Verse of the Day Devotion Matthew 25:1 Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Today we will look at the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Here is this parable as found in Matthew’s gospel.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him. Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the prudent answered, saying, No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves. And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. And later the other virgins also came, saying, Lord, lord, open up for us. But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I do not know you. Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13.
In this parable, we are not looking at faithful/unfaithful or good/evil. In this one we are looking at wise/foolish. The “then” at the beginning of this parable links back to Jesus’ talk regarding the end of this age. This is not a description of the Kingdom of Heaven in general but refers to what will happen when God’s sovereign purpose is fulfilled at the return of Christ.
The imagery of the parable accurately reflects typical customs of first-century Palestinian wedding festivities. A welcoming processional escorts the newly married couple from the bride’s home to a great banquet at the bridegroom’s home, some unspecified time after the legal wedding took place. Torches light the way in the darkness, so all the bridesmaids have to take enough oil to keep them burning for as long as might be necessary. The two groups of women are described as exactly alike in everything except their preparations. Thus, the fact that five fall in each category does not teach that there will be the same number saved as lost. The wait proves longer than all have anticipated, and everyone falls asleep.
Then around midnight, probably when least expected, the ten virgins wake up to the call that the groom is coming. “But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Matthew 25:6. Paul speaks of this in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16. At this point the five foolish bridesmaids realize their mistake and ask the others to share their oil with them. The five wise young women refuse, since they realize that all may run out of oil, leaving everyone in the dark. On festive nights such as this, the shops stayed open as long as people might need them, so the girls should go there and purchase extra oil for themselves. Jesus apparently wants to teach that spiritual preparedness may not be transferred from one individual to another. All people are responsible for themselves.
However, this going to buy oil takes too long, and thus these five bridesmaids miss the arrival of the groom, the processional, and the entry to the banquet. Those who were prepared, had enough oil and thus entered in. “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.” Matthew 25:12. The fact that Jesus said the door was shut no doubt is a hint that the door was probably locked. The five truant girls finally arrive later and beg permission to enter. “Lord, lord, open up for us.” Matthew 25:11. Their cry and the answer given closely resembles the appeal stated earlier in Matthew where Jesus taught, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23.
The meaning of this parable is that Jesus is giving a warning to His disciples, which also includes us. “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13. This verse is referring to the idea put forth by Paul when he said, “but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:3. God knows those who truly love Him, contrary to those who simply state they do. What a surprise and a warning to many. It tells us that it is all too possible to be often in church and in Christian company and yet be a stranger to the Holy Spirit. It is possible to have a lamp that looks good but has no oil in it, or as mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, is hidden under a basket where it cannot be seen. This will be a glorious day for the true Children of God, but a terrible day for those he tells, I never knew you. Let us all devote ourselves to Christ, being diligent to do what He has called us to do and reading His word so we can learn more about this Christian walk. And with this, living this Christian life until the day of His return.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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