Summary: The parable illustrates the Second Coming of Jesus as being Certain, Joyful Delayed and Decisive with the Foolish virgins excluded from the Banquet with no oil of the Spirit but the Wise receiving eternal bliss in Christ.
THE WISE AND FOOLISH VIRGINS
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is one of the best known of the parables of Jesus. It’s one of series of stories that our Lord told as He neared the end of His ministry in connection with His Second Advent, the end of the Day of Grace, each of them a different facet of this great truth. They are the climax of His teaching ministry. He wanted to alert His disciples to the importance of the ‘Day of the Lord’, the end of history as we know it.
Jesus was a master of story-telling! Everybody loves a wedding! The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is a real-life situation. Here is a slice of village life in Palestine. All His hearers would have been familiar with the subject, having been personally involved with this family occasion - and most of us well, although customs differ from country to country. It must be said that one feature of Jewish weddings at the time when Jesus witnessed them could pose problems: weddings in those days were a protracted affair. But that was the point that He wanted to use to illustrate the importance of being properly prepared to meet the Lord when He comes.
Honeymoons away from the home town hadn’t been invented. The couple wouldn’t go away, but stay at home and welcome their guests, the festivities often lasting for a week or two. People in the Middle East have a relaxed concept of time unlike in the West, when everything runs to a strict timetable. In our society everyone looks at the bride, but there the focus of attention is on the bridegroom! Sorry ladies! Jesus used that feature to present Himself as the bridegroom who is to come; the king who has to enter fully into His kingdom. The story highlights aspects of the Second Coming of Jesus as the heavenly bridegroom. He’s coming to take His bride (Rev 19:7), the Church; that is, all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (21:27) as pictured in the book of the Revelation. The first point to notice is that:
HIS COMING IS CERTAIN
We’re told the ten virgins ‘went out to meet the bridegroom’ (Matt 25:1). The young ladies knew that the bridegroom was on his way and they awaited his arrival, just as today the wedding guests await the arrival of the bride. It’s true Jesus has already been on earth, some 2,000 years ago, but having accomplished His great work of making possible our salvation through His atoning death on the Cross, followed by His glorious resurrection and ascension to heaven, He is to come a second time. His disciples were told ‘This same Jesus … will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). His First Coming was to inaugurate His kingdom, breaking the power of Satan and establish the reign of God. His Second Coming is to complete what He started then, to consummate His victory over evil in the restoration of God’s universal rule.
Christians of all ages have looked forward to the Second Coming, waiting, in the words of the apostle Paul, ‘in eager expectation … in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Rom 8:19-21). Jesus is presented as the key figure in future history on whom we must keep our eyes fixed. But not only is His return Certain:
HIS COMING IS JOYFUL
Weddings the world over are the occasions for joyful celebrations, coming to a climax at ‘the wedding banquet’. Eating together is the most natural way of marking any special occasion. In fact, a wedding banquet was the scene of our Lord’s first miracle where we learn that Jesus changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1). But the greatest banquet of all will be the future wedding feast of the Lamb, anticipated in this parable and recorded in advance in the book of the Revelation (19:6-9) where Christ’s victory over all sin, wickedness and evil will be celebrated. It will be the ultimate Joyful occasion.
But just as in real life, there’s an unpredictable element in the story. We’re told that there was some snag in the arrangements. In the 21st century it’s normal for the bride to be delayed but here it’s the bridegroom! Details are not given. The point to note is the fact that there’s a delay. So it is with Jesus:
HIS COMING IS DELAYED
It’s 2,000 years since our Lord’s ascension into heaven. This may explain why Christians tend either to think little about the Second Advent of Christ, and even ignore prophecy altogether, or, at the other extreme, become obsessed with it and feed their enthusiasm with speculations about the signs of the times. Both are wrong, for Jesus is teaching His disciples the need for patience and watchfulness at the same time.