What is the meaning of the lamps used by   the five foolish and the five wise virgins?


By Craig Bluemel



Matthew 25:1-13


Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.  2 And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.  3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.  5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.  6 But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'  7 Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps.  8 And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  9 But the prudent answered, saying, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’  10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  11 And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’  12 But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’  13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” 


As in the parables that are before and following that of the ten virgins, Jesus uses this analogy to test the preparedness and readiness of each born-again believer to meet his or her Maker on the day the Lord calls them from this life to ther next.  Jesus ties their readiness of service to their overall spiritual condition, particularly emphasizing the fact that no one is aware on a “day or hour.”


The virgins are specifically “comparable” in Jesus’ own words, “to the kingdom of heaven.”  The kingdom of heaven is the realm of the spiritual where Yahweh is “King” and His faithful subjects comprise his “heavenly kingdom.”  The Greek word translated as, “virgins,” is parthénois, which has a figurative application here, referring to those who are the spiritually pure, God's people who have not defiled themselves with the daughters of this world.

What Jesus is teaching in this message is that simply being cleansed from sin and keeping one’s self apart from the world is not the total package involved in the relationship of a “wise” Christian with his or her Lord.  For example, at the end of the parable of the virgins, when the foolish arrive later, after having been delayed due to their lack of preparedness, they knock upon the door to the marriage supper of the Lamb, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’  From within, Jesus answers them saying, “‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” 


On the other end of things, we find the same Greek word parthénois used of a parallel to the five wise virgins in Revelation 14:4-5; here they are described:


L    Revelation 14:4-5 These are they who have not defiled themselves by relations with women, for they are pure as virgins (parthénois).  These are they who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  These are they who have been ransomed (purchased, redeemed) from among men as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb.  5 No lie was found to be upon their lips, for they are blameless (spotless, untainted, without blemish) before the throne of God.  Amplified Bible


The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the churches at Corinth mentions parthénois in the Greek text of  2 Corinthians 11:2-4, using the analogy of a jealous husband, likely borrowed from Hosea 2:19,20.  Though Paul is widely recognized as never having been married to a woman, he notes his zeal to see the believers betrothed to one husband as a “chaste virgin.”


L    2 Corinthians 11:2-42 For I am zealous for you with a godly eagerness and a divine jealousy, for I have betrothed you to one Husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  3 But now I am fearful, lest that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds may be corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  (See Genesis 3:4.)  4 For you seem readily to endure it if a man comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you once received or a different gospel from the one you then received and welcomed; you tolerate all that well enough!  Amplified Bible


No doubt that those Corinthian believers, whose were being corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ are the same as the five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable.  It wasn’t as though they stopped being Christians altogether, but maintained their status by name, but in reality, were readily accepting of the practice that allowed a man, who comes and preaches another Jesus than the One taught them by Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, Aquila, and others.


This is no different from what we see happening throughout Christendom today.  Christians oftentimes seem to endure with itching ears every new ‘prophetic’ teaching or embrace the next move of the spirit,’ without first testing the spirit to determine if in fact it is even of God!  Truly, this matches the behavior of the five foolish virgins, whose lamps were for show-and-tell, but served no vital function in the darkness of the world’s sin all about them.


This particular passage in Matthew 25 contain two more graphic parables whose real-life message is unmistakable.  Charismatic and fundamentalists alike in the Christian churches are teaching mysticizing the nature of the ten virgins, reinventing the intent of the parable to mean something cosmic, and alluding to an ethereal relationship with Christ as some sort of heavenly, “bridegroom.”  Of course, these messages appeal to the romantic, but to the spiritually mature, the same are recognized as carnal, earthly, and sensual deception, which distorts the simplicity of Jesus’ gospel message.


No man can rightfully fill the shoes of the Father, whose righteous judgments alone determine whether a person is unfit for the kingdom.  In closing, the lamps represent our lives; we have this spirit treasure contained within earthen vessels, that the excellence and brightness of whatever we shine from within  might be to the praise of God the Father, thru our Lord Jesus Christ.


The parable immediately following the ten virgins is that of the servants with talents, and the point of this parable is its comparison of talents to the lamps with or without oil.  God expects us to do more with our personal salvation and relationship with Him than merely exist until we die.  God requires of each one to multiply, in whatever capacity he or she is suited and able. 


L    Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  New American Standard Bible - Updated Edition


But if we bury and hide the treasure that He has bestowed upon us thru grace, we are hiding our lamps, and guilty of the same foolishness that the 5 virgins with no oil.  Jesus commanded his disciples, “Let your light SHINE before men…”  How can they shine if there’s no oil?  How can we find oil, as the five wise virgins, unless we go and “purchase” our own? 


L    2 Corinthians 4:5-10 Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.  6  It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.  7  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.  We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.  8 As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.  We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, 9 but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.  10 What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives!  The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002



Let your light shine!





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