The parable (or story) of the Ten Virgins is one of the parables told by Jesus regarding the Kingdom of Heaven. It has been used in the past as a fearful thing. I have heard preachers say “You had better watch out! You had better be afraid, because Jesus could return at any moment, and if you’re not careful, you will be left behind!”.
Now I will readily admit, that there is a warning in this parable, but to turn what Jesus said into a fear-mongering sermon would be a gross perversion of what Jesus was actually saying here… because not only did Jesus give a warning, but He also gave amazing words of life, so that you do not need to be afraid or to fear!
What I want to share with you today, is the amazing truth about the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and how it all really revolves around Jesus. By seeing this truth, we do not need to be in needless fear any longer.
So let’s begin by reading the Parable itself, found in Matthew 25:1-13:
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
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.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.”
So Jesus says in verse 1 that He is telling a story designed to show truths about the Kingdom of Heaven (which we have studied previously). And He proceeds to tell about ten virgins; five of whom were wise, and five of whom were foolish.
We see in verses 3 and 4, that the five foolish virgins, took lamps, but took them without oil. In contrast, the five wise virgins took their lamps with oil.
The wedding custom of the day was for the bride and her guests to be entertained at the bride’s house until the coming of the groom, and then proceed in a festive wedding procession lit by the light of the lamps, and be received at the groom’s house for further festivities. This usually happened at night, as was customary. So the lamps were used as part of the wedding procession.
Now in verse 5, something is keeping the groom, he is later than expected, and the virgins fell asleep, but then, in verse 6, we see at midnight they are woken-up by the shouts of the messengers “He’s here, go out to meet him!”
In verse 7, they all wake-up and begin trimming their lamps (preparing them to be lit, making sure they don’t give off black-smoke, etc – anyone who has used an oil lamp will understand)
Now in verse 8, we see that the foolish virgins, now having freshly trimmed their lamps, are realizing that without oil, they are constantly going out – they ask for some oil from their wise counterparts, but in verse 9 we see that they are denied.
So what is all of this? What is going on here exactly? Well, Jesus said that this parable, these ten virgins, are like the Kingdom of Heaven. This story is meant to convey spiritual truth.
We know that the virgins, represent the church (2nd Corinthians 11:2, Mark 2:19-20, Ephesians 5:31-32)
And we also know that the church is the assembly of believers, the people, not a physical building (Acts 7:48-50, Ephesians 1:22-23)
Third, we know that Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit of God (Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, Zechariah 4:1-4).
With these basic elements in place we can begin to see the truth about what Jesus is saying, particularly about Himself. He’s actually conveying a manifold bit of wisdom here – a multilayered truth; one for His immediate audience, and one for us today as well (this isn’t the first or the only time that Jesus does this either!)
To understand this better, we can consider the Old Covenant sacrifices such as Leviticus 2:1-3, which Jesus of-course completely fulfilled, but it shows us another aspect of truth in Him. Let’s look at it really quick:
“And when any will offer a meat offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense thereon:
And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take out of there his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it on the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet smell to the LORD:
And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.”
As we can see here, one of the requirements when making a grain offering (of which Jesus’s body is the absolute fulfillment) is to pour oil on it. And it is to be burned.
Now these requirements have never really changed, but the difference today is that Jesus Christ, the Perfect Sacrifice has been offered. His body has been broken, and His Spirit has been given.
Why is the Spirit of Christ so very essential to the proper offering? Well, for much the same reason as Oil is also necessary for the lamps in the parable… His Spirit is the catalyst for everything of God in our lives. His Spirit produces the fruit. His Spirit allows our union and communion with Christ. His Spirit leads us, guides us into all truth, and reminds us of everything Jesus has said to us.
It’s His Spirit that testifies that we are the children of God, and reminds us that we are righteous in Him. Without His Spirit, we have no assurance of salvation!
So, as we return to the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25, with this information in mind… verses 8 and 9, the foolish virgins ask the wise virgins for some oil, but they are denied.
The wise virgins tell the foolish ones to “Go to where oil is sold, and buy some for yourselves.”
This may seem like a put-off at first, but it is actually the most gracious and best counsel that anyone could ever give. Today in the New Covenant of Grace in Christ Jesus, there is only one place where the Spirit of God can be obtained (as mentioned in Zechariah 4, the Spirit obvious comes from Jesus Himself). And also, there is only one price to be paid for His Spirit… and Jesus already paid it.
So the focus here is placed squarely where it needs to be – on the finished work of Christ. Not on man’s strength, man’s effort or on man’s wisdom; none of ourselves, but all on Jesus.
Now as Jesus would tend to do, His words here carry a manifold meaning… one meaning for the Jews who were under the Old Covenant which was about to change as Christ fulfilled it and ushered in the New Covenant.
And there is a secondary meaning for the Gentiles, and for the church assembly today as well
For the Jews, because they would cling to and hold on to the Old Covenant which did indeed have glory, but its glory was ending in Christ (2nd Corinthians 3:9-11). They could no longer hang on to the old ways and the old system, because the Covenant was changing in Christ. Hence what we see in the parable: their lamps were going out.
For Gentiles, and the church today, this also means that a person cannot simply leech off of someone else’s relationship with Christ. We each should have our own union and relationship with His Spirit.
There are a lot of people who run around, following after other leaders, teachers, ministers because they covet the Spirit in their lives and these people try to leech off of that one person – not realizing that in the end only your own personal union with Christ is what matters – someone else’s oil cannot actually save you – you need to have your own oil, and that comes from your own personal relationship with Jesus… having His Spirit work in your life.
Friend, I love you in Christ very much… but my personal relationship with God is exactly that… mine. My relationship with God cannot save you. What I can do, is encourage you to have your own personal relationship with God – and my desire is that yours becomes even greater than my own.
And a relationship with God, a union with Christ through His Spirit, is so much more than what we have made it out to be today… strange legalistic and ritualistic practices; learning Bible trivia and just focusing on interesting scripture factoids that give us the appearance of wisdom. All that stuff really is, is worshiping knowledge about God, instead of God Himself. And their lamps are empty.
In verses 10 through 13 of our text, we see that the foolish virgins missed the appointment, and were told by the groom that He doesn’t know them.
And this again, goes right to the heart of the issue: the union, the relationship.
In the end, He either knows you personally, or He doesn’t. This isn’t about facts, knowledge, trivia, or friendship by association. You won’t be able to name-drop your pastor, your friend or anyone else to get you by.
This is all about your personal relationship with God
As I said in the opening of the study today, there is a warning here, but it’s not one that you need to be in fear or doubt about, because the way to avoid the warning if you want to have a proper relationship, is to have the oil for your lamp.
It’s not a shotgun wedding… you have a choice, to be prepared and a part of the festival procession or not.
If so, you now know where to get the oil, and how to always keep your lamp burning bright. Again it is found in Zechariah chapter 4, and I will end the study today with the words from verse 6:
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said the LORD of hosts.”
Receive from Christ, trust in Him, and your lamp will never go out.