Virgins and Oil — a lesson on entering the kingdom

Matthew 25: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take extra oil with them; 4 but the prudent ones took oil in flasks with their lamps. 5 Now while the groom was delaying, they all became drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there finally was a shout: ‘Behold, the groom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish virgins said to the prudent ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 However, the prudent ones answered, ‘No, there most certainly would not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.

The Kingdom Will be Like

The parable of the Ten Virgins begins with these words: “At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like …” To fully understand what Jesus is saying to us through this parable, we need to know what “that time,” refers to. We need to consider this parable in context of what Christ was doing and who he addressed at the time.

The previous chapter, Matthew 24, is one of the most studied chapters of prophecy in the New Testament. Throughout this chapter, Christ answers two questions posed by His disciples. Their two queries are: 1.Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and 2. what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

For forty-eight verses, Christ gives his disciples literal signs they will recognize as the times change and the earth prepares for Christ’s return. He also tells two my-return-will-be-like parables (Fig Tree and Faithful and Wise Servant). The last parable in chapter 24 is the parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant, a comparison of a devoted and watchful servant to a reckless and uninterested servant. The Ten Virgins story is another comparison—one that contrast those who are ready and watchful compared to those who have slacked off and find themselves ill-equipped for the wedding march.

Because of His Grace, We are Warned

Jesus is the embodiment of Grace. We experience that grace in these, sign-of-the-times verses in both Matthew 24 and 25. Though we are told He comes like a thief in the night, and no one will know what that exact hour is (Matthew 24:36-41), the plan of His return includes warnings, flags, and literal events that tell us the season (or the generation, or the era) of His return.

The gracious point of the signs and the parables is to prepare you and me, His beloved Bride, for His glorious coming. It’s our heads-up moment. It’s our onset of labor pains—the anticipated birth of new life. This beautiful time of preparation is truly grace upon grace on our Christ’s part.

In the parable of the Ten Virgins, at the most basic of interpretations, we see this fact: the wise virgins had the opportunity to buy and save their oil for the coming bride groom. The unwise virgins had opportunity to purchase oil but did not … until it was too late—the groom had arrived and taken the honored guests to the wedding while the five unwise virgins scrambled to make their purchases.

Whoa.

All ten women were invited to hold positions of honor at the wedding. All ten anticipated the ceremony and the coming groom. But only five of these virgins understood that the time of the groom’s return was near. And only five were found prepared with their oil when he came.

I personally believe that the oil in this parable is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Leviticus 2:1-2).

In biblical times, after a couple became engaged (legally married by covenant) a groom would go and prepare (build) a home onto His father’s house for his bride and future family. Meanwhile, the bride would prepare herself through purification and beautification for the upcoming wedding day. Selected bridesmaids—which were virgins—kept lamps of oil so that when the groom came (traditionally at midnight) to take the bride to a formal ceremony and wedding supper, he would recognize and collect the wedding party.

As the groom entered the village to gather the party and his bride, he would see the burning lamps of the bridesmaids waiting for his arrival.

Will You Join the Wedding

There are some who consider this parable to be a warning for those who believe they are saved but have yet to truly comprehend what that means, or who have been unwilling to pay the cost to follow Christ. This may be true, but I believe the timely point of the Ten Virgins parable is to ask ourselves this question:

Are we burning with passion, as we anticipate the coming of our Groom?

If your answer is yes, then I imagine you’re a true born-again believer who fully grasps the overwhelming glory that is soon to come. You’re looking past the troubles of this world and to the coming kingdom.

If your answer is no, then we need to get you some oil. Here’s the truth—our sins separate us from a loving God (Romans 3:23). The purchase of oil is as easy as *ABC.

A. Admit you’re a sinner. B. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. C. Call upon His name for salvation.  

Welcome to the Kingdom and a beautiful future. You’ll be in the wedding march on the day He returns for us. If not before, then I’ll see you there.

If I perish, I perish,

Laurie (L.G. Westlake)


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