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10 Virgins

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The vast majority if not all of Jesus’ parables are salvation parables and this is one of them. A parable or parabole in Greek is simply the placing of one thing by the side of another. In our Lord’s case, they are simple stories and examples that illustrate the truth. It can be as simple as “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Parables do not have hidden mystical meanings and there’s no hidden attributes to characters or missing characters in a parable. For example, the bride is never mentioned in the parable, so then where is the bride? Is she sleeping? Did she bring oil for the foolish virgins? Maybe she was having a bad day and her father spoke to the groom’s father and maybe that’s why the groom was delayed. Maybe as virgins they keep themselves pure so they can see the light of divine reality, and on and on and on. A parable is meant to be understood the way our Lord is speaking to us as is. Comparison for comparison, Cornerstone for Jesus, wedding for heaven and so on. It is meant to be understood within context, what He talked about before and what he will be talking about after and who He is addressing. It is simple enough that a child should be able to understand it.
The vast majority of Jesus’ parables are salvation parables.
The Jewish marriage process in this time was very unique. It consisted of three stages. The first stage, the engagement stage involved the fathers of the both families getting together and signing an agreement indicating the intentions of their son and daughter coming together in marriage. This didn’t involve the son and the daughter because in ancient times, it was not an agreement between two individuals, but between two families so you have the heads of the two families involved in the engagement. Stage two was called erusin which was the betrothal stage. This involved the groom entering into a binding agreement to be betrothed to the bride to be. At this stage, the couple is legally married, but the marriage is not yet consummated. The groom then can take up to a year to prepare a place for the bride like building an extra room to his father’s house or move into a new place. Once he’s finished his preparations, we move to stage three of the marriage process, he comes to her house to receive her to himself at which point the wedding ceremony occurs. This is what the bridesmaids were waiting for and this is where the parable begins. I think it’s wonderful for us to understand this process because it gives us a deeper and richer understanding when Jesus said in as He comforts His disciples“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Isn’t that great? There are many rooms and He will come and receive us Himself because we are His betrothed.
Now historically, these 10 virgins are 10 unmarried women who are invited by the bride. Now that word virgin here in Greek is parthenos and it is specifically referring to unmarried women who are virgins. To have this invitation was of great honour and they would be a part of the bridal party. Today we call them bridesmaids.
Historically, these 10 virgins are 10 unmarried women who are invited by the bride. Now that word virgin here is parthenos and it is specifically referring to unmarried women invited by the bride to be in the bridal party. They are not people who have abstained from sex their whole life up to this point. To have this invitation was of great honour and they would be a part of the bridal party. Today we call them bridesmaids.
All of these women were dressed up waiting for the groom. They wore the same thing, they carried the same torches. I say torches and not lamps, because the Greek word lampas is literally a torch like a wooden stick with rags on the end that you light on fire to produce light and for the light to last any meaningful amount of time meant that the rags needed to be soaked in oil so they don’t burn up too quickly. So they carried the same torches and they were there at the same time and they were there together in the same place.
For whatever reason the groom was delayed and the bridesmaids fell asleep. When the groom finally arrives, the foolish women realized their fire was burning out too quickly. They didn’t even think they needed oil to begin with. Jesus calls them foolish and He used the word moros, which means stupid and it’s where we get the word moron from. Some other interesting sentiments associated with this word is dull, mentally inert, and lacking a grip on reality. That’s pretty harsh, but that’s what they’re described to be. So they went to buy oil and missed the boat and the door to the wedding closes. We notice a few absurdities embedded in this well understood celebration that normally wouldn’t happen. One, the groom appears to be delayed and comes at an hour so late the bridesmaids fall asleep waiting for him, two half the bridesmaids are ill-prepared, three the oil can’t be shared and four the wedding essentially kicks out half the bridesmaids because they forgot oil. I think our Lord embeds these absurdities and wonderfully illustrates the truth to us. So what does this all mean?
