Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Parable of The Ten Virgins - Explained - Part 1
Matthew 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
What is this parable all about, for I have heard all manner of explanations of it? None of which, I hasten to add, have ever made much sense other than to be used by 'ministers' or 'pastors' to spiritually abuse and bully their flocks. I am sad to have to say there are more than several passages of Scripture that are used in this negative and abusive way. As another example please see my article entitled "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling - Oh really, is that so!?"
This is the general 'Christian' ministerial consensus of opinion on this parable. The virgins are always (metaphorically) the membership of the congregation or body of believers, not the ministry. The five wise virgins are those members who are always at 'church' every Sunday putting on their Sunday best, including their Sunday best behaviour and Sunday smiles and sit there without questioning a word the minister/pastor says. They believe everything he says and in reality follow him and his religion not The Lord Jesus Christ. In contrast, the five foolish virgins are those members who do question things, are lax in their attendance and may even be 'church' hoppers or very unfulfilled and find their Christian religious walk all a bit too tough and boring. They find the daily cleansing, struggling to 'get right with God', finding time for their quiet time, always getting ready for the next renewal, salvation by process and/or self-improvement, very hard work indeed, even stressful. They don't understand the apparent contradiction of Our Lord's words "Take my yoke upon you for it is light;" they find the yoke they are bearing unbelievably heavy. Then to compound their wretched Spiritual condition, along comes old Bible basher Joe the Pastor and gives his sermon on The Ten Virgins and these poor people are now down on their hands and knees under the weight of his man made yoke. Just to make sure, this minister tells them that unless they shape up and get with it (salvation by works) they are just like the five foolish virgins.
So, what is the real meaning of this parable? Well it is fairly easy to work out if you use the correct symbolism and study a little into the traditions of Jewish weddings. First and foremost The Bridegroom is Jesus Christ and His bride is the Church. Now this is where mainstream Christian teachers go wrong and place the Ten Virgins in this parable as the Church when they are not. In actual fact The Bride is not mentioned in this parable at all and it is not mentioned deliberately because Our Lord Jesus Christ was making a very different point entirely and in places a very mockingly sarcastic point too.
Even in the first century, Jewish weddings had bridesmaids and that is what these Ten Virgins are – bridesmaids. Now what is the role of a bridesmaid? Why, to look after and take care of the bride so she's ready for the wedding – who else? Who is the Bride – The Church that's who. So who are these Bridesmaids? Ah now we're getting to it!! The bridesmaids are ministers, pastors, elders and teachers; those responsible for looking after the after the bride. Again, who is the bride? The church of course and the bridesmaids or virgins as they're called here are supposed to be taking care of their flocks and protecting them in fresh green pastures. Which means feeding them with what; the Good News what else; the Good News of real salvation, grace and the coming Kingdom of God? Please see my two articles on the subject of Grace.
In Adam Clarke's commentary He says the oil for the lamps is Grace and he is correct with his analogy for without Grace it is impossible for The Light (Jesus Christ) to shine. The five wise virgins are ministers or pastors who understand Grace and it flows from them. Their flocks carry a light yoke so they are very strong and secure in faith. This in turn means because these congregations are grace (oil) filled The Light (Jesus Christ) shines from them continually. On the other hand we then have the five foolish virgins who are grace killers; they have no oil for their lamps - no grace, so their congregations are oppressed and down trodden. These congregations are very legalistic in nature or full of rules and regulations - The Ten Commandments and some, and all laid down with a big stick from the pulpit every Sunday. This means the lamps of these virgins - ministers and pastors (Pharisees) cannot shine because there is no grace in their teaching. The Light and/or the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ has gone out of their teaching and possibly out of their lives altogether - their lamps have no oil.
One other thing, some people use this parable as metaphor for the saved and the unsaved i.e. the five wise virgins are saved and the unwise are not. This is a gross perversion of the use of this Scripture. How do we know that? Easy, all the virgins slept and this means all the virgins had metaphorically entered The Lord's Sabbath Rest - all the virgins were called by the Father to His Son so they were all without excuse.
Ok, last but not least we have the message of wisdom and foolishness in this parable whereby no symbolism is necessary. Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (teach a false graceless unjust message) 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (no oil, no light). 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (no wisdom and the teaching of a non-gospel) 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, (Man, who turns the worship of God into religion with all his rules, legalism and salvation by works) and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. (Brackets mine)
Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Salvation by works) 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
So there we have it, the wisdom of Grace versus the foolishness of men with their Graceless legalistic religion, vain traditions and rituals and salvation by works. The Pharisaical blasphemous interpretation of Scripture which puts True Believers into bondage and makes the lives of many of God's sons and daughters a living hell! I know I used to be one of them so I pray to The Lord Jesus Christ that they are all set free and soon.
In part two I will be dealing with verses 9 and 12 as they are also crucial to fully understanding this parable.