TEXT: Matthew 25:1-13
The students will be able to cite the reasons why the wise virgins were considered wise, and the foolish were deemed foolish. They will also be capable of showing why this parable prompts Christians to keep spiritually alert.
The importance of this parable cannot be overemphasized. While Jesus told it to His disciples nearly 2000 years ago, it is especially timely for the days in which we live. The important message that it sets forth is the vital necessity of being prepared to meet the Lord.
The story is based on the Jewish wedding custom of that day. While it should be noted that all of the details of a parable do not necessarily conform to the truth being set forth, this one illustrates the point very clearly. It was the custom for the groom’s father or his representative (Genesis 24) to make arrangements for the proposed marriage. The Holy Spirit is now seeking a bride for Christ. Quite often the bridegroom came for the bride at night—hence the need for lamps. Christ’s bride is to be a light in this sin darkened world. There was no excuse for the five foolish virgins to have no oil and they were shut out of the wedding feast. Likewise when the trumpet sounds at the Lord’s returning there will be no opportunity for the unprepared to get ready for His coming.
There are sins which are passive by nature, but are as destructive in their ultimate consequences as those willfully and deliberately committed. The sin of neglect is one of these. We can see from this parable that the consequences of such a sin are terrible to contemplate. Let us be as spiritually vigilant as the wise virgins were. They availed themselves of every privilege, every opportunity, and every experience that came their way.
- What was commendable about the attitude of both the wise and foolish virgins?
Response: All had responded to the occasion, taking their lamps and going forth to wait for the bridegroom. This parable signifies the Rapture of the Church. Bring out in discussion that many people talk about Jesus’ second coming and seem to anticipate it, but do not make the necessary preparation for that great event.
- In what ways, then, did the foolish virgins fail?
Response: The foolish virgins knew the requirements of the occasion, that they must have a shining light in order to join the procession and go in to the marriage. Discuss with the class that none of the virgins knew when the bridegroom would come. The foolish virgins had failed to fill their vessels with oil to start with. This is why they were considered foolish.
- What admonition was given to the foolish virgins? How did they react to this advice?
Response: They asked for oil from the wise virgins, but received the answer that the wise did not have enough oil for both. They were told to go to those who sold, and buy oil. They went to buy but when they returned, it was too late. Discuss with the students that it was not selfishness on the part of the wise to say they could not give of their oil, for the Spirit of God cannot be transferred from one person to another. The Spirit must come from God. Also consider that one never has more of the Spirit than he needs. Each individual needs all the Spirit that he can possibly secure in order to be ready for Jesus’ coming.
- What lessons are given to us in the conduct and attitude of the wise virgins?
Response: The wise virgins knew the bridegroom was coming, they went forth to meet him, knowing and performing the requirements of entrance to the marriage. The point for discussion is, did not all the virgins know the requirements? They all certainly seemed to know, but the wise were the ones who were careful to fulfill every requirement for the occasion. They were virgins, which denotes purity and therefore eligibility. They knew there had to be light, so they took lamps to illuminate the way. See Psalm 119:105. They did not know how long the bridegroom would tarry, nor how long their lamps would have to burn, so they filled their vessels with oil along with the lamps. As the result of their conduct and attitude, the wise virgins were ready to go with the bridegroom into the marriage.
- Who does the bridegroom represent in the parable? What does the midnight cry depict?
Response: The bridegroom in the parable represents Jesus. The midnight cry depicts the trumpet call that precedes and announces Jesus’ second coming. This is one reason why God designs that His people become lights in the world. He wants the Christian life to be seen of men. See Matthew 5:14-16. Often men do not read the Bible, but they do read the lives of God’s people. 2 Corinthians 3:2
- What happened to the foolish virgins?
Response: They went to buy oil for their lamps which had gone out. They came later to knock at the door for admittance, but heard the words of the Lord, “I know you not.” The door remained shut and they were left outside. Ask the class to try to describe the feelings of despair that must have filled the hearts of the foolish virgins. They had had the opportunity but failed to meet the requirements for entrance to the marriage.
- What can we do to keep our “lamps” from going out?
Response: The parable shows that the burning lamp needs a constant supply of oil. The oil is typical of the Spirit of God. A measure of God’s Spirit is upon us when we are justified—forgiven of all our sin (John 16:7-11). With our salvation our lamps are lit. But we are told to “go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). Holiness, and the power which comes with the baptism of the Holy Ghost are essential to our Christian walk. (See Hebrews 12:14 and John 14:17-18.) These experiences fill our “vessels” so we have a ready source. Prayer keeps us in touch with God. This communion will keep our faith alive, and a love of the truth will remain in our hearts. We will have a very real excitement in our lives as we watch for Jesus’ soon return. Discuss how the disciples, even after their wonderful experience in the Upper Room, felt the need for diligent prayer to maintain the full measure of the gift they had received. See Acts 4:23-31. The Apostle Paul admonished the church to continual consecration and holiness in order to know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. See Romans 12:1-2. We are also told that “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1).
- What thought in today’s lesson do you consider most important?
Response: After your students have given their responses to the question, summarize the lesson by stressing the importance of being ready for Jesus’ soon coming. Reemphasize that we cannot purchase God’s favor nor obtain His blessings by any merit of our own. There is a price to pay: a surrendering of our will, of ourselves, and of our plans to God—an entire and complete consecration to Him—if we would walk in all the light of the Gospel that is manifested to us. Let our determination be the same as the wise virgins. They treasured that which they had received and would not allow themselves to be without it. They were watchful for the bridegroom’s coming. Even though the hour was late, they were still alert for the cry that would announce his coming.
Bring an empty kerosene lamp to class, then fill it and light the wick. Discuss how the oil is used up as the wick is burned. Make the point that we must remain close to our supply of “oil” too.
Each of the letters in the word WATCH can help to remind us of some of the things we should be watchful of.
“W” stands for the WORD. We should watch the Word of God by reading it daily.
“A” stands for AMUSEMENTS. We should watch our amusements and not be found in a place we would not want to be found when Jesus comes.
“T” stands for TALK. We should watch our talk, and not be guilty of using words we would not want to be using when Jesus comes, or talking about someone in slanderous ways.
“C” stands for COMPANIONS. We should watch our companionships and not be found with those we would not want to be with when Jesus comes.
“H” stands for HEART. We should watch our hearts to remain an overcomer.
Why should we watch so carefully? Because Jesus could come any day.
Material needed: A kitchen timer. Set it without telling your students when it will go off. Use this to illustrate that time is running out and Jesus may come at any time.
Read all the statements. Then number them in the story sequence.
_____ They that were ready went in with him to the marriage.
_____ Those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
_____ They all slumbered and slept.
_____ At midnight a cry was made, “Behold, the bride groom cometh.”
_____ The door was shut.
_____ While they went to buy, the bridegroom came.