Today we are going to be looking at one of the more famous parables in the Bible. It is the parable of the ten virgins. This is found in the beginning of Matthew 25.
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Now remember that the previous parable that we studied last week was about the faithful and wise servant versus the evil servant. In that parable there were 2 very clear groups. One is faithful and wise and the other is evil. A very clear distinction.
However, when it comes to the parable of the ten virgins, the line of distinction between the good and the bad, between the righteous and unrighteous is more faint.
- They are all virgins. And all virgins are thought of in the positive aspect, never the negative.
- So it seems like as time progresses, to distinguish between the good and bad in the church will be a lot harder.
Ten virgins are waiting for the bridegroom to come. Who does the bridegroom represent?
- Of course it represents Jesus. We saw all this in last week’s study.
But how about the virgin? What does a virgin represent in the Bible?
- Well, we know already that a woman in the Bible represents the church (Ephesians 5:25).
- A virgin is even more pure, more holy, more consecrated.
- The Bible talks about virgins in the last days.
- Revelation 14:4-5
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
- They follow Jesus everywhere. They have no guile and no fault.
- So the virgin represents God’s last day people and God’s last day church.
But what is the distinction between the wise virgin and the foolish virgin?
- Matthew 25:3
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
- First let’s have a look at what was common between all these 10 virgins.
- Let’s start with the obvious. They are all virgins.
- They all had lamps.
- They all had oil in their lamps. We know this because while they slept all their lamps went out. So even the foolish virgins had oil in their lamps at the beginning.
- And all the virgins slept.
- But what is the main difference between these two groups?
- The wise virgins took extra oil in their vessels and the foolish didn’t. So they didn’t just have oil in the lamp but they had an extra pouch or bucket to hold more oil just in case it was needed.
Why didn’t the foolish virgins take any extra oil? What was their mindset, what were they thinking?
- They must have thought in their minds that the bridegroom would come before the oil in their lamps were all used up. Meaning, they weren’t expecting a delay.
- They were putting a time frame as to when they were expecting Jesus to come and weren’t prepared beyond that.
It’s interesting to note that in the previous parable the evil servant says in his heart that the Lord is delaying His coming. And now in this parable the foolish virgin says the Lord has to come within a certain time.
- One puts the Lord’s coming far off into the future.
- The other puts the Lord’s coming very soon that they don’t prepare for the future at all.
- Both are a problem. We need to be ready at any time. Jesus may come today, He may come next year, He may come in 10 years time. But we need to be ready right now, today, every moment and never lose hold of our watching.
Now what does the oil represent?
- Hebrews 1:9
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
- God anointed Jesus with the oil of gladness.
- Acts 10:38
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
- We see that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost.
- We can go to another text in Zechariah 4:1-6 to see that oil represents Holy Spirit as well.
- So all ten virgins had the Holy Spirit.
However, according to the parable, in order to have light what is needed?
- You need oil and lamp.
- Can you have light with just the lamp? No.
- Can you have light with just the oil? Definitely not.
- Both are needed to produce light. But oil and the lamp.
- What does the lamp represent in the Bible?
- Psalms 119:105
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
- The lamp is God’s word.
- So in order to produce light we need the Holy Spirit and God’s word. You cannot separate them.
- This is how we have true worship.
- John 4:24
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
- We must worship God in Spirt and in truth.
- Just because you have the truth it does not mean you have light. This parable distinguishes these two elements very clearly. Just because you know what the Bible says it doesn’t mean that you are shining.
- It’s possible to have a formal understanding of the truth but have no oil, no Holy Spirit.
- The Bible by itself gives us intellectual understanding of the truth, intellectual understanding of the Bible. But that alone does not penetrate our hearts and transform us from within.
- We need the Holy Spirit to work a true and thorough conversion. This is a vital element that many Christian’s are missing today.
- Especially as Seventh-day Adventists, we have a strong knowledge of the truth. But that alone is not enough to convert a person. That alone is not enough to change us thoroughly.
