The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 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.  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.  Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.  But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.  Mat 25:1-13 KJV

It can be seen that the events of Matthew 24-25 occur in consecutive order and are connected to each other by such words as “then,” “for then,” etc. The order of events can easily be traced by these connecting words. The first connecting word is in Matthew 24:9. The statement in Matthew. 24:7-8 tells of “the beginning of sorrows,” such as wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. “Then shall they deliver you up . . . And then shall many be offended”. Mt. 24:9-10 The next definite timepoint is in Matthew 24:15, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation [Antichrist sitting in the temple of God in the middle of Daniel’s Seventieth Week] . . . Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains . . . [Matthew 24:16-20]: For then shall be great tribulation . . . [Matthew 24:21-22] Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there . . . [Matthew 24:23-28] Immediately, after the tribulation of those days  [from the abomination on to the Second Coming of Christ Himself]  shall the sun be darkened . . . And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven” Mt. 24:29-31 The next connecting word is in Matthew 24:40, Then [at the coming of the Son of man] two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other be left.” Following this truth, there are two parables which are connected to the Second Coming of Christ in that they illustrate readiness and faithfulness in view of His coming. Mt. 24:43-51

The first word in Matthew 25 is the first word of the parable of the ten virgins. It is another connecting word then, which connects the parable to the coming of the Son of man “immediately after the tribulation,” as explained above. It is clear to begin with that the parable of the ten virgins illustrates truth connected with the literal coming of Christ to the Earth. It can be seen that any connection with the Rapture of the Church is out of harmony with the truth that is intended to be illustrated by the parable. This parable is a continuation of the answer concerning “the end of the age” and should be understood in that light. This fact alone will prove that it has a different setting from that which is commonly understood and will culminate the many unscriptural and fanciful interpretations that are based upon the details of the illustration.

Then [at the literal coming of Christ to the Earth with the saints] shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.” This is an illustration concerning the kingdom of Heaven, not the Church. The whole truth illustrated is plainly stated in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Since this is the truth Jesus is illustrating by this story of a particular oriental wedding ceremony, then there is no other point definitely illustrated by Him here in this parable. A parable is simply an illustration of some truth and the details are not to be stressed unduly. They are necessary only to make a complete story so that a truth can be illustrated. Thus, it is important that no hidden meanings are given to details of a parable.

REFUTING SOME FALSE THEORIES

It is almost universally believed that oil in the parable symbolizes the Holy Spirit and that the virgins symbolize different classes of Christians. Some insist that the wise are those who have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and that the foolish have not. Thus, it is implied that both the foolish and wise have salvation (lamps), but only the wise have the Holy Spirit (oil). Others go further and insist that only those who have the baptism in the Holy Spirit will be caught up in the Rapture, and that Christians in general who have not had that experience will be left here to go through the Tribulation. Still others say that a person is not saved unless they have the baptism in the Spirit.

Many preach these errors as an incentive for seeking the experience of baptism in the Spirit, but regardless of the ultimate aim of such message, it may be stated here that in the light of other plain Scriptures the doctrines are erroneous. This type of teaching illustrates the errors men get into by basing doctrines upon the details of parables without having plain Bible passages to support them in such teaching. This teaching arbitrarily condemns many earnest-hearted and devout Christians who have not yet received light on the baptism in the Holy Spirit as taught by this school. It also suggests that others who have had the light on the subject are not living clean lives because they have not received the baptism in the Spirit. It automatically sets up a standard of cleansing other than the established blood-washed way, and ultimately advances qualifications for the Rapture of the Church and entrance into the body of Christ which are not taught in plain passages of Scripture.

These interpretations break down at every point when they are considered in the light of the details of the parable, as well as in the light of other plain Scriptures. The lamps cannot symbolize salvation, profession, or anything of that nature, as is clear by the usage of the word throughout the Bible. The word “lamp” is used as a symbol of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, but never of salvation or of the body of man. Exod. 27:20; 1 Sam. 3:3; Ps. 119:105; Rev. 4:5; 8:10 The word “oil” has no more reference to the Spirit here than it does in other scriptures.

How could people who are both saved and baptized in the Spirit, be in such lethargy as were these ten virgins, both wise and foolish? The Lord says to such, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” Rev. 3:16; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 15:34; Eph. 5:14 Let it be noticed further, that at the time of the Rapture people will have no time to rise and trim their lamps (so-called “salvation”) as did all these virgins, for the Rapture is to take place “in the twinkling of an eye”. 1 Cor. 15:51-58 If anyone after the Rapture became sufficiently worthy to receive the oil (so-called “Spirit”) would Christ be likely to say to him, “I know you not,” as was said to the foolish virgins by this particular bridegroom? Thus, it is evident that an attempt at a detailed meaning of this simple illustration of watchfulness to the people in the kingdom of Heaven at the “end of the age” when Christ comes to set up His kingdom is out of harmony with the purpose of the parable and sound doctrines of the Bible.

