by John R Ecob DD
Published October 2013
The context of any passage of Scripture is most important in determining the right interpretation and the parable of the ten virgins is no exception. Often we find this parable is applied to people in this Church age whereas the context is Jewish
and pre-Church. The context is the message of the Olivet Discourse.
The Olivet Discourse is preceded by the Lord’s statement,
Behold your house (Israel’s) is left unto you desolate…Ye shall not see me henceforth TILL ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:38-39).
The Olivet Discourse is an answer to three questions:
- When will the Temple be destroyed?
- What is the sign of thy coming?
- What is the sign of the “end of the age” (the 70th week of Israel’s prophetic history as described in Daniel chapter 9 and verse 27). It is the same period that is known as “the Day of the Lord” or the Great Tribulation.
First, the Lord told the Jewish disciples what NOT to interpret as a sign of the end of the age in Matthew 24:4-6. In verse 6 He said, “The end is NOT YET” i.e. There would always be “wars and rumours of wars” and since the time of Simon bar Kokba (AD132 – 135), there have been many false Christs who have claimed to be the Messiah.
The 7-year Tribulation Described Beginning at verse 7, Jesus chronologically described the events immediately preceding His 2nd advent (Matthew 24:7 to 28). This short period is Daniel’s 70th week which is the final 7 years before Christ returns and the nation of Israel enters into the blessing of the millennial kingdom of Christ.
The first half (42 months) of the Tribulation is described in Matthew 24:7 to 14 and Jesus said this was “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). “Sorrows” is literally, Israel’s “travail” when the nation will experience the new birth under the New Covenant.
Isaiah 66:8 states:
As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
The 144,000 (“firstfruits” of Israel, Rev 14:4) will preach the Gospel of the kingdom in all the world in the face of intense persecution. Israel’s conversion is in the first half of the 70th week when the Russian/Islamic invasion of Ezekiel 38,39 takes place and Israel is saved “from THAT DAY and forward” (Ezekiel 39:22-29).
The middle of the 70th week is described in Matthew 24:15-19 when Antichrist reveals his true character and makes his palace in the “holy mount” (Daniel 11:45). This is the “abomination of desolation” which will “stand in the holy place” of the Tribulation Temple.
The second half of the 70th week is described in Matthew 24:20-28 and Jesus called it “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21).
When the Lord returns, the first thing He will do is gather Israel, “his elect (Israel), from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
The Parable of the Fig Tree
The parable of the fig tree follows in verses 32-35 and this teaches us that when Israel sees “all these things” (i.e. The Tribulation previously described) they will know that the 2nd Advent is “NIGH even at the doors“. The generation that sees “ALL THESE THINGS” (the Tribulation) will see the Lord return.
The fig tree bears fruit BEFORE its leaves appear and since the fig tree is a symbol of Israel we suggest that the conversion of Israel to Jesus Christ will be a sign that the end of the age has arrived.
Obviously this cannot apply to Christians in the Church age because we won’t be here to see all these things. It must apply to ISRAEL in the Tribulation.
Signs of the End of the Age for Israel
Verses 36 to 44 describe SIGNS for ISRAEL as to when the “end of the age” (the 70th week) will BEGIN. Those days will be like the days of Noah AND there will be a sudden global disappearance of individuals.
One shall be taken (lit.received to oneself) and the other left (put away or rejected).
The Lord did NOT say this disappearance was the rapture of the Christians because the Church did not exist at that time. The revelation of the Church was a mystery hidden in ages past and first revealed to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:1-9; 1Corinthians 15:51-54). The SIGN to Israel that the end of the age has come will be the sudden, global disappearance of people which we now know is the rapture of the CHURCH. No doubt the 144,000 Jewish witnesses who are sealed immediately after the Rapture, will realize that also.
The Bride is NOT mentioned in the parable of the virgins because Israel will be the guests at the marriage supper when the Lord returns. Nevertheless when Christ comes for His bride, the Church will disappear and Israel will know that the “end of the age” has come.
