Jesus Did Not Say That The Foolish Virgins Were Not Filled With The Holy Spirit


At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in their jars along with their lamps. (Matt 25: 1-4)

We Gentiles, who understand neither the language nor the culture of the ancient Hebrew people, make a real mess if this one. When we read about lamps or light, it should alert us immediately that Jesus was talking about “walking” or living their lives God’s way and that oil had something to do with the way they lived.

We must also remember that Jesus was telling His disciples a parable. Therefore His story had a purpose and He was addressing a specific situation. We cannot interpret all the details of a parable without losing the teller’s main intention. What was the theme of Jesus’ discussion with His disciples? He was responding to their question about the destruction of the temple which He has just predicted:

‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?’ (Matt 24: 3b)

He did not give them a timeline which they could tick off as events happened. Hebrew people did not think like that. He gave them “signs” so that they could recognise what was happening and take action before they were caught up in the destruction. The whole purpose of His response was to teach them how to be ready for His return. It was not about living it up until just before His return but about being faithful to their duty so that they would be ready when He came to fetch His bride.

This parable fits into this theme. Jesus is the bridegroom who has gone to prepare the bridal chamber for His bride. It is the bride’s duty, during the extended betrothal period, to separate herself from all other men (to be holy) and to prepare her bridal gown. We have already discovered the interpretation of the “bridal gown” from our reference in Rev. 19: 6-8.

‘. . . For the wedding of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous deeds of the saints).

Just as the believer is robed in the righteousness of Christ, given to us as a free gift to cover our unrighteousness and make us acceptable to the Father, so we must confirm our status as God’s sons and daughters by living as Jesus taught us or, as the Bible’s imagery explains, we must walk in God’s way, following the path of His teaching or Torah by being generous and merciful to all people because God has been generous and merciful to us.

The “oil” in this parable is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, as many preachers interpret the story, but to the “righteous deeds of the saints” which the bridal gown represents. The five wise virgins were filled with righteous deeds – they lived their lives according to Jesus’ teaching, that is, the way He interpreted God’s instructions found in the first five books of the Bible, collectively known as the Torah. Their lamps were full of oil because they walked in the light of God’s word.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psa. 119: 105)

Doing the right thing (righteous deeds) is not the reason for their righteousness but the evidence of a right relationship with God, made possible because Jesus removed the barrier of sin.

The foolish virgins showed no evidence in their lives that they had ever responded in faith to the offer of the gift of righteousness. They had no “light” on their way. When the bridegroom came, they could not go into the wedding feast with the others because their lamps were empty of the true light of life, the good works that revealed their true nature as daughters of God.

We read the clue to the seriousness of their failure to be ready by the response of the bridegroom when they wanted to enter the banqueting hall.

But when 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. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matt 25: 10-13)

The bridegroom denied them entry because He did not “know” them. The word “know” implies the intimate knowledge of a husband and wife which results in reproduction, just as Adam “knew” Eve and she bore a son.

Jesus only “knows” us when we bow to Him as Lord and respond to Him in submission and obedience to His word. We respond to His mercy and generosity by treating our fellow human beings with mercy and generosity, revealing our nature as sons and daughters of God.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matt 25: 40)

John, the beloved disciple, hit the nail on the head!

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)


Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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