by Martin G. Collins
June 10, 2005
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) pictures the members of the church as virgins waiting for the bridegroom's return. They all carry oil-filled lamps to light their way while waiting through the darkness of night. However, half of them are unprepared; these foolish virgins have no reserve oil to refill their flickering lamps. While they are gone buying new oil, the bridegroom comes and the door to the wedding is shut. This pictures some losing heart during the bridegroom's delay and not persevering to the end.
In Part One, we identified the ten virgins and analyzed the similarities of the two groups of five virgins. Those who follow the Lamb are called virgins (Revelation 14:4), symbolizing their spiritual purity, but it appears that only half of them are presented to Christ. Part Two will analyze some of the decided differences. Jesus points out two main differences between the two types of virgins: One deals with the description of the groups and the other with their diligence.
1. How do the descriptions of the two groups differ? Matthew 25:2.
Comment: Jesus describes one of the groups as wise and the other as foolish. The wise virgins are intelligent, practical, and careful, but the foolish are dull-minded, unrealistic, and careless. "Foolish" is translated from the Greek word moros, from which derives the English word "moron." Their conduct warranted their uncomplimentary description—after all, are we not known by our fruit or the lack of it (Matthew 7:17-20)? The major difference between the wise and the foolish is found in their attitudes. The moronic attitude is spiritually poor, blind, and naked because it has no true vision of the future (Revelation 3:14-22), even though God and His Son have plainly set into motion Their wonderful plan of salvation. The foolish virgins do not recognize the presence of any real sin in their lives. They are spiritually lukewarm.
2. How does the diligence of the two groups differ? Matthew 25:3-4.
Comment: There is a strong contrast in the diligence of the two groups. One takes sufficient oil with it, but the other does not. Since the procession is at night, and the lamps have only a small oil reservoir, they have to replenish the oil periodically. The wise virgins prepare by carrying extra oil for when the lamps run low. This pictures readiness for future needs, which requires forethought, planning, and dedication. The foolish virgins do not prepare, content to carry only enough to appear wise. They carry out God's instructions with the least amount of effort they think they can get away with (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The foolish are not spiritually concerned about their future, but the wise are, even though they have to carry the extra weight of an oil container. However, this extra preparation gives them the hope and faith they need to meet the bridegroom successfully and enter the marriage feast.
3. Why do the wise virgins refuse to share with the foolish? Matthew 25:8-9.
Comment: It was midnight, and the lamps were needed for the procession and the rest of the night. The reserve oil supply was only enough to supply oil for the lamps of the five wise virgins. So the inability of the wise to provide oil for the foolish illustrates that no one can give to another what he has done to add works to his faith (James 2:14, 17-22, 24, 26). Our faith must be our own through Jesus Christ; it cannot be borrowed. Moral character or spiritual gifts cannot be transferred from one person to another. To delay submission and obedience to Christ is to risk eternal death. Therefore, to delay preparation for His return is nothing short of spiritual negligence.
4. Was the closing of the door to the wedding feast fair? Matthew 25:10-12.
Comment: The door is shut with finality. The verb tense says the door is shut to stay shut. Therefore, at that point, no one's repentance, prayer, or pleading can change that fact. Noah's ark having its door sealed shut is a similar vivid illustration of its finality (Genesis 7:16)—it was shut to stay shut throughout the Flood. All the pleading in the world would not open the ark's door to others after it was shut. Once Christ has come or we have died, our opportunity to be among the firstfruits of the Kingdom will have been decided. The door's closing is fair because everyone had ample time to prepare for the bridegroom's coming. He does not come early in the evening but late. He is even delayed (verse 5), giving extra time to be ready. We have our whole lives—all the years of Christ's longsuffering and patience with us—to prepare. Therefore, it is just and fair that the door is shut when our last hour comes. Isaiah recognizes man's tendency to procrastinate in his warning, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (Isaiah 55:6).
The foolish Laodicean attitude dictates that one needs nothing else spiritually, but such a one will be rudely awakened to realize his terrible unpreparedness. This attitude is bankrupt of vision and foresight. It sees no need to prepare for the eventualities of life either physically or, more importantly, spiritually. Opportunities come and go through life, and no opportunity is so greatly lost than that of the foolish virgins. They fail to realize that the bridegroom would probably come later than expected. They lack faithful perseverance in thought and action.
The lesson Christ emphasizes in this parable is to be prepared for the future, namely, the coming of Christ. The prophet Amos expresses this powerfully: "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Human beings have little trouble preparing for everything, except meeting God. The last verse of the parable (verse 13) makes its purpose ring in our ears: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."