Three Parables Warn Israel to be Ready and Watch
From Matthew 24:45 to 25:30 we have three parables of the kingdom which will be preached by the 144,000 Jewish witnesses. They are:
a) The faithful and wise servant.
b) The wise and foolish virgins.
c) The talents given to faithful and wicked servants.
ALL OF THESE parables teach ONE THING to Israel. WATCH! WATCH! WATCH! – Be ready for the coming of the Lord!
God has entrusted great treasures (talents) to the nation of Israel for this world (Romans 9:4-5; 3:1-4). Israel
is God’s servant nation but within Israel there are saved Jews and unsaved Jews. There are faithful servants
and evil servants/wise virgins and foolish virgins/faithful servants and wicked servants. It is not possible for any person who is a part of the bride of Christ to be cut asunder and receive his
“portion with the hypocrites” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51).
These parables are telling the Jews to WATCH, BE READY, BE SAVED AND BE FAITHFUL because if they are not saved they will be cut asunder where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:51).
Judgment of the Living Nations
The final part of the Olivet Discourse is the separation of the living nations that survive the Tribulation.
There are three groups of people on earth when Christ returns: i) The Lord’s brethren (Israel who are all saved), ii) the sheep (saved Gentiles from the Tribulation) and iii) the goats (Unsaved Gentiles from the Tribulation).
To the sheep Jesus will say, “Inherit the kingdom” and to the goats He will say, “Depart from me into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).
There will be a literal kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34) and the Lord’s brethren, together with the saved Gentiles, will INHERIT THE KINGDOM.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In view of the context I believe we should interpret the parable of the 10 virgins as a warning to Israel to watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord AND the end of the age.
The bride is not mentioned in the parable but she must be there because the bridegroom comes for His bride. However, the parable is addressed to those who would be the guests at the marriage supper which occurs on earth AFTER Christ returns in glory (Revelation 19:7-9).
The arrival of the bridegroom at the midnight hour is the occasion when the bridegroom comes for His bride and it is this that awakens the ten virgins.
There is no doubt that the rapture of the Church will awaken 144,000 Jews to preach the Gospel of the kingdom in all the world (Rev.7:1-3), but these are only the “firstfruits” of Israel and the conversion of the remainder of the nation will occur, possibly 2 years later, when the “northern army” of Russia and Islam sweeps through the land of Israel (Joel 2:20; Ezekiel 38,39) slaying two thirds of the people (Zechariah 13:8-9).
This explains why there are foolish virgins as well as wise virgins. All of the wise virgins will be in attendance at the Marriage supper of the Lamb but the foolish perish.
It is interesting that Scripture says of the 144,000:
These are they which were not defiled with women; FOR THEY ARE VIRGINS. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).
The timing of the parable must be located at the beginning of the Tribulation because it describes the events when the bridegroom comes FOR HIS BRIDE which is the Rapture, but the message of the parable is to the guests; Israel. Jews who are saved before the rapture will be a part of the bride but those on earth after the rapture will be either wise or foolish. The 144,000 will be wise and will heed the warning of the midnight call to the bride to “come up hither” to the Father’s house. Also, the remnant who repent at the time of the Russian/Islamic invasion will be wise but those Jews who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Messiah, Saviour and Lord, will perish and not be admitted as guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The parable of the virgins is further proof that the rapture must occur BEFORE the Tribulation for it is a sign to Israel that the “end of the age” (the Tribulation) has begun.
It indicates TO US that the Bridegroom will come BEFORE the “end of the age” and the sudden disappearance of people over the earth will be the disappearance of the Church. That will be the cry to ISRAEL, to “go ye out to meet him”. That will be the message of the 144,000 who preach the Gospel of the KINGDOM i.e. that THE KING IS COMING WITH HIS BRIDE “immediately AFTER the Tribulation of those days”.
Today Israel is blinded. “God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see” (Romans 11:8) but when the trump of God shall sound to call the bride to the Father’s house, Israel will awake and those who have the oil of the
Holy Spirit will attend the marriage supper of the Lamb when Christ returns WITH His bride.