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Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13




Approximately one-third of the teachings personally conveyed by Jesus Christ as noted in the Gospels were in the form of parables.  In the following passage He gave His reasons for using the parabolic form in teaching truth:


And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their  ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:10-17)


Jesus Christ used parables to illustrate truth for the following reasons:


  • Because parables were designed to teach the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, a designation of the coming millennial kingdom that will be Christ’s future corporeal reign of 1,000 years upon the face of the earth.  The term “kingdom of heaven” has been interpreted by expositors of the Word in a variety of ways, e.g., as the “sphere over which sovereign God rules,” or as the “sphere of all who have been granted eternal life.”  But within the context of the purpose of why Christ came to the Jewish State of Israel, which will be discussed later; it may be determined that the term and several of Christ’s parables were intended to refer to and illustrate the structure and administration of His coming literal kingdom upon earth.


  • Because parables were targeted toward the understanding of Christ’s disciples and not for all who heard His teachings.  He used the parabolic form to reveal truth to some, and to hide it from others.  A mixed audience attended His teachings; some were believers and others were unbelievers.  Some had placed their faith in His person (deity), His purpose (grace-gift of salvation), and His office (Messiah); while others rejected these critical aspects of His incarnation and life.  To those who welcomed Him, they would have more; but to those who rejected Him, they would have less (Matthew 13:10-17).


  • Because His parabolic teachings were the fulfillment of prophecy (vs. 14) found in Isaiah 6:9, which foretold that many would hear but not understand.  But now it was time for His disciples to understand His teachings and to be “blessed” (happy) in their understanding. Also see Psalm 78:2 and Ephesians 3:9.


Parables are unlike allegories.  While an allegory may be a story constructed without a basis in reality in order to convey truth, a parable is based on a known realm (reality).  The truth to be learned was gained from transference from reality to the unknown.  It becomes the hearer’s responsibility to properly understand what truth is being transferred from the reality of the parable that is told.  When Christ used a parable, He expected the believer to understand the parable by making the necessary transference from its reality to the truth that He was seeking to convey.


It is interesting to note that of all the parables delivered after the Jewish leaders of the day registered their rejection of Christ as Messiah (Matthew 12), only two parables were interpreted by Christ—the parable of the sower and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13).  It is conjectured that He explained these two parables to set a pattern of interpretation for all His parables.  The fact that He did not interpret His subsequent parables indicates that He fully expected His disciples to understand what He taught.


Certain principles should be followed in the interpretation of parables, as follows:


  1. All doctrinal interpretation is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 27).


  1. Parables that are concerned with the kingdom of heaven refer to the coming form of theocracy that is often referred to as the millennial kingdom, which will be a period of 1,000 years when Christ will personally reign upon the earth.  The fact that parables are about the kingdom of heaven is expressed often by the Lord Himself.  Because the Church dispensation developed within the time bounds covered by the parables, and because the Church is a part of the future theocratic kingdom, interpreters often and erroneously apply the parables directly to the Church.


  1. Parables are to be interpreted within their immediate context, which often conveys the problem to which Christ is directing the parable.  In this light it is important to understand in which gospel record the parable is situated.  Each of the four gospels presents a different picture of Christ and His ministry while upon earth.  John emphasizes His deity and His grace-message of salvation.  In it He is referred to as the “Son of God.”  In Luke His humanity is primarily in focus, and He is called the “Son of man.”  Mark emphasizes His miraculous works and His position as “Servant.”  Matthew reveals Him as the “King”—the “King of the Jews” and the coming “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” to rule over the earth during His millennial reign.


  1. The interpretation should be based on a proper understanding of the reality from which the hearer is expected to gain truth.  In other words, one cannot interpret the parable of the sower unless one properly understands the process of sowing seeds during New Testament times.  It is impossible to discover the truth in a parable by superimposing current culture on the Jewish culture of New Testament times.  It is important for the student of God’s Word to become familiar with the frames of reference in which the parables are set, i.e., the culture, customs, and norms of the days when Christ walked the earth.




