The Parable of the 10 Virgins- Matthew 25
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming;[a] go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
Are you one of the elite, chosen virgins? Of course we have all heard sermons from this passage, almost inevitably laced with fearful admonitions about being "ready". I want to suggest to you, and demonstrate briefly from the Bible that this is not an event in OUR future, but it was an event in THEIR future. More specifically this parable was fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
1. This Parable Describes Two Groups of Jews.
Did you know that Matthew was written to the Jewish community? In fact, I heard once that there is a Hebrew copy of this gospel that probably pre-dated the Greek translation. As such, it is filled with emphasis on the coming kingdom, on the fulfillment of Jewish scriptures and tracing Jesus' Jewish genealogy. It is also the reason why some passages say, "kingdom of heaven" instead of the parallel passages in the other gospels which say "kingdom of God." "Heaven" was a substitute word to avoid breaking the commandment of using the name of the Lord in vain, a particular Jewish practice. The kingdom of heaven is not the same as "going to heaven when you die." It was a description of the transition into the kingdom age.
So this group of 10 virgins represent the wise Jews who either embraced and were ready for the coming of the kingdom era and the king who brought it, or those foolish Jews who either apostatized from the faith or who refused to trust Christ and fell prey to the Roman armies that would surround the city. This is why Jesus said, "He who endures to the end will be saved" i.e. those who didn't apostatize from the faith would be delivered-saved from the persecution coming from the unbelieving Jews and from the coming apex of the tribulation of being caught in the city.
Jesus specifically said in 24:15-18, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes." In other words Jesus was saying proverbally in the midnight hour passage, "watch" because the wise ones can't do that for you. You have to pay attention to your own light. Don't consult the opinions of others. Believe what Jesus has said.
It is in fact the same idea of separation (wise and foolish) that Jesus keeps teaching in a number of his parables such as the wheat and the tares. (http://www.anewdaydawning.com/blog-1/2015/2/3/spiritual-myth-busters-god-is-separating-the-wheat-and-the-tares)
It was this separation that John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:10-12 was NOW beginning, and would soon be thrown into the fire of Jerusalem's judgment, "And even NOW the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire... His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Therefore the point of Jesus parable about the Bridegroom is not about Christians in the future who don't have enough "oil" of the Holy Spirit. It was about the light of truth. It was about the wise who trusted Christ and built their house on the rock so that when the storm came, their house wasn't washed away (Matthew 7).
2. The Delay of His Coming?
Many recognize that Matthew 24 is the description of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But some suggest that as Jesus begins to speak these parables in chapter 25, he is teaching a 2000 year delay in a separate coming after the Roman siege. For instance, Jesus does say, "5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept...." And again in the next parable, "19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them."
We often forget, because our dispensational friends have given us wrong glasses to look through, that the parables say he returned to the same ones, in the same generation who slumbered and slept and settled accounts with the same servants he left. Did you notice Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for YOU know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."? Jesus was saying that the kingdom would not come in fullness until a delay of 40 years. In fact in Matthew 24 he said just this: "34 Assuredly, I say to you, THIS GENERATION will by no means pass away till all these things take place." Just as Jesus predicted, exactly a one generation delay, 40 years, passed between the cross and the coming of Jesus in the destruction of Jerusalem and deliverance of the believing Jews (AD 30 to AD 70).
This is why Jesus made an earlier point in Matthew 24:8, "And He said: “Take heed that YOU (Peter, James, John, etc) not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them" He warned them against people claiming to be the Messiah coming with premature predictions of the end of the old covenant age, so they knew there would be a delay. It was not a delay into thousands of years or it makes the warnings to THEM irrelevant. It was only a delay within that one generation.
Eventually, as they saw the signs, Paul (and like every other NT writer) would write in Romans 13:11-14 , “And do this, KNOWING the TIME, that NOW it is high time to awake out of sleep; for NOW OUR salvation is nearer than when WE first believed. The NIGHT IS FAR SPENT [i.e. it is almost the midnight hour], the DAY is AT HAND. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
The consistency of scripture amazes me. Did you know that Jesus placed the marriage supper and the destruction of Jerusalem at the same time? Matthew 22:6-8, "The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and BURNED THEIR CITY. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come."
Let's not forget that Jesus' told the Jewish leaders at his trial in Matthew 26:64, "It is as YOU said. Nevertheless, I say to YOU [Caiaphas] , hereafter YOU will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus' very clear words were that they were going to be alive when he came in the clouds as the divine Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7.
He even told his disciples that they would be persecuted by those same apostate Jews and barely get through Israel preaching the gospel before he came again in their lifetime: Matthew 10:23, "When they persecute YOU in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
Once the city was surrounded by Roman armies, the door was shut and locked. The separation had taken place. As Peter said, in 1 Peter 4:17, "For the time has come for THE judgment to begin at the house of God [Jews... believing and unbelieving]; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
There is much more to say, but hopefully that will draw your attention away from a fearful expectation of not having enough Holy Spirit, of missing a rapture, or that only a few will be saved. The worst of these futurist interpretations is that only about 50% of Christians will be ready. For a great article on Jesus statement that few will be saved, please read: Did Jesus Lie When He Said Only A Few Would Be Saved? Quite the contrary, our future is bright!
image credit: http://www.masters-table.org/studies/virgin%20oil_lamp.jpg