Be Prepared: Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids
Matthew Lesson #160
April 23, 2017
“Father, we’re so thankful that we have Your Word, that it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. As our Lord prayed the night before He went to the Cross, that we might be sanctified by Your Word: Your Word is truth.
Father, we pray that as we reflect upon what You have revealed in Your Word today, that You would challenge us, that the implications and application of this passage would be clear to us, that God the Holy Spirit would help us to see how we need to further be transformed in our thinking, that we may reflect the image of Christ in our lives, for that is the purpose of our sanctification: to grow more like Him, and less like our sin nature.
Father, we pray that You will open the eyes of our soul to the truth of Your Word today.
We pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.”
Last week we finished Matthew 24; some of you may have thought we would never do that. We are now in Matthew 25 in the second of three key parables. The theme of each of these is really this idea I have put in the title for the lesson: to be prepared.
This is the parable of the ten virgins or the parable of the ten bridesmaids, so we must come to understand what is going on in this particular passage. As we do so, I want to address seven key points here.
First of all, terms of review: this is going to be a little more extensive today. It seems like every time I start preparing—I go back and read Matthew 24:1 all the way through the end of 24—I see little things, recognize little things in connections.
At the same time I am reading, I am interacting with numerous scholars, commentators, theologians and friends who have worked through this or are working through this. Many of them have different positions.
I don’t just say, “Okay, I’m going to take this position and try to prove it.” I truly work through the text inductively looking at all of the different views, trying to understand their arguments, even to the point of maybe taking a long road trip to spend a couple of hours at lunch with somebody to pick their brain.
This last week I had the opportunity on Monday to spend time with Tommy Ice. I also had time on Friday to spend a couple hours with “the Frucht” over in San Antonio— Dr. Fruchtenbaum—and they don’t agree on this passage. It’s fun to sit down and say, “Okay, help me understand why you believe what you believe.” Have you ever heard me say that before? That we need to know why we believe what we believe. What are the exegetical reasons?
At the same time, because we have a couple of people in the congregation who are taking courses at the Dallas Seminary campus, I get feedback from them. One of the things I try to teach them to always do when there is some sort of questionable statement by a professor—even if it’s not questionable, even if it’s accurate— is ask the same question: “What is your biblical support?”
You can’t just assert that the Bible means things, although sometimes in sermons that’s what you do from summary, you can’t go into extensive detail on every passage. It may surprise you that I don’t go into extensive detail on every passage. I give you the results of the extensive study I do.
When we do a review, part of the reason I do that is because you haven’t had your brain in Matthew 24 and 25 in seven days; in some cases 14 days or 21 days. There are visitors here; also it helps us to bring back and reinforce what we have been learning.
1. What’s going on in this passage? What have we learned so far?
2. What is the connection to the previous parable and the one to follow?
There are three parables here: the parable of the righteous and wicked servant, which we looked at last week. Then that is followed by the parable of the talents. After that, there is a teaching, an instruction from Jesus about the sheep and goat judgments. How do these things connect?
One of the problems we run into in a lot of Bible study is that people will—theologians especially—go in and isolate these parables and not work through verse by verse in terms of the broad context, as we’ve been doing in Matthew. As a result, I think some of these internal connections are missed. What’s the connection to the previous parable, the one to follow?
3. Who do the ten virgins represent?
You will get different views: some people think they relate to the church, other people think they relate to the Jews, Israel; who do they represent?
4. What’s the distinction between the two groups of five?
There are five who are prepared; five who are not prepared; that’s part of the distinction:
- How are we to understand them?
- Are they representing two kinds of believers; carnal versus spiritual?
- Are they representing unbelievers versus believers?
- Or even more specific, are they representing unbelieving Gentiles and believing Gentiles in the Tribulation?
- Or are they representing believing and unbelieving Jews in the Tribulation?
See you didn’t know there were so many issues, and that is just hitting the upper level.
5. What’s the significance of the oil?
6. What is the purpose of this parable? What is Jesus teaching?
7. What is the judgment?
We go back to the beginning; just to remind you. I believe the disciples asked two questions—the second question is really a two-parter indicating the same thing— “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”
The first question, “When will these things be?” “These things” goes back to what Jesus just said about the destruction of the temple. They wanted to know, when’s the temple going to come down; and number two, what’s the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?
