Are You Wise or Foolish? Parable of the 10 Virgins

Jesus told so many parables, some of which He later explained to His disciples, but some of which He left without exact interpretation.  In order to understand what God has not plainly explained, we need to seek diligently of the Lord in His Word to find the meaning.

I’ve come to realize just lately that the Bible is an interwoven garment. Each section of the garment has been stitched together to complete the garment, so that now the garment is no longer in sections, but has been sewed together to make one garment. Since it is now one garment, it is all connected and interwoven.  As the garment has become one, so has God’s Word.  Each story has been stitched together with other stories and so one must look throughout various stories to pull together the full meaning of what God was trying to convey.  No story is a stand alone story (i.e., no story is without a counter-story in God’s Word) and no story is without a significant spiritual meaning.  They are all interwoven and stitched together in order that the entire garment is revealed.  So, keep this in mind as we dig deeper into the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew.

And, some things God reveals instantly and plainly in His Word, but other things He wants us to seek out and piece together. And, still there are other things where they are only understood during the time when they apply, and therefor are a secret at all other times.

I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. ”  Daniel 12:8-10

Let’s first cover a few verses of the difference between the wise and the foolish in order that we might have some definition of the two and might understand that is it important that we seek to become wise:

The foolish:

  • “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”  Proverbs 21:20
  • ““For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. ”  Jeremiah 4:22
  • ““Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.”  Jeremiah 5:21
  • “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  Matthew 7:26
  • “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Romans 1:21
  • “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:17

The wise:

  • “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”  Proverbs 25:2
  • “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”  Proverbs 21:20
  • But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.”  Job 32:8
  • “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”  Proverbs 1:5
  • Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.”  Proverbs 4:1-2
  • “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”  Proverbs 18:15

So, with our understanding of wisdom from the above verses, we see that God grants wisdom to those who seek His wisdom & understanding in His word and who listen and obey the instructions that they have heard.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  James 1:5

So as we study, Father God, we ask that you grant us wisdom for this parable that was not previously explained clearly.  Show us the meaning of this parable that we might understand and obey that which you have commanded.  We do not wish to be foolish, but rather we desire to be wise and obey what you have said.

Here will be the parable that we will be studying:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Matthew 25:25-13

The questions that we must ask ourselves are these.  Who are the virgins and why were 5 foolish and why were 5 wise?  Why were they all sleeping?  Why did some have enough oil but the rest didn’t?   Why did the ones who have the oil not want to share it or sell it to the others?  Why was the bridegroom delayed?  Why weren’t the foolish ones ready and why didn’t the bridegroom let them come in late?

Let’s look at symbolism that we know:

  1. Kingdom of heaven (interchanged with “Kingdom of God”) – Basically, God, as the trinity, is the kingdom of heaven and it is where He resides now.  It is all that He is and the area surrounding all that He is.  It is an area without sin, perfect in every way.  No one can enter the kingdom of heaven with any blemish.  The kingdom of heaven is not on earth and cannot be entered by imperishable humans. The kingdom of heaven will one day be brought to the earth when Jesus brings it with Him when He will reign forever.
    1. “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  John 3:5
    2. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20
    3. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21
    4. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.””  Revelation 11:15
    5. “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”  Revelation 12:10
  2. Virgins – Those who are pure and holy and without blemish.  They have not been defiled.  When you repent and trust Jesus to forgive your sins, your sins have all been washed away and you receive the righteousness of Christ.  You become a virgin again, pure and blameless, once you have given your life to Christ.
    1. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  1 Corinthians 6:11
  3. 10 – This number can be used to identify the completeness of God’s Word, the 10 commandments, or the perfection of devine order, so we could assume that the 10 virgins represents all Christians.
  4. Bridegroom – This is the groom coming for his bride.  In Scripture, we know that Jesus has been identified as the bridegroom coming for His Church which has been made pure & white, blameless and holy.
  5. Lamp – A lamp is obviously a light, but in God’s Word, the Lamp is symbolic for His Word.
    1. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105
    2. “For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.”  2 Samuel 22:29
    3. “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,”  Proverbs 6:23
    4. Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” Numbers 8:1-2  (The 7 lamps represent God’s complete Word which was to remain lit in the temple at all time.)
    5. “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  Revelation 21:23  (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1)
  6. Oil – Oil is the pure substance used to keep the light burning.  It is the catalyst that the people needed to provide in order that the lamp would not go out. In Bible times, oil was used in cooking, for the body and the hair after washing, for medical purposes, to anoint the dead, to anoint kings and priests, to signify joy, and was used in many of the offerings to the Lord (except the sin & guilt offerings), and was required at the first fruit offering.  It was a very valuable and necessary item for them.
    1. ““You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn.”  Exodus 27:20
    2. “And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations.”  Exodus 30:31
    3. “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”  Proverbs 21:20
    4. “Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.”  Ecclesiastics 9:8
    5. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.””Hebrews 1:9

