1. “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.ten virgins with lamps and oil

The word “then” that begins this chapter shows that this is a picture of the kingdom of heaven at a specific time. The Lord told many parables about the kingdom of heaven at different stages in its development. This particular one takes place at the time He had just been talking about in chapter 24…the time of the return of Christ and the parousia. We must interpret this parable according to this time frame.

This practice of the virgins (who would be similar to the bridesmaids in our own wedding ceremonies) going out to meet the bridegroom was common in the marriage traditions of the day. See Psalm 45:14-15 for another example of this.

The word for “to meet” here is the Greek word “apanantesis,” and indicates the going out of one party to meet another and to return with the other. This is the same word that is used in I Thessalonians 4:17 for those who “meet” the Lord in the air. They meet Him to return to earth with Him, as in Matthew 24:30-31. They do not meet Him in order to return with Him into heaven, as is often taught in theological circles today. These virgins were to leave the wedding party to meet the bridegroom and then escort him back to the wedding party. In the same way those who meet the Lord in the air in I Thessalonians 4:17 do so to escort Him back to earth.

2. “Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

In this parable the numbers are divided fifty-fifty. We might hope in that future day that the number of wise will outnumber the foolish, but that will be up to those who live at that time.

3. “Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them.

These virgins did not think ahead and plan for what was to come.

4. “But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

These virgins were prepared for the wait, no matter how long it might be.

5. “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

The bridegroom took longer to come than they had expected. Therefore, becoming drowsy, they decided to take the opportunity to sleep while they waited for him. The Greek word for “sleep” here is “katheudo,” and means to fall asleep purposely. From this we know that they purposely decided to sleep while they waited. Notice that this was something the wise and the foolish alike did. This was probably a good use of their time, as then they could awake refreshed when the bridegroom finally arrived.

6. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’

At last the bridegroom makes his appearance, and the virgins are commanded to fulfill their office.

7. “Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

These lamps were part of the traditional bringing in of the bridegroom. Thus they must light them before going out to meet him.

8. “And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

With no oil in their lamps, the foolish virgins could not keep their lamps alight. Suddenly caught without the means to carry out their office, they desperately asked the wise virgins to share their oil with them.

9. “But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’

The wise virgins had taken enough oil for their own lamps, but not enough for two. Thus, they wisely refuse to give up the oil that they have and then find that there was not enough for any of them. They advise the foolish virgins to go where they should have gone in the first place to get the oil they need.

10. “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

The foolish take this advice (indeed, what else could they do?) and go off to buy the oil. But, as they are gone, the bridegroom arrives, and the five remaining virgins carry out their office and meet him and escort him into the wedding, and the door is shut after them.

11. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’

Their repetition of the word “Lord” indicates the urgency of their request. No doubt they were in a great rush to try to make up for their mistake! But it is too late. They have already failed to fulfill their office, and the opportunity has passed them by.

12. “But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

The bridegroom does not know them since they were not among those who met him at the proper time.

13. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Thus we come to the point of the parable. Here is a parable urging those living during the Kingdom of Heaven right before the coming of Christ to beware lest they let their “oil” run out while they wait. It is likely that the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. How exactly this will apply to the men of that day I cannot say. The time that immediately precedes Christ’s return is the tribulation. What “running out of oil” will mean in that day I cannot say for certain. What is clear, however, is the solemn warning to be ready. Like these virgins, we look for a great work of God to come perhaps in our lifetime… the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, the Day of Christ, the Appearing of Christ, and the Regeneration. We may not be certain that it approaches, but we should all remember that it could be at any time, and be ready.

14. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.

Thus this parable covers a longer period of the kingdom of heaven. It starts with the beginning of the kingdom when Christ went away and left His disciples. This is what started the kingdom of heaven on earth. Then it takes us all the way through the kingdom to the time when Christ at last returns and calls into account those to whom He had given charge of the kingdom while He was gone in heaven. Although we can learn from this parable, we need to understand that we are not part of God’s government on earth at this time. At Acts 28:28 God introduced an unprophesied interruption in His kingdom program: the dispensation of grace. This dispensation is a parenthesis in His kingdom program that interrupts it to do a work that is to show forth the wonders of His great grace. When this dispensation is finished, the parenthesis will end and the kingdom will take up again from where it left off as if it had never been interrupted. Then this parable will continue and at last come to its completion at Christ’s return.

