Matthew 25, Ten Virgins

As the old saying goes, each day you live, you learn something. In a recent conversation with a very kind gentleman from Nigeria, we discussed the ministry and work Holy Spirit in the absence of Christ.

Naturally, for those who really understand eschatology, that subject leads to a discussing the parable of the 10 virgins. Is Matthew 25 and the Ten Virgins Fulfilled Bible Prophecy? The Holy Spirit’s work is undeniable eschatological, (Joel 2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20).

Somewhere in this discussion on pneumatology, we ventured into last things in a most surprising manner. The 5 wise virgins were accused by this gentleman of being selfish because they would not share their oil. I thought, what a peculiar twist for the parable.

We learn when studying parables, that they generally have one major point of emphasis. To interpret every detail of the parable in a manner unintended by the author leads to some quite fanciful interpretations. In Matthew 25, the ten virgins are likened to the kingdom of heaven.

It is told in the form of a story quite familiar to Jewish readers and the practice of weddings in the first century.

When everything was ready, they would await the arrival of the bridegroom. In so doing, 5 of these virgins took extra vessels containing oil. They knew that typically, the bridegroom might encounter a delay. On the other hand, the 5 foolish virgins took no oil with them except that contained in their lamps.

During the interval, they all slumbered and slept. This is the period from the announcement of the betrothal to the time of the wedding; the bridegroom was absent.

What is the Meaning of the Delay?

It is often taught that a long delay of thousands of years occurred from the time that the bridegroom departed and returned. It would be very unlikely that the any of the ten virgins could survive or sit at a wedding party that long.

Whatever the “delay” implied in the text, it does not extend beyond the lifetime of those virgins. In other words, the bridegroom returns to the same 10 virgins he left in preparation.

The arrival of the bridgegroom is unexpected, catching the foolish virgins by surprise. It happens at midnight. This is not meant to be a literal time, but a time when it was least expected.

It emphasizes the need for preparedness. Note that all were sleeping at midnight. When they arose, and trimmed their lamps, the supply of the foolish virgins was depleted. They asked of the wise virgins for oil. The wise refuse and sent them to get their own.

While they were away, the bridgegroom came, received those who were ready for the wedding and the door was shut. They ask for entry, but are refused. It is too late. The resposne is “I do not know you.”

In the other case where Christ made this statement, he speaks particularly of those who walked with him in the streets of Jerusalem and in whose houses he had shared meals. Consider the following text and compare with the language here:

When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from.’ “then you will begin to say,

‘We at and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” But He will say, “I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.”  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when  you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:25-27).

Observe the following points in both:

  1. The door is shut
  2. They stand outside and knock crying Lord, Lord open to us
  3. He says I do not know you
  4. It is the same people present when he left (virgins at the bridal party versus socialites from the streets.
  5. The coming of the Son of  Man in his kingdom is the time of emphasis

This comparison with Luke shows that these were people from Jesus’ own time and neighborhood. They ate potluck dinners together and listened to his teaching. Of no other generation before or after the first century generation could this be true.

Is Matthew 25 and the Ten Virigins Fulfilled Bible Prophecy?

One additional text must be added to the mix. It is Matthew 7:21-23, another kingdom passage pointed to the time of the end.

Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name. “And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

This text parallels those above in that the manner of:

  1. Crying Lord, Lord to enter the kingdom
  2. It is “in that day” meaning the end of the age at the coming of the Son of Man
  3. It is at the close of the age of the Holy Spirit, i.e. at Christ’s coming, (1 Cor. 1:7-8)
  4. They are from Christ’s generation in that they were given the power to work signs and wonders, (Mark 16:17-20)
  5. They are told to depart no doubt being among those who fell away or apostatized from the faith.

In no other generation but that of the first century could men legitimately claim to have prophesied, cast out demons or performed signs and wonders in the name of Christ.  We are well aware that there are many imposters today who have no power, but claim much.

The Scriptures are a witness against their deceptive practices. The Holy Spirit’s ministry only lasted during the absence of Christ, from the time of his going away, until his return in 70 AD.