The Parable of the Ten Virgins
“At that time the kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”
– Matthew 25:1–4
Matthew 24 and 25 are one conversation. Jesus told three parables to amplify the warnings given in Matthew 24. The first parable in Matthew 25 concerns a prophetic event occurring about four years before Jesus appears which will have a disastrous effect on Christianity. The ten virgins represent elements of Christianity including Catholics, Protestants and their variations. Unlike the other religious systems on Earth, Jesus gave Christians the commission to tell the world of Christ’s return.
Jesus began the parable of the ten virgins saying, “At that time the kingdom of Heaven.” The phrase, “At that time” refers to the comment He made earlier, a time of “great distress, unequaled since the beginning of the world.” (Matthew 24:21) The phrase, “the kingdom of Heaven” means the corporate body of Christ. (Colossians 1:18) When these two phrases are combined, this parable applies to Christians living on Earth when the Second Coming begins. The Second Coming is not a one day event; instead, it is a process that takes 1,335 days.
Even though weddings today are somewhat different than they were in Bible times, enough information is available in the parable about weddings in Christ’s day to understand the story. Jesus said ten virgins were sent out with their lamps. Because the wise virgins anticipated a lengthy wait, they took extra oil in jars along with them. In Bible times, bridesmaids with lamps were often sent to wait at designated locations along the route which the bridegroom would take. The bridesmaids could then relay a signal to the bride that the bridegroom and his party were near.
“The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ ” (Matthew 25:5–9, italics mine)
The bridegroom delayed his appearance and all of the virgins went to sleep. If you want to test the premise that Christians are sleeping, confront a few of them with the timely information given in Daniel and Revelation and notice the yawn that follows. Generally speaking, many Christians are fatally satisfied with what they believe to be truth and this satisfaction means that “new light” from the prophecies is treated as “no light.” Therefore, Day 1 of the great tribulation will catch the body of Christ by surprise.
Like a thief, Day 1 will arrive at a time when the whole world will be focused on World War III. There will be a nuclear exchange and people will be praying for peace and safety. Then, God will send peals of intimidating thunder to roll back and forth through the Earth, and the sky will become a mixture of heavy clouds and blinding sheets of lightning flashing from east to west. People will hear loud, booming voices coming out of the ground announcing God’s wrath is coming. Finally, God will send a global earthquake. The whole world will tremble; bridges will fall, houses and overpasses will collapse, skyscrapers will crumble, and the power grids will be pulled apart. Transportation will be very difficult and electricity sparse. The world will find itself in a state of “lock down” on Day 1.
Jesus will get the attention of the world with power that dwarfs nuclear bombs. Then, to answer the questions that surface in every mind, He will send 144,000 “groomsmen” to tell the virgins and the rest of the world that His return has begun. I like to compare the Second Coming to the Rose Bowl parade. The Great Day of the Lord will consist of a parade of events taking 1,335 days to complete. Jesus Himself, the Grand Marshal of the parade, will appear at the end of the parade, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is not returning to Earth for a pleasant visit; He is returning to destroy the wicked and rescue His saints. When Day 1 of the Second Coming begins, the “groomsmen” will announce “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him” for 1,260 days.
The physical phenomena displayed on Day 1 will frighten everyone, but that display of power is nothing compared to what is coming. A few days after Day 1, people will hear a loud and long trumpet blast around the world. (I am speculating that there will be an audible trumpet sound before each of the seven trumpet events. Time will tell.) Jesus will send fiery meteors from space to zoom through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds which start fires that burn a third of the Earth. Christians will remember that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered a similar fate. A few days later, there will be another long and loud trumpet blast. Suddenly, an asteroid will impact an ocean and the resulting tsunami (possibly a thousand feet high) will destroy thousands of coastal cities in minutes. Christians will remember the world suffered a similar fate in Noah’s day. Then, a few days later, after another blaring trumpet sounds, a second asteroid will fall from the sky and impact a wicked continent. According to Revelation 8, this impact will cause the drinking water in the springs and rivers to become poisonous, and millions of people will die from drinking poisonous water. A few Christians will remember God did the same thing to Israel. (Jeremiah 9:15–16)
Yet, the drama is not over. A few days after the second asteroid impact, and another trumpet blast, a chain of mighty volcanic eruptions will fill the sky with millions of tons of ash and debris. The jet stream will circulate the soot around the middle third of Earth resulting in dense darkness for several months! Some Christians will remember God did something similar to Egypt, just before the Exodus. (Exodus 10:21–22)
The horror of these deadly trumpet-judgments will be indescribable. According to Revelation 6:8, about two billion people will perish. Five billion fearful survivors will huddle in darkness and a great hush will fall over the whole world. Everyone will be desperate and anxious, worried about the arrival of the next trumpet-judgment.