- Remember we need the lamp and oil. We need the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s have a look at the new covenant experience. This is God’s desire for us today.
- Hebrews 10:16
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
- God wants to write His law in our hearts and in our minds.
- Mind is the intellectual aspect. There needs to be an intellectual understanding of God’s word. We need to read it. We need to study it. We need to memorize it.
- But God wants to write His law in our hearts as well. And this can only be done by the Holy Spirit.
Throughout scripture, the heart and the Spirit are always found together.
- Psalms 51:10
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
- God wants to create in us a clean heart. But the way that is accomplished is to renew a right spirit in us.
- Ezekiel 36:26
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
- A new heart is synonymous with a new spirit.
- Romans 2:29
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
- Circumcision is that of the heart. It is not a physical act but a spiritual one. It is in the spirit that true circumcision is experienced.
- It is only as we receive the Holy Spirit that we can have a true conversion, and spiritual transformation. The fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives. Others can see and testify to the fact that we are walking with Jesus.
Remember, we must have the Spirit and the truth. Just having the Spirit alone without any truth is just as dangerous as having just truth without the Spirit.
- To have the truth without the Spirit will make our religion degrade into a formal religion. We will become legalists.
- But to have the Spirit without any truth, we are just nice people with no standards and there is no difference between the nice worldling and a Christian.
But mind you, all ten virgins had lamps filled with oil. They had the word of God in their hand and it was shining bright by the power of the Holy Ghost.
- But what happened?
- Matthew 25:5
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
- The bridegroom was delayed and they all fell asleep. All their lamps went out.
Now, don’t think that this falling asleep was them falling into sin and falling away from the truth. If that is the case then all ten virgins should be foolish right? God is not condoning sin.
- What then is represented by the falling asleep?
- It can be similar to that of John the Baptist when he was in prison. He was questioning whether Jesus was really the Messiah or not because Jesus didn’t come to save him out of prison. And even though he was questioning, his faith didn’t let go of Christ altogether. There were doubts – sure. But when his disciples came back to tell him all that they had seen of what Jesus was doing – healing, teaching, preaching the gospel to everyone – his faith was revived and he held on firm until the end.
- I am sure that all of us have doubts when we go through trials or things don’t turn out as expected.
- Maybe some of us want to doubt God because we aren’t earning as much as our classmates that graduated with us out of college.
- Maybe some of us doubt God because God hasn’t granted us a life partner.
- Maybe some of us are tempted to doubt God because even though we studied so hard we didn’t get the grade that we were expecting.
- But even though the virgins all fell asleep, only one group had the extra oil.
- They still continued to pray. They still continued to study the word of God. They were keeping their experience fresh.
- They probably didn’t have all the answers. They didn’t know why there was a delay in the bridegroom appearing. But nonetheless, they held on by faith that he was coming for a certainty.
When the bridegroom finally appeared, what happened?
- Matthew 25:6-7
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
- They all woke up and trimmed their lamps. What does it mean to trim your lamp? They trimmed the wick so that the wick could be fresh again, soaked in oil and they could re-light it.
- If we want that oil to be effective, we need to trim away all the burnt exterior of the wick that has already been made black by the flame. We need to trim away our past experience and have a fresh experience with God every day. It must be soaked with the oil of God’s Spirit.
- There must be fresh victories.
- We must grow in truth. But we must grow in our characters as well. The law of God must be written in our hearts and our minds. How often? It must be a daily experience!
- The foolish virgins, they had the form of the truth, but nothing had been changing in their lives.
- Whereas the wise virgins, they had that extra oil because they had been storing it up day-by-day. They had been preparing. And it wasn’t just a one-day preparation. It was a continual experience.
- Studying the word of God day-by-day and allowing His truth and His Spirit to penetrate our hearts to work a mighty change in our characters. That’s called sanctification!
What happened with the foolish virgins though?
- Matthew 25:8-9
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
- The foolish tried to get oil from those that had brought extra. But they answered saying that there was not enough for both parties and they needed to go and buy it themselves.
