And the Door was Shut

The Parable of the Ten Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13

It wasn’t what I ate
I had a dream last night, more of a nightmare really, that has been bothering me all day. Before I went to bed I had read Matthew 25:1-13 about the parable of the ten virgins and how the kingdom of heaven and the return of Jesus is comparable to what happened to them. Let me share what I studied in my devotions before I share my distressing dream with you.

First you must read the parable, carefully, I might add:

The Parable of the Ten Virgins:
[25:1] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. [2] Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. [3] For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, [4] but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. [5] As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. [6] But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ [7] Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. [8] And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ [9] 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 25:1-13 ESV

The same, but not…
What strikes me first when I read this is that all ten virgins (bridesmaids) were part of the same wedding party, yet they would not all enter the wedding feast and celebration. They were all invited to the wedding and all ten had made some investment into dressing for it, acquiring a lamp, lighting the lamp, and going to the meeting place where the bridegroom would arrive. Half of these women, however, are called “foolish” and half are called “wise”. The only difference I can see between them is that the first five “took no oil with them” and the others “took flasks of oil with their lamps”, otherwise they were all very similar to one another (at least by outward appearances). They were all young, unmarried women, they all belonged to the same wedding party, and they all became drowsy and slept when the bridegroom was delayed. The problem lies in the “foolish” ones lack of preparation.

In Jesus day, the Jewish wedding custom was that after the betrothal the bridegroom would go to prepare a wedding chamber for him and his bride. A couple could sometimes be engaged for up to a year before the bridegroom arrived! The bride would wait for him night after night as, typically, he would come around midnight. The custom was that the bride and her bridesmaids would have lamps ready to go out to meet him when the announcement was finally made that he was coming. Then he would take his bride and they would be married.

In Jesus parable he demonstrates very vividly to us that the foolish bridesmaids unpreparedness is what caused their being shut out from the wedding celebrations. When the bridegroom finally arrived, even though they had all laid down to rest, the ones who had brought no oil with them could not go out to meet him, instead they rushed off to try to prepare what they should have prepared beforehand.

The Point is sharp and piercing
I think the parallels of this story to the return of Jesus are, at the same time, both obvious and easy to miss. Obviously the bridegroom represents Christ and the wedding celebration at hand is a picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb talked about in Revelation 19:9. But I fear that may be where the obvious ends for many readers of Matthew 25 and the ambiguous begins. However, there can only be one meaning to Jesus words. The Bible is not open to interpretation and that is why it is so critical that we study it carefully so we can understand what God meant in the Word he has spoken to us. God always says what he means and means what he says. So here is what may not be so obvious, but is painfully true and necessary to understand in order to perceive WHY Jesus shared this parable:

  • The Ten Bridesmaids all represent people who have made a profession of belief in Jesus
  • Five of the Bridesmaids are “Foolish” and Romans 1:31 (in listing those upon whom God’s wrath and judgment abides) cites the, “..foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless”, as some of those included.
  • The lamps that the Bridesmaids carry represent faith and an appearance of godliness and the oil is the power of God.

The Bridesmaids by all outward appearances looked the same, but their foolish neglect in not bringing extra oil disqualifies them from being received all in the same way by the Bridegroom.

No Oil = No Power

[3:1] But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. [2] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, [4] treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)

These foolish women are an image of people in the church who have once “lit a lamp” of profession of belief in Jesus, either through a prayer or at a church altar somewhere, and have gone on to walk in “the appearance” of a godly person but have denied the power of God (have taken “no oil” for their lamps) through lack of repentance for sin, lack of denial of self, and the refusal of shouldering their own cross. The oil was the power for the lamps in that day. No oil = No power (No Light). And the horrible result of their carelessness is the door to the marriage feast being shut in their faces.

Verses 11 & 12 are so sobering and seem to echo Matthew 7:21 -23, read them again alongside Matthew 7:

[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.’
(Matthew 25:11-12 ESV)

[I Never Knew You]
[21] “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. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Let God point His Finger
Why would Jesus share this parable with his disciples (and ultimately with every reader of the Bible)? There is a serious warning here that cannot be avoided or ignored. There are many people who attend church and claim to be a Christian who are not truly born again. Now I know that statement will strike up a fire in some of you who are reading this about “Who are you to judge?” and “You can’t go around telling people they aren’t Christians.” I agree. No one can judge a person’s heart accurately but God. So the point of the parable and of this blog post is not to point fingers at others but to urge each one who has been brought here to read this right now to take courage and point your own finger at yourself for a minute, and to take an even further step of bravery and ask and allow God to point his finger at you in order to let him judge the state of your heart.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

(Psalm 139:23-24 New Living Translation)

Don’t wait for the Trumpet to Sound
After reading the Parable of the Ten Virgins last night I went to bed and dreamed that Jesus, the Bridegroom, returned. As I was being taken I saw below me faces I recognized being swallowed up and left behind. In horror, I screamed to them over and over that they should “Repent Now! Repent Now!”, but it was too late. Please, Reader, search your heart to see if your faith is genuine. If it isn’t, don’t wait until it’s too late to buy oil, “Repent Now” and trust the Savior. If your faith is true, then by the grace of God, don’t wait until it’s too late to warn others to buy oil, tell them now. On that day, it will be too late for the ones who neglected the power of God and it will also be too late for the ones who were prepared themselves to prepare anyone else.

[13] Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:13 ESV)

Preparing the Way,
~ Danae Martin