In Jewish eschatology they just saw the present age which would end when the Messiah would come and establish His Kingdom. When they say, “what’s the sign of Your coming?” the word “coming” is PAROUSIA, which means “Your presence,” not just Your arrival, but Your presence. They’re asking about when the Kingdom is coming because that ends the present age.
They don’t have an understanding of the Church Age yet, that’s still mystery doctrine. That hasn’t been revealed yet.
What is going on here and what have we learned so far?
Remember, the context is very Jewish. It has to do with the coming of the Kingdom, the coming of Messiah, His presence on the earth. It’s not talking about the church. That question excludes that.
There are some that say, “Well, Jesus answers more, so He brings the Rapture in.” But I don’t think that really fits contextually. We will see a little bit about that as we have in the past.
The context is not the Rapture, it’s the Second Coming of Christ, bringing His Kingdom. Because this is a Jewish context, it’s not a Church Age context, we have to be consistent with what Jesus is teaching here.
The first thing to point out is that this is all related to the parable of the fig tree, which indicates the general proximity of Messiah’s coming, that this can be known. That’s the point of it.
If you look back at Matthew 24:32-35, Jesus says, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.”
The point of this picture, this visual image that He creates, is that you can know the proximity—general proximity—of this coming. Not the specific day or hour, which He brings out several times. But He’s going to say, those who see the signs, and this goes back to Matthew 24:5-6 and the signs of wars and rumors of wars, that many will come in My name and say I am the Christ.
Others things that happen are disease and pestilence, famines and earthquakes—all of these things—“that when you see these things,” that’s not talking about wars and famines and earthquakes, not that I’ve belabored that, because if it’s these things now, then when you get to this verse that says “the generation that sees these things will not pass away,” then you have a problem.
The parable of the fig tree begins this discussion that the general proximity of Messiah’s coming can be known. So by looking at the fig tree, you can know if the leaves are starting to sprout, that summer is near.
The key word is this word “near.” It’s the Greek word EGGUS, which can mean near in physical, spatial proximity, such as the front row is near to me, the back row is far for me; or it can refer to near in time. Near in time may be something like lunch is near, breakfast is now far away. or dinner is further away, lunch is near: it’s closer in time or proximity.
That’s the context because we’re talking about a chronology here of spring to summer; we’re talking about time. This is saying that they will be able to know that the coming of the Kingdom is near in time by observing the signs. Remember those are not signs today, those are signs within the Tribulation Period.
Jesus says in the analogy that you can know that summer is near. Then, when He applies the analogy to what He’s teaching in Matthew 24:33, He says, “So you also, when you see all these things”— that’s going to be important—“know that it is near.”
Nearness in time is the point of the analogy, nothing else. When you read a parable—we will see as we get into the parable today—you have to let Jesus tell you what elements of the parable are to be interpreted, and what it’s trying to teach.
Sometimes a parable has many elements, and people try to make every element mean something, which often leads to interpretive problems.
Let Jesus tell us what He’s trying to illustrate. He will often limit it by a statement that He makes so that’s all He’s talking about. The leaves don’t mean anything; the budding doesn’t mean anything; the branches don’t mean anything. Only the fact that when you see something, you know summer is near, that’s the point, this chronological comparison.
Matthew 24:33 says, “So you also, when you see”—what, some of these things? No, all these things—“when you see all these things”—that He’s been describing from Matthew 24:4–31, you—“know that”—His coming, the presence of the Kingdom—“is near.”
Matthew 24:34, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away until all these things take place.”
When He says “this generation” in verse 34, He’s emphasizing that it’s that generation that sees the signs within the Tribulation Period.
What can you conclude from that? He is not talking about us, because we’re not in the Tribulation. So we don’t go around looking for signs; we’re not date setting. We’re not like the guy who wrote his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. Then when it didn’t happen, he wrote a book called The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. After that he quit.
