Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 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. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘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.”
– Matthew 25:1-13
This parable is a little different than the previous KoH parables. Jesus uses the future tense here to talk about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like (or will be like). Before we discuss the future tense, let’s look at the characters:
Bridegroom – Jesus.
5 prudent virgins – I believe these are the “sons of the kingdom” who are obviously prepared for Jesus’ return.
5 foolish virgins – Now this is interesting. This group of virgins are told that they are not know by the Bridegroom. This obviously implies that they are not saved, but it also shows that it is not the being a virgin that makes someone saved. It also shows that preparedness is a characteristic of those who will be saved.
Now here is a question: Which two groups do the prudent/foolish virgins represent? As far as I can tell there are three, and they depend on the future tense that Jesus uses.
Theory 1: Jesus is speaking of his immediate future – The Jews were not ready for Jesus (i.e. the foolish virgins). They claimed holiness and readiness, but where found lacking. The Gentiles on the other hand were ready for Jesus (i.e. the prudent virgins). However, they neither claimed holiness nor readiness. Also, it does not seem like it would be Jesus’ immediate hour because of the last verse – “You do not know the day nor the hour” which speaks of what we call his second coming. This would not affect the Jews of Jesus’ immediate future. So I think we can safely ignore this theory.
Theory 2: Jesus is speaking of the end of the age – when he comes back again. Then the two groups would be distinguished by those who are saved and those who think they are saved. The prudent (the actual saved Christians) will be prepared for Jesus’ coming – but those who think their saved will ignore the signs and thus be unprepared and unwelcomed.
Theory 3: Jesus is still speaking of the end of the age but the two groups are saved and lost. The prudent are again the saved Christians but the foolish is everyone else.
I think Theory 2 probably fits best. Either way, this parable teaches us one thing, Jesus is coming and he is coming at any moment. As Christians we need to be prepared for His coming.