Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Wise and the Foolish Virgins
JESUS has been answering his apostles’ request for a sign of his presence in Kingdom power. Now he provides further features of the sign in three parables, or illustrations.
The fulfillment of each illustration would be observable by those living during his presence. He introduces the first one with the words: “Then the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet.”
By the expression “the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins,” Jesus does not mean that half of those who inherit the heavenly Kingdom are foolish persons and half are discreet ones! No, but he means that in connection with the Kingdom of the heavens, there is a feature like this or like that, or that matters in connection with the Kingdom will be like such and such a thing.
The ten virgins symbolize all Christians who are in line for or who profess to be in line for the heavenly Kingdom. It was at Pentecost 33 C.E. that the Christian congregation was promised in marriage to the resurrected, glorified Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. But the marriage was to take place in heaven at some unspecified time in the future.
In the illustration, the ten virgins go out with the purpose of welcoming the bridegroom and of joining the wedding procession. When he arrives, they will light the processional route with their lamps, thus honoring him as he brings his bride to the house prepared for her. However, Jesus explains: “The foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps. While the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep.”
The extended delay of the bridegroom indicates that Christ’s presence as ruling King is to be in the distant future. He finally comes to his throne in the year 1914. During the long night prior thereto, all the virgins fall asleep. But they are not condemned for this. The condemnation of the foolish virgins is for their not having oil for their receptacles. Jesus explains how the virgins awaken before the bridegroom arrives:
“Right in the middle of the night there arose a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Be on your way out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order. The foolish said to the discreet, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are about to go out.’ The discreet answered with the words, ‘Perhaps there may not be quite enough for us and you. Be on your way, instead, to those who sell it and buy for yourselves.’”
The oil symbolizes that which keeps true Christians shining as illuminators, namely, the inspired Word of God, on which they keep a tight grip, together with the holy spirit, which helps in understanding that Word. The spiritual oil enables the discreet virgins to shed forth light in welcoming the bridegroom during the procession to the marriage feast. But the foolish virgin class do not have in themselves, in their receptacles, the needed spiritual oil. So Jesus describes what happens:
“While [the foolish virgins] were going off to buy [oil], the bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!’ In answer he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’”
After Christ arrived in his heavenly Kingdom, the discreet virgin class of true anointed Christians awoke to their privilege of shedding light in this bedarkened world in praise of the returned Bridegroom. But those pictured by the foolish virgins were unprepared to provide this welcoming praise. So when the time comes, Christ does not open the door to the marriage feast in heaven to them. He leaves them outside in the blackness of the world’s deepest night, to perish with all other workers of lawlessness. “Keep on the watch, therefore,” Jesus concludes, “because you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13.
◆ Who are symbolized by the ten virgins?
◆ When is the promise in marriage to the bridegroom made, but when does he arrive to take his bride to the marriage feast?
◆ What does the oil represent, and what does possession of it enable the discreet virgins to do?
◆ Where does the marriage feast take place?
◆ What grand reward do the foolish virgins lose out on, and what is their fate?