The InterpretationPART II: THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
CHAPTER 13 THE TEN VIRGINS
Jesus had just finished a discourse on Signs on the EndIntroduction
of the Age. He concluded the discourse with, "So you also
must be ready, because the Son of Man [Jesus] will come at an
hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:44, New
International Version). He then presented the Parable of the
Faithful Servant and the Unfaithful Servant. Next, he
presented this parable. It is found only in Matthew 25:1-13. .and five were wise. The foolish onesThe Story"At that time the kingdom of heaven
will be like ten virgins who took their
lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish
took their lamps but did not take any oil
with them. The wise, however, took oil
in jars along with their lamps. The
bridegroom was a long time in coming, and
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
"At midnight the cry rang out:
`Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet
him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and
trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones
said to the wise, `Give us some of your
oil; our lamps are going out.'
"`No,' they replied, `there may
not be enough for both us and you.
Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy
some for yourselves.'
"But while they were on their way
to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived.
The virgins who were ready went in with
him to the wedding banquet. And the door
was shut. "Later the others also came.
`Sir! Sir!' they said. `Open the door for
us!' "But he replied, `I tell you the
truth, I don't know you.'
"Therefore, keep watch, because you
do not know the day or the hour."
(Matthew 25:1-13,New International
There were three stages in the Eastern matrimonial
procedure. First, there was the ENGAGEMENT in which there
was a formal settlement made by the fathers of the bride and
bridegroom. Second, there was the BETROTHAL, a ceremony
held in the house of the bride’s parents where mutual
promises were exchanged and the groom gave the bride presents.
The betrothal was almost as strong as the
marriage. Third, the MARRIAGE occurred about one year after
betrothal. The groom brought his bride to his house for the
marriage feast. [R. V. G. Tasker, gen. ed., THE TYNDALE NEW
TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1963), MATTHEW, by R. V. G. Tasker, pp. 231
For the third matrimonial stage, marriage, Trench offers
The customs alluded to in this parable still
exist in the East. The bridegroom, attended by his
friends ("the children of the bride-chamber," Matt.
ix. 15; John iii. 29), goes to the house of the
bride, and with pomp and gladness brings her to his
own home; or if that be too small for the company,
to some place provided for the occasion. She is
accompanied from her father's house by her young
companions (Ps. xlv. 15), while others, the virgins
of the parable, meet the procession at some
convenient place, and enter with the bridal
company into the hall of feasting. As marriages in
the East invariably took place, as they still do,
in the night, we are told that these virgins TOOK
THEIR LAMPS. (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR
LORD, p. 85).
With the background of the Eastern culture, let us now
look at the story that Jesus told. (The people listening to
Jesus would understand the custom that experts explained
This was a time of celebration and joy for the couple
soon to be married. They had already gone through the
engagement period and the betrothal. The groom had gone to
get his bride and the story now centers on the ten virgins.
(The Greek word is PARTHENOS, and is correctly translated
The virgins took lamps so that they could find there
way in the dark. (Lamp is a transliteration of the Greek
word LAMPAS, which consisted of some type of vessel to hold
olive oil and a wick inserted into the oil. The oil would
flow upward by capillary action to the tip where it would
burn and produce light). The virgins arrived at the
prearranged place and waited for the groom to arrive. Since
the groom was a long time in coming, the ten virgins became
drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, a messenger announced that the groom
would arrive shortly. The ten virgins awakened and began to
tend to their lamps. The oil in all ten lamps had nearly
been consumed by that time. The five foolish virgins asked
the five wise virgins to share their oil with them. The five
wise virgins did not have enough to share, so the five
foolish went to find a merchant to buy oil.
While the five foolish virgins were gone, the groom
arrived and the five wise virgins went into the wedding hall,
and the door was shut.
Later, the five foolish virgins arrived and asked the
groom to open the door. He replied, "I tell you the truth, I
do not know you."
Characters and symbols of the story and the persons and
the realities they represent are:
1. The Bridegroom Jesus
2. The Wise Virgins Christians
3. The Foolish Virgins Professing "Christians"
4. Lamp Outward Christian Profession
5. Oil The Holy Spirit
6. Arrival of Bridegroom Second Coming of Christ
We now call the bridegroom, the "groom." As the groom in
this story was a long time in returning, so Jesus' return has seemed
like a long time to us.
On the day that Christ returns, we must be ready. In
order to be ready, we must have accepted Christ as our
Savior. Simply agreeing that he is the Son of God and that
his death and resurrection for our salvation is not enough.
One scholar stated it this way: if we simply mentally assent
to justification by faith, all we have is a doctrine. It is
"a lamp without oil." If we have accepted Christ as our
Savior, the Holy Spirit abides within us, and we have eternal
life. On the day of Christ's return, all rationalizations
and excuses will be vaporized:
When the day of Christ comes, a flood of light
shall pour into the darkest corners of all hearts,
so that self-deception will no longer be possible.
(Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR LORD, p. 88).
The five foolish virgins let their oil run out. We are
to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Note that the
foolish virgins were not evil per se, but were careless. Do
they represent people who were really born again and then who
lost their salvation? This is an ongoing debate between the
Arminians and the Calvinists. The bridegroom said that "I
don't know you." Jesus gives the key in the last verse:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not
know the day or the hour." (Matthew
25:13, New International Version).
WE MUST BE CONTINUALLY READY
AND WATCH FOR JESUS' COMING.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins was addressed to the
Twelve Apostles. However, it also is meant for pastors and
for all Christians. [CAMBRIDGE GREEK TESTAMENT FOR SCHOOLS
AND COLLEGES (Cambridge: University Press, 1906), MATTHEW,
by A. Carr, pp. 275 ff.].
Jesus’ Second Coming is certain but we do not know the
time. Therefore, we must be continually ready. We must
have a personal relationship with Christ--we must know him
and he must know us, NOW! David Duplessis was speaking to a
religious leader once when he was prompted by the Holy Spirit
to make the statement, "God has no grandsons." God only has
sons and daughters. We cannot depend on any group or any
other human being to accept Christ for us.
Barclay sees two universal warnings:
1. Certain things cannot be gotten at the last
2. Certain things cannot be borrowed. We cannot
borrow a relationship with God--we must
There is no knell so laden
with the tears of regret
as the sound of the words
(Barclay, DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES, MATTHEW, pp.
252 ff.). END