15. “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

A talent was an average yearly wage in that day. If we estimate an average yearly salary today as $30,000, the five talents would be $150,000, the two would be $60,000, and the one talent would be $30,000. Thus, these were all quite large sums of money! Notice how He distributes the talents: to each servant according to the ability his master perceived him as having. The master does this and then goes on a journey, leaving his servants to care for his affairs while he is gone.

16. “Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.

The first servant whom the master judged as having the most ability went out and doubled his money while his master was gone. A very wise use of his master’s money indeed!

17. “And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.

The middle servant likewise doubles the money he was given.

18. “But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.

The servant with the least ability and the least amount of money acts differently than the first two servants. Instead of using the money he had been given, he merely hides it while his lord is gone. Perhaps, realizing that his lord judged him to have less ability than his fellow servants, he was afraid to use even the ability he had to attempt to serve his master well. Instead of focusing on what his lord had given him, he compared himself to the other servants and was afraid that he didn’t measure up. Therefore he failed to use the talent he had been given, instead squandering his opportunity by hiding it in the ground.

19. “After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

The lord at last returns, and calls his servants to settle accounts with them and to learn how they have discharged the service he had entrusted to them.

20. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’

The first servant displays for his master the increase he had made with the money he had been given.

21. “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

The lord is pleased by his servant’s work, and promises to give him even greater responsibility in the future.

22. “He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’

The middle servant likewise displays for his master the increase he had made with the money he had been given.

23. “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

The lord is just as pleased by his second servant’s work, and gives him the same promise he had given the first servant.

24. “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
25. “‘And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

The last servant comes and has to explain why he has not been a good steward of what he had been given as his fellow servants had been. His excuse is that he knew that his lord was a thief! For there can be no other implication to “reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.” He claims that he knew his lord to be a thief, and that thus he concluded that his lord was a hard man, and he was too afraid of disappointing him to use the money he had been given. He would sooner simply return his trust to his master than to trust to his abilities to use the money and somehow increase it.

26. “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27. “‘So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

The lord is naturally displeased with this last servant. If he knew his lord was a thief (the lord neither denies nor confirms this,) he should at least have feared him enough to put his money in the bank to earn interest so that he would have something to show for it when his lord returned. If he thought his master was such a hard man, why was he not afraid to come to him with such a poor excuse for not having used his money rightly? The master thus does not accept his excuse, and accuses him of merely saying this because he is wicked and lazy!

The Hebrews were not allowed to take interest from their fellow Israelites. They were, however, allowed to take interest from foreigners, so this would have been possible for the servant to do.

28. “‘Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

The lord commands that the servant lose his talent and that it be given to the first servant who had gained the most money for him.

29. “‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

This is the lord’s explanation of why he is giving the money to the first servant, but it is also the point of the parable. The one who has received from God and used it to God’s glory not only has much but will receive even more in God’s Kingdom. However, he who received little from God and refuses to use even that little he has as God would have him to will have even that little taken away. Although the point Christ was making was in regards to the kingdom, we could apply this to the things we have received today and the reward or lack of it that we will receive from our Savior in the Kingdom for what we have done with it. But what Christ originally gave this parable to say was that it will also be a rule in the Kingdom itself that the people to whom God gives things at that time He will call into account at a later time to see if they have used them as He would have expected them to.

30. “‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Again weeping and gnashing of teeth is reserved for those who have failed their lord. In the same way, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth for those rulers who fail the Lord of all in God’s future government. Remember, these two words are a figure of speech. Weeping stands for great sorrow, and gnashing of teeth stands for great regret.

31. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

The Lord, having finished His parable, speaks literally of events in that future day immediately after His coming. Notice that He uses the word “glory” twice in this verse: once for coming “in His glory,” and once for sitting “on the throne of His glory.” One’s glory is the esteem or regard that that person is held in by others. It is the honor and recognition given to someone. When Christ comes the second time to earth He will come in all the majesty and splendor that He set aside at His first coming. And He will sit on the throne that is His due as the One Who holds such a position. A “throne” is a seat of government. This does not literally mean that Christ will have a special chair called “the throne of His glory.” Instead, this speaks of the position of rule that will naturally be His as a result of the esteem and reverence the world at large will hold Him in at that time. No longer will the name of Jesus Christ be despised as it is today!

32. “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33. “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

Many people assume that this passage is talking about the judgment of individuals. Yet notice that this is specifically said to refer nations here, not people. This judgment takes place at the beginning of the one thousand years of His parousia, not at the final resurrection when some receive life and some are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15.) No, there is no resurrection mentioned here. This judgment is not that of the Great White Throne, but rather is nations (represented before Him, of course, by their leaders) being judged as to their actions during the time of the Great Tribulation. They are either allowed to continue during the parousia or are brought to an end due to their rebellion. But just because a nation is destroyed does not mean that every single individual in that nation is destroyed! This mainly has to do with a nation’s leadership. And when the word “them” occurs in verse 32, it is masculine, not neuter, so it refers to the individual leaders, not the nation as a whole. Some leaders from the same nation might be sheep and others goats.

