At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ (Matthew 25:1-6)
This is the first of three parables of judgment in Matthew 25, offering a vivid depiction of judgment and the Kingdom of God. The Lord speaks of ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. The customs of weddings in that era involved a slow, night-time procession to the wedding banquet. While all ten bridesmaids had lamps, only half were prepared with oil, a necessity for safely navigating the night. As they all waited, they fell asleep, only to be awakened at midnight by the unexpected announcement of the bridegroom’s arrival.
This setting mirrors the time of Jesus, where many were spiritually asleep, engrossed in mundane activities, failing to recognize the significance of the Messiah’s arrival. The bridegroom represents our Lord Jesus Christ, while the virgins symbolize us, the believers. The oil they carry holds deep significance, it signifies the Holy Spirit and our readiness in faith. This is a warning us that the Lord will come at some unknown time at midnight, like the bridegroom did at midnight, when a cry rang out.
Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ (Matthew 25:7-9)
The parable continues with the five unprepared foolish virgins asking the wise virgins to give them some of their oil, but being rebuffed. This emphasizes a crucial truth to us, that one’s relationship with God is deeply personal and the Holy Spirit cannot be borrowed or shared. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a free gift, symbolized by the act of buying oil in the parable. What does that mean? A verse in Isaiah helps illuminate this for us.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)
While the grace and blessings of God are freely given, there is also an aspect where the gifts of God are accepted in our hearts, or as the prophet Isaiah says, we can buy without cost. A heart open to the Spirit is one that yearns for more: more truth, righteousness, and understanding of God’s will.
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:10-13)
The climax of the parable reveals the dire consequences of unpreparedness. When the bridegroom arrives, the five virgins without oil miss their chance to join the wedding banquet, illustrating the importance of readiness for the unpredictable day of judgment. As believers, we are reminded not to become complacent or distracted by worldly pursuits and sinful depravity. Apostle Paul echoes the same sentiments in his letters to the church at Thessalonica.
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8)
As the Apostle says, we do not know the time and the date the Lord will return, but we also must not be in darkness, asleep, and drunk in the sinful world. Rather, the Apostle calls us to be children of light, awake, sober, and ready with the oil of the Holy Spirit burning in us. The parable serves as a clarion call, urging us to be spiritually vigilant. We must live our lives with a deep sense of purpose, always prepared for the Kingdom of God.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about At Midnight, the Cry Rang Out.