When shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them: But those who were wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. Then all these virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
This parable, I believe, is widely misunderstood and misinterpreted. Parables paint a story. They usually paint with a pretty broad brush, and the finer details sometimes aren’t easily seen. To obtain the proper interpretation, you need an understanding of the customs of the day, who Jesus’ audience was (Jews, not the church) when he spoke this (in his discourse on the Mount of Olives shortly before His crucifixion), and just exactly who makes up the bride of Christ.
First off, the bride of Christ. Jesus is the bridegroom in this parable, and the bride is made up of all born again Christians. Being a good moral person does not make you a Christian. Doing good works does not make you a Christian. Giving tithes to the church does not make you a Christian. Being a member of a church, even a fundamental, bible believing church does not make you a Christian. A church is like a bus station. It’s a convenient place to catch a bus, but you’ll never get to your destination sitting in a bus station. You’ve got to get on the bus, and that must be the bus going to your destination. In this metaphor Jesus is the bus. And there is only one thing that makes you a born again Christian: a personal, one on one relationship with Jesus, which you enter into eternally when you receive Him as your Lord and Savior. All these other things are good, and things that any born again Christian should be and be doing, but doing them apart from Jesus does not make you a Christian.
Now the marriage custom of that day. Usually the groom’s father selects a bride for him, though he can in certain instances appoint a delegate to make the selection. A wedding contract is drawn up and the betrothal made. After this they are considered married but continue to live separately until the time of the betrothal is complete, usually around a year. During this time the bride makes preparations, sewing wedding garments and keeping herself pure for her husband to be, and the groom is building a place for his bride and family, usually additional rooms built on to the existing house. At the time appointed by the father, the groom goes to get his bride. One of the groom’s party runs ahead to shout the groom’s arrival, and a shofar is blown. Then the entire wedding party winds their way through the streets of the city to the bride’s house, and the festivities begin. At the end of the week-long wedding feast the groom is now free to take his bride to her new home. For more details, see here: http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/wedding.html
Now the church, the ekklesia, is the bride of Christ. That’s us, all who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. As such we are already in the house. There’s no way we will be left out, not any of us. The ten virgins are the wedding guests. I’m not entirely sure who these symbolize, but I believe these are Jews. Whoever they represent, five of them were wise and five of them were foolish. The wise had extra oil in their vessels with their lamps, the foolish only had what little oil was already in the lamps. The wise were allowed to enter, the foolish were excluded. Some use this to teach a split rapture, that some Christians, only those worthy of redemption, will go in the rapture, and others will be left behind. This cannot be. The church (the ekklesia, the whole called out body of saints) is the body of Christ. For some to be taken in the rapture and some to be left behind would mean the body of Christ is being ripped apart, and that just isn’t going to happen. None of us are worthy of redemption in our own right, not one of us. It is only our relationship with Jesus that makes us worthy, and that is the only worthiness God will accept. Trying to get into heaven on our own righteousness is like trying to pay your taxes with Monopoly money, neither is going to be accepted. Besides God has already written the marriage covenant, and only He can break it. We can’t break it and He won’t.
As for who the virgins are, I do not claim a revelation from God on this, but based on what I have been able to find out this is what I believe they represent. The ten virgins are the Jews who have come for the wedding feast, likely those who have made it through the tribulation still in their natural bodies. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and I believe the five wise represent those who have received Jesus as their Messiah, most likely during the tribulation, and the five foolish represent those who have not. Whatever or whoever they are, the 10 virgins most definitely are not the church.