This parable is another “kingdom of heaven” parable, which follows the parable of the wedding guests (a.k.a. parable of the wedding feast, Matthew 22:1-14) and the parable of the wise and faithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51).  All three parables were designed to teach the organizational structure of the coming millennial kingdom upon earth.  Whereas the first revealed the extraction of the “chosen” from the “called” and the second reveals the extraction of the “faithful and wise” from the chosen; this parable gives additional information about the “Bride of Christ,” i.e., the basis on which the bride is selected.


It would be helpful for the reader to have a proper understanding of the three tenses of salvation, i.e., past tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s spirit and which is immutable (unchangeable) and based solely on grace through faith in Christ, present tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s soul (life as it relates to the millennial kingdom and which is mutable (changeable) and based on divine good works during this life, and future tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s body at the Rapture.  A review of these may be gained from the topical study entitled “Rule of Three,” which may be accessed from the topical section of studies at


As previously mentioned, the parable of the faithful and wise servant is one of several parables that reveal the structure and rulership of the coming kingdom of heaven.  The occasion for it is found in a preceding chapter (Matthew 21) in which Christ announced that the kingdom of heaven would be taken from Israel and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43)—the believers (gentile and Jew) of the age of grace.  And with the setting of this parable of the “ten virgins” next to the parable of the “faithful and wise,” it may be determined that it is an “extension” to that parable, teaching the “basis” on which a believer will be chosen as a part of the bride of Christ.  By putting both parables together, we learn that he must be faithful unto the end, and he must be wise.  Finally, this wisdom that he must have, is revealed as being the “second” portion of the Word (the Holy Spirit).


Three items of interest that must be considered, as follow:


  1. The kingdom as offered to Israel was contingent upon “national repentance.”  This was the “gospel of the kingdom” as preached by John the Baptist and by Christ (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  If Israel would have repented, recognized their Messiah, and brought forth national fruit; the kingdom could have then been established and the nation would have been in it with all its spiritual blessings.  But Israel didn’t and it became a nation set aside with only future earthly blessings given to them through the unconditional Abrahamic covenant.  Individually they could be saved and become a member of the Church, but as a nation they lost their right to the kingdom by rejecting Christ.


  1. The kingdom that Israel lost is given by Christ to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof—a holy nation identified by Peter as the Church (1 Peter 2:9, 10)


  1. The kingdom was not given to this nation based on salvation only, but rather on works after salvation (Matthew 21:43b).  Thus, not all Christians will be privileged to rule and reign with Christ over the kingdom, but only those who produce divine good works—this is the key to all the parables that reveal the structure and rulership of the coming kingdom.


The Parable and Its Interpretation

Matthew 25:1-13




This is the third of five parables presented by Christ to teach the organizational structure of the coming millennial kingdom (“kingdom of heaven”) upon earth.  It follows the parable of the “faithful and wise servant.”  Starting at Matthew 24:32, Christ puts forth two major signs of the “last days” that will precede and foretell the imminent rapture of the Church. 


The first is the “parable of the fig tree” (vss. 32-35), which teaches that national Israel will return to their God-given land and which historically began in April 1948.  The second is the “sign of Noah” (vss. 36-39), which speaks of the wickedness that existed in Noah’s day (Genesis 6:5, 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), the fact that the world will not take God’s impending judgment seriously (2 Peter 3:2, 4), and the shocking surprise when the event takes place (vs. 39).


Then immediately preceding the parable of the faithful and wise servant, Christ cautions believers to be prepared for His return by revealing that when it occurs there will be a great separation of the saved from the lost upon the earth (vss. 40, 41) and that continual “watching” is necessary since:


·         They will not know “what hour [their] Lord is coming” (vs. 42).


·         Any reasonable home owner would be ready if he knew when a thief was going to break into his house (vs. 43).


·         The coming of the Son of Man will be at an unexpected time (vs. 44).


