Storytime with Jesus: The Ten Virgins

Storytime with Jesus: The Ten Virgins

The End . . . of the World

Today is the end of our series, “Story Time with Jesus,” and we have covered roughly half of the parables Jesus taught. Many of the parables overlap; so while this series has been longer than most, it has covered a wide range of Jesus’s teaching about how we are to live.

So – today – we end with the end . . . the end of the world!

In fact, today I want to teach you some things I learned from the best-selling book, ”88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988.”

(Just kidding. I’m not going to use that book today, but it does act as a great introduction to our topic this morning.)

When I was 7 years old, I lived with an incredible fear of missing the rapture! REM had just released the huge hit, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”  Everyone at church was talking about the book, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988.”  It just seemed to me like a done deal that Jesus was coming back sometime that year.

Anytime I got home from school and couldn’t find my mom at home, I was instantly gripped with the fear that I had missed the rapture and that my mom was in heaven with Jesus while I was destined to suffer torment in Hell.

It was a rough year for me, and the fear didn’t end with 1988. Every few years a new, famous prediction was made, especially as we approached the year 2000.

But why did that happen to me? I now know I wasn’t the only one dealing with this fear. When I talk to others my age who grew up in Evangelical homes, I find we all grew up expecting the rapture to happen at any time. And we all, at times, feared we had missed it.

While a preoccupation with guessing when Jesus will return has increased in recent years, we’ll see later that it has been a popular topic going all the way back to Jesus’s disciples. As a result, Jesus taught a couple of parables in Matthew 24 and 25 about how and when he would return. Today’s final parable in our series will be the Parable of the Ten Virgins as found in Matthew 25.

Before we look at this story, though, we will look at chunk of teaching from Jesus concerning His second coming. For this we turn back to Matthew chapter 24.

Matthew 24:3-14 3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

That passage contains a list of the things Jesus tells us will happen before the end will come – before He returns and puts into motion the final timeline on earth.

  • Deception and false teachers. Watch out that no one deceives you.
  • Wars and rumors of wars.
  • Natural disasters like famines and earthquakes.
  • Increase in persecution of Christians, who are hated because of their affiliation with Jesus.
  • Increase in wickedness. Love grows cold, with even Christians hating one another.
  • Evangelism to All People. The Gospel will be preached to all nations, meaning every people group, tribe, and tongue.

Before we talk more about that list, I want to add an Old Testament prophetic verse about the end times.

Daniel 12:4But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.

  • Increase in knowledge and travel.

When you look at that list you can see why so many people believe Jesus could be coming back any day now. I could easily tie all these items to current world events, but I think you probably have already been doing that while I’ve been talking.

Yet, it’s very important to realize that we are not the first people to see this list and think it describes our times perfectly. This list has connected with people at many other times in history, as evidenced by all the previous incorrect predictions of Jesus’s return. Many different dates have been set as THE time for Jesus’s return. Many famous Christians have incorrectly predicted the return of Jesus. Some people have given away all their possessions and gone to a mountaintop to wait for Jesus, only to have the sun come up the next morning with no sign of His return.

A really unfortunate thing has happened as a result of all these failed predictions and this long duration since Jesus said He would return soon. Countless Christians have allowed the delay and the erroneous predictions to discourage them to the point of abandoning their faith.

There is a truth, however that we must believe: the fact that Jesus has not yet returned doesn’t mean He won’t. We Christians can’t get discouraged. We can’t interpret this long delay as proof that He is not who He said He was or that He won’t do what He said He would do! In fact, in our parable today, Jesus warns that soon He will be gone for a long time but that we must anticipate His return and be ready, even if it takes longer than anyone has expected.

Matthew 25:1-131“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7”Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9”‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 

13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” 

These ten virgins are bridesmaids for the wedding party. The bridegroom Jesus alludes to is Himself. Several times in the Old Testament, God refers to Himself as the groom and Israel as His bride, so it is fitting for Jesus to use this language.

The custom in Jewish weddings was for the groom and his friends to leave his home and proceed to the bride’s home, where the wedding ceremony was conducted, often at night. After this the entire wedding party, including the ten bridesmaids, returned to the groom’s home for a celebratory banquet.

Jesus tells this story about the virgins who were to wait until the ceremony was finished and then join everyone for the great banquet. They knew the groom would come at night, but they did not know exactly when.

