I know I’ve written about the parable of the ten virgins located in Matthew 25:1-13 in previous blogs, but today I want to focus on a particular aspect of this parable. Just as a reminder, this parable speaks of ten virgins, five who were foolish and five who were wise. The setting, or the picture you can say, comes from the wedding customs of the ancient Jews. In this setting, the bride and groom have already entered into a marriage contract with each other, and before the consummation of this process the groom leaves the bride to prepare a place for her. During this time they don’t have any contact with each other. While the groom is away at his father’s house preparing a place for his bride, the bride is identified and set apart as one who is spoken for and already married, and her time is to be spent preparing herself with diligence for her groom, not knowing when he will return for her. While it is the groom’s responsibility to prepare a place for his bride, the bride’s responsibility is to diligently prepare herself for him by the time he returns for her. During this time she is to be watching with anticipation for her grooms return, and this is because she knows that if he finds her not watching with anticipation, he will return to his father’s house without her and will subsequently give her a letter of divorcement. It is a shameful thing for a bride to get left behind because she wasn’t watching for her grooms return, but if she is found watching the groom will take her back to his father’s house where they will finally consummate their marriage.
In this parable, the virgins represent Christians, those who have entered into a saving relationship with Christ. Just as these virgins are waiting for the return of the groom, even so we are waiting for the return of our groom, Jesus. At midnight the cry is sounded indicating the imminent return of the groom, and for us as Christians the cry of Christ’s return for us has been sounding through the explosive rate in which end-time Bible prophecy has been getting fulfilled right before our eyes. As the virgins awoke from the sounding cry announcing the return of the bridegroom, even so we need to awaken to the cry of our grooms soon and imminent return for us, His bride. When the virgins awoke to the cry, they immediately began to make final preparations for the grooms return. So, seeing the fulfillment of end-times Bible prophecy indicating Jesus’ imminent return, are we making final preparations for Him?
When the virgins awoke they began to check and to trim their lamps, and it wasn’t until this point in the parable that it became evident who were wise and who were foolish. Those who were foolish were identified by their lack of oil, and when they asked the wise for some of theirs they were told to go to those who sell to buy their own. It was during this time that the bridegroom returned and took the wise back to his father’s house, and when the foolish returned they were denied entrance to the wedding. What does the oil represent in the life of a Christian, and how does one obtain it?
Over the years I have heard two arguments as to what the oil represents, but I want to propose a third argument of what it represents. Based on the fact that the Holy Spirit is sometimes represented in scripture as oil, some have argued that the oil in this parable also represents the Holy Spirit. The problem I have with this argument is that we cannot buy the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:9-25, we have someone that tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit, and he was rebuked for it by the Apostles. The second argument is that the oil represents ones works, and while I do believe there is some basis for this view I do disagree with that one. Our salvation is not a result of works, but scripture does point to works resulting from and because of our salvation and relationship with Christ. Some would argue that we are free from having to do any works because of the grace by which we are saved, but this isn’t so. In Philippians 2:12-13, we are told by the Apostle Paul to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”, and that we are “to do” for His good pleasure. In other instances of Paul’s writing’s, when he mentions “fear and trembling”, it is connected to obedience which implies works on our part. In James 2:14-26, James the brother of Jesus tells us that faith without works is dead, and that our faith is made perfect by our works. Okay, I got onto a bit of a rabbit trail with that, but I do not believe the oil entirely represents our works.
The third argument I would like to suggest for what the oil represents is based on the comments of the wise virgins to the foolish, specifically that they were to go and buy from those who sell. As was mentioned previously, you can’t buy and sell the Holy Spirit, so what does this mean? I realize this is a parable, but I believe Jesus is trying to tell us something with that statement. In fact, does Jesus make any reference anywhere else about buying or costs? Yes, He does in fact. In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus talks about the cost of following Him. In this passage He talks of one seeking to build and that a wise builder counts whether or not he has enough to finish building, and in the same way talks of a king seeking to go to war and that a good king will count the cost of whether or not he has enough to win the war. Jesus goes on to say we need to count the cost of following Him, and that anything less than totally surrendering to Him and dying to self is not enough. While some may argue there is no cost in following Jesus, Jesus makes it very clear that there is a very significant cost to following after Him. The cost He is requiring of us is a New Testament version of the first commandment of the Old Testament, to love the Lord our God with all our strength, mind, heart and soul. Where the Old Testament laws focused on words and actions, the two New Testament commandments Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:34-40 not only encapsulated the ten into two, but also enhanced them by focusing on the heart and our motivations and attitudes. Jesus’ teachings reinforced by the rest of the New Testament writings, requires us to check our heart condition by the motivations, attitudes, and priorities of our heart. To follow after Jesus and to be His disciples requires us to die to self, to deny ourselves and carry our cross to follow Him. To do so means we place our goals, our agendas, our selfish desires, our likes and dislikes, our successes and failures, our friends and family, and even our reputations on the cross and let Him live through us. The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20 that we need to die to self so that Christ will live through us.
So, I believe the oil in this parable represents the cost of following Christ, and how much or how little we paid that price. This would also explain why it was it took the foolish virgin’s time to acquire more oil as this is something that takes time. It isn’t based on our words but on our priorities and the actions or works we do that reflect them. So, it’s in the oil. Is our life one where we’ve been paying the price of following Him, or did our relationship with Him start correctly at the time we said “I do” to Him only to fade as we allowed the cares of life, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life to take precedence in our life. Depending on the translation of the Bible you use, either the foolish virgins lamps had already gone out, or they were in the process of going out. In either case, they didn’t have enough oil to keep their lamps burning and were in dire need of getting more oil.
In this parable, the five foolish virgins got more oil, missed the grooms return and went to the groom’s house, but the door was shut and they were denied entrance. The parable doesn’t indicate what happened to them beyond their being denied entrance, but one thing for sure is that they were no longer the bride. In regards to the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, there will be some who are left behind and no longer considered the bride. In Luke 14:29, Jesus said the builder who didn’t have enough to finish would be mocked by those who see it, and in Revelation 16:15 Jesus tells us in the midst of the judgments that those who had not watched and kept their garments (of righteousness) would be seen naked and ashamed. I don’t know about you, but I have no intentions of being left behind to be seen as naked and ashamed.
Where does it leave those who weren’t prepared for Jesus’ return and was left behind? In previous blogs I have written about the seven feasts God established to show us His plan of redemption for all mankind. The first four have already been fulfilled with three remaining. The next feast to be fulfilled is the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah. This feast represents what we know to be the rapture of the church, where as the Jews understand it is when God separates the wholly righteous from the wholly unrighteous and those in between. It is the period of time between this feast and the following feast called Yom Kippur that we have an idea of what awaits those who don’t go up in the rapture. The dispensation of grace ends with the rapture of the bride, Rosh Hashanah, and afterwards people will solidify their eternal destination based on their works. Either they will do works that will reinforce their desire to spend eternity in heaven, or they will do works that will reinforce their decision to reject God and His only begotten Son, Jesus. If this understanding is accurate, then those who are left behind will have to prove by their works that they desire to spend eternity in Heaven, even if it means giving their own life for the sake of Jesus. They might not enter Heaven as the bride of Christ, but they could possibly enter as the friend of the bride and groom.
So, it’s in the oil. Do you have enough oil to last until He returns, or should you go and buy some more? I hope you have enough, and I hope you are watching for Christ’s return. I also encourage you to read the words of Jesus found in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, words that Jesus gave the Apostle John about 60 years after His ascension, words that each of us who take on the name of Christian must heed and take seriously and to heart. Again, it’s in the oil.