This parable further amplifies the necessity for those who have received God’s grace-gift of salvation to be ready for their Lord’s imminent return to extract them from the earth by rapture, as noted by the last words of the parable.  It also depicts the basis on which the “bride of Christ” will be selected from among all those who have been saved by faith alone in Christ alone and thereby possess eternal life.


The Parable and its Interpretation


Matthew 25:1-13

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.  But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.  And at midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 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.” 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.  Afterward 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.” Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.



This parable is often misrepresented by interpreting the “five foolish virgins” as “lost” individuals (i.e., without possession of eternal life).  This false but popular view is often taught today by conservative pastors and Bible teachers.  Then others make claim that the “wise” virgins represent the Church, while the “foolish” represent Israel.  Both views cannot be justified by the content of the parable or its context.


The number “ten” in typology is emblematic of ordinal perfection, or all of whatever is in view.  In this case it represents all Christians (saved people) of the Church Age, and thereby all who will be raptured.  The number “five” in typology is emblematic of grace, and thereby indicates that both groups have been saved by grace.  Also, Israel is never pictured as a virgin in God’s Word, but rather the adulteress wife of God the Father (Jeremiah 3:8).  Where the Church is the bride of Christ, Israel is the wife of God.


It doesn’t take an intricate or elaborate analysis of this parable in order to come to the following observations:


  • All ten of the subjects (“bride-possibilities”) in this parable were virgins, a word that in the Greek means “maiden;” or one who is unmarried, which implies a person who is clean and chaste and qualified to become a bride.


  • The bridegroom is singular, while the “bride” is plural (the five wise virgins).


  • All ten virgins “went out to meet the bridegroom.


  • All ten virgins had lamps with oil; although, only the wise ones took an additional supply of oil.


  • The thrust of the parable is about being ready once the bridegroom appears, as is evident by the last verse.


The phrase “kingdom of heaven,” which is literally translated “the rule of the heavens over the kingdom,” refers to the literal kingdom that will be established by Christ upon His second advent to earth (Revelation 19:11—20:6).  Oil in Scripture is emblematic of the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word (nustazo) for “slumbered,” which is connected to the wise virgins, means “to nod the head or be half-awake and half-asleep.  The Greek word (katheud) for “slept,” which is connected to the foolish virgins, means to lie down and go fast asleep.  The “midnight cry” is indicative of the voice (“shout”—1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) of the Lord at the Rapture.


The foolish virgins took only the oil contained within their lamps and no extra, while the wise virgins took a second portion of oil (within their lamps and within an extra vessel).  As previously mentioned oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it should be interpreted that all ten were “saved” or “children of God.”  They had received by faith the knowledge (Gk. gnosis) of Christ, which is the first portion of oil.  However, the five wise virgins had a second portion of oil, which represents “full knowledge” (Gk. epignosis) of kingdom truths.  The difference between the Greek words gnosis and epignosis in the New Testament is competently described by Whipple, as follows:


First, God uses the terms “gnosis” vs. “epignosis.”  Here a division is made on the basis of whether the Christian has only “gnosis” (Greek word for knowledge), or if he obtained, while in this life, “epignosis” (Greek word for above, or fullness of knowledge).  Gnosis is always connected to the “milk” doctrines of the Word, whereas, epignosis are truths surrounding the Second Coming and describes . . . the “meat” doctrines of the Word.  Gnosis is the knowledge of the new birth; the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, embraces the “cross,” and the “first principles of Christ: (salvation of the spirit).  Epignosis, on the other hand, is “experiential” full-knowledge.  It causes one to have a life full of “hope”—a hope in having the privilege to share the glory of Christ at His appearing when He establishes His kingdom.  It is this hope that purifies the life (1 John 3:3).  This full-knowledge then embraces the Christian who is on the road to obtaining a “mature” faith (salvation of the soul).  In order for one to have this full-knowledge, he must first be saved and then grow to understand it (1 Timothy 2:4).  This is not only necessary for the salvation of his “soul” but also for the manifold grace and peace of God for this life (2 Peter 1:2). (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


The value of epignosis (full-knowledge; meat of God’s Word) was quite apparent to Paul and is reflected in his prayer for the Ephesian believers, as follows:


Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.