So, let’s try to understand the parable using some of the symbolism found in the rest of the Bible….

Ten virgins were given lamps in order that they be ready for the bridegroom when he comes for them.  These are all of the Christians who have been washed by the blood of the lamb.  They have accepted Christ as their Savior and have been initially purified.  They have been given the Word of God as their light to keep them on the path.

The bridegroom told them he would come back for them, but he was delayed and didn’t come right away.  Jesus told us in His Word that He would come back for His bride (the Church), but it’s been a long delay of 2,000 years.

When the foolish virgins received the lamp, they didn’t do anything with it, but just brought it with them.  They didn’t get oil in order to keep the lamp burning and so the lamp went out.  When foolish Christians receive the Word of God, they don’t don’t anything with it.  They don’t study God’s Word and put it into action to keep the light burning within with prayer, worship, fellowship, studies, and helping others.  Their lights eventually will go out because they are not actively seeking God’s Word and are not anxiously keeping the light lit awaiting Jesus’ return.

Since it has been so long since Jesus said He would come back that all of the Christians have gone asleep.  When they were least expecting it, a messenger delivered a message warning the virgins to wake up, that the bridegroom was coming and get ready to meet him.  Both Jesus and Paul give many clues in their teachings about when Jesus would return.  When we hear those messages, we need to get ready to meet Him.

When the announcement came, all of the virgins heard the message clearly.  The foolish ones weren’t ready to go.  They had done nothing to prepare, so at the last minute needed to go prepare before they would be fit to enter the wedding.  The wise ones had prepared and were ready to go in, but they also weren’t willing to share with those who weren’t ready, obviously showing that no one can prepare for you as you have to prepare on your own.  The foolish ones needed to rush off to prepare, but it was too late to finish the preparations once the call came.

We can deduct that those who will be let into the wedding of Jesus & His Church will be those Christians who not only had the Word of God (the Lamp), but also did something about it.  They were prepared by obeying the Word and keeping their garments clean, in repentance and staying away from sin, as well as being ready for His return at any time by keeping watch.  They kept ‘the lamp burning.’  The foolish Christians are those who received His Word, but didn’t take it seriously and placed more of their focus on the world.  They did not continue to purify themselves in repentance and staying away from sin.  Their garments were not clean and so Christ said that He did not know them.  They will not make it into the wedding celebration.  50% of the virgins were not allowed into the wedding.

The message appears to be that we, as Christian believers, are to be watching at all times and be ready to hear the message.  Once we hear the final message to come, we won’t have time to prepare, so we need to be continually following the Lord in His commands, repenting, and keeping our garments white and ready.  We don’t want them to be soiled by the world.

  • “Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.”  Ecclesiastes 9:8
  • “… people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”  Revelation 3:4
  • “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”  Revelation 3:5
  • 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  Matthew 22:11-12
  • 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  Titus 2:12-14

 “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:26

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.  Isaiah 26:20

Lord, we pray that we are counted worthy to attend your wedding celebration.  Thank you that you have given us clean, purified garments through the blood of the lamb, but help us to keep those garments clean, and help us to keep a fire in our heart for your Word until you come.  We don’t want to missed the blessed wedding!