5 Lessons from the Parable of the 10 Virgins
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells the parable of the 10 virgins. In case you are not familiar with it, here is the Scripture context containing the parable:
“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 ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 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.’ “But while they 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. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” – Matthew 25:1-13
When Did Jesus Tell This Parable?
This parable is a continuation of a conversation Jesus started with his disciples in the previous chapter. In Matthew 24 Jesus tells them what will happen at the end of the age. He gives them the signs that will signify that his return is near. After letting them know of these signs, Jesus tells them this parable of the 10 virgins.
If you are new to the Bible Jesus often taught using parables, which are defined as earthly stories with heavenly meanings. This parable like many others causes you to examine yourself. I always think it is healthy to examine your heart and take inventory of where you are. So, let’s do that today. To help you here are five truths I want you to consider from the parable of the 10 virgins.
5 Truths from the Parable of the 10 Virgins
Let's explore five truths from the parable of the 10 virgins.
It’s What’s inside the Lamp That Matters Most
What is interesting about this story is that all the virgins took their lamps to meet the bridegroom. If you looked at these virgins, they all looked the same. You would have assumed they were prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom. However, as you see having a lamp was not enough. With no oil the lamp was virtually useless. This leads to an important question. Are you focused on what the outside of the lamp looks like or do you care what’s inside the lamp? In the Bible oil represents the Holy Spirit so the question of real importance is are you full of the Holy Spirit? Consider this verse in Romans.
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” – Romans 8:9
If the Spirit of God does not dwell within you then you do not belong to God. The good news is that when God saved you, the Holy Spirit came to take up residence in your heart. This is the defining marker of a believer. Without the Holy Spirit or the oil as mentioned in this parable of the 10 virgins, you are just an empty lamp. It does not matter how good the lamp looks on the outside.
However, the next step after receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation is to constantly be filled with the Spirit. Consider this verse in Ephesians.
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” – Ephesians 5:18
One way of thinking about this verse is you need to constantly yield more and more of your life to the Holy Spirit. Doing this will allow him to have a greater impact in your life. This requires consistent times of prayer and worship so God can renew, refill, and strengthen your heart. This will give you the oil you need to help your light shine bright in this world.
You Need Oil to Be Ready for His Coming
The second point to highlight from the parable of the 10 virgins is what it takes to be ready for his coming. As we mentioned earlier the biggest part of being ready is about being filled with the Holy Spirit. By the way this requires more than just Sunday morning. It’s what do you do the rest of the week that matters the most. Your growth in Christ will happen most outside of church. This is where you prepare your heart to be ready for Jesus’ coming. Clearly the ones who took extra oil were prepared and ready for his coming. Those who didn’t were not. So even though they looked prepared in reality they weren’t ready for the bridegroom. This is how it will be when Jesus returns. Unfortunately, many will look prepared because they have lamps, but they won’t be prepared because they have no oil.
This Is Really a Parable about the Rapture
In our story, notice that the virgins got tired and fell asleep. In the Bible, to fall asleep can also be a reference to dying. After they fell asleep, they were awoken by a cry that rang out. When that cry came, those who were ready went into the banquet with the bridegroom and those who were not ready got locked out. This is a picture of the rapture. Consider what Paul said in Thessalonians. You may notice some parallels.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Jesus was helping his disciples understand what that day will be like when he returns for us.
Preparation Happens before You Die
I hope you recognize from the parable of the 10 virgins that your eternal destination is determined by what you do now. Once you die or fall asleep it is too late. Your eternity is sealed. Remember those who were ready went into the banquet and the door was shut. Those who were not ready were locked out. I share this with you as a motivation to share the Gospel with others. The day of decision is now, and we want as many people as possible to enter that banquet when he comes. If you are reading this and Jesus is not your Savior, then don’t delay. Today is the day of salvation.
The Greatest Question in Life
I think one of the most stunning statements in this entire story is verse 12.
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’”
Imagine the virgins hearing these words and the shock when they were hit with this reality. This is not the first time Jesus used this phrase of I don’t know you. If you remember on the Sermon on the Mount, he said on that day there will be many people who had done things in Jesus’ name. Yet his response to them will be, “depart from me I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23). This leads me to believe the greatest question in life is not do you know Jesus? The greatest question in life is does Jesus know you? Jesus knowing you has nothing to do with your deeds or actions. Jesus knowing you has to do with you putting your trust in him as Savior and Lord. Nothing else matters. If there is any day you want to be known by Jesus it is on that day. Thankfully we don’t have to wait until then to find out. If Jesus is your Savior you are known by him today. This is the hope and confidence we have in him.
The parable of the 10 virgins is a wakeup call. First to those who don’t know Jesus, but I think it goes beyond that. Remember the virgins did have lamps. I think this is a real wakeup call to those who may go to church but are not really walking with God. In other words, those who have empty lamps. More than ever before if you are not walking the way you should this is the day to get it right. Not only because Jesus could return at any moment but because life is so fleeting. Recently, I lost a good friend of mine suddenly and without warning. In a moment slipping from this life into eternity. Thankfully I know she had oil in her lamp.
The urgency of this story cannot be taken lightly. The parable of 10 virgins is about preparation and readiness. That preparation begins now. If you don’t do anything else in this life make sure you are ready for his appearing. As you can see this is the most important appointment you have to get ready for and you don’t want to miss it.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible parables. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of parables within Scripture. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
Parable of the Lost Sheep
Parable of the Talents
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Parable of Wheat and Tares