The story of the wise and foolish virgins is an important one to remember. Let me start by introducing you to a bit of background of an Eastern style wedding. The ceremony of marriage was performed commonly in the open air, on the banks of a stream. Both the bridegroom and bride were attended by friends. After the ceremony of marriage, there was a feast of seven days if the bride was a virgin, or three days if she was a widow. This feast was celebrated in her father’s house. At the end of that time, the bridegroom brought his bride, with great pomp and splendour, to his own home. This was usually done in the evening, or at night. Many friends and relations attended them; and besides those who went with them from the house of the bride, there was another company that came out from the house of the bridegroom to meet them and welcome them. These were probably female friends and relatives of the bridegroom, who went out to welcome him and his new companion to their home.
This begins our story of the ten virgins. The virgins mentioned in this parable were the female friends and relatives of the bridegroom. Not knowing precisely the time when the procession would come, they probably went out early and waited until they should see indications of its approach. In the celebration of marriage in the East at the present day, many of the special customs of ancient times are observed. The “lamps” used on such occasions were rather “torches”; they were made by winding rags around pieces of iron or earthenware, sometimes hollowed so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. These torches were dipped in oil and gave a large light.
The church of Christ is called a virgin as she is supposed to be pure, holy, spotless and righteous. This story represents us as the church. Five of the virgins were wise and brought extra oil for their lamps whilst five of them were foolish not bringing oil for theirs.
The conduct of those who were “wise” refers to those who are “prepared” for the coming of Christ, humble, seeking after His heart, longing for His return, holy, and not being just saying we are his professed followers. The conduct of those “without” oil expresses those who profess to love Jesus but do not live a holy life, and are therefore unprepared to meet him.
The five foolish virgins probably expected that the bridegroom would come immediately; therefore, they made no provision for any delay. The wise virgins knew that the time of his coming was uncertain, and they, therefore, were prepared with oil. The oil was carried in “vessels,” so that it could be poured on the torches when it was necessary.
The bridegroom was long in coming, and all the virgins were drowsy and began to fall asleep. This is not to say that the whole church is completely asleep not ready to meet Christ. There will be some who are and others who are eagerly waiting for His return.
At midnight the cry rang out, “the Bridegroom is coming!”
All the virgins trimmed their lamps. Burning until midnight, the oil was exhausted: they gave a dim and obscure light. They trimmed them by removing the burnt parts of the linen or the torch so that they would burn clear. It was needful, also, to dip them again in oil, or to pour oil upon them. This strikingly represents the conduct of most people at the approach of death. They become alarmed, anxious, and trembling, and ask the aid of others, but often when it is forever too late.
The foolish virgins who did not bring oil for their lamps began questioning the wise ones for oil. They saw their preparation, desiring to be like them. The wise tell the foolish to go and buy their own oil. The word “buy” is significant here as the Bible says in Isaiah “buy wine and milk without money and without price” and Revelation tells us to “buy of Christ gold tried in fire.” What we buy becomes our own. Our salvation was bought with the price of Christ’s death on the cross.
As the foolish virgins went away to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived and the wise virgins were able to go to the marriage feast. This part of the parable represents the entrance of those who “are ready,” or prepared, into the kingdom of God, when the Son of man comes. Those who have repented of their sins; who truly believe on the Lord Jesus; who live a holy life; and who wait for his coming will be READY.
The door was shut and no one else could come in. When the truly righteous are received into heaven, the door will be closed to everyone else. There will be no room for preparation afterwards. The foolish virgins tried to get in, knocking on the door and asking the doorkeeper to please let them in. However, the person at the door said, “I don’t know you. You were not in the company of those who attended me to the marriage-feast.” These words apply to professing Christians, who have ONLY a profession of religion but bear no fruit, are not holy, or ready to meet Christ. It means I do not know you as Christians. I do not approve of you or admit you are my friends.
The scriptures before this parable talk about people being left behind that was not ready. I have heard people say this is a scare tactic and should not be taught. We must tell people the truth.
Catherine Booth said “Many do not recognize the fact as they ought, that Satan has got men fast asleep in sin and that it is his great device to keep them so. He does not care what we do if he can do that. We may sing songs about the sweet by and by, preach sermons and say prayers until doomsday, and he will never concern himself about us if we don’t wake anybody up. But if we awake the sleeping sinner he will gnash on us with his teeth. This is our work – to wake people up.”
Stop worrying about what people think, eternity is far more important! What if Christ returned today, who would be left behind because we wanted to keep appearances or popularity?
The parable ends with Jesus saying, “we are to keep watch because we do not know when He will return.” Like the virgins, many are professing they are going to meet Jesus and like the coming of the bridegroom, his advent will be sudden. Many, even professing Christians, will be engaged in the business of the world; thoughtless about eternity; not expecting his approach, and not prepared. They will only profess to know him, but in their actions, they will deny him, and death will come. All approaches of the Son of God to judge men are sudden. Just like the foolish virgins, many will be trying to be active, preparing to die but not ready and for them it will be too late. Those that are ready for Christ’s return will enter in, and heaven will be closed forever against all others.
As the virgins, should all have watched and been ready, so should we. Christians should be ever watchful for when Christ returns.
It’s been more than 2000 years since Christ shared this parable, a long time to wait for His return. Because of that, apathy and complacency have become too prevalent in the church. We tend to just go about our business without thought of Christ’s return. Oh, Christian, we must wake up. William Booth said, “We must wake ourselves up! Or somebody else will take our place, bear our cross, and thereby rob us of our crown.”
Ask God to stir up the fire within our hearts and to keep us ready always for his return to meet Him. I don’t want to be left out when the door closes, do you?