Let’s address the first absurdity. We know the bridegroom is Jesus as He refers to Himself as the Son of Man, a humbling title. We know the wedding in this story is heaven which is where our Lord will receive His followers. Jesus is telling this parable to His disciples on the Mount of Olives which is just East of the temple mount and they’re able to see the temple from where they are. This is shortly after Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple as they are leaving it. It would have been on a Tuesday and that same week on Friday He was crucified. Jesus begins a series of parables and teachings on the days to come including the end times. So here we have Jesus telling His disciples one of His last parables in the same span of time as when tells them about the tribulation and His second coming. One of the last things Mark records on that day is Jesus saying () “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming - in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning. Reflecting upon the context, it’s pretty clear what Jesus illustrates here when he tells us the groom will be delayed and come at an hour nobody expects. Jesus tells us to expect a delay and expect Him to come like a thief in the night. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture or not, but the message is pretty clear here that when He comes, we won’t be expecting Him, so watch and pray.
The second absurdity is that half the bridesmaids are morons, sorry fools and this ties directly with the fourth one where they’re kicked out of the wedding celebration. Who exactly are these bridesmaids? They were all invited to be part of the bridal party. This tells us they know the groom well. If the bridegroom is Jesus then the bridesmaids who eagerly await His arrival must represent Christians as part of the kingdom of God here on earth, which is to say the church. The church knows Jesus well wouldn’t you say? These bridesmaids are part of the congregation of God. They know Jesus. They’re not outsiders. They are not pagans and they’re not unbelievers. And what did Jesus say to half of them? “I do not know you.” Why? Because they ran off to purchase some oil? You think to yourself, “well that truly is absurd, what kind of a groom kicks out half of the bridal party from the wedding because they forgot something?” First, in case you’ve forgotten, this is a parable. This is a parable using a very familiar celebratory event to illustrate the truth about the kingdom of heaven in a way that anyone listening from the poor and uneducated to the rich and sophisticated can understand. There is no further purpose to this parable other than to illustrate the truth. The groom is not having a bad day and the bride is not missing a shoe. The message is simple. Like the master and his servant in His previous and subsequent parables the bridesmaids know the Lord. They are invited to the wedding, but there will be many on that day that will be shut out from the wedding, because they are foolish. Not because they forgot the oil or were ill-prepared or slept too long or didn’t think ahead. They were foolish. They were foolish from the beginning as told by our Lord, because He knew their hearts. So what do wise bridesmaids represent and foolish bridesmaids represent? Well I ask you this. What gets you in heaven? Salvation from the Lord and saving faith on our part.
Who exactly are these bridesmaids then? They were all invited to be part of the bridal party. This tells us they know the groom well. If the bridegroom is Jesus then the bridesmaids who eagerly await His arrival must represent Christians as part of the kingdom of God here on earth, which is to say the church. The church knows Jesus well wouldn’t you say? These bridesmaids are part of the congregation of God. They know Jesus. They’re not outsiders. They are not pagans and they’re not unbelievers. Let’s address the last absurdity. And what did Jesus say to half of them? “I do not know you.” Why? Because they ran off to purchase some oil? You think to yourself, “well that’s just absurd, what kind of a groom kicks out half of the bridal party from the wedding because they forgot something?” First I say to you, this is a parable. This is a parable using a very familiar celebratory event to illustrate the truth about the kingdom of heaven in a way that anyone listening from the poor and uneducated to the rich and sophisticated can understand. There is no further purpose to this parable other than to illustrate the truth. The groom is not having a bad day and the bride is not missing a shoe. The message is simple. Like the master and his servant in His previous and subsequent parables the bridesmaids know the Lord. They are invited to the wedding, but there will be many on that day that will be shut out from the wedding, because they are foolish. Not because they forgot the oil or were ill-prepared or slept too long or didn’t think ahead. They were foolish. They were foolish from the beginning as told by our Lord, because He knew their hearts. So what do wise bridesmaids represent and foolish bridesmaids represent? Well I ask you this. What gets you in heaven? Salvation from the Lord and saving faith on our part.