The point that I’m making from this, which is so crucial, is that from this point on, Jesus is really talking to that generation. That generation of Jewish believers who are living through the Tribulation. He’s not talking directly to you and me, because we don’t see those things. He is only addressing that generation.
The second thing we point out here is that they are warned that they can only know that the time is near, but they cannot know the precise day or hour.
Some people say—and I think it’s an obvious answer—“Well, wait a minute! If you can count down the 1,260 days from the abomination of desolation to the end, or the time from the signing of the peace treaty to the end…” But maybe they don’t know the precise day or hour the treaty was signed, or the precise day or hour that the abomination of desolation took place.
There’s a clear statement here that Jesus is saying there is an uncertainty about the precise time the Second Coming will occur. So, the generation is warned that by looking at the signs they can know it’s near, but they cannot know the day or the hour.
Matthew 24:36, He says, “But of that day and hour” and that has to refer to the immediate context of Jesus’ coming and His presence being known—the sign that is mentioned of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory in Matthew 24:30.
This verse becomes the main proposition, which is then developed from this point to Matthew 25:30, all the way through the end of Matthew 25. It’s all developed out of this statement in verse 36, “that of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
If no one knows, than what has to happen? You have to be prepared. You have to watch, and everything that flows from this point on is about being prepared and watching.
That relates to the generation of believers at the end of the Tribulation, but it has an implication for us, which is that we don’t know when the Rapture is going to occur either.
So if they have a general idea of when the Second Coming is going to take place, and they need to watch and be prepared, then it follows a fortiori—or from a stronger argument—that we must also watch and be prepared. We have to understand what be prepared means, and we will get to that.
So that generation, which He is specifically addressing, the Tribulation generation of Jewish believers, is commanded to watch. If you look at these contexts, He’s specifically talking about Jewish believers who are living where? New York? Moscow? No, in Jerusalem, because earlier He said, when you see the abomination of desolation take place, then those of you who are in Jerusalem and Judah, flee to the mountains.
Does that mean that those who are living somewhere else can’t make some sort of application? Not at all. He’s speaking specifically, though, and giving specific instructions to a certain group of people. That’s important to understand because of where we’re going to go with the passage in a few minutes.
So they are to watch; that’s Matthew 24:42. Matthew 24:36 lays down the principle “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Jesus in His humanity is not given the responsibility to reveal that information.
Matthew 24:42: notice in your Bibles—you really need to watch this in your Bibles—look at what your Bible says here, underline some things and draw some connections.
Matthew 24:36 is the beginning of the paragraph. How does the paragraph end? Look at Matthew 24:42, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”
Matthew 24:42 is the application of what is said in Matthew 24:36. Matthew 24:37–41 is an illustration from the time of Noah, related to those who were unprepared, caught by surprise suddenly when it started to rain and Noah’s Ark started to lift off the ground. They were destroyed, wiped out in judgment.
Those that were in the ark who were prepared, who we’re watching, were ready. They were saved, they were delivered, and they survived through the judgment of the flood.
Question: What kind of judgment was that? Temporal or eternal? Temporal. We have to make a distinction here. I’ll bring this out in a minute, but often we talk about judgment in the same sentence and use it in two different ways. That gets confusing. That came up in one of my conversations this last week, and I’ll bring that out as we get there.
Matthew 24:42 states the primary issue here, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”
That word “hour” is again used in verse 43. Now verse 43 makes a contrast. It says, “But know this.” Now you should circle the word “But” at the beginning of verse 43 because that tells you that verse 43 is integrally related to verse 42. In other words, you can’t slice 43 and 44 off and talk about them independently because the thoughts in 43 to 44 come out of 36 to 42 because of that word “but.” That’s what it tells us.
They’re told to watch. This word “watch” is then used again in verse 43. Now verse 43 introduces a brief parable: the parable of the homeowner. Matthew 24:43 “But know this, that if the master the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched …”
See, the parable of the homeowner is directly related to the command of verse 42 which is the command that grows out of verse 36.
How does verse 36 begin? Look in your Bible, “But of that day and hour no one knows.” What does that “but” tell you? Well, it’s translated wrongly there. So you’d make a mistake if you were looking in the English.
