Jesus had a distinctive style of teaching by His use of parables. Throughout His public ministry until the last days in Jerusalem, you will come across His timeless parables. A parable is a comparison from nature or daily life, designed to teach a spiritual truth.
Matthew 25:1-13. In these passages, Jesus warns His disciples against not being ready for His return. When Christ comes back, He will judge all humanity, separating people into one of two categories – those who will be rewarded with eternal life and those who will be eternally separated from God. The criterion for determining which a person receives is how that person responded to Jesus.
The story begins after Jesus left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives. His disciples joined him and asked him to tell them when the end of the age he had talked about would come. Jesus began describing for them the signs of the end of the age. One of the parables He used was the Parable of the Ten Virgins, to remind them to be watchful and await His return.
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
“At that time” refers to the time of the tribulation that Jesus has described for the disciples. The Church and those awaiting Christ’s return are symbolized through the ten virgins. Outwardly all ten appear the same – they are virgins, they have lamps, and they are doing the same thing. However five were wise and five were foolish. The five foolish only outwardly prepared for the bridegroom’s coming. They didn’t make lasting preparations. The same can happen to us. We may look like those around us, possess the same things as those around us, and do the same as those around us. But those who are wise will have genuine, authentic worship and will prepare in our lives for Christ’s coming.
5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
Jesus isn’t placing blame on anyone – the bridegroom for being a long time in coming – or the virgins for being asleep. Being able to sleep may show that they felt an assurance that they were ready for the bridegroom’s return. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36 that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. The foolish may have felt the same assurance, that He was coming, but they were mistaken about their readiness. They were not prepared for the bridegroom’s return.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
The foolish virgins who had not taken any oil with them began to panic. They had not fully prepared for the bridegroom’s return and saw their lamps going out. We can be like those foolish virgins. We can outwardly prepare by going to church and doing things that “good Christians” do, but if we don’t store up and prepare for His coming, we will see our own lights are not enough to light our path to Christ. It is imperative that we prepare our hearts and our lives for the bridegroom, the Christ. We do not want to be like those who only outwardly prepare.
9 “‘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.’
It may seem as though the wise virgins were unkind because they did not share their oil, but they did not have enough oil for themselves and those who had not brought oil. Oil had to be replenished every 15 minutes, so it took large amounts of oil to keep the lamps burning. The wise virgins instructed the foolish to go and buy for themselves. In the same way, we cannot give part of the Holy Spirit we have allowed in our lives to someone who is not prepared on the day of His coming or our judgment. We must each choose to accept Christ into our heart and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a free gift to us, but each person must make his own choice to accept it.
10 “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.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
While the foolish were gone, trying to make last minute preparations, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready were able to join him at the wedding banquet. The foolish ones returned, but found that it was too late. They begged Him to let them in, but the bridegroom merely answered, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
What frightening words to hear! Christ is rejecting a relationship with those who did not prepare for His return.
We can prepare for His return, regardless of whether we are alive during the time of His second coming.
We must read God’s word, store it in our hearts, live our lives in the way Jesus calls us to do. We should be caring for the poor, orphaned, and widowed. We should give willingly and generously. We should spread the gospel and show others what it means to walk in truth. Unless we have prepared our lives in this manner, we will be like the foolish virgins who were not ready for the return and we will hear, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”