The Ten Virgins and the Bridegroom

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 15

There are three parables in Matthew chapter 25 that have been used in varying degrees to bring guilt and fear to believers.  What is Jesus talking about in these “warning” parables?  Let’s begin with the ten virgins.

“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” (Matthew 25:1-4).

When Jesus starts a parable with “The kingdom of heaven is like”, He is speaking new covenant.  Jesus is preparing us for a story of what is coming in the new covenant.  In this story, we the human race are the virgins and Jesus is the bridegroom.  Five of the virgins will be ready for His appearing and five will not.

“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.  And 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 away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:5-10).

Because we know the rest of the gospel, we know that being ready for the bridegroom depends on one thing; believing the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  If you have believed the gospel, you are the wise virgin.  Your lamp is full of oil.

In the sense of this parable, there are not wise and foolish virgins in the family of God.  There are not some believers who have oil and some who are out of oil.  We do not move between the wise and foolish group based on how hard we are working in our Christian walk, or what spiritual disciplines we are following, or keeping a certain standard of behavior.

I believe the message is simply this:  The wise virgins are the saved.  The foolish virgins represent the lost.  The virgins with oil are believers.  The virgins without oil are the lost.  How do we know that the foolish virgins are a picture of the lost?

“Afterward the other virgins (the foolish five who had to purchase more oil) came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’ “ (Matthew 25:11-12).

Remember our discussion from Matthew 7 and the phrase from Jesus, “I never knew you”?  Because of Jesus’ promise of eternal life based on your belief in His gospel, it is an automatic of that belief that Jesus knows you and you know Him.  As a beloved child of God, it is impossible for Jesus to not know you!

The last line in the passage is the key to the parable.  The bridegroom did not “know” the foolish virgins.  The foolish virgins are the lost.  If you have believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ, you never have to worry about not being ready for the bridegroom.  You never have to worry about running out of oil.  You are safe in your unbreakable union with Jesus.

One last thought that may or may not be an application from this parable.  We cannot give our oil to another.  We can’t give our salvation to another.  We can share, spread, and preach the gospel message, but everyone must choose for themselves.

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