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The parable of the wise and foolish virgins
An interpretation of the parable of the ten virgins, in which Jesus compares Christians with five wise and five foolish virgins.
The parable of the ten virgins
In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus compares Christian life with five wise virgins and five foolish virgins, and their preparations before going out to meet the bridegroom.
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” Matthew 25:1-4.
All of the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. They had said goodbye to the world in order to seek the things that are above, where Jesus is. (Colossians 2:1-2.) They all took their lamps with them. There was only one difference between them: the wise virgins took oil in their vessels together with their lamps; the foolish virgins did not realize that they had to take oil in their vessels.
“Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually.” Leviticus 24:2.
The lamps represent our confession of faith. (Matthew 10:27; Matthew 5:15.) They cannot shine without oil, and to obtain oil, something must be. Lamps that brightly shine with life and teaching are desperately lacking. If my confession of faith is that I am to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, “Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:21-23), my lamp will not shine if I revile in return. But in order for me not to revile in return, something within me has to be crushed – my self-will, my honor. If it is crushed, my lamp will shine.
The five foolish virgins did have some oil in their lamps, because they said, “Our lamps are going out.” So something must have been crushed in them as well.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21.
These are obvious works that everyone knows are sin. If we do such things, others will not believe in our Christianity – our lamps will not shine. All ten had crushed sufficient olives so that they were virgins. However, the five wise virgins didn’t only think about letting their lamps shine in the present moment; they also thought about their vessels.
These “works of the flesh” are obvious in the trials of daily life when we are together with other people. Even the five foolish virgins will deny these things, so that their lamps shine and people cannot judge them. But then they are satisfied. It doesn’t occur to them that the little drop of oil they received at that moment is also burned up in the same instant. The wise virgins, however, thought about gathering oil in their vessels. After the trials, in quietness before God’s face, they reflect on what they have done. They see themselves there, their human nature, and they crush it. There, where there is no one for the lamp to shine for, the oil they receive goes into their vessels. This is the hidden life with Christ in God.
The foolish virgins are satisfied when people can’t judge them. Outwardly they are full of good works. They always feel compelled to be busy. Rest and quietness before God? No; they have to be doing something. They are like Martha. In her zeal she served Jesus, but she was soulish. She couldn’t understand Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet and gathered oil in her vessel.
Crushing oil for your vessel
Putting off sin that burdens our conscience gives us oil in our lamp. Vanity, honor-seeking, stinginess, all of these things that people can see, must be put off and crushed if our lamp is to give light. The five foolish are content with this. The one who is satisfied with his spiritual condition such as it is becomes one of these five. But the Spirit searches much deeper. If you also want to have oil in your vessel, you must come to rest in your inner being so that you can hear the Spirit’s voice. There He will give you light and show you a much deeper degree of sin than you ever could have imagined. This is why it is vital to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), to acknowledge what He shows you, and to crush it. The five wise see the value of this “vessel life;” they love it, and they get oil in their lamps and in their vessels.
People can only see our lamp. They cannot see the vessel, because it is hidden. They cannot distinguish between the virgins, although they can see that some of the lamps have less oil and don’t shine as brightly.
To overcome those sins where the Spirit gives you deeper light in the hidden means that you are not doing your works to be seen, but because you love Jesus, and everything you do is for His sake. If this is how you have it, you are truly wise. Then you will be raptured when Jesus comes as a thief to fetch those who are ready. You will be clothed in white garments and be allowed to walk with Jesus, and He will confess your name before the Father and His angels.
The deep night and awakening
“But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.” Matthew 25:5 The fact that they were all sleeping does not mean that they had fallen away, but it can mean that a time will come when they cannot work. (John 9:4.) They were forced to be quiet.
“And at midnight a cry was heard, ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’” Matthew 25:5-6. All the virgins could hear that call, and they all awoke and needed their lamps. They prepared their lamps, but for them to burn brightly in the midnight hour, more oil was needed than what was already in their lamps. It was then that the foolish made the terrible discovery that their lamps were going out. Suddenly it dawned on them what it was that they had neglected, and they tried to get oil from the wise virgins. But the wise didn’t have enough to supply themselves, and the foolish. The foolish had to go out to the sellers – they had to live the life – take the time to crush the olives to get oil in their vessels.
Life is the light of men; no one can borrow light from another. Today too there are people who live in sin but try to hide among Christians. People trust them because they attend church and seem to be good people. But the time is coming when they will be manifested for what they really are.
When the bridegroom came, it was too late to buy oil. Those who were ready went with Him. “Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” Matthew 25:11-12. They had walked before the face of man, and had not considered what the bridegroom had to say. He could not speak to them the way he did to Mary. He did not know them.
May all of us wake up and be more conscious of gathering oil in our vessels. Then we will be counted worthy to escape the things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36.)
Read the full parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
This is an edited version of the chapter “The Ten Virgins” from the book “The Bride and the Harlot and the End Times,” first published in Norwegian in September 1946 by “Skjulte Skatters Forlag.”
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.