This section contains parables describing the kingdom of heaven at the time of judgment. These all begin with a phrase like “the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who…” They can be better understood by reading this as “The kingdom of heaven in the end time can be described by the story in which ten virgins who…” I say this because people sometimes get confused and think that the ten virgins represent the kingdom; but it’s the entire story (told in three different ways) that explains the kingdom.
We know that heaven is where “The King” reigns from; but the kingdom also includes the earth where we people live. Each of these parables shows a contrast of those who belong to the King and those who do not. Obviously, not every person living within the realm of the kingdom accepts Him as King. There is a key difference between those found in Matthew 13 and these parables. The former contains a warning for people to accept Jesus as King. This one however, identities the point in time when it is too late for a change of heart. As you read these, remember that parables can only be understood by those who have the Spirit –those who have accepted Him for life. (See “Overview of Parables.")
Each parable has a different context: women waiting for the bridegroom, men managing money, a shepherd with flocks. The intent is for the reader to identify himself with at least one of these situations so that the message is relevant to him. But the theme is the same. Once the time for judgment has arrived, the judge will separate everyone into one of two very distinct groups. The righteous enter into eternal life –that’s being present with God for eternity due to faith in Jesus. The other group remains outside of that life; it’s referred to as darkness, eternal punishment, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“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, 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!’ 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.’
“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. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)
Ten virgins – Some translations use the word “maidens” rather than virgins; another uses “bridesmaids.” Nonetheless, in the Bible, women are a picture of mankind’s relationship with God. “Why virgins or maidens?” you might ask. The answer is that they were unmarried and looking for husbands. In this parable there are five wise women and five foolish ones. The wise ones trusted God and came to Him on His terms. It’s the equivalent of accepting Jesus’ marriage proposal. With Him telling the story, we can be sure that He is saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” ( ).
Lamps – The lamps symbolize what people tell the world that they believe about their relationship with God. –It’s their testimony. uses the lamp to explain this, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Oil – It’s the energy source for the lamps. The oil represents the Holy Spirit who is the power in our Christian faith. The Bible illustrates this through the practice of anointing. Oil was put on a person’s head to signify a special relationship with God.
The five wise women had oil in jars. The jars are what we live in –they are our bodies. In, Paul says “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
The bridegroom was a long time in coming – The bridegroom that He is talking about is of course Himself. And we know all too well that it seems to be taking a very long time for His return. One of the often repeated verses among Christians comes from , “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
They fell asleep – Sleep is frequently synonymous with physical death. Since the time when He lived among us –some 2,000 years ago– many have “fallen asleep.”
At midnight – Jesus will return when the world is in its darkest, most desperate state. In Revelation it refers to this time as the sun and moon being darkened and some of the stars have fallen from the sky. There will be little to illuminate the world physically or spiritually.
The wedding banquet – It’s the one we are all looking forward to. That will be a glorious day when His bride –all of us who have entrusted ourselves to Him– will be joined with Jesus for eternity.
The door was shut – This is another view of Noah’s story which is noted in the previous chapter – . When the ark was completed and all who had believed God’s message (as given through Noah) entered into it. Then God shut the door to the ark. When the rains came, it was too late for a change of heart. Noah had preached for approximately one hundred years –that was long enough to make the decision.
It’s also similar to the parable of the great supper where the master (God, the Father) sent invitations to His people (the Jews) and even messengers into the street (to the Gentiles). Eventually, He had everyone come to see the supper (wedding banquet), but only those who willingly accepted His invitation were participants. The rest were on-lookers. That will be a sad time when people will realize that they refused the invitation for eternal life as the cherished bride of our Lord Jesus.
“I don’t know you” – When it’s time to be awakened from “sleep” at the resurrection, those who have the Holy Spirit –the oil– will be able to see their way into the grand reception. Those who didn’t have the oil went looking for some, but the time for deciding their destiny was over. Remember the story of Lazarus (in ) where it was impossible for the rich man to cross over the great chasm after death? There will be some who will be rejoicing on that day. But the others will hear those most dreaded words when Jesus will say, “I don’t know you.”
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)
Talents – This is a weight measure that is about 120 troy ounces. It would be silver or gold. In these unstable times, the price of silver is about $10 and gold is about $800 (USD) per troy ounce. Whether the servant was given two talents or five, the master trusted him to take care of a valuable amount of his property. This parable is not about the money; it is about Jesus’ property –His kingdom and most importantly the people of His creation.
Entrusted based on ability – Every Christian has the same purpose. We have been given a new identity as His ambassadors to tell the world about Him. The amount of the property is not important. What is important is what we do with what we have been entrusted with.
Left on a journey – The journey alluded to in the parable is Jesus’ time away from us starting at His crucifixion and ending at His return when He gathers us together to be with Him forever.
Share happiness – Some have been given more than others to manage in His absence –demonstrated here with either two talents or five. But note that in both cases He referred to both of them as given “little." The reward for taking care of His property is unimaginable –being happy with God –in His presence! Amazing…
The unknown master – The servant that did not invest what had been given did not even know his master –not even His character. This is how the religious are. They view their relationship with Jesus to be founded on legalism –God’s law– rather than His grace and mercy. The best thing that the law can do is convict a person and show his guilt and shame –leaving him in fear of God. The servant who doesn’t know Him hasn’t understood that Jesus is the end of the law.
Given even more – What can be greater than being entrusted with bringing people to Jesus for salvation? It’s being joined with Him for eternity as His bride. What we do from then on is still mysterious. There are hints, but let’s dwell on what He has clearly told us for now. Our purpose is to grow in our own trust (faith) of Him which is accomplished by going through trials. Then we can help others who are also going through trials. They are not for punishment –but to conform us into the image of God’s Son so that we will be mature and complete in every way.
Eternity – Here we see the two destinations once again. One being with Jesus as His bride; the other: “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
When He comes – The meanings are no longer hidden in the parable-like language. It’s clear for all to understand what is going to take place when Jesus comes.
Sheep and Goats – A shepherd can have a flock consisting of both types of animals. They require about the same care and seem to get along fairly well together in the same pasture. Goats are much more mischievous and contentious while sheep are dependent upon their shepherd.
The righteous – These are unassuming, humble people who were not trying to gain the attention of their shepherd. They loved others because that is their spiritual nature. Although we like to think that we love God, the only we can show it to Him is by loving those we come in contact with.
The unrighteous – The religious people are public-minded in all of their “good deeds.” Their reward is having people acknowledge what looks to be good. Religion is not what saves, however. It’s humbly coming to God on His terms. Jesus is the only way to find acceptance in the eyes of the Father.
Judgment – It cannot be more plain than what is written. Yet we who are in Christ can find security in the words. We are sheep not leaders. We can only follow our Shepherd where He leads. There is no condemnation for any of His people. In 1 John, there is a description of the two –and there are only two types of people– one is a child of God and the other is a child of the Devil. As a child of God, we have security because of the new identity He has bestowed on us. Please read about your identity in Christ. That is where our peace and contentment can be found.