Jesus's Words

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

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Matthew 25:1-13

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 naught. 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.)

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found
↓ 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

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.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

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, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 this theology has to contradict what Jesus says. Is the kingdom already here, or is it in the future after the harvest? Jesus says it is here, and that the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Luke 17:20 There are no signs to the coming of the kingdom. But then calling the virgins tribulation survivors would be the same as saying the kingdom is coming with signs that can be seen! If the harvest occurs, would not everyone know what is happening, including the ten virgins? Would that not contradict Jesus? It would.

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, Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Matthew 24:42 No, the sleeping is not an issue for the bridegroom here. After all, in the parable someone, possibly not even one of the virgins, cried out, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Matthew 25:6

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 Lazarus is dead. John 11:14 For other examples of sleep equaling death to Jesus, see Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52, 53. Also note that the Israel Kings were noted as "sleeping with their fathers" when they died. See 1 Kings 11:43, 14:20, 16:6, 22:50; 2 Kings 14:16, 15:7, 16:20, 20:21, 21:18.

The Lamps represent the Appearance 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, They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:16 And if we are not of the world, then do we act as the world? No, we do not. Likewise, Jesus said, Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Luke 14:34, 35 If we are not like the world, then men will cast us out. We will be obvious to those around us by how we act.

However, there are other ways of knowing if someone is a Christian. Some Christians like to pray publicly before meals in restaurants, 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 follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. Matthew 8:22 cf. Luke 9:60. So why do these people care what others do?) To those who do not know, these Christians are just the same as other Christians, they do still profess belief that Jesus is Lord, and this they say publicly.

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, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 Jesus identify these people as those that work iniquity. Matthew 7:23 But if you do what Jesus says to do to, you will not work any sin. How could you? Jesus never said anything but the truth,(Compare John 8:28, 29 and John 17:17.) and only spoke what the Father told him to speak,(John 14:10.) and he is the good shepherd(John 10:11.) and the sole teacher.(Matthew 23:8-11.) God has shown Jesus everything, and limits what Jesus can and cannot do.John 5:19 We can put our faith in Jesus enough to believe and follow his sayings.

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, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Luke 11:39 This is just the same as those who say they listen to Jesus, but in reality do nothing that Jesus says.

Jesus expects people to do the things he says. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:26, 27 cf. Luke 6:48, 29 And so it is with the virgins. They knew enough to bring lamps, but could not understand the purpose of the lamps enough to bring the oil that the lamps required!

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, yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. John 16:2, 3

The Marriage is Entrance to Heaven Back to Top ↑

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, Lord, Lord, open to us, Matthew 25:11 but the bridegroom replied Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Matthew 25:12 Clearly, the bridegroom knew about these foolish virgins. They were likely invited to the wedding and even had a lamp! The five wise virgins within the building likely would have told the bridegroom about these foolish virgins. Even so the bridegroom denies knowing these virgins. This is just the same as when Jesus will say, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:23 to those people who did much good in Jesus's name.(Matthew 7:22.) Jesus says, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 To have eternal life, you must do the will of the father. To do anything else is to work iniquity. Fortunately, Jesus only spoke and did the will of the Father, so we know if we follow Jesus, we are doing the will of the Father.

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, For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14 cf. Matthew 20:16 There were ten virgins, but five were chosen, and five were told Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Matthew 25:12

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.

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