In the Greek it’s PERI DE, which indicates in some places a contrast. People will make a big deal about this, that PERI DE means “now concerning, ” and it’s shifting the topic completely, so now we’re going to talk about the Rapture. Usually, at least the places I’ve looked, they always cite—and it is well known that Paul uses PERI DE that way in 1 Corinthians.
But Matthew doesn’t use PERI DE that way. It’s just a very, very soft transition to the next thing. It’s not much different from just “but” or “the next thing.” It’s not a hard contrast of content. But because that PERI DE is there, it throws us back to verses 32 to 35. Matthew 24:32 begins “Now learn the parable of the fig tree …”
That grows out of what goes before; you can’t just isolate these things. That’s the point I’m making: once you do, then you’re going to run into some problems understanding it.
Then the third verse that I have up there, Matthew 25:13 is the application of the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming”
I want you to notice that if the parable of the homeowner in Matthew 24:43-44 is continuing the idea of watching in verse 42, then that idea of watching carries all the way through the parable of the ten virgins. Why is Jesus telling that story? To tell them to watch.
That’s what He’s been talking about since verse 42, which is the application of verse 36. You can’t separate the parable of the ten virgins from the entire context of at least 36 and following and that even goes back further. That connects all of these things together.
That generation that is warned that they can only know that the time is near, and they cannot know the day or the hour. We see that the parable of the homeowner is designed to reinforce the command to watch.
The homeowner parable is very important because it is saying that if the master of the house, the homeowner, had known when the thief would come … So you’re at home. If you knew that you’re going to get broken into at 2:30 in the morning, what would you do? You would be prepared.
Some of you would be sitting there with your shotgun in the dark. Some of you would be sitting there with your phone ready to call 911. Others would have whatever their weapon of choice would be, but the point is that you would be prepared.
That’s the point of this analogy: it is not so much the sudden and unexpectedness of the arrival of the thief—certainly that’s there—but the point that Jesus is getting at, if you know when the thief is coming, you’ll be prepared.
What does He say earlier? You can’t know precisely when Jesus is coming at the Second Coming, but you can know generally because of the signs of the leaves in the fig tree. You can know generally when Jesus is coming, so you can be prepared.
The contrast that is set up here is between those who are prepared and who watch versus those who aren’t prepared and don’t watch. We will see that all the way through the three parables that we’re talking about: wicked and righteous servant, the ten virgins, and the parable of the talents.
That’s the point of this thief imagery; it’s used the same way in Revelation 16:15, which comes right the time of the seventh bowl judgment. It is almost the time when Jesus is coming back, so there is this warning, this challenge, to those who are still alive to hang in there, but you still don’t know exactly when He’s coming. “Behold,” Jesus said, “I’m coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
There’s a warning there using those two terms, the thief and watching, and that that is true for the generation that is there right at the end of the Tribulation.
That application from Matthew 24:44 is very clear, “Therefore you also be ready”—that’s the conclusion of the parable of the thief—“Therefore you also be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
That word “ready” is very important. It’s the word HETOIMOS in the Greek, which means to be ready, to be prepared. It can refer to a state of readiness or preparation. So the purpose of that parable of the homeowner is to encourage the believers at the end of the Tribulation to be ready.
It’s used again in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:10 that while, “they”—that is the five foolish or stupid virgins—“went out to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready…”
That’s telling us that the purpose of that parable has to do with preparation and being ready, which connects us right back to the parable of the homeowner. What we see here is that all of these string together like a string of pearls, and you can’t take any of them out. All these words are that thread—the string—that connect all the pearls. It tells us that the parable of the ten virgins, on this basis, connects back to the parable of the homeowner.
Then we see that the three parables that grow out of the parable, the homeowner are therefore about Jews during the Tribulation, not Gentiles or Church Age believers.
So those are the three basic views here:
- There is a view that this relates to the Jews during the Tribulation. That’s the view of Dr. Pentecost, the view of Dr. Toussaint—I think that’s the correct view.
- There’s a view that it relates to Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation, that’s Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s view.