- Were the wise virgins being selfish? Of course not. It just showed that this was a personal experience. Their experience could not cover anyone else’s. They needed to go buy from themselves.
- And it’s not that you can buy the Holy Spirit. What does the buying represent? It shows that there is going to be some sacrifice. If we want the Holy Spirit to truly work in our hearts, we will need to sacrifice. We need to give up something. And no one else’s sacrifice will cover another person. It is personal.
- Sacrifice what? To most of us it is just simply time. Giving priority to God in the midst of a busy schedule. But in order to do that we need to cut out other things to make room. Whether that is working less, or letting go of a relationship, cutting down on our entertainment, or even not spending so much time just sitting around socializing with our friends.
- There needs to be sacrifice somewhere. And no one else can sacrifice on your behalf. It is a personal experience.
So off went the foolish virgins to quickly buy some more oil. But what happened by the time they came back?
- Matthew 25:10-13
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
- When the foolish virgins went to buy more oil, the bridegroom finally arrived and the five wise virgins followed him in to the marriage and the door was shut.
- But the foolish virgins would knock on the door and ask for entrance.
- How did the Lord reply? He said he didn’t know them.
- But they now had oil in their lamps. I’m sure now that lamp was burning bright. They had the Holy Spirit it seems with the word of God right?
- Why would they be kept out from the wedding feast? Why would Jesus say He doesn’t know them?
What is the dividing line between the wise and the foolish virgins? What was it that qualified for wise virgins to go in?
- It is because they were ready when the bridegroom arrived. They had their lamps burning with light from the oil that they were able to refill from their vessel when the bridegroom came to the wedding. They were able to enter in because they knew the bridegroom and were with the bridegroom.
- So to simply have the truth is not enough to prepare us for the second coming of Jesus. That truth must lead us to have a personal encounter with Jesus. And in order for that to happen, we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. And as long as we are with Jesus, then we can enter.
- That’s why the Lord replied to the foolish virgins – “I don’t know you.”
- Why? Because it is possible to know the truth, but not know Jesus. It is possible to know the doctrines of your church but not know who Jesus is personally to you. You can love the truth, but it does not mean that you love God.
- That’s why the law must be written in the mind and ALSO in the heart. The Holy Spirit is the only One that can write the law in our hearts. And that is exactly what the foolish ones were missing. They had the lamp without the oil. Also, they didn’t have the extra oil in the vessel.
Head knowledge about Jesus is not enough. Yes, we should start there. We need to get a lamp to hold the oil. But we must make sure we have the oil in the lamp as well. Otherwise, it is all just a form. It all just becomes a list of dos and don’ts. And that can never save us. Only Jesus can.
In all our interactions with Christ in His word, let us never forget to pray for His Spirit. We need the oil in the lamp and we also need oil in the vessel as well, that extra oil.
- We need His Spirit to give us understanding in His Word. That’s the oil in the lamp.
- But we need the Holy Spirit in our hearts and in our lives as well. That’s the vessel.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
- We are that earthen vessel that God desires to put His treasure into.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7
- And the greatest treasure that God wants to give us is His Spirit.
We must pray that Jesus will give us His Spirit today. He is so ever willing to do that if only we would ask. This is the one and most special gift that Jesus wants to give above anything else we can ever ask from God. His Spirit to illumine our minds to understand His word, but also His Spirit to fill our lives so that we can live like Christ.
Have you been trying really hard to live the Christian life without help from God and His Spirit? That’s an impossibility. All that will result is failure after failure. There will be no victory found in that. I’m sure the Holy Spirit has helped you to understand about the Word and all the teachings in there. But what we need now is His Spirit to fill our lives.
And it’s only as we finally come to a realization that we cannot do it on our own will we then ask for help, ask for His Spirit. Let’s stop living a life of disappointment but let’s start praying for God to fill us every day to live a Spirit-filled victorious live in Christ. May that be our experience today!