Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Once again, Jesus advises us to be wise, to be prepared for the Bridegroom, who is Jesus Himself, when He comes. In the prophecy we read about the abomination of desolation, it is the ones who know God, the wise who will stand firm, understand, help others to understand and endure (Daniel 11:32-35).
All ten virgins fell asleep, but the wise virgins could because they were prepared. They had oil for their lamps. They knew to listen for the sound of the shofar which announced the bridegroom’s arrival and when they heard that trumpet sound, they would be awake, with lamps lit, waiting for Him to take them into the wedding feast.
The foolish virgins were not ready with oil for their lamps. They assumed that they had time to get the oil. Perhaps they didn’t look to see that their lamps needed oil. But when it came down to it and the shofar announced the bridegroom was coming, they assumed the wise virgins would give them the oil, they should have gotten for themselves. But the wise virgins couldn’t provide oil for the foolish, it was something the virgins had to purchase for themselves.
Because they waited until after the Bridegroom had announced His coming to go get their oil, they missed the wedding feast, were not allowed to enter, and were informed that He didn’t know them. Jesus ended the parable with the commendation to “watch.”
What does it mean to have oil for our lamps? First we will look at what the lamps represent. In Revelation Jesus addressed seven actual churches which represented the world-wide church with all our attributes and our deficits. The seven lampstands representing the seven churches surrounded Jesus in John’s Heavenly vision. Revelation 1:12-20 read,
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Lamps and lampstands are the visible church. The light of the lamps (we the church) points to Jesus. The oil represents anointing, the magistracy and ministry, the power and the administration of the power of Jesus. So the oil must be present to shine and let the world see Jesus through His people. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus said,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We must shine before men and to shine we need oil, the anointing to glorify God by works, actions, and demonstrations of God’s love, power, and mercy. We often use the word anointed as a description of being set aside or consecrated, but in truth anointing is oil being poured over someone or something to dedicate it doe a specific job. Isaiah 61:1-3 reads,
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
The Lord compares His Holy Spirit to oil. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit on Him to for the magistracy and ministry described in these verses. In Acts chapter 10 Peter preached the Gospel and in verse 38 he spoke about Jesus being anointed with the Holy Spirit, once again comparing Him to oil. Acts 10:37-38 says,
you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Having oil in our lamps, being “saved” and “having” the Holy Spirit is not enough, the wise virgins trimmed their wicks, they lit their lamps so that the oil burned and the lamps shone. We have to be anointed with the Holy Spirit, (meaning baptized in Him) and manifesting His fruit and His gifts. He gave us gifts to be used in magistracy (that is power) and ministry (that is administering and using that power to glorify God). We are magistrates, administrators of power and ministers, agents of power. This idea is reflected in Peter’s encouragement to the church in 1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Joel 2 talks about how the Holy Spirit will be poured out in those days. His activity, His works will be increasingly seen as we, the church light our filled lamps and use His gifts to glorify God. Joel 2:27-32 reads,
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
We can see this beginning to happen now and His activity through His sons and daughters, old, young, male, female, poor, and rich. We are the light of the world and we are meant to shine. Shining requires the oil of the Holy Spirit.
We will study more about the increase of the Holy Spirit as He pours Himself out over this generation. Today, examine your life. Is the Holy Spirit plainly evident in your life? What is your gift and are you using it for God’s glory? If not, don’t be surprised that you don’t know God the way others do, after all if your lamp isn’t filled with oil and shining, Jesus doesn’t know you.