JESUS’ COMPARISON OF THE TEN VIRGINS
In the gospels, only Matthew recorded Jesus’ comparison of events in the kingdom of God on earth with the behavior of ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). What is particularly noteworthy in the comparison was that the bridegroom’s meeting with the virgins was delayed until after midnight. The following essay will interpret the comparison as it relates to the Jewish marriage custom.
The Jewish Marriage Custom
The Jewish marriage custom is comprised of four stages (Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Footsteps of the Messiah, rev. ed. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2004, 587). The stages are:
- the arrangement for the bride-to-be made by the bridegroom’s father with her family;
- the bridegroom’s fetching of his bride;
- the marriage ceremony; and,
- the marriage supper or feast.
Identity of the Bridegroom and the Bride in the Comparison
The bridegroom is Jesus Christ Himself (cf. John 3:22-29). The bride is Jesus’ church which began in AD 33 at the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem by the gift to Jesus’ disciples of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-8).
The Ten Virgins
| The ten virgins of Jesus’ comparison likely represented young Jewish women who lived during Daniel’s 70th week—sometimes known as the tribulation (cf. Dan. 9:27 for the 70th week). As virgins, they had been living on earth under the New Covenant (cf. Ezek. 36:22-27 for the New Covenant’s features including sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit).
Their virginity was highlighted because their earthly lives had remained spiritually undefiled by a Jewish generation living life under the obsolete covenant, aka the Old Covenant (cf. Jas. 1:27 for undefiled and Heb. 8:15 for obsolete).
The virgins had joined the ranks of glorified humans; however, they had not become members of Jesus’ bride, the church. Jesus’ bride—comprised of His people from AD 33 up to (and including) the rapture—was a completed entity in heaven preceding the virgins’ activity during Daniel’s 70th week.
The virgins’ role was to be attendants to the bride during the bride’s marriage ceremony eventually to be followed by Jesus’ marriage supper/feast on earth.
The virgins had oil-filled lamps. The oil in Jesus’ comparison may have symbolized the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the virgins’ lives as the source of spiritual power, light, and sanctification (Unger, Merrill, F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966, 805-806).
Insufficient oil suggests a quenching of the Spirit resulting in what might be termed ‘works sanctification’ rather than sanctification by faith in Jesus and the subsequent loss of an inheritance (Acts 26:18; 1 Thess. 5:19). Evidently, five of the virgins had become indifferent, apathetic, and lukewarm to Jesus’ spiritual presence in their lives resulting in a separation of their fellowship with Him (cf. Rev. 3:14-16 wherein the lukewarm local Laodicean church during the apostle John’s ministry is a type for a Jewish dominated mixed-gender congregation during Daniel’s 70th week).
The Bridegroom’s Delay
The virgins had been awaiting Jesus’ arrival which would result in His escorting them to the marriage ceremony. However, Jesus delayed His arrival until midnight (Matt. 25:5-6).
Absent street lights, the virgins had equipped themselves with oil-fueled lamps so they could see their way to the marriage ceremony at night.
Please note: the delay in Jesus’ marriage ceremony will cause subsequent delays in His second coming, God’s second recovery to the land of Diaspora Jews from the nations (cf. Isa. 11:11; Matt. 24:31), and God’s earthly marriage feast given for His Son. The delay could be caused by a delay in the rapture of the church due to deeds requiring completion by leaders in local (perhaps messianic) congregations (cf. Rev. 3:2-3). Or, the rapture’s delay might be due to about-to-occur conversions and/or additional growth in spiritual maturity.
Jesus’ delay resulted in five of the virgins running out of oil for their lamps because they had foolishly neglected to carry additional oil supplies in flasks.
Also, the obvious implication from this episode is that the virgins had no idea at what precise hour, or even which day, Jesus would arrive during those two contiguous days.
Alas, five of the bride’s chosen (and saved) attendants failed to make the marriage ceremony because of their foolish belief of not practicing sanctification by faith in Jesus (cf. Wilkin, Bob. The Ten Virgins. Grace in Focus. Denton: Texas, January/February 2017, 5). They never lost their salvations from sins (aka justification), but they likely suffered distress and embarrassment from their works (cf. Rom. 2:9 and 1 Cor. 3:10-15 for some believers suffering heavenly distress).
A similar situation was described parabolically by Jesus in Matthew 22:1-14. The situation related to Jesus’ marriage supper on earth (aka Jesus’ marriage feast) and the invited believing guests. One guest was promptly dismissed from the feast to the darkness outside the wedding hall because of his inappropriate attire. In distress, he subsequently suffered weeping with gnashing of teeth in pain or regretful anger due to his loss of an inheritance.