Matthew 25: Ten Sleepy Virgins
Starting with verse one of Matthew 25: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
This is a continuation of Jesus' answer to his disciples who had asked him in Matthew 24:3 concerning the signs that would precede the second coming of Jesus Christ to Earth. And in this context, Jesus not only gave them the signs that we studied in Matthew 24, but he also showed them how they could be ready for his coming. It's no use studying prophecy if we don't understand how to be ready for the second coming of Christ. And we can say that Matthew 25 is dealing with being ready, just like Matthew 24 was dealing with the signs that would indicate the second coming of Christ. The prophetic details are in Matthew 24 the spiritual preparation and the way to it, is described in Matthew 25. And so if we stopped with Matthew 24 and have no interest in understanding Matthew 25 we will not be ready for the coming of the Lord. And we shall certainly not be taken up if we are not spiritually prepared.
And so Matthew 25 is very important. It's a very important part of our study of the second coming of Christ.
Unfortunately, most believers are interested more in the prophetic details, and they would read books and go to lectures that explained the prophetic details. But the very fact that they don't have much interest in being spiritually prepared for the Lord's coming shows that they are immature. And it also shows that those who are teaching them are immature to, for Jesus never stopped at the end of Matthew 24.
He continues to tell his disciples how they can be ready for his coming. And so we see here in Matthew 25 verse one Jesus spoke about 10 virgins. Now, whenever we study a parable, we can only get the spiritual truth out of it and not try to be dogmatic. Trying to interpret every detail. Many get into a lot of false theology and wrong doctrines by trying to interpret every little detail of a parable.
Very often the parable was meant to highlight one or two main truths and we need to see a parable like that and not allow our imagination to run wild and to begin to interpret every detail because a man with a wild imagination can interpret it in so many different ways. We don't get our theology from the interpretation of parables. It's very dangerous to get theology by the way you interpret the parable because another clever person may interpret it in another way. We can get spiritual truths out of it. That can give us a spiritual readiness in our heart, but doctrine is more clearly laid down in the plane statements of scripture. And by the way, when you are listening to this commentary that I give every week,, always check it and compare it with the Church and the Church Fathers. It is the Church who has the authority to decide the meaning of the scriptures. It is the Church that has the authority to interpret the scriptures. It is the Church that has the last say.
Here, in these first few verses, we can say that these 10 virgins are a picture of those who outwardly have a good life. A virgin we can say is one who has a good testimony on the outside.
The lamp speaks of the same thing. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works. And all 10 had lamps. It speaks of Christians who have a good external testimony. Men think highly of them because their lights are burning, and their good works are seen and they go out to meet the bridegroom. It is obvious these are Christians because they are going out to meet the Lord Jesus Christ, their bridegroom, the Jews did not go out to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. They crucified him,
Nobody else goes out to meet the Lord. These are Christians going out to meet the bridegroom. The only difference was that five of them were foolish and five were wise. It didn't have anything to do with their external testimony, which was very good. But, the difference was that the foolish did not take lamps, oil in their lamps, the wise took oil along with their lamps.
The foolish did not take that extra flask of oil, which the wise took.
This was the thing that made the difference. It says in verse five that the "bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept." Sleeping did not disqualify them. That was physical tiredness. "At midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. This is the signs that we have seen. You know that his coming is near and that He's at the door. The shout that we hear from the signs that are happening around us, the bridegroom is coming, get ready to meet him." And then everybody woke up. And they've trimmed their lamps, which indicates that all the virgins had lamps that were burning.
It was not that the lamps of the foolish, we're not burning. They were burning as well. It says they all trimmed their lamps and the foolish said, “give us some of your oil,” they asked the wise, “because our lamps are going out”, so they did have some oil in their lamps, but they did not have an extra flask of oil and the lamps were dying out. Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Hear, we see some things. One is that one brother cannot give his oil to another. It is impossible. It is an inner life that the oil speaks of. A life in Christ that we have come to through faithfulness. It says in verse nine, that it is something we have to buy. Something that we don't get free like forgiveness of sins, but something that we have to buy, something that we get from the dealers, from the circumstances and trials of life. Those are the dealers where we get oil, content in our inner life. And each one has to get for himself. One cannot buy for another. We know that one brother cannot pass on his life to another. We can pass on the word of God, but the life of Jesus we have to acquire ourselves. II Corinthians 4:10 says, "Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." In other words, if we are faithful in bearing the dying of Jesus in our body, then the life of Jesus also will be manifested in our body, in the trials of life.
If I'm willing to take up my cross and deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus and die to myself, I can receive the life of Jesus. And that is the oil. It is the life of Jesus that gives me a spiritual content.
Now it says in verse 10 of Matthew 25, "Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came."
What was it that exposed the emptiness of these foolish virgins? It was the delay of the bridegroom. He who endures until the end shall be saved. He endures until the end is the one who has a life that carries them through, the one who doesn't merely have a form, We can say that the five foolish virgins had a form. They had religion but they were not spiritual. The five wise virgins were spiritual and had religion. There's a vast difference between just having religiosity and there's a vast difference between having the form and having the life. Many people have the form, very few have the life in the final day. What will matter is not whether you had the form, but whether you have the life and the form, that is going to be the thing. If you have the life of Jesus, you will have sufficient oil to carry you through till the very end if you have acquired that oil and not being content nearly with a form.
So we can say that it is very dangerous to merely have a good testimony before men. You have our lamps burning before men, to you have a testimony that we are virgins, and men thinking highly of us. And all the while we don't have this inner life. In other words, our private life is not like our outer life. Our outer life appears much bigger and greater and more spiritual in the eyes of men, then our inner light. This is an extremely dangerous condition to be in. It says here that because the bride groom delayed in verse five the oil ran out. And that was what exposed them.
And then when the bridegroom came, those who were ready, verse 10, "went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut." This is not merely referring to those who live in the last days. There have been foolish virgins even in the first century and second and third and fourth and all centuries. Whether they live in the last century before the coming of the Lord is irrelevant. The principle applies in all centuries.
"But at last come also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answering said: Amen I say to you, I know you not." He said I've not had a personal relationship with you, based on your life. You were taken up with the form.
And then he went on to say, "Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour" How shall we be watching and on the alert? By making sure that our emphasis is not only on the form of godliness but on the power of godliness as well. We could look at this verse in II Timothy 3:5 in this connection, with this parable, where Paul says to Timothy concerning the last days:
"Having an appearance (or form) indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
There is a difference in the appearance of godliness, and in the power of godliness. The foolish virgins had the appearance. The wise virgin had the power. The power is the life of Jesus. Do we need the appearance? Yes. For the wise virgins had that too, but within that vessel was oil and that is the important thing. Our outer life must correspond to our inner life and our inner life to our outer life. Then there is the form filled with the power and this is how we shall be ready for the coming of Christ.