34. “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35. “’for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36. “’I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

The word “naked” can also mean “scantily clothed” (in your underwear.)

37. “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
38. “’When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and cloth You?
39. “’Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
40. “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

These nations or national leaders are the ones who cared for “the least of these My brethren.” Many confuse “brethren” with Christians, but this is not what is referred to here. The Lord’s “brethren” were His fellow Israelites, not the Gentile believers of today. These things will be done in the time of the tribulation, when the faithful men of Israel will be severely persecuted by the Antichrist. Any nation (or national leader) that takes in and cares for these people of Israel at that time will receive its reward from Christ by being allowed to be a nation (or to continue to be a leader) during His thousand years on earth.

Many take the words “least of these” and make it to mean children. This might very well be what it means, for “least” can sometimes refer to “youngest.” Yet then those who claim this pass out of the context of the verse and make this to be referring to anyone who does good deeds for children! Then they use this verse to say that those who do good to children will be rewarded. I have heard this passage used by believers to encourage others to care for children in need! This is not at all what is being talked about here. No special blessing is promised to those who care for children here, and no special cursing to those who do not. Whether we care for needy children or not has nothing to do with our salvation. This verse is referring to kingdom times and kingdom conditions. It is referring to those who either bow to the will of the anti-Christ and refuse to aid the Israelites who are faithful to God, or else who defy his will and aid those who they know are the brethren of Christ. This passage has nothing to do with our present day or the dispensation of grace. As good as it is to care for needy children, we must not be guilty of the crime of twisting God’s Word in order to support doing so. That is just simply not what this passage is talking about.

41. “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

The entire nation would not enter into the lake of fire here, of course, but only its leaders, who are standing before Christ at this time. There would be men in a nation that was on the whole wicked who would be worthy of reward, and men in a nation that was on the whole righteous who would be worthy of the lake of fire. This judgment is only for the men who were the leaders of the nations, and only these men are standing before Christ at this time. Christ will not just toss all the inhabitants of a nation into the lake of fire indiscriminately! Verse 46, however, tells us what will happen to such a nation as a whole.

“Everlasting” fire is the Greek word “aionion,” or, to put it more as an English word, eonian. This word means “outflowing” in Greek. Outflowing fire brings to mind a forest fire where the flames flow on and on consuming everything in their path. These nations are to be cast into this outflowing fire prepared for the devil and his angels. At this point, although the fire is already prepared for them, the devil and his angels will not yet have been cast there. Thus, these wicked national leaders precede them into the fire.

42. “’for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
43. “’I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

All these things are good for us to do today. Giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, taking in the foreigner in need, clothing those without covering, visiting the sick and the prisoners…these are all blessed acts of charity that we all should strive to be a part of. Yet, although this passage can cause us to think of such things, this does not mean that we have to wrest the passage to make it actually be giving such a command to us. These are always good things to do, but this is specifically talking about those who will do these things for the persecuted Israelites at the time of the tribulation.

44. “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
45. “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

These nations refused to help the persecuted Israelites during the tribulation, and thus are not allowed to be nations during the thousand years.

46. “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

These national leaders go away into eonian (or outflowing) punishment. This is not saying that they will continually be punished forever. Rather, this means that theirs is a punishment whose duration never ends, and which can never be appealed or repealed. The casting into the lake of fire is the final judgment that can happen to any man. Once he is cast there, all hope for mercy or appeal is gone. His is the second death, and no retraction of sentence can occur. Yet some are so foolish as to say that men are cast into the lake of fire immediately upon death, and before they ever are sentenced! This would not be just, and is not the way of God. This verse has nothing to do with men after death, or even after resurrection. It has to do with national leaders who will be alive already and who will be judged at the return of Christ to the earth at His parousia.

This also may have reference to the punishment of the nations these leaders represent. Everlasting punishment for a nation, of course, would be to cease to exist for all time. Any nation condemned in that judgment will never again be allowed to re-form. This is the “everlasting punishment” of a nation, and it is similar to the everlasting punishment of an individual. Nations that are everlastingly (or outflowingly) blessed, however, would be nations that will be allowed to remain for all time. O, to be a part of such a nation!