I do not know you. We saw this earlier when Jesus was talking about the true way into the what? The kingdom of heaven. And what is He talking about here? The kingdom of heaven. This is salvation. Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. What were the foolish virgins saying? Lord, Lord.
Now you can say well Jesus can also be just saying in general not everyone is going to heaven and still conclude that the foolish virgins had no saving faith. Well let me draw your attention to a few important details in the parable. One, the five virgins called out “Lord, Lord open to us!” When you hear a name repeated, it refers to an old Jewish idiom that expresses intimacy. You would have seen this in Acts when our Lord said to Paul the apostle on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Or when God stopped Abraham from slaying Isaac, “Abraham, Abraham!” The foolish virgins then are saying “Lord, Lord, I want to be here with you. I am not an outsider, I am part of the bridal party, I know you personally!” “No you don’t,” says the Lord. Two, those listening to this would have had the same reaction as you and I thinking how can the groom kick out half the bridal party? So does it then not occur to you that it seems even the church or those who appear to know the Lord will not be in the wedding if they have not saving faith. Three, we notice that the Lord’s response is almost identical to a time He talks about the kingdom of heaven in His sermon on the mount. I never knew you. We saw this earlier when Jesus was talking about the true way into the what? The kingdom of heaven. And what is He talking about here? The kingdom of heaven. This is salvation. Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. What were the foolish virgins saying? Lord, Lord.
Jesus said to this group of people earlier in , “I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness.” Now you can say well He never called the virgins practitioners of lawlessness. Well what did the folks in say to Jesus? They said “Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” What do they sound like? They sound like church-going Christians. And then the Lord calls them what? You who practice lawlessness. When you see someone doing the Lord’s work like say teaching Sunday school or visiting the sick and praying with them and sharing the gospel with others would you say that they’re practicing lawlessness? Of course not. You say to yourself, they’re doing the Lord’s work. So why did Jesus accuse them of practicing lawlessness? They did so much in His name and He declares to them “I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness.” In other words, “I never knew you and you never knew me.” Jesus ignores their behaviour and their works because they never had saving faith. Jesus declared they were practitioners of lawlessness not because their work is lawlessness, but because they themselves as a person were still characterized by lawlessness. They were still lost. Jesus didn’t say “you are practicing lawlessness,” He said “You who practice lawlessness.” Lawlessness is who you are and where your heart is. Like the Pharisees we can be seen as part of the church congregation outwardly doing God’s work, but if we don’t have saving faith, if our heart has not been transformed then as Isaiah puts it our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.
You can go to church and still be lost. Outwardly you appear as a Christian, but inside you have not been changed. You have not been transformed. You still have a heart of stone. You have no fruits. You are a cultural Christian. You’ve tricked your own heart into believing that you’re saved. Don’t think that you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven by simply coming to church. This is not a collective religious experience. You don’t enter by saying “hey I’m with Pastor Peter, I’m with Lansdowne Church.” “Sorry,” says the Lord, “I do not know you, I never knew you.” The doors are closed, you cannot enter the wedding feast. You were on the wrong path and you’re staring at a wide set of gates leading to destruction.
So then you ask, what is then the kingdom of heaven? It is the treasure that you find in the field, and you go and sell everything and leave everything behind for that treasure. Leaving behind your previous life, the previous crowd, the worldly pleasures and aspirations and you enter through the narrow gate naked, sorrowful, repenting and you begin a relationship with the Lord that is intensely personal. You believe with all your heart and you turn away from sin and you begin to allow God to remove the rocks and the weeds from the soil of your heart. And as you walk with Him, examine your faith. Do I hate sin? Do I love the Lord and want to serve Him with all my heart? Do I have fruits of the spirit? Do the things of this world grow strangely dim? Here’s a harder one. In it says “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” Does God discipline or chasten you when you misbehave? Are you a foolish virgin or a wise virgin?
We do not know the day that the Lord will come and we do not know the day of our own appointed time.
You call me Lord, but you have no idea who I am. This also happens in Jesus’ followup parable of the talents. The wicked servant calls Him Lord, but He does not know the Lord’s character at all.
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