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The Ten Virgins



           Jesus had just finished a discourse on Signs on the End
         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.  . 
The 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
                   and five were wise.   The foolish ones
                   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
         further insight:

                   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
              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."

                                     The Interpretation
    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).

                                Central Truth

                         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
                   minute, and
              2.   Certain things cannot be borrowed.  We cannot
                   borrow a relationship with God--we must
                   possess it.

                          There is no knell so laden
                           with the tears of regret
                           as the sound of the words
                                   TOO LATE.

              (Barclay, DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES, MATTHEW, pp.
              252 ff.).  END