10. "The Five Foolish Women and Their Friends"

(The parable is also known as The Parable of the Ten Virgins and The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids.)

Matthew 25:1–13

The 10 virgins, five with lit lamps

This parable is intended to teach us about the suddenness and unexpectedness of the Lord's second coming. It calls for us to be prepared for that unknown moment.
The chapter begins with Christ referring to a specific time: His second coming. He was speaking of when He comes to reward the faithful servant and punish the unfaithful servant. The parable of the 10 virgins tells us what will happen when the kingdom comes.
It tells us that Christ will come at an unexpected moment to judge sinners and reward the righteous. Afterward, there will be no second chance. People may knock on Kingdom's door all they want, but the door will remain shut.

The Five Foolish Women and Their Friends — Matthew 25:1–13

(Excerpts from a John MacArthur commentary)

Four things we need to understand about this parable: the wedding, the bridesmaids, the bridegroom, and the warning.

1. The Wedding (v. 1)

The scene Jesus depicts in His parable is a wedding. In Bible times, weddings were the big village event. They were the greatest social celebration. Everyone got involved: friends, families, and neighbors. They were a time of happiness and festivity.

You can imagine the anticipation of the bride and bridegroom as they wait for the whole marriage process to begin. That's what we see in the parable of the ten virgins. The wedding celebration started when the bridegroom came to the bride's house. The bride and all the bridesmaids would be there waiting for him. Then they'd all go through the village, at night with torches, in a celebration of singing, talking, and joy, unequalled to any other social event. In the parable, everything was ready for the wedding to start. The bridegroom had prepared a home. He was now coming to take his bride to their new home. He would come at night so the procession through the village could be enjoyed by everyone. Then the wedding party would go to the couple's house, where the celebration would continue for as long as seven days. At the end of the celebration, a friend of the bridegroom would take the hand of the bride, place it in the hand of the bridegroom, and everyone would leave. Then the couple would physically consummate their marriage.

2. The Bridesmaids (vv. 1–5)
Matthew 25:1 introduces us to 10 virgins with lamps. The Greek word translated "lamps" means "torches." These torches were long, wooden poles that had some kind of wire mesh attached to the end, filled with cloth. That cloth would be soaked in oil, then lit. When people used those torches, they carried a little flask of oil with them so they could keep the torch lit as long as necessary. So the 10 bridesmaids (virgins) are at the house of the bride with their torches, waiting for the bridegroom to come.

In the parable, the bridesmaids are called "virgins" (Gk., parthenos), which refers to an unmarried girl who is a virgin. People married young in Bible times, and often the bridesmaids were young girls who were sisters, cousins, or intimate friends of the bride. It was a special joy and privilege for them to attend the bride and wait in anticipation of the glorious evening when the bridegroom would come.

There's nothing significant about the bridesmaids being virgins. Jesus called them virgins simply because bridesmaids were usually virgins. Notice also that there were "10" virgins. Apparently the Jewish people favored the number 10. Ten men had to be present at a wedding to give the proper blessing. It took 10 men to constitute a synagogue. Apparently 10 bridesmaids was a customary number to have and all 10 had a torch. Just as bridesmaids today carry flowers to show they are part of a wedding party, they carried torches in those days. They waited in anticipation of meeting the bridegroom.

Who was Christ referring to when He spoke of the 10 virgins? It's obvious from the context He was talking about people who profess to be Christians — to be part of the church. They say they know Christ, and they anticipate His coming. They even say they are prepared for Him; they have on their wedding garment and have their torch. Their presence symbolizes their interest in Christ and their torch symbolizes their profession of faith in Christ. They all show outward marks of watching for the coming of bridegroom Christ. They are gathered as bridesmaids, waiting to be received into the glorious marriage celebration.

The oil represents "saving grace." In a crowd of people who outwardly appear to honor Christ will be some whose hearts are unprepared. They've not received salvation by grace. The oil in this parable is reminiscent of the wedding garment in Matthew 22:11. (Remember Lee's parable? A king found a guest at his son's wedding without a wedding garment and kicked him out. The man was unprepared to enter God's kingdom; he hadn't prepared his heart.)

Jesus says in Matthew 25:5, "The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep." Apparently, the bridegroom didn't come when the bridesmaids expected him. Perhaps the Lord was subtly telling the disciples that the kingdom wouldn't come immediately as they thought it would. Instead, there'd be a long wait. Notice, too, that both the wise and the foolish virgins were asleep. So there wasn't anything wrong with being asleep. It's just that the wise virgins were already prepared before they fell asleep. They were ready for whatever might come when they woke up. But the foolish were caught unprepared. They should have gotten oil for their lamps while they had the opportunity. Their false security let them sleep through the day of opportunity.

3. The Bridegroom (vv. 6–12)
Matthew 25:6 begins, "At midnight the cry rang out." Midnight is a late time to start a wedding. The point our Lord wanted to make is that He will return at an unexpected time. Matthew 25:6 tells us next of the cry that was made: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' That glorious moment began the wedding; the celebration would go on for several days; the bride and the 10 bridesmaids began the procession; and the bridesmaids would light their torches to light the way back to the groom's house. This moment in the wedding is analogous to the moment of Christ's second coming.

In verse 7 Jesus says, "Then all those virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps." They probably had to get the cloth at the end of the torch ready to receive the oil. Those who had oil with them poured it on the cloth and lit their torches. Those who didn't have oil (internal holiness) now realized they were unprepared. So they asked the wise virgins for some oil. That the foolish virgins are told to buy oil doesn't mean salvation can be bought. It's a free gift (Romans 6:23). But there is a price: you have to give up your very self.

In verse 10 we read that while the foolish virgins went to get oil, "the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut." There was no place for the foolish virgins to buy oil at midnight. While they were gone, the door to the wedding was shut. [But the door into the kingdom is open now. Some day it will be shut. Some people will be caught unprepared.]

4. The Warning (v. 13)
The parable concludes, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" (v. 13). No one knows the exact moment of Christ's second coming. We know the era: it will be right after the tribulation. But how much time will pass after that before the Lord comes? No one knows. So be ready now. Even if you're a little to late, you may be too late, forever.

Warning: Don't be caught unprepared for the bridegroom's second coming!

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