I was reading the parable of the Ten Virgins today. It’s interesting that both the wise and the foolish virgins fell asleep. They were waiting for the bridegroom and when he was delayed, they fell asleep. Jesus warns us to watch and wait.
You know the story. They all had lamps with oil. The wise ones had extra oil just in case the oil in their lamps ran out but the foolish ones didn’t. When the announcement that the bridegroom was on his way came, the foolish virgins panicked. They asked the wise ones to give them oil because theirs was going out. Unfortunately for them the wise ones couldn’t help them. They needed their reserve. So, the foolish ones had to leave and buy more oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom came and the wise brides who were ready, went inside with him. When the foolish ones came back, the door was closed. They couldn’t get in. They cried out to the bridegroom to open the door for them but he replied, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Jesus ended the parable with the warning, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
A long time ago I did an online Bible study course about this parable and learned the following:
The ten virgins waiting for the coming of the bridegroom, symbolize all the sincere believers who love Jesus and are waiting for His return. They are called virgins because they persevere and remain faithful even in the face of trials and tribulations. They are the ones who will overcome. The bridegroom, of course is Jesus.
The lamps the ten virgins had are the Word of God. Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). When believers carry out God’s word, we become lights in the world. We share the good news about God’s love, His grace and salvation and bring people to the One who gave His life for them.
The oil in the lamps represents the Holy Spirit. He keeps the lamp of our hearts burning continuously. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, we become firmly established in faith, and we bear more and more good fruit for God. The anointing of the Holy Spirit progressively reveals the will of God to us. If we put into practice what He teaches us, God will fill our «oil reserve», thus making us steadfast enough to face the coming trials.
The wise virgins knew that it was possible that the bridegroom might be delayed so they decided to take a reserve of oil with them. Their decision distinguished them from the other five virgins and they were ready when the groom showed up. Jesus expects us to be prepared when He comes. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know when that will be. We have to be ready. Just as the wise virgins suspected, the groom was delayed but they were ready. They were there waiting for him when he arrived. That’s the important thing. Will Jesus find us waiting for Him when He returns? Will we be like the faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. When the master returns, he finds that the servant has done a good job and will reward him (Matthew 24:45, 46).
This parable shows that even the faithful can fall asleep. The wise virgins fell asleep. This reminds me of when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane and was praying. Peter, James and John were asleep. Jesus said to them, “What, could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40, 41).
Paul also warns us about how we are to conduct ourselves in the last days. For yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that that Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4-6, 8). Basically, he is telling us not to fall asleep spiritually. The bridegroom is about to return, so we must be watchful as we wait for Him.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11,12).
“Watch you therefore: for you know not when the Master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. And what I say to you I say to all, Watch” (Mark 13:35-37).
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches” (Revelation 16:15).
The Bible study lesson I did explains that midnight represents a dark hour–time. It was at midnight when a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Jesus’ return will take place at a time when the world is in deep spiritual darkness. In Luke 21:34-36, Jesus warned us, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that Day come on you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
He warned us that just before His return we will go through a dark and difficult period. God, in His mercy, shortened this period for the sake of His elect or no one would have been able to overcome.
The whole point of this parable is “be ready”. The wise virgins were not being mean when refused to share their oil. It is clear that when we are not ready, no one else can help us. No one else can “give” us their “oil.” Just as we are responsible for our own salvation, we are responsible for how prepared we are when Jesus returns. We can’t expect others to prepare us. We have to prepare ourselves. We have to have our own reserve of oil so that when the oil in our lamps runs out, we have more to put in it.
The bottom line is: be ready when the Lord comes, lest He says to you, “I do not know you.”
We all want to attend the wedding. So, let us be wise. We must keep our lamps burning. We must develop and maintain a steadfast personal relationship with God, so that we can rely on our very own reserve of oil. No one else can have a relationship with God for us. The oil reserve is the believer’s faith strengthened by God’s Spirit. It is impossible for that believer to transfer his faith to the heart of another who hasn’t prepared himself for the dark times. We can’t rely on someone else’s reserve of oil. We can’t rely on someone else’s faith to get us through the dark times. God gives each of us a measure of faith. Only He can increase it. And we are responsible for exercising it. We are responsible for putting it in action. The wise virgins put their faith into action when they prepared enough oil so that if the groom was delayed, they would be ready no matter when he showed up. We have to be faithful until the end and this faith is evident when we are watchful as we wait. Our faith will keep us awake so that when that midnight cry is heard, we are ready to go and meet our Lord. We cannot be like the people of Noah’s day who were warned about the flood but continued living as they pleased and when the flood came, they perished.
This parable also teaches us that claiming to be Christians is not enough. We must also follow God’s will. Jesus told us to not be hearers of the Word only but doers as well. The wise man built his house (life) on the teachings of Jesus so that when the storms of life came, he was able to withstand them. We must not be lukewarm like the church of Laodicea. We must be aware of our spiritual state and seek the Lord’s help to change it.