- There’s a view that it refers to Church Age believers; that’s the view of Bob Wilkin and Jody Dillow, and a number of people with the Grace Evangelical Society.
I think that’s got a lot of flaws contextually, and they miss a number of different points.
What’s interesting about Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s view is that Matthew 24:38-42, talking about the two men in the field: one’s taken, the other’s left, he takes that as the Rapture. But then when you get to the thief parable and the subsequent parables, he takes that as the end of the Tribulation for Gentile believers, not Jews.
He has two arguments for that, and I want to just address these. I love Arnold, but I disagree with him on this, but I benefit greatly from his ministry. He said, first of all, we have to recognize that the only surviving Jews at the end of the Tribulation are believers. Hmm, what’s your support for that? He said Zechariah 13.
Zechariah 13:8-9 says, “ ‘And it shall come to pass in all the land,’ says the Lord, ‘That two thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one third shall be left in it. I will bring the one third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is my people’; and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”
The key thing here is that word “land.” It’s the word eretz. We talk about Eretz Israel, which is the land of Israel; you talk about Eretz Mitzrayim, which is the land of Egypt.
But you can also talk about that God created the heavens and the eretz, in Genesis 1:1, where it refers to the whole earth. So how do you distinguish it?
If you look in context at what’s going on in Zechariah 13, it’s talking about how God is going to rescue those in Judah and Jerusalem. Remember those in Judah and Jerusalem are told to flee to the mountains when they see the abomination of desolation.
In Zechariah 12 and 13, it’s also focusing on Judah and Jerusalem. And though there are couple places where it’s clear the word eretz has to refer to the whole earth, it also is used in these passages to refer to the land. That’s how it is translated in the New King James version, Arnold’s favorite version, the ASV 1901 translates it “the land” in contrast to the whole earth.
I think this is the point here, that as the Antichrist’s armies are surrounding Jerusalem, that two thirds of those Jews that are left in Jerusalem are going to be massacred. But one third—that is the believers—are going to be rescued because they followed the prescriptions to escape.
Two thirds are going to be cut off and die. Daniel 12 talks about God bringing this judgment on them, and the one third that lives are those that survive in Jerusalem. It is not talking about the rest of the world.
So when we understand that, I think that it’s clear that you also have unbelieving Jews that survive the Tribulation in the rest of the world, not just there.
I also think that there’s an issue with the word “judgment.” There are those who contend that Israel gets judged during the Tribulation. That’s a judgment on them. Why would God judge them again in these three parables? That’s because the judgment that occurs in the Tribulation is a temporal judgment.
The judgment that is spoken up at the end of each of these parables where one is assigned to the lake of fire and the other goes to heaven is a judgment related to eternal destiny. So we have to be careful. We often use the word “judgment” for both, but one is talking about a temporal discipline on the nation; the other is talking about individual judgment in relation to eternal destiny.
We looked at our four questions here, we come to understand that these three parables are therefore about Jews during the Tribulation, not Gentiles or Church Age believers.
So that is just the first review. That took me about 35 minutes, which is about what I thought it would take. That sets us up for being able to understand what is coming up next, so we have to ask the question, what’s the connection of Matthew 25:1–13 with the previous parable of the wicked and righteous servant and the parable that comes up?
In the first of these three parables, Matthew 24:45, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in deep due season?”
You remember that what I said last time was that this relates to Israel. Israel’s referred to again and again the Old Testament as the servant of Yahweh or the slave of Yahweh. Those terms are interchangeable, servant or slave. One group of these is made ruler over another group, and part of what they’re going to do is feed them.
So this is talking about the spiritual leadership that’s set over Israel. Some of them are good; they are faithful servants, they are faithful shepherds as Ezekiel describes them. Others are not, like the Pharisees in the first century.
But they’re described by two different terms here. The first term for faithful is the word on the left, PISTOS, which means faithful or reliable or trustworthy. They are also described as wise, PHRONIMOS, which means wise. It also has the idea of being sensible, being intelligent, so you have these two different words.