Jesus has to silence the Earth so people will listen to what He has to say. He will then speak through the lips of His servants, the 144,000. Everyone will hear the testimony of Jesus and as they do, a painful revelation will unfold. Christianity (the virgins) will wake up and many will discover that they are spiritually bankrupt. The foolish virgins will discover their traditions and religious views worthless since they neglected genuine Bible study; especially the prophecies that indicate the time and manner of Christ’s return. Millions of Christians will wonder why there was no rapture! Others will wonder how their historical interpretation of prophecy could be totally wrong. Christian clergy and other religious leaders, previously held in high esteem, will have their ignorance revealed. The people following religious leaders will find themselves at the center of the physical and spiritual chaos caused by God’s wrath. Initially they will be despondent, but their despair will rapidly turn to anger.
According to the parable, the wise virgins said to the foolish when they begged for oil, “go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.” The oil represents the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the merchants are Christian clergy. (Ephesians 4:11–12) Jesus created this parable to make a profound point: A born-again person cannot transfer his sanctifying experience in the Lord to another person. Perseverance, patience in suffering, and growth in the knowledge of the ways of the Lord is incremental. Furthermore, each person’s growth into the fullness of Jesus is unique, made possible each day by the ministry (the energy) of the Holy Spirit (the oil). The experience gained through the Holy Spirit is not transferable. Sadly, when Day 1 occurs, the foolish discover their foolishness and will be unable to participate in the wedding banquet.
“But while they [the foolish virgins] were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’ ” (Matthew 25:10–13, insertion mine)
I have a thought question for your consideration: Suppose Jesus will offer salvation to the people of the world during the first 1,260 days of the great tribulation. If so, why can’t the foolish get the oil and enter the wedding banquet within that length of time? Jesus indicates that when the foolish discover their true condition, it will prove to be too late for them to repent. What keeps the foolish virgins from getting the oil?
Suppose the 42 months of persecution mentioned in Revelation 13:5 begins on Day 64 of the 1,260 days. Suppose the penalties and punishments for worshiping the Creator on His seventh day Sabbath (first angel’s message) are very painful and only those Christians who understand what faith and suffering for Christ is all about will be able to pass the test and obey Jesus. If many Christians are hostile to the idea of worshiping Jesus on Saturday before Day 1 of the great tribulation, I believe their opposition will grow stronger when the Christian component of Babylon asserts its blasphemous solution of worshiping on Sunday to appease God’s wrath. My guess is that when the first four trumpets occur, many Christians will honor their tradition rather than embrace the testimony of Jesus. When Babylon begins its persecution for worshiping Jesus on His seventh day Sabbath and the penalty is to separate people from friends and family, these Christians will have no inclination to do what is right. Instead, they will save themselves from suffering by joining with Babylon’s leaders and they will persecute those who obey the first angel’s message. (Revelation 14:7)
Through the years, I have been asked if I think the five foolish virgins represent 50% of all Christians. My response is that Jesus used this percentage three times in Matthew 24 and 25. Five of the ten virgins were foolish, one of the two men working in the field was taken and the other was left, and one of the two women grinding with a hand mill was taken and the other was left. Was Jesus hinting that 50% of the people who claim to follow Him are foolish or was Jesus hinting that every follower has to make a 50-50 choice? I think each of us individually can make that choice to be among the wise or to be among the foolish.
Jesus wants every Christian to have an open heart to advancing truth. God’s truth never stops moving forward and if we are unable to move forward, we become a foolish virgin. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14) This means most of the world will not be able to understand your thinking.
In closing, many considerations can be gleaned from the parable of the ten virgins. First, this is a parable about Christians living at the time of Christ’s return. Second, the separating difference between the virgins was possession of sufficient oil. The foolish had some oil in their lamps, but not enough. Third, the foolish did not realize they were fatally foolish until they were awakened. Fourth, the foolish could not obtain the oil and get back in time to enter the wedding banquet. They were shut out with these words, “I never knew you.” Fifth, all of the virgins went to sleep. Christians are asleep and cannot awaken the world to the return of Jesus. We live in a world of religious gridlock. The internet is full of endless argument over religious views. Jesus will soon take care of this. Four trumpet-judgments will change everything. The coming destruction of thousands of cities and the death of approximately two billion people will be overwhelming. Sixth, who gives the cry, “Here’s the Bridegroom. Come out to meet Him?” The virgins are asleep, so prior to Day 1, Jesus will select and empower 144,000 people to serve as His prophets (the groomsmen). After God’s wrath has pummeled and humbled the world, a great hush will occur. Then Jesus will speak through the lips of the 144,000 and everyone will hear them!
Finally, Jesus ended this parable with a warning. Be on the lookout! Day 1 is coming. If you want to know the proximity of Day 1 and the timing and manner of Christ’s return, you will have to carefully study the Bible, specifically the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. These books are full of amazing insights and treasures. Now that the book of Daniel has been unsealed and the rules governing apocalyptic interpretation are known, Peter’s words can be applied in a timely way: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7) ]