Sober Reflections on the Parable of the Ten Virgins
In addition to these passages, there are many “prophetic parables” spoken by Jesus that expressly define the kingdom of heaven (or better said: “the professing, visible church”) at the end of this age — an age towards which we are rapidly and unmistakably heading.
One of these prophetic parables is found in Mtt 25: The Parable of the Ten Virgins. This parable offers us a “prophetic glimpse” of the kingdom of heaven as it will be ON EARTH at the end of this age; at the Second Coming of Jesus. The parable has a very sobering message as Jesus symbolically suggests that the church “at the end of this age”, the church who has waited for the return of their Bridegroom (and fell asleep waiting!), could well be a mixture of 50% wise and faithful and 50% foolish and careless!
If this is a new thought for you I offer up this quote from B. W. Newton, British author of more than 200 published works in the 1800s:
“The kingdom of heaven is continually used in the Gospel of Matthew to designate that body which professes the name of Christ. They profess to be subject to the heavenly laws and to be guided by the heavenly Spirit of that heavenly One who is now glorified in the heavens.” (taken from The Prophecy of the Lord Jesus):
George Müller (1805-1898), well-known preacher and philanthropist, wrote of B.W. Newton — “I regard Mr. Newton as the most accurate writer on religious themes of the nineteenth century.”
To confirm this time frame let’s look at the parable itself:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.” (Mtt 25:1-2 NIV)
“At that time…” must indicate that the time frame is the “end of the age” or the “day of the Lord” as seen in the context of the preceding parable of the Faithful Servant (Mtt. 24:42-51) and the entire text of the famous Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24.
As we have read prophetic parables are common in Matthew (chs. 13,22) and compare the “kingdom of heaven” to the visible, professing (and ultimately “mixed”) church at the end of this age —
Tares: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat… The enemy who sowed them [tares] is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
Dragnet: The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind… So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous.
Marriage feast: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son… Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
Clearly we see mixture in what Jesus called “the kingdom of heaven”; wheat and tares, good fish and bad fish, and good and evil wedding guests.
The parable of the 10 Virgins continues this comparison of the kingdom of heaven including the good and the bad. The intent of this parable is to illustrate what will be the true condition of the End Times church; the world-wide church that professes Christ to be their Lord and Savior.
“The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” (25:5-6)
In the course of the long delay of the bridegroom to meet his wedding party, the real condition of the virgins’ hearts becomes immediately clear – the wise were prepared and lit their lamps while the foolish were unprepared and had no extra oil for their lamps!
If the bridegroom had not tarried, all would have been well. It was his delay that was so fatal. Time reveals their shallowness. We may have grace to live passably for a short time, but the requisite is to endure to the end; to be shining in the light of God whenever Christ shall come. W.F. Adeney (emphasis added)
‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ (vs. 11)
Not only is the shallowness of the five foolish virgins revealed by the sudden appearance of the bridegroom but their clumsy effort to buy oil at the “midnight hour” leads to the awful reality that they came back “too late for the party” and the door is shut!
Dear Church, we need to take seriously that the door is shut on those foolish (careless) virgins for eternity!
Augustine has well said of this moment:
“They came looking for mercy when it was time for judgment.”
Just to be sure on this point, I believe we can discover the full meaning and truth from a similar passage in Luke were a door is also shut and not opened!
“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ (Lk 13:24-27)
The life lessons we learn from this parable are sobering and far-reaching.
> It declares that a simple profession and outward conforming to the ways of Christ without a passionate and persevering heart for Him is deadly! It is striking to hear that Jesus predicts that five of the ten were careless!
> It shouts out the necessity of being ready and waiting for His return, which most likely will happen at not only an unknown hour but an inconvenient time as well!
> It cautions us ultimately that a time is coming when the door will be shut for good and, as in the days of Noah, after he entered the ark and the door was shut, there came destruction on all of those who found themselves on the other side.
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” (Lk 12: 35-36)
For the soon coming King,