The Ten Virgins

 In Matt. 25:1-13, Jesus teaches about the Ten Virgins. In the Jewish economy, after the bridegroom and the father of the bride had agreed on the wedding, the bridegroom returned to his father’s house and prepared a “place” for his bride. All this while, the bride was to be ready, for the bridegroom could come at any time. When he did come, he sent someone ahead who cried “the bridegroom is coming.” It could be during the day, in the evening, or even late at night. The virgins in Matt. 25 would be similar to what we call bridesmaids today. Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison write in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, that this is “A beautiful story lifted from contemporary marriage custom, but interpreted by evangelicals in widely varying fashion.”

Let’s look at Matt. 25, examine the teaching, and make the proper application to our lives.

One question we must ask ourselves as we study this (or any) passage, is what is the intent of the passage. We must be careful not to follow “typology” to the extreme where we cause the passage to mean something it doesn’t. Over the years I’ve heard some pretty amazing “insights” into the Word of God. One holiness preacher claimed that Rebekah is a type of the church. In Gen. 24 she was riding a camel, camels have two humps, which is a type of the necessity of being born again and sanctified wholly. That may work with the dromedary, but bactrian camels ruin the analogy. Another preacher (a Baptist) was so into numerology that he made the statement, “I don’t read my Bible any more – I just count it!” This leads a person to wonder, not at the superficiality in the church today, but at the fact there is any spiritual depth at all. Obviously, Matt. 25:1-13 is teaching the necessity of being prepared. The Lord is coming and we do not know when, so we must be prepared at all times. MacArthur says “Every small facet of the story does not carry a mystical meaning that is subject to speculation and imagination. Nor does every part of the parable have application to Christian living, as devotionalists frequently maintain.”

There is some debate as to the meaning of this passage. Who is it speaking of? Do the ten virgins represent the church or Israel? Were all ten of the virgins saved? Walter Wilson in A Dictionary of Bible Types says “It is generally thought by Bible students that five of these represent true Christians, who are real believers, and the other represent professing Christians, who are not really saved.” Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison write “Some explain the virgins as the professing members of the Church awaiting the return of Christ. Others apply the parable to the Jewish remnant in the Tribulation.” They then add “Though the central theme of watchfulness is applicable to either group, this writer feels that the latter interpretation meets the demands of content and context more precisely.”

J. Vernon McGee mentions that this passage has been used to support the false teaching of a “partial rapture.” He explains,

The parable of the ten virgins is the basis for those who believe in what is known as the partial rapture, where only some will be taken out of the world. The “partial rapture” group is made up of very fine people. When I first became pastor in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a wonderful Bible class there, and they supported me in getting Bible conferences into Nashville. From the beginning, the class had been taught by a teacher who believed in a partial rapture. Candidly, I feel that the partial rapture theory ministers to spiritual snobbery. I never met one of that group who didn’t think that he was with the five wise virgins. In fact, I have never in all my life met one who thought he was classed with the foolish virgins! I was a young preacher in those days, and as I worked with them I had the feeling that they were not sure that I was one of them. I suspected that they classified me as one of the foolish ones.

I thank God that when the Rapture takes place, every believer is going out. And we won’t be going on the basis of merit. All of us will be leaving because of the grace of God. He saves us by grace; He keeps us by grace; He will take us out of this world by grace; and when we have been there for ten million years, it will be by the grace of God.

The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible says “The virgins are believers, all professors of religion. The five wise virgins are genuine believers; the five foolish virgins are false believers, those who have a false profession.” MacArthur adds,

The ten bridesmaids represent professed disciples of Christ who claim to love the prospect of His appearing and who demonstrate outward readiness for entrance into His kingdom. In appearance the ten were indistinguishable. They were all dressed appropriately in wedding garments and all had the required torch to carry in the wedding procession. But they were not truly alike, which is the point of the parable, because they were not all prepared – five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.

Don Fleming, writing in the Concise Bible Commentary says,

A Jewish marriage followed a period of engagement that was almost as binding as marriage. At the marriage the bridegroom, with his friends, went and brought the bride from her father’s house to his own house, where the feast was held. This was the procession that the ten girls in the story went out to meet (Matt. 25:1).

Some of the girls, however, were foolish, for they did not consider the possibility that the bridegroom might not come at the time they expected. When his arrival was delayed, they were unprepared (Matt. 25:2-9). In due course the bridegroom came, but there was then no time to make preparations. The foolish girls were locked outside the house and had no further chance of going in to the wedding feast (Matt. 25:10-12).

In the same way, because of carelessness, many will not be prepared when the Son of man comes. Consequently, they will miss out on the blessings they had hoped for in his kingdom (Matt. 25:13).

Gaebelein concurs, saying “In the beginning of this age the entire Christian profession expected the promised return. He delayed and they all slumbered and slept. They gave up the Hope which energized them in the beginning.” The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible concludes, reminding us that “the believer must watch for the Lord’s return, and he must be wise and not foolish in watching. This is the point of Jesus’ parable in this passage.”

The five wise virgins were prepared – they were ready. The five foolish were not prepared. And the door was shut, and they were left outside. Those in Noah’s day who were not prepared, though warned, were also left outside – and the door was shut! The teaching in this passage is to be prepared. In our discussion of the deep meanings of theses verses, let us not miss that simple truth. Another observation I believe is important to note. It was the unprepared bridesmaids (virgins) that were shut out – not the bride. So it seems it would be quite a stretch to apply this to the church.

 

REFERENCES

Fleming, Don, Concise Bible Commentary, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Gaebelein, Arno, The Annotated Bible – Volume 6: Matthew to Acts, (New York: Our Hope, 1913), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

MacArthur, John, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 24-28, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Pfeiffer, Charles, and Everett Harrison, ed., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1990), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, The – Matthew, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

Wilson, Walter, A Dictionary of Bible Types, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

 

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