What’s interesting is Matthew 25:21, which is the parable of the talents, talks about those who were given talents and used them wisely, were called faithful servants, “His lord said to him, ‘Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.’ ”
The parable we look at next time on the talents is going to talk about and develop the idea of being a faithful servant.
Remember, you have two words: faithful and wise, in Matthew 24:45. Faithful is developed in the parable of the talents; wise is developed in the parable of the ten virgins. They’re identified as being wise, using the same word PHRONIMOS in Matthew 25:4, 8-9.
If you just look at the vocabulary in this language in the original, you see how the writer gives you all these different connections; all of this together shows that everything, from at least verse 30 on, has to be held as one event.
I think that’s important because you can’t come along and talk about verses 37–41, the days of Noah, the one taken the one left behind, you can’t take that out and say that’s talking about the Rapture and everything else is talking about the Second Coming. It’s all one or it’s all the other. You can’t break it apart because of these connections that are there in the text.
As I pointed out last time in the parable of righteous and wicked servant:
The Master = Jesus who goes away on a journey to Heaven.
The slaves = Israel, God’s people—it’s talking about those were placed over them.
The faithful and wise = the good leaders
The evil servants = the Pharisees in Jesus’ generation
Evil servants = the bad religious leaders in the Tribulation period.
That parable also concluded with this statement, that those who are wicked are assigned a portion with the hypocrites. Hypocrites, as I pointed out last time, always refers to the religious leaders, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the scribes; they’re unbelievers, so this has to be contrasting believer and unbeliever.
Another point is if you go back to Jewish literature, wise versus foolish—especially when you look at the Psalms and wisdom literature—really reflects believer and unbeliever.
What has said in his heart there is no God? The fool. This is the contrast here; again it shows that we’re not talking about carnal believers versus spiritual believers, we’re talking about unbelievers versus believers.
This is seen again in this phrase, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Sometimes in several of these passages it is also associated with outer darkness. Stan Toussaint in his book, “Behold the King,” which is based on his doctoral dissertation, states,
“Invariably throughout Matthew this phrase refers to the retribution of those who are judged before the Millennial Kingdom is established.”
They’re not allowed to go into the Kingdom. They are unbelievers. There’s a judgment on them. Matthew 18:12, Matthew 13:42 and 50, Matthew 22:13, and Matthew 25:30. I’m not going to go through each of those passages.
That’s a judgment for unbelievers. I said for anybody to say, I feel very strongly about this, I said this last week, I will repeat it again: I think it’s heresy to say that believers are going to be cut in two and cast into a place where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth. There’s going to be remorse at the judgment seat of Christ, but this is punishment that goes far beyond simply remorse because we didn’t do well.
Who did the ten virgins now represent?
Matthew 25:1, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
What we see here as a background is that this is a comparison with a common cultural event, which is what takes place at a wedding. The kingdom of heaven is now compared to a specific section within the entire wedding.
The ten virgins take their lamps and go out to meet the bridegroom and the procession as he’s coming to get the bride.
It begins with the word TOTE in the Greek which, as we seen all through Matthew 24, “and the next thing;” so it connects it to the previous parable. We not only have similar vocabulary, we have a connective at the beginning that ties them together. You can’t just take the parable out on its own to understand it.
There are two options here as to how the virgins are understood:
One view is that the virgins represent the church. This is mostly based on arguments from silence because some things are not mentioned in the text. It’s also based on the idea that the church is introduced by the Rapture in Matthew 24:40–41. We’ve already demonstrated that to be false. Although it is not stated in the parable, but I think the implication is there, the bridesmaids are not the church because in a marriage analogy that we have in Scripture, Jesus is the bridegroom. Who’s the bride? The church is the bride of Christ, not the bridesmaids.
Now that’s not your strongest argument, but I think that is necessarily true, even though that is not something brought out or emphasized in the text. I think generally that is true, though.
The second view is that this is Israel in the Tribulation, and that’s based on context. Now, of course, I’ve dealt with Arnold’s view, which is that it’s Gentiles in the Tribulation. I don’t go along with that. The other view is that it is Israel in the Tribulation. This is based on the context we’ve just gone through and that the subject all through here is Israel at the time of the coming king and the kingdom.