(Ephesians 1:15-19)


This prayer of Paul was that they should receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  Here the word translated “knowledge” is epignosis, the knowledge that is “higher” or “full.”  It is the “above-knowledge” or “super-knowledge,” which opens the inner eye of understanding to reveal:


(1) “hope of His calling” (the high expectation of the believer who so orders his life so that he receives the “prize” or “inheritance” of God that will allow him to rule and reign with Christ in His coming kingdom).


(2) “what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (the abundant splendor of wealth of the inheritance for those who will be co-heirs with Christ during the millennial kingdom).


(3) “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (the great experiential power of God that is available to God’s children who possess daily faith and full discernment—the “fullness of the Holy Spirit.”).


The ten virgins represent the Church during the first century.  And in many respects it represents believers throughout the Church Age.  From the beginning of the Church and until the Rapture, a less than fully cognizant and active condition has prevailed and will prevail in the body of believers, as represented by verses 5 and 7.  As the bridegroom tarried, they all either “slumbered” or “slept.”  The “wise” virgins” maintained a half-alert state, while the “foolish” virgins were totally asleep—a picture of the Church today.


When the midnight cry is heard, which is indicative of the Rapture, then there will be the time for judgment of believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) and the selection of the Bride of Christ.


To understand the choosing of the bride, we must first study the typology that teaches of the relationship between Boaz and Ruth.  In Ruth 3:1-10, Boaz is presented as a type of Christ in the choosing of His bride.  This happens after his field has been harvested (type of the Rapture) and brought to the threshing floor for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff (type of the Judgment Seat of Christ).  However, before this occurs, Ruth (a type of the Bride of Christ), a “Gentile” and near kinsman of Boaz, was instructed by Naomi (a type of the Holy Spirit through the Word) to go to Boaz, while he was at the threshing floor during the night, and to ask him to become her kinsman redeemer (this included marriage).  Further, Naomi instructed her that before she went she must first cleanse and anoint herself (type of all sin having been confessed and the obtaining of a double portion of the Spirit).  Then, she was told to go and lie at the feet of Boaz and do whatever He says [act of total submission].  This action shows in type form, the “faithful and wise” [Matthew 24:45-51] who have knowledge of the kingdom.  This is so, because the feet of Boaz are a type of the feet of Jesus, which is emblematic of His coming kingship when He will dispose of Satan and judge the nations (Romans 16:20; Isaiah 63:6; Revelation 1:15; 19:15).  Finally, the scripture tells us that this happened at “midnight,” which shows that Ruth, representing the Bride of Christ, was spiritually awake (watching for the coming of the Lord) while the other maidens (the rest of the saved) were asleep.  Thus the choosing of the Gentile Bride of Christ will occur immediately after the midnight-cry (the rapture of the Church). (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


The word “midnight” is also used in the Old Testament in connection with judgment, e.g., the judgment of God on Egypt was at midnight (Exodus 11:4; 12:29).


The parable reveals that when the bridegroom comes only the five wise virgins were prepared to be chosen as his bride, which indicates that only those Christians who are properly prepared will be chosen by Christ as His bride subsequent to the Rapture.  Immediately at the recognition of the coming of the bridegroom the five foolish virgins realized that they were short on oil, as they asked for a loan of oil from the five wise virgins.


