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Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:13).


We come now to the portion of the Olivet Discourse that can be called The Three Bs, all of which are to be found in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. The first B is the parable of the Ten Virgins in verses 1–13, which we can call Be Prepared; the second B is the parable of the Talents in verses 14–30, which we can call Be Active; and, the third B is the Judgment Scene in verses 31–46, which we can call Be Compassionate. While the specific point of each B is different, they all are warnings in anticipation of the coming Day of Judgment.

It was noted in the previous lecture that Mark and Luke recorded some things not found in Matthew’s account. However, the parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents deal with the substance of Mark and Luke’s brief accounts, but under differing scenarios. Mark’s and Luke’s accounts allude to the Day of Judgment but Matthew provides us with a detailed account of the event. It must be remembered that Matthew was present at the Olivet Discourse and his account is the most precise of the three while Mark’s and Luke’s accounts are more summations of the Discourse than verbatim accounts.


The Parable Of The Ten Virgins


The point of the Parable of the Ten Virgins is to Be Prepared. Mark relates the same message by relating a man going to a far country and returning at midnight. In this Parable, the Bridegroom delays his coming until midnight; the message is the same: Be Prepared.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins begins in verse 1 and 2 of chapter 25: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.” While a parable is a story that illustrates a point, many of the objects or persons appearing in the story indicate certain things pertaining to the point.

The first thing Jesus mentions in the story is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is one-and-the-same as the kingdom of God as can be seen by comparing Matthew 19:13–14 and Mark 10:13–14 where Jesus speaks of children as examples of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew), kingdom of God (Mark). Both authors are writing about the exact same incident but use the different terms, which shows there is no difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.

Jesus acknowledged that the kingdom of God was present in His first coming as can be seen in Luke 11:10, “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” But in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, He uses the kingdom in a different sense looking to the end of the kingdom of heaven on earth as it is caught up in the final judgment. This is consistent with what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:24 of what happens immediately following the resurrection: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” The world ends with the resurrection through which all people are brought into the final judgment. At this time Christ gives the kingdom of God into the hands of God the Father and with that all rule, authority, and power other than God’s comes to an end.


The Essence Of The Story


The scene in the story is a typical Jewish wedding. The festivities have been arranged, guests invited and present, the agreements between the bride’s father and the groom’s father have been finalized and all that remains is for the bridegroom to come and take his bride away to his home. Ten virgins had been chosen and given the honor of greeting the bridegroom as he approaches the house and to escort him to the front door. As it works out, five of these young women are wise and five of them are foolish.

It is expected that the groom is expected around dusk, towards evening and no one expects that he will come any later than that. All the young women have brought their lamps to give enough light to see the pathway in the evening dusk. The wise virgins have brought vessels with some extra oil, just in case something happens and they have to wait longer than the supply of oil in their lamps will last. The foolish virgins could not imagine him taking any longer than the early evening and they thought it silly to be weighed down with a heavy bottle of extra oil.

The groom’s coming was unexpectedly delayed, but it was necessary for the ten virgins to remain in place so they would be there to greet him and take him to the house. While they waited, they all fell asleep as they had been there a long, long time. At midnight the call went out that the groom was coming; this woke all ten virgins and they prepared themselves to meet the groom. They trimmed their lamps and it so happened that the lamps of the five foolish virgins were going out for lack of oil; so they asked the other young women to let them have some of their oil. The wise virgins told them they had only enough oil to fill their lamps and for the other five to go to the all-night store and buy some oil for their lamps. They left, and while they were gone the bridegroom came, the wise virgins escorted him to the house and went in with him to the wedding.

In time, the five foolish virgins showed up demanding entrance to the house—after all, they had been invited to the wedding and should be allowed in. While they begged and pleaded, the bridegroom simply said, “I do not know you.” It was too late.

Jesus closes the story with a warning in verse 13: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”


The Moral Of The Story


The moral of the story is a warning to Christians, the church, to be prepared for Christ’s coming. Jesus continually reinforced the warning throughout the Discourse that His coming was certain and for sure. There would be the historical signs which would eventually come to the season of His coming. We cannot know the day or the hour, but we can discern the season and we must be sure to be prepared for His coming. To wait until He arrives is to be lost—to miss the wedding for which we have been waiting.

As the virgins were invited to the wedding and given the honor of escorting the bridegroom, the church has been honored to be the body of Christ and to continue His work in the kingdom. This is a great responsibility, just as escorting the bridegroom was for the virgins. They were required to be faithful, and so are we:


Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.   Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. . . . Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.  (1 Corinthians 4:1, 5, 5).