We have this opening statement, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to the 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
What’s the distinction between the two groups of five?
What are they called? I think this is important to see this distinction.
Matthew 25:2, “Now five of them were wise, and five of them were foolish.”
As I’ve already pointed out, wise versus foolish is typical in wisdom literature, in the Old Testament: believer versus unbeliever.
The five of them who were wise, this is PHRONIMOS, which means wise. They’re prudent; I think the NASB translates that as prudent. It also means intelligent or discerning. They understand what’s going on, and they’re going to be prepared.
On the other hand, you have five who are foolish. This is not a complementary term. It means foolish or stupid or they lack sense, and numerous commentators just call them “the stupid virgins.” That may sound a little harsh to some ears, but that’s basically what the text says. MOROS is where we get our word “moron;” so you’ve got the morons and the wise.
Those who are foolish, we’ve come to the question of who are they, what distinguishes them? This is important.
Matthew 25:3–4, “Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them.”
So in this fifth question, where we are asking is, what’s the difference between them: the foolish and the wise? “Those who were foolish took their lamps and they took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”
If you just stop there, you’d think that one has oil and one doesn’t. That has led some people to the erroneous conclusion that the oil represents the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is there, then that means they’re Church Age believers. That is really common, even if they don’t take the Church Age believer position.
But the text never makes that point. In fact, the point that is made in the parable that we see at the end is to “watch therefore.” That’s the whole point of this parable is to watch, it’s to be prepared.
Matthew 25:3-4 says the morons take their lamps, they don’t have oil with them. Now we’re going to they did have oil in their lamps, but they didn’t have any extra oil. The wise have oil and they had oil in their vessels.
Now the word “vessel” there refers to something like a flask. The little oil lamp doesn’t carry a whole lot, so they were wise, and they took extra.
We know that because in Matthew 25:8 we read, “And the foolish”—the morons—“said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ ”
That indicates that they were burning, but they were beginning to sputter.
Those who are foolish take their lamps. The morons had no extra oil. The wise have oil and an extra flask of oil.
Matthew 25:5, “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all …” eventually fall asleep.
So it’s not an issue—the sleeping thing—that is being brought out here because it is making the obvious statement that they all fell asleep. What we see is that both groups have oil to begin with, and they all fall asleep, and then the bridegroom comes and it’s a surprise.
Now I want to address this issue of, is the oil the Holy Spirit? There are a couple little problems with this. First of all, what happens when they come out and they trim their lamps, this is what happens next, at midnight there is a cry that’s heard.
Now there are a couple ministries that capitalize on this and call themselves “the midnight cry,” which is the Rapture. This is not the Rapture; this is the Second Coming. You’ll hear that term. There was a cry and it’s just part of the story.
Matthew 25:6-8, “ ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins then arose and trimmed their lamps.”
They’ve all been asleep, they all wake up. They all trim the wicks in their lamps, so they’ll burn better and burn brightly. Matthew 25:8, “And”—Oops! The morons—“the foolish say to the wise, ‘Give us some your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ ”
If the Holy Spirit is the oil, then first of all the morons have the Holy Spirit to begin with, and that doesn’t fit the context. Second, they’re getting a diminishing amount of the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t work because the Holy Spirit doesn’t diminish. You don’t start losing Him. Third, you can’t buy the Holy Spirit.
Simon Magus in Acts 8:18 tried that. Remember, after watching Peter heal somebody, “Can I buy this? Can I buy by the Holy Spirit? This is not talking about the Holy Spirit at all.
The issue is preparedness, and that’s exactly what we see when we get to Matthew 25:9–10, “But the wise answered, saying, ‘No lest there should be not be enough for us and you, but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ ”
You can’t buy the Holy Spirit, so it just doesn’t fit within the context at all.
So they left to buy, and while they’re gone, the bridegroom came, “and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.”
What’s the point? The point is they were ready.
What happens in the wedding customs of Jesus’ day, prior to the wedding itself, an invitation would be sent to those who were invited to the wedding feast. This would of course include those who are part of the wedding party. The bridegroom would return from the house of the bride in a procession, and then lead a procession to his own home where a wedding banquet would be enjoyed.
