These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 25:1-13 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary
Matthew 25:1-13 – Parable of the Ten Virgins
At what time does 25:1 refer to? How this passage connect with the previous chapter?
Who do the virgins represent? Why are they called “virgins” in this passage not perhaps “brides?”
Is there any implication in the fact that they are called virgins?
Who is the bridegroom?
What does the lamp represent if anything?
What did the virgins do while they were waiting? Was this good or bad for them to sleep?
Why was more than one waiting to meet the same bridegroom? If an unbeliever pointed to this parable and said it means the Bible endorses polygamy, what would you say?
What are the two categories of virgins? Why were some called foolish and some called wise?
Why could the wise ones not share? What lesson does this teach us?
What can we learn from the fact those were not ready were not allowed in? What does this teach us about God’s character and salvation?
What is the conclusion application for us?
How can we keep watch? What can we do to be ready?
Revelation 19:7-9 – The bride is ready and clothed with fine linen , bright and pure.
Ephesians 5:25-27 – That He might present the church to Himself without blemish or wrinkle.
2 Corinthians 11:2 – To present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Ephesians 6:18 – Keep alert with all perseverance.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-19 – The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. Do not sleep as others do.
Matthew 24:44 – The Son of Man is coming at an hour which you do not expect.
Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
1 John 3:3 – Everyone who hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. At that time – This refers back to the previous passage, which talks about the Lord’s Second Coming.
2. Ten virgins – There is likely no significant meaning of the number ten. It is a way of saying that there is more than one. It allows for the group to be divided into two and still have more than one in each group (of wise and foolish). You could say “There were a large number of people. Some of these people were wise because they were ready and some were foolish because they weren’t.”
3. The Bible is NOT endorsing polygamy – Yes, it does mention ten ladies and only one bridegroom. These could be bridesmaids and not brides. Regardless, this is a parable. It specifically says that the kingdom of heaven is like this. It is as if there is a group of people waiting for the Lord. Waiting for the Lord is like waiting for a bridegroom. To fix this issue, Jesus could have said there were ten virgins waiting for ten bridegrooms. But then there would be another problem in that we do not have ten different Saviors. A parable is used to teach generally one key point or application. In this parable Jesus uses waiting for a groom to compare to waiting for Jesus, making the point that people should be ready for His return. He is not teaching on marriage or endorsing several ladies going after the same guy.
4. Virgins – In this passage the word is synonymous with “bride.” The implication would then be that a bride should be pure. These days few brides are pure. Few grooms are pure. Few are virgins. But once upon a time in the past it was so likely that the bride or groom was a pure virgin that the words would be almost synonymous.
Likely this picture/parable is chosen to illustrate waiting for the Lord, because the church is represented throughout Scripture as the “bride of Christ.” Read cross-references. We too then are to be pure. One day we will be presented as the bride of Christ. This too is like a picture. We have an unbreakable and eternal, personal relationship with Christ.
5. Jewish Weddings – In a traditional Jewish wedding, the marriage would be agreed upon first and the couple would be betrothed. The marriage at this point was already confirmed and the couple was bound together like a husband and wife. But they would not come together physically yet. The groom would first go to build a house and prepare for taking his wife in. The wife would likely not know how long this process was going to take. So she would remain ready at all times. Each day she would put on her wedding dress and prepare because it could be the day her groom came. It would not be good if he showed up and she was still in her pajamas! Of course nowadays a simple mobile phone call would solve all of this issues, but then we would not have this very nice illustration of Jesus’ return!
This is why the virgins were exhorted to be ready at all times and it is why some of them were called “foolish” because they did not fill the normal expectations of readiness by running out of oil at the key moment.
6. The lamps – These were essential for the brides-to-be to always have ready. If the groom came suddenly at night and they didn’t have lamps to light their path, then they would be stuck and not able to go with him (theoretically missing out on everything that they were hoping and planning for.) Of course these days there are street lights all over the place. So what might be used today in this parable instead of the example of lamps? (Cell phones? Metro card?)