Summary of Twelve False Doctrines:

  1. Two kinds of Christians.
  2. The oil is the Spirit baptism.
  3. Wise are those with this baptism.
  4. Foolish are those without it.
  5. Born again people do not have the Holy Spirit.
  6. Rapture will take place at midnight or middle of the tribulation.
  7. One has to have the Spirit baptism to go in the rapture.
  8. Only those baptized in the Spirit will be at the marriage of the Lamb.
  9. Only those baptized in the Spirit will be in the bride of Christ.
  10. One is not saved until he receives the Spirit baptism.
  11. The door of mercy will be shut to the Gentiles after the rapture.
  12. The bride is the church.

From the Word the Truth Is:

  1. There is only one kind of Christian, the born-again Mt. 13:38-49; 18:3; Jn. 3:3-5; 2Cor. 5:17-18; Rom. 6:7,18,22; 8:1-13; Gal. 5:19-24; Eph. 4:24; 1Jn. 2:29; 3:8-10; 5:1-4,18; Heb. 12:14
  2. The oil here is not the Holy Spirit for He cannot be bought and sold or divided between people at their request. This no more refers to the Holy Spirit than oil in Genesis 28:18; 2Kings 4:1-6; Luke 7:46; 16:6; etc.
  3. Born-again people do receive the Holy Spirit, 3:5; Rom. 8:9-16 but not always the Spirit baptism which is another experience. Lk. 11:13; Jn. 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Acts 1:4-8; 2:38-39; 5:32; 8:15-16; 19:1-6
  4. The rapture will not take place in the middle of the tribulation, but before it for the church is the hinderer of lawlessness of 2Thessalonians 2:7 refer to the church being taken out of the world … And then shall that wicked be revealed who will be destroyed seven years later by Christ at His second coming. 2:7-8
  5. The Spirit baptism is for the endowment of power from on high to do the works of Jesus, 24:49; Jn. 7:37-39; 14:12; Acts 1:4-8 not to save the soul or to qualify one for the rapture.
  6. All Christians will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb, for all will go in the rapture.
  7. All Christians will be in the bride of Christ, which is the New Jerusalem and not the church. 21:2,9-10 Even Old Testament saints will be a part of the city. Heb. 11:10-16; cp. Heb. 13:14; Jn. 14:1-3
  8. The door of mercy will never be closed to Jews or Gentiles during the tribulation or any other time. Multitudes will be saved during the tribulation. Acts 2:16-21; Rev. 7:1-17; 12:17; 15:2-4; 20:4-6

LOOKING AT AN ORIENTAL WEDDING

In almost any book on Bible lands, their manners and customs might be found just such a description of an oriental wedding ceremony as given in this parable by Jesus. The bride was always accompanied by a certain number of virgins (in this case there were ten) to meet the bridegroom. The bridegroom and his friends went, usually by night, to bring the bride and her attendants to the home of the bridegroom. All along the route that the bridegroom and his friends took to get the bride, there would be crowds on the housetops or balconies who would take up the peculiar cry of wedding joy that told those further along that the pageant had started. The cry would give warning to those who were waiting with the bride that it was time to arise and light up the way of approach, and welcome the bridegroom with honor. Before the bridegroom started he received his friends who sometimes were late, and after that speeches of congratulations were made, and other honors were bestowed upon him and his family. Therefore, it was often near midnight before the bridegroom started for the bride.

Meanwhile, as the night wore on, and the duties of robing the bride and completing the house decorations, a period of relaxing and drowsy waiting set in and many would be overcome with sleep, as in the story Jesus gave. This period of drowsiness would be broken by the cries of the wedding procession of the bridegroom, and those in the home of the bride would rise and light candles or trim their lamps which had been burning all this time. In the case that Jesus mentions the lamps had been burning and five of them were getting so low that the virgins could not carry out their part of the wedding procession back to the home of the bridegroom, because they had to go first and get more oil. While they were gone to purchase more oil, the procession went on to the marriage place and the door was shut and locked for fear of robbers who might cause an interruption, rob and carry off jewelry, costly garments, or even the bride herself and hold her for ransom. The tardy virgins, who were anxious to join the concluding festivities of the wedding, finally came crying, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” could not, of course, be admitted, nor was their cry recognized by the bridegroom.

Jesus uses this story to illustrate watchfulness by those living in the kingdom of Heaven at His coming to the Earth to set up His kingdom. He warns people at the end of the age to be more watchful than these ten virgins, lest some of them should fail to be ready when He comes.

Thus, we see that this parable is just as understandable as any other one in the Bible if we consider the details of the illustration as necessary only to make the story complete enough to illustrate the point that is being illustrated.

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