The text declares that “they all arose (all ten were raptured),” and then trimmed their lamps (to prepare themselves for the wedding).  We get a better understanding of this when we discover that the “lamp” represents the Word of God in their lives, the “oil” the Holy Spirit that has sealed them, and the “wick,” that part of their lives that should be burning itself out as a witness.  All ten virgins in our parable trimmed their lamps (attempted to fill their lamps with the double portion of oil).  But the five foolish virgins were too late.  They had no oil with them to trim their lamps. (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


The wise virgins refused the foolish virgins request for oil because then they would not have enough to enter the marriage chamber.  Furthermore, the second portion of oil was dissimilar to (a different kind of oil from) the first portion.  The first portion of oil was “free;” the second portion had to be “bought.”  The first portion represents the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of their “spirits;” the second portion represents the “power” of the Holy Spirit in the coming salvation of their “souls” (“lives”—during this life and in the coming kingdom).  The first portion is freely (without cost) given (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Revelation 22:17) the moment one exercises faith alone in Christ alone; the second portion must be bought (with great personal cost of one’s “self”—Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Philippians 1:29; Galatians 2:20).  The first portion of oil is for eternal life (entrance into heaven); the second is for millennial life (rulership in the kingdom of heaven).


But the foolish virgins realized this truth too late.  They had been fast asleep to spiritual truth (epignosis) while being satisfied with just being saved (gnosis).  They were saved, had the gift (sealing) of the Holy Spirit (first portion of oil), but they had not prepared themselves for the Rapture (first aspect of the Second Coming of Christ).  If they had “bought” the second portion of oil (epignosis), they would have known to make themselves ready and to watch for the bridegroom (Christ).


In verse 9 of our parable, the foolish virgins were told that they must go and “buy” from those who sell, in order to obtain this second portion of oil.  The meaning of this verse is a mystery to the popular Bible expositor.  He cannot conceive of the scripture telling the five foolish virgins, whom he thinks are lost, to go and buy salvation, when Ephesians 2:9 declares salvation to be without works.


However, the second portion of oil is not salvation (gnosis), but rather the full discernment (epignosis) of the Word, which pertains to the “inheritance.”  To buy and sell means to sell daily a port of your “life” in order to “buy” more of this wisdom and full discernment of the Word (strong meat).  This can be described as one who is willing to “lose” more of his life daily in order to “receive” more of the higher knowledge of the Word (double portion of the Holy Spirit).  This price is not only a daily “surrender” and commitment to the Lord, but also a willingness to “labor” in the Word.  Jesus Himself referred to this when He said, “he that loses his life for my sake will find it.” [Matthew 16:24-27Or to put it another way, “he that sells portions of his life daily, can replace it by buying portions of the Word” (double portion of the Holy Spirit).  When one begins to buy this double portion, he comes to understand that it is the “gold that cannot be destroyed” [I Corinthians 3:12-15], “the wedding garment itself (righteous works) [Revelation 19:8],” and “spiritual eye-salve” to give him even deeper insight into the Word (Revelation 3:18). (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


The conclusion of the parable shows that while the foolish virgins went to buy, the five wise virgins who were “ready” went in with the bridegroom to the marriage.  Afterward, the foolish ones came and knocked on the door to the bridal chamber begging to be let in; but the bridegroom replies that He does not know them, i.e., does not recognize them as being a part of the bride.


The key to this parable is in the last verse.  Here, our Lord does not tell the foolish virgins that they need salvation, but rather to watch for His coming.  This necessitates making themselves ready by buying and trading for the second portion of oil.  Also, with the setting of this parable next to the parable of the “faithful and wise,” we understand that it is an “extension” to that parable, teaching the “basis” on which a believer will be chosen as a part of the bride of Christ.  By putting both parables together, we learn that he must be faithful unto the end, and he must be wise.  Finally, this wisdom that he must have is revealed as being the “double portion” of the Word (the Holy Spirit). (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


And so it will be, when soon after the Rapture, all Christians will be gathered to Christ for His examination of their lives subsequent to their “salvation” (Romans 2:6; 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:24, 25; Revelation 22:12); but those who have not purchased gold refined in fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Revelation 3:18), white garments with which to be clothed (Revelation 3:18; 19:8), and eye salve with which to see, i.e., epignosis (Revelation 19:8) will be denied (not known) as part of the Bride of Christ.  They will miss out on the highest obtainable position of rulership with Christ during the millennial kingdom upon earth.  And yet, they will be saved, i.e., maintain their eternal life (1 Corinthians 3:15).