Remaining Ready

Here is another familiar parable of Jesus, the Parable of the Ten Virgins:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to [is like] ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the prudent answered, saying, “No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. And later the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us.” But he answered and said, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour (Matt. 25:1-13).

What is the primary lesson of this parable? It is found in the final sentence: Stay ready for the return of the Lord, because He might delay longer than you expect. That’s about it.

As I mentioned in a previous chapter, Jesus spoke this parable to some of His closest disciples (see Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:3), who were obviously obediently following Him at that time. So clearly implied in this parable is the fact that it was possible for Peter, James, John and Andrew to not be ready when Jesus returned. That is why Jesus was warning them. Thus this parable teaches that there is a possibility that those who are currently ready for Christ’s return may not be ready when He actually does return. All ten virgins were initially ready, but five became unready. Had the bridegroom returned sooner, all ten would have gained entrance into the wedding feast.

But what is the significance of there being five foolish and five wise virgins? Does that prove that only one-half of professing believers will be ready when Christ returns? No.

What is the significance of the oil? Does it represent the Holy Spirit? No. Does it reveal to us that only those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit will make it into heaven? No.

Does the bridegroom’s returning at midnight reveal that Jesus will return at midnight? No.

Why didn’t the bridegroom ask the wise virgins to identify their foolish friends at the door? If the bridegroom had asked the wise to identify the foolish, it would have ruined the entire point of the parable, as the foolish would have ultimately gained entrance.

Perhaps it could be said that, just as the foolish virgins no longer had light and went to sleep, so foolish believers begin to walk in spiritual darkness and go to sleep spiritually, thus ultimately leading to their condemnation. Perhaps a similarity could be found in the wedding feast of the parable and the future wedding feast of the Lamb. But that is about as far as one can go without forcing meaning into this parable or its various details.