Summary: The Parable of the Ten Virgins gives us excellent insight into the condition of many of today’s churches.
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
1 "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; 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.
The parable of the ten virgins has been interpreted in several different ways. There is biblical basis for these variations. The interpretation we use today employs the following symbolism.
1. “The kingdom of heaven” refers to all professing Christians, some of whom are born-again believers and some “have a form of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5). It was to this latter group that our Lord Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, ’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only 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 drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ’I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23
2. “The lamps” refer to the testimony of their lives:
Our Lord commanded us, saying, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glory your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. Referring to John the Baptist, Jesus said, "He was the burning and shining lamp and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.” (John 5:35)
The wise virgins were able to “let their light shine” because they had oil in their vessels to put in their lamps. The foolish had no oil and when they lighted their lamps no light was forthcoming. If you try lighting a lamp with no oil in it, you only burn wick, and all you will get is smoke.
3. “The bridegroom” refers to the Lord Jesus.
Paul used the analogy of the love of Christ for His church with a husband’s love for his wife. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:24-27.
The eternally blessed union between Christ and His Church is envisioned by John in Revelation 21:2, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
4. “The vessels” refer to our earthly life:
In writing to the church in Corinth about the gospel, Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7. Regarding Paul, the Lord said to Ananias, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15
5. “The oil” symbolizes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Oil is commonly accepted by Bible scholars as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. There is a little chorus that our children used to sing that suggests this truth.
“Give me oil in my lamp, Keep me burning;
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, Keep me burning,
Keep me burning ‘till the break of day.”