- 1. Synopsis
- 2. Parable Given in Response to
- 3. Symbolism Chart
- 4. The Parable in Matthew
- 5. Symbolic Interpretations
- 5.1. The Bridegroom is Jesus
- 5.2. The Virgins are People in the Kingdom of God
- 5.3. The Lamps represent the Appearence of those in the Kingdom of God
- 5.4. The Oil are those Doing what Jesus says to Do
- 5.5. The Marriage is Entrance to Heaven
- 6. Conclusion
- 7. The Parable in Matthew
- 8. The Parable in Luke
Synopsis of Parable:
Ten virgins each have a lamp and were going to meet the groom. Five were wise and brought lamp oil, but five were foolish, and brought nought. While waiting for the groom, night fell, and they slept. At midnight the groom came, and the five wise lit their lamps, but the five foolish had no oil. They begged for oil from the wise, but the wise refused, and so the foolish went to go buy some. As they bought some the groom came and took the five wise away. When the five foolish returned, they begged the groom to open the door for them, but the groom said, "No, I don't know who you are."
Parable Given in Response to:
Jesus gave this parable during the Olivet Discourse(Matthew 24:3.) directly after he told his audience that no one knows when he shall return.(Matthew 24:36.)
|↓ Bridegroom||Jesus||Matthew 25:1|
|↓ Virgins||People in the Kingdom of God||Matthew 25:1|
|↓ Lamps||Appearance in the Kingdom of God||Matthew 25:3|
|↓ Oil||Will of God||Matthew 25:3|
|↓ Marriage||Heaven||Matthew 25:10|
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
As presented in the King James Version of Matthew 25:1-13
Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols
The Bridegroom is Jesus Back to Top ↑
Here, we yet again see Jesus playing a role in a parable. The virgins are waiting for the bridegroom, just as we are waiting for Jesus to return.
Virtually no one denies this interpretation, and it is simple to understand, so there is no need to go deeply into it.
The Virgins are People in the Kingdom of God Back to Top ↑
The virgins represent people that are in the kingdom of God. Specifically, these are people who are awaiting Jesus’s second coming. (Recall that Jesus gave this parable during the Olivet Discourse, which was focused on Jesus’s second coming and the signs thereof.) Just as the virgins are awaiting the bridegroom’s coming, so too are we awaiting Jesus’s coming.
These virgins were likely invited to the wedding. They were assembled, waiting, and all knew the bridegroom. They also knew each other enough for one group to ask the other for some oil. These virgins were not strangers to each other. This is much like those in the church. Even within different denominations, everyone knows the basic tenants of the gospels and what Jesus said and did. Some church members are foolish though, listening to someone that is not Jesus, while others are wise, listening to Jesus.
This interpretation is widespread, although often worded differently. Sometimes, people will say that the virgins are those within the church. Fine, so be it.
The exception to this comes with those who believe in eternal salvation. They deny many portions of this parable and completely ignore it or make it out to be something more complex than it is. For instance, some believe that the virgins represent tribulation survivors. (In their theology, the church on earth is gone by this time.) And that during the harvest, those who have faith (which to them, the oil represents) will be allowed into the marriage.
However, the parable does not speak about anything happening to the believing church prior to the arrival
of the ten virgins. Since Jesus likened this parable to the kingdom of God,(Matthew 25:1.) which
is here, on earth,
Another issue with this interpretation is that it relies on additional information that Jesus did not provide. If the Book of Revelation was not written, and if the self-proclaimed apostle wrote nothing, would this theology have ever existed? The answer is "no." That is how we know that Jesus did not provide this interpretation.
We must throw out the contradiction and keep true to interpretations that agree with what Jesus said. Thus, the virgins are not tribulation survivors; they are not anyone in the future. They are us today, who listen to Jesus.
The two groups of virgins both fall asleep, and the parable does not criticize that, even though Jesus
shortly before said,
That Jesus did not criticize the sleeping is interesting. It is possible, though not
dogmatic, to say that the "sleep" that Jesus meant here was not the casual light sleeping we (are supposed
to) do every night, but the sleep of death. Jesus often called "death," "sleep," like when Jesus said
that Lazarus was sleeping, only to have to clarify to the disciples that that meant
The Lamps represent the Appearence of those in the Kingdom of God
A simple interpretation, but many ignore the symbol. Instead, they focus on the oil, such as those holding those tribulation saint views discussed above. However, the lamps are just as much a symbol as the oil is, so we should not ignore it.
The lamps here are physical objects that can be seen. It would be easy to tell that each of the ten virgins
have a lamp. A person could just look at what they are holding and see. Likewise, it should be easy to tell
a christian apart from anyone one else. Jesus said,
However, there are other ways of knowing if someone is a Christian. Some Christians like to pray publically
before meals in restaraunts, demanding their guests join them.(They have their reward. Matthew
6:5.) Some are aggressive in their demands and try to force the world to amend to them.(And
yet Jesus said to
To an ignorant onlooker, these Christians would have lamps just like any other Christian.
The Oil are those Doing what Jesus says to Do Back to Top ↑
The difference is in the oil's presence. Those that have oil can burn them so that they may enter into the marriage.(Matthew 25:10.) The oil represents those do do what Jesus says to do.
Many people call Jesus "lord," but we already know that not everyone that calls Jesus "lord" will be let
into heaven, for Jesus said,
Yet there are those who do not. They seem to follow Jesus. They profess to follow Jesus, but in reality
they are just like the pharisees. Jesus said of them,
Jesus expects people to do the things he says.
These are the people that, in the past, would likely have been the ones to kill the
prophets.(Matthew 23:29-35.) They appear righteous, but inwardly, they are not.(Matthew
23:25, 26.) These are probably the people that Jesus talks about in the future when he says,
The Marriage is Entrance to Heaven Back to Top ↑
- For an indepth look at the will of God, see A Summary of the Will of God
So what happens if you do not do what Jesus says? He will not let you into eternal life.
When the foolish virgins went and knocked on the door, they said,
It is interesting to note that we have an example of Jesus not knowing someone that is sleeping, fully dead, while at the same time knowing of a person who is sleeping, but is alive. Throughout the tale of the Rich Man and Lazarus,Luke 16:19-31 Lazarus, who Jesus remembered and knew enough to give him a name, was righteous. Conversely, the rich man was not at all righteous and did not the works of the father, and Jesus never named this man. Instead, he was tormented. This tale is a splendid example of how Jesus knows of people, either intensely or barely at all.
The bridegroom let in those five virgins to the marriage. The bridegroom knew and recognized them, just as Jesus recognizes his sheep.(John 10:14.)
In Conclusion Back to Top ↑
This parable is rather straightforward. Do what Jesus says, and he will choose you to inherit eternal
life. Jesus says,
The major confusion in this parable comes from two separate sources. One, some people believe that the virgins represent a nonsensical group of people in the future. This is not the case. Two, many people do not want to believe in Jesus enough to listen to what he says, they would rather believe in someone who did not know Jesus, and came after Jesus for eternal life. Their prejudices bias them against what Jesus says, even as they call Jesus their lord.