Hebrews 9:27 teaches us we all have an appointment that we will keep, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Death is that appointment, but that is not the end. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:15, “They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead;” and in like manner, Paul writes in Romans 14:12, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” The final judgment is as sure as death and each of us must and will give account of the things we have done in our lives to God, who knows everything about us. Do not think that He can forget or that you can hide anything from God, for we are told in Hebrews 4:13, “But all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account,” including what Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” Friends, it behooves us to be prepared for the Day of Judgment—now!

While all ten virgins were invited to the wedding, they had to be present when the bridegroom arrived, otherwise they could not go in to the wedding. Once the door was shut, it was final; as final as death and judgment. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like this wedding. Albert Barnes comments on what He said:


“When the Son of man returns to judgment, it will be as it was in the case of ten virgins in a marriage ceremony.” The coming of Christ to receive his people to himself is often represented under the similitude of a marriage, the church being represented as his spouse or bride. The marriage relation is the most tender, firm, and endearing of any known on earth, and on this account it suitably represents the union of believers to Christ.


All ten of the women in this story are virgins and are indicative of the church. Barnes comments: “These virgins, doubtless, represent the church—a name given to it because it is pure and holy;” and Adam Clarke writes of these virgins, “Denoting the purity of the Christian doctrine and character. In this parable, the bridegroom is generally understood to mean Jesus Christ. The feast, that state of felicity to which he has promised to raise his genuine followers.” The church and the saints of God by nature are pure and holy, cleansed from sin and all unrighteousness. However, that is a state the individual must be careful to maintain as can be seen in the differentiation of the wise and the foolish virgins.

All ten virgins slept. Being a saved, holy person does not exempt one from temptation or the weakness of the flesh. Any child of God can and will become lax and careless from time to time. While this is true, it does not justify selfishness, worldliness, or any sinfulness in the lives of any professing to be Christians.

The point Jesus makes in the story is not any weakness in our humanity; it has to do with oil for our lamps. The lamps in the story required oil to make the light and without the oil a lamp is totally worthless. Adam Clarke suggests the foolish virgins represent backsliding from salvation: “[Our lamps] are going out. So then it is evident that they were once lighted. They had once hearts illuminated and warmed by faith and love; but they had backslidden from the salvation of God, and now they are excluded from heaven, because, through their carelessness, they have let the light that was in them become darkness, and have not applied in time for a fresh supply of the salvation of God.”

We are told in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Adam Clarke tells us that no one can even pretend to be a child of God if he is not guided by the Holy Spirit:


No man who has not Divine assistance can either find the way to heaven, or walk in it when found. As Christ, by his sacrificial offering, has opened the kingdom of God to all believers; and, as a mediator, transacts the concerns of their kingdom before the throne; so the Spirit of God is the great agent here below, to enlighten, quicken, strengthen, and guide the true disciples of Christ; and all that are born of this Spirit are led and guided by it; and none can pretend to be the children of God who are not thus guided.


It is possible to be faithful servants of Christ in spite of our human weaknesses; it is a matter of being guided by the Holy Spirit and responding to His leadership. He is faithful to stir us when we begin to nod off into a fleshly sleep but it is our responsibility to pay attention to Him. The danger is in backsliding. We receive the Holy Spirit in conversion when we are born of the Spirit. But the Scriptures constantly admonish us to be filled with the Spirit, which requires constant attention and submission to His leadings. It is when we ignore or resist His leadings that we stop over the line from human weakness into backsliding. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 gives us an earnest command essential for keeping our lamps trimmed and filled with oil: “Do not quench the Spirit.” Clarke explains:


The Holy Spirit is represented as a fire, because it is his province to enlighten and quicken the soul; and to purge, purify, and refine it. This Spirit is represented as being quenched when any act is done, word spoken, or temper indulged, contrary to its dictates. It is the Spirit of love, and therefore anger, malice, revenge, or any unkind or unholy temper, will quench it so that it will withdraw its influences; and then the heart is left in a state of hardness and darkness. It has been observed that fire may be quenched as well by heaping earth on it as by throwing water on it; and so the love of the world will as effectually grieve and quench the Spirit as any ordinary act of transgression.


Be Prepared!


The final judgment is a coming reality in our lives just as much as the day of our death is out there. Wise people prepare for death by writing a will, purchasing grave-sites, and prepaying funeral costs—among other things. Foolish people leave those things unattended and leave a mess for their families to take care of. How much more are the consequences of spiritual wisdom or foolishness?

If you are a Christian, Jesus has given you the privilege of being invited to His wedding, and, as the bridegroom in the story, He will return to collect His bride, the Church. He concluded the story with the solemn warning to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Do not backslide, do not trifle with sin or worldliness, but be keen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He is the light that illuminates the way in the darkness of midnight, and it is He who will take you safely to the door and take you in to the joys of the wedding.


Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:25).