Five of the virgins were prepared to wait a while. They not only brought their dome-shaped lamps; they also brought extra oil to keep the lamps burning long into the night. The five foolish virgins must not have expected to wait so long; they brought lamps but no extra oil.

A problem arose: the groom arrived later than expected. When word came that he was on his way, the five unprepared virgins found their lamps were out. They needed oil, and the ”wise virgins” had only enough for their own lamps. The five unprepared women had to run out and try to buy oil in the middle of the night. While they were gone, the groom came and took the five who were ready into the wedding celebration.

When the others came back from buying oil, they were told they could not enter the house. It was too late.

Jesus’s Rules for the End Times

A Wait of Unknown Length:
This parable tells of a long wait before the bridegroom’s return, so long that some of the bridesmaids weren’t ready. There was no way to know exactly when he would come. They know they must be ready, but not for how long. In the same way, we have no idea how long we must wait before Jesus comes. Even Jesus Himself doesn’t know the exact time God will send Him back to this earth.

(Matthew 24:36 – “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”)

People hate waiting! We want to experience Heaven. We want to see the things Jesus said would happen. That’s why so many people have made predictions about Jesus’s return – they want the wait to be over, but only God the Father knows when that day will come.

He Will Come Suddenly:
The bridegroom came from out of nowhere in the middle of the night. The bridesmaids were asleep; and, suddenly, they needed to be ready to join him. Similarly, the Apostle Paul tells us that when that last day finally arrives, it will come in the twinkling of an eye, with a loud trumpet blast.

Jesus has given us signs to demonstrate that the end is near. We try to decipher the signs of the times but, so far, hundreds of people have gotten it wrong. The actual moment will take us by surprise!

So Be Ready:
Five of the bridesmaids were prepared for the long delay. They had extra oil, so their lamps kept burning. They anticipated the moment and were ready when the groom suddenly arrived.

Each of us must make sure we are ready to meet our maker, whether He returns in the next moment or if we live decades longer and die of old age. We have to be sure we understand God and His requirements for our lives. That’s ultimately how we make sure we are prepared. We have to be certain we are learning what God taught us and are living it out.

Many people live how they think God would want, but they never take the time to actually find out. They don’t read the Bible; they don’t pray; they don’t know what the God of the Bible actually tells us about salvation by grace through faith. So they are unprepared, and they are going to be surprised when God shows up and they don’t know what He wants of them.

It’s Your Responsibility:
Notice that when the five “foolish virgins” (who didn’t bring extra oil) realize their mistake, they immediately ask the others to cover for them. “Give me what you have.” But that didn’t work! It was their own responsibility to be ready. They could not get into the wedding banquet on the coat tails of the prepared bridesmaids.

In the same way, you will not get into Heaven on the faith of your mom or your grandma or anyone else. Even if you went to church on Easter Sundays or were friends with a pastor, you do not get a free pass into the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (a phrase that describes Heaven.)

Each person is responsible for his or her own salvation, for their own faith and forgiveness of sin. Your eternity will be determined by your own choices. No one else will be able to help you if you are not ready when Jesus comes.

No Option Afterward:
The saddest and most serious warning from this parable is this: the excuse “Better late than never,” which may work on earth, is NOT an option with the Kingdom of God. At the sudden moment of Jesus’s return, everything is determined. You don’t get a few more minutes to quickly make your heart right with God. Those who were prepared, who faithfully waited with anticipation, will enter into God’s presence, but those who are not prepared will be shut out forever.

How Shall We Live?

In the light or world events, all of us should live as if Jesus will return today, yet prepare as if it will be another hundred years. This is the posture every Christian of all time is supposed to have lived with. Be ready for Jesus to return at any moment. If the world goes through another massive shift and America crumbles and Jesus takes another thousand years before He returns, that will not mean we lived foolishly, it will mean we were ready. Ready or not, Jesus will come!

So how shall we live? Here’s what Jesus has taught us through His parables about how we should live on this earth:

  • Obey Jesus’s teaching.
  • Pray persistently.
  • Forgive your enemies.
  • Give your money generously.
  • Serve God with your talents.
  • Show compassion and mercy.
  • Trust God’s judgment.
  • Celebrate God’s acceptance.
  • Share your faith boldly.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on the parables of Jesus as much as I have. Jesus may have taught these lessons in story form to confound the wise, but if you have “ears to hear,” His message couldn’t be clearer. Now it’s up to us to respond and obey and to live as He taught His followers to live – as citizens of the Kingdom.


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