Note also that it is not that difficult to have a lamp ready all the time. It’s perhaps slightly more difficult than having your cell phone battery charged up. Neither would be considered a great burden or some impossible task. This shows us that even the very simple things God gives us to do, many people do not do it. Many do not reach even the very low, most basic standard of readiness.
7. The wise vs. the foolish – Simply put the wise were ready and the foolish were not. Perhaps they had been waiting for a long time and some of them thought “he is not going to come tonight; let’s sleep first and get more oil in the morning.” Satan often tempts people not by saying, “Don’t get ready. Don’t be prepare. Don’t do that good work.” Instead he would tempt us by saying, “Sure get ready, just do it tomorrow.” Procrastination is bad enough when you know a specific deadline to finish something. But we do not know the time or the hour of Jesus’ return so procrastination in this case is much worse than on a test exam or a business project when you may still hope to cram what you need to do in the last day.
Jesus’ coming causes a separation between the genuine believers and the false ones. It might not be evident before that as the unbelievers may associate with believers within the church, but not yet be “exposed.”
8. At midnight – Certainly this is not a very normal time. But this should not be surprising because in chapter 24 we saw that He will return at an unexpected time. Simple application: always be ready!
9. They were all sleeping – Does this mean that none of them were ready? No, the wise virgins were not blamed for sleeping. It is not expected that they would continuously stay awake for weeks or months at a time without sleeping. It is physically impossible and even staying awake for several days in a row can become very dangerous health-wise. Even though they were asleep, they were still ready to leave in a moment’s notice.
See Nehemiah 4:23. In this passage Nehemiah and his men sleep with their armor on and their weapons strapped to their bodies. They can immediately wake up and defend the city of need be. During America’s Revolutionary War, there were a group of people called Minutemen. These were supposed to be ready to run from their house and enter a battle within 60 seconds notice day or night.
So God does not ask us not to sleep physically. But we should be ready all the time for His return, which means we should not sleep spiritually. We should not become complacent like the foolish virgins. We should not say “Oh, he is not coming back today. I will serve Him tomorrow.” We should not procrastinate in important spiritual matters.
10. No sharing of oil – Of course as believers we should share. It would be taking this out of context to say, “see Matthew says we should not share!” However, you cannot make other people be ready for Jesus’ return. Neither can you make them become saved or spiritually awake. In this passage we see that every person bears personal responsibility for his own salvation, condition, and readiness. Some of you are children of believing parents. You cannot rely on your parent’s salvation or walk with the Lord. It is hopefully a good model, but cannot directly cause your salvation. As others have said before, God does not have grandchildren.
Perhaps more relevant is the application for all of the parents. Your salvation does not guarantee your children’s salvation. You cannot pass oil to them. So then what can you do?
Application: You can still pray for them and you can still encourage them to buy their own oil! You can encourage them to seek their own relationship with the Lord.
11. There is a limit to God’s patience / at some point there will be no more chances – For those living at the time of Noah, they could have repented and entered the ark with Noah at anytime before the door closed. But they did not. Then God closed the door. After that it was too late. It will be the same at the Second Coming. Now there is still a chance. Tomorrow there may be a chance. One day there will be no more chance.
12. Therefore keep watch.
Application: While we believe that Jesus’ Second Coming will be preceded by the tribulation and the rapture, there are no other things which must happen before the rapture. It could come at any time. We must be alert. We must be ready. Part of that means we should have this understanding or expectation always at the front of our mind. It would then effect how we live on a day to day basis. Beyond this, we must make sure that we do not leave any unfinished tasks behind which God wants us to accomplish. See Ephesians 2:10. We have certain tasks (good deeds) each day laid out in front of us to finish. The more we procrastinate, the longer that list gets. Some things will become impossible to finish if we put it off. Therefore we should live each day redeeming the time and making the most of every opportunity we have for serving the Lord.
More to come soon
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