Recall that in the Olivet discourse Jesus has warned His disciples they must be on the alert lest they too be swept away in the flood of destruction that would overtake the unbelieving Jews who had rejected Him as their Messiah and Savior from sin. Now in the present parable He is giving to emphasize this point, we have seen that the bridegroom represents the Lord Himself, while the bride (who is not mentioned) is the corporate Church. The ten virgins represent those who would come to the marriage supper to partake of the feast God has prepared in His word and so be joined to Him in a covenant relationship as a part of His bride. At the same time, they are also those first fruits who have been born again of the imperishable seed of God’s word, who go on to bear the fruit of that seed as spiritual nourishment for others and as seed that is sown further for an ongoing harvest of souls into God’s kingdom. Hence, as ten represents a physical or material completeness (as opposed to the number 7 that represents a spiritual completeness or perfection) the ten virgins represent the entirety of those professing Christians from every generation who suppose themselves to be awaiting the bridegroom, and especially those as in the preceding context whom the Lord has put in charge of His household to give them their food at the proper time.
What did the ten virgins take with them when they went out to meet the bridegroom? See Mat 25:1. What is the purpose of a lamp, and what does that tell us about the time of day when they understood the bridegroom might come? Cf. Joh 12:35-36. As a physical lamp gives physical light, what sort of light does a spiritual lamp give? What does the lamp then represent spiritually in the parable? See Psa 119:105, Pro 6:23, 2Pe 1:19. What is the significance that the Greek word used for lamp more properly refers to a torch, as it is most commonly translated in the LXX, as well as in Joh 18:3 and Rev 8:10? Cf. Gen 15:17, Jdg 7:16, 15:4. Is it just a little light that the word of God gives off, like a small oil lamp, or does it have the potential to give off a lot of light, more like a torch?
In addition to the lamp or torch itself, what else is necessary in order for it to provide sustainable light? Think: Does a flashlight itself provide light without a battery? What is the counterpart to God’s word of the fuel-oil that allows a lamp to burn brightly? See 1Sa 10:1,6, 16:13; cf. Rev 4:5, Sir 48:1 and think: why did the word of the Lord through Elijah burn like a torch, except that he was so full of the oil of God’s Holy Spirit? Cf. 2Ki 2:9. As precious as we understand God’s word to be as a lamp unto our feet, if one does not have the oil of God’s Holy Spirit to go with it, will it give its light? How does this help us to understand why people can still stumble in darkness although they read, study, and even memorize the Scriptures, such as many liberal scholars who may have an excellent intellectual understanding of the Bible but are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth—or even Satan himself? Cf. Mic 6:15, Zec 4:6, Mat 4:5-6, 1Co 2:12-14, 2Ti 3:5-7.
As opposed to a small oil lamp that would be useful in the familiar surroundings and predictable happenings inside a house, how much oil is necessary for a torch that is more practical in the outside world where the surroundings are less familiar and unexpected happenings are more likely to occur? Commensurate with its ability to provide a great light, how much oil is necessary to make the lamp of God’s word to shine brightly in times and places of great spiritual darkness where more light is needed—such as in Elijah’s ministry to the apostate northern kingdom of Israel when Ahab and Jezebel reigned? Will just any fuel work to make the lamp of God’s word shine brightly with its spiritual light? For example, if one is filled with the spirit of the world should we expect that God’s word will shine with the same light as if one is filled with God’s Spirit of holiness? While one may watch television or go to a bar or a football game or a rock concert to be filled with the spirit of the world, where does one go to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God that will allow God’s word to shine brightly, especially in times of great spiritual darkness? What does this remind us about how important prayer, meditation upon God’s word, and fellowship with God’s holy people are to our spiritual well-being?
1. NRS Sirach 48:1 Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch.↩