They don’t know when the bridegroom is going to actually come back to collect them to take them to the wedding banquet. The word there that has to do with the wedding doesn’t just refer to the ceremony itself, it refers to the whole wedding banquet.
The wedding banquet is a picture, not of the beginning of the Kingdom, but enjoying the joy and celebration that extends throughout the whole Kingdom. We’re not talking about just the beginning, we’re talking about enjoying the feast, which in Scripture represents the entire Kingdom.
So we have this issue here: those who were ready to go into the wedding feast and the door shut. That means nobody else can get in; they’re locked out.
There’s a really extreme view among some people, that this relates to carnal Christians and they’re kept out of the Kingdom. They go to some sort of Christian purgatory. They can’t come into the Kingdom at all, and they go through weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for a thousand years. I think that is an absolutely absurd heretical view. The issue is those who are ready are believers, they go into the wedding, and then the door is shut.
The judgment then comes and this occurs at the end.
He says, “Afterward the other virgins came also”—that’s the five—“saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ ”
Matthew 25:12, “But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ ” Then the application comes: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
What’s interesting there is we have a textual problem. The phrase “in which the Son of Man is coming” is not found in the older manuscripts or of some of the early church fathers. But it is found in many other church fathers, and it’s found in the majority of manuscripts and I tend to go with it.
The rule of thumb, which you’ll get from the site that translates the new American Standard and NET is that, well, it’s redundant to what’s already stated. I don’t find that convincing because I find the Bible redundant in numerous places to reinforce the point. And the point here, I think, is that we have to be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.
As I said, this is addressed to a generation at the end of the Tribulation to be prepared for the coming of the Kingdom. Those who are prepared will enter into the Kingdom. Those who are not prepared will be taken in judgment. That fits the whole analogy back in Matthew 24:37–42. But there’s an implication of that.
Sometimes I draw a distinction between application and implication. The only people that can directly apply this are going to be those at the end of the Tribulation. But there’s an implication there for all of us, and that is just as there is an uncertainty as to exactly when the Second Coming is going to occur, there’s an uncertainty about when the Rapture is going to occur. As they have to be ready, we have to be ready.
What do you have to do to be ready? You have to trust in Christ as your Savior. That’s the only way you have the right wedding garments, going back to the parable in Matthew 20. That’s the only way you have the right wedding garments, the righteousness of Christ, to go into the Kingdom, the wedding feast, and to celebrate the Kingdom.
The issue is not Christian life here, the issue is whether or not you have trusted in Jesus as the Messiah.
At the end of the Tribulation, it is important for the Jews who survive, that those who are going to go into the Kingdom have trusted in Yeshua as Mashiach. In the Church Age it’s important to trust in Jesus as the Messiah, that He died on the cross for our sin, so that when the Rapture occurs, we are raptured, and we don’t go in to the Tribulation period.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to reflect upon the truth of Your Word.
“Father, we’re thankful that we are saved by grace, and not by works, that the way to avoid the Tribulation and to go into heaven when we die is to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid the penalty for our sins and by His work and His work alone and by simply trusting alone in His work, we have eternal life.
“Father, we’re thankful that this is seen as a pattern, and it’s the same pattern at the end of the Tribulation: that those who wish to go into the Kingdom have to be prepared by accepting Jesus as Messiah.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening to this message, that they would do that which is necessary in this Church Age: to trust in You, to believe. This is done not by uttering a prayer, but by simply believing in our heart—in our soul.
“The instant we believe, God knows what we’re trusting in, and we’re immediately saved. He doesn’t have to be informed by a prayer. If we believe, we believe, and God in His omniscience knows that we believe.
“Father, we pray that we will be challenged, because not only should we be ready in terms of our justification, but we should be ready in terms of our spiritual life and spiritual growth, knowing that after the Rapture, we will go through the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we need to be prepared, and we do that by living the Christian life and walking by the Spirit.
“Father, we thank You for what we’ve learned today, and we pray that God the Holy Spirit will make it clear to us, that we can apply it in our spiritual life.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”