represented the brightness and light of the bride. Their job was to keep the lamp burning until the bridegroom arrived. The five wise virgins made certain their lamps would not go out. This is an important part of the interpretation.
These were virgins. We find 144,000 virgins with the Lord in Revelation 14:4. There is a link. The ten had been sent by the bride to meet him and light his way back to her. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 the same word is used as the resurrected and alive saints meet the Lord. There is a link there. Who are these ten virgins? What do they represent? Who would the bride be if not these ten? The bride is the church (Eph 5:25) the New and Holy Jerusalem (Rev 21:9-10). These are the people of the church. In the parable, they become the people of the bride, or the people of the church. We can also expand the thought somewhat into the ten could represent ten churches. The Son of man stands in the midst of seven golden candlesticks (lampstands) in Revelation 1:13 which are the seven churches of Asia (Rev 1:20).
The context of this passage actually begins in Matthew chapter 21 as Jesus rode into Jerusalem at what is referred to as the Triumphal Entry. This was the last week of the life of Christ before the crucifixion. Chapters twenty-one through twenty-three of Matthew tell of tremendous confrontations between the religious system of the Jews and Christ. This confrontation culminated in chapter twenty-three with the many recorded “Woe unto scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites . . .” section (Mat 23:13-335). The Lord said their religious system was full of serpents and a generation vipers (Mat 23:33). Jesus then tells them of the soon coming desolation that would lay Jerusalem in ruins. He tells them the desolation would come upon their generation (Mat 23:36-38).
Matthew 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Matthew 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
The Lord went out, and departed from the temple (Mat 24:1). There is a double emphasis on his leaving the Ichabod system of the Jews (1Sa 4:21). Returning to Bethany for the night, the disciples began to tell Jesus about the buildings of the temple. Jesus replied, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Some of the disciples came to him a short time later and asked him a two-part question. They asked,
Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
The translation of the word world is horrible in the King James’ translation. It is the Greek word aion (Strong’s #165) and means age. Other translations translate it correctly.
(NIV) Matthew 24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
They disciples were not asking when the literal world would blow up and be destroyed. They were asking when the temple (house) would be laid desolate and the age of Moses would end. Answering them, Jesus spoke what we call the Olivet Discourse. This teaching was about the beginning of sorrows (Mat 24:8) and the great tribulation (Mat 24:21) which would be a part of the destruction of their temple again saying all these things would come upon their generation.
Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
The Lord then spoke parable after parable explaining his coming. It was at this moment the Lord shared parables about the fig tree blossoming (Mat 24:32), as it was in the days of Noah (Mat 24:36-41), the thief in the night (Mat 24:42-44), the faithful and wise servant (Mat 24:45-51), the ten virgins (Mat 25:1-13), the giving of talents (Mat 25:14-30), and the sheep and the goats (Mat 25:31-46). Seven parables were given by the Lord to help his disciples understand the coming.
It was in this context we find the parable of the ten virgins. This parable is not concerned with the end of time. It was concerned with the end of the temple and the age of Moses.
Masada (Hebrew, “fortress”), ancient ruins on a mountaintop in the desert about 48.3 km (about 30 mi) southeast of Jerusalem, the scene of the last stand made by the Jewish Zealots in their revolt against Roman rule (AD66-73). (3)
As history shows, the Roman army moved into the land of Philistia in the spring of A.D. 66. A seven-year war of great tribulation followed. Masada was the last stronghold of the Jews falling in A.D. 73. Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70, three years before the generation to which Jesus spoke passed. The temple was burned and dismantled just as Jesus said. Josephus wrote of this great tribulation in his historic eyewitness account of the war.
The reason this is important to know is because it removes this parable from an only futuristic perspective. We now must deal with it as historic, but learning how the Lord dealt with believers at this coming and at his coming into each of our lives.
Matthew 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
Matthew 25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Matthew 25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
Matthew 25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
the kingdom of heaven
The Lord said Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto . . . As noted previously, this would have been an event yet to happen when this was spoken. However, in the context, it happened to the generation to which Jesus came. It happened in A.D. 70. Still, this is the way the kingdom of heaven operates. This is the state of things under the gospel. The point is we cannot cast the parable into a total Prederistic perspective.
lamps and oil
The ten virgins went forth to meet the bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. What made them wise and what made them foolish? It was the foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
The picture is an oil lamp flamed using a wick. The five foolish had a lamp. The problem was they did not have any oil. It’s not they did not have enough oil. They had no oil. The wise virgins not only had their lamps, they had oil.
When the scriptures speak of light, they are not speaking of electrical lighting as we think. This is obvious in this passage. The scriptures are speaking of oil lamp lighting. This becomes first meaningful when the Lord gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. One of the elements of furniture within the tabernacle was the lampstand called the candlestick in the King James’ version (Exo 25:31-40). This lampstand was to burn always (Exo 27:20; Lev 24:2). We are told of an event when the lamp went out. Eli was the high priest when the tabernacle was at Shiloh. The Bible says Eli was heavy of flesh and going blind (1Sa 4:15, 18). He allowed the lamp to go out (1Sa 3:3). In the next verse the Lord called Samuel to replace Eli. Looking at this from the spiritual dimension, we see Eli the believer had become interested in the things of the flesh. He had lost his spiritual insight and vision. As this happened, the light went out.
Next time we will look at what the light and oil represents and means.
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