Introduction: Today as we continue our journey through the parables of Jesus, I just want to remind you of an important principle when interpreting parables, which is that we should not over-interpret them. It is tempting for many scholars and pastors to start reading all kinds of allegorical meanings into parables such as the one before us today, but I am going to try to resist that temptation and highlight only those features of the parable that can clearly be seen to have meaning in the context in which the parable is given. I am going to try to stress only those aspects of the parable that Jesus Himself seems to stress in the way that He relates the parable in the context.
NKJ Matthew 25:1 Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
NKJ Hosea 2:19-20 I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; 20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD.
NKJ John 3:25-30 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified — behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!’ 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
NKJ Matthew 9:14-15 Then the disciples of John came to Him [Jesus], saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
NKJ 2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
NKJ Revelation 19:6-9 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’”
The setting is fairly clear from what we know of the marriage customs of the day. Normally the bridegroom with some close friends left his home to go to the bride’s home, where there were various ceremonies, followed by a procession through the streets – after nightfall – to his home. The ten virgins may be bridesmaids who have been assisting the bride; and they expect to meet the groom as he comes from the bride’s house, though this is uncertain. Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands. The festivities, which might last several days, would formally get underway at the groom’s house. (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 513)
NKJ Matthew 25:2-4 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
NKJ Matthew 25:5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
NKJ 2 Peter 3:1-12a Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God….
All ten slept, not just the foolish. This is not sleeping on the job of life. Sleeping is part of the job. What sleeping signifies in this parable is simply the ordinary activities of life. We are not called to go up on a mountain and gaze idly into the sky as we wait for Jesus. We are called to do our work. Then rest. Then do some more work. Blessed is the servant whom the master finds doing his work when he comes (Matthew 24:45). All ten slept because sleep is part of the normal rhythm of life that we should follow as we work and rest and wait for Jesus. (Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, Past and Future)
NKJ Matthew 25:6-9 And at midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.”
NKJ Matthew 25:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
George Morrison, one of Scotland’s most popular preachers in the early 20th century, was known for a sermon titled, “The Ever-Open Door.” And on his deathbed he exclaimed, “It’s open for me now, and I’m going through.” As a believer, he surely did go through the door into glory. That door won’t always be open, however. Someday the door of grace will close and unbelievers will be shut out of God’s presence forever.
The eloquent English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) once preached on the text, “. . . and the door was shut” (Mt. 25:10). One man in the audience was overheard saying to another, “So what? Another door will open.” But as Whitefield continued preaching, he said, “There may be someone here who is careless and self-satisfied, and who thinks, ‘What does it matter if the door is shut? Another will open.’ Yes, it will–the door to the bottomless pit, the door to hell!”
When time runs out, and God shuts the door of salvation, the door to doom, darkness, and despair will open. But today, if you trust in Jesus Christ, you enter the still wide-open door into eternal life. Have you walked through that door? (February 7, 1996, entry of Our Daily Bread)
NKJ Matthew 25:11-12 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” 12 But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
NKJ Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
If I ever reach heaven I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had expected to see there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there. (As cited here)
NKJ Matthew 25:13 Watch [γρηγορέω, grēgoreúō] therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
NKJ Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.