The Parable of the Wise
and Foolish Wedding Maids

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Ex. 27:20 π Ex. 29:7 π Isa. 58:6-7 π Jer. 23:30 π Mal. 4:5-6 π Mt. 7:22-23 π Mt. 10:8 π Mt. 13:25; 2nd π Mt. 22:37 π Mt. 25:1 π Mt. 25:1-13 π Mt. 25:2 π Mt. 25:3-4 π Mt. 25:5; 2nd π Mt. 25:6 π Mt. 25:7 π Mt. 25:8-9 π Mt. 25:10 π Mt. 25:11-12 π Mt. 25:13 π Mk. 3:35 π Lk. 9:23 π Lk. 18:8 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 16:13 π Rom. 6:23 π Rom. 8:29 π Rom. 16:26 π 1 Cor. 2:9 π 1 Cor. 2:12 π 1 Cor. 5:10-11 π 1 Cor. 13:12 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π 2 Cor. 6:17 π Gal. 5:20 π Eph. 4:16 π 1 Ths. 5:4 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2nd π Heb. 3:15 π Heb. 8:10-11 π Heb. 10:25 π Heb. 13:13 π Jas. 2:15-16 π 1 Pet. 1:22 π 2 Pet. 1:3-5 π 2 Pet. 2:3 π 1 Jn. 2:20 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 1 Jn. 3:2 π 1 Jn. 3:3 π Rev. 2:4 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 3:17 π Rev. 5:9 π Rev. 18:4 π Rev. 19:7 π Rev. 21:4 π Rev. 22:11

If ever a parable hung tantalizingly just out of reach, it would be the parable of the wise and foolish wedding maids, some young women on their way to a wedding party. Not that the message isn't clear, but rather that centuries of foolish and even demonic paradigms have distorted the clear meaning behind Jesus' words. Jesus said:

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten wedding maids who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

"And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; meet him!' Then all those wedding maids arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 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.' 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.

"Afterward the other wedding maids came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." ( Mt. 25:1-13; top )

Let us at least make some effort to read this as if for the first time. Let us set aside all the fantastic and forced meanings that teachers throughout the centuries have put on this parable and look at the simple plain meanings as they come to the surface from the Bible itself.

Ten young women carrying oil lamps go out to wait for a bridegroom who will come by soon and escort them to a wedding feast. (v. 1 ) Five of these young women thought ahead and foresaw that they did not know exactly how soon the bridegroom would arrive and five did not think ahead. (v. 2 ) The young women who did not think ahead brought their lamps only, but the young women who had thought ahead brought both their lamps and some extra oil with them. (v. 3-4; top )

It is right here that we need to begin to understand what the symbology represents. This is a picture of how it will be just before Christ's return and the wedding feast represents the entry into the spiritual and eternal life with God away from this world as we know it now. The young women in this story are those who have believed there is a bridegroom to meet, they have all heard that they are to have their "lamps" lit and in order, they all know how to find the door to the wedding feast and they all know the bridegroom's status as "Lord" - these are the two kinds of followers of Christ who will be alive at the time of His return. Let us not assume the foolish young women are merely unbelievers who know nothing of Christ. This does a complete disservice to the Lord's intent here. These unwise believers do something to make themselves unready for His return and therefore disqualify themselves for eternal life with Christ and God.

Oil, closely associated with light (lamps and candlestands) and anointing (priesthood, healing, etc.) throughout the Bible, is used as a picture of the work and relationship of the Spirit of God to us. ( Ex. 27:20 , 29:7 , Jn. 16:13 , 1 Jn. 2:20 , etc.; top) All the young women had something of the Spirit of God at work in their lives. The wise young women had a "secret" however - they had a second source of supply that the foolish young women did not. We will discover this "secret" later in the story.

Come Out!

The bridegroom was delayed and all slept. (v. 5 )

For two thousand years, men have slept while the enemy sowed tares among the wheat. ( Mt. 13:25 ) Men have not seen the schemes of the enemy that have put one man as head over other believers (Nicolaitanism - Rev. 2:6 , 15 ), a scheme that causes us to forsake the need for every member to do its share to build up the body of Christ. ( Eph. 4:16 ) Men have not seen nor repented of the rampant sin of sectarianism (denominationalism - Gal. 5:20 ). Men have not seen the futility of a mere outward form of godliness ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ) and have assumed that their physically meeting together in one building at one time in obedience to man-made traditions and the dictates of one's work week, constitutes genuine assembly which we must not forsake. ( Heb. 10:25; top ) Men are only now beginning to stir awake all around the world.

But at midnight there was a shout, "Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him." (v. 6 )

Note well this cry to, "Come out!" The call of the Lord at this time is to "Come out from the midst of her" (Mystery Babylon and/or her prostitute, religion-for-profit daughters - Rev. 18:4 ) and to "Come out from among them" (the "Christian" idolaters who in truth follow a false religion as is evidenced by their sinful deeds - 2 Cor. 6:17 , 1 Cor. 5:10-11 ) so that we do not become like them and share in her judgments. We simply must go "outside the camp" of established, fleshly, man-made religion, even and especially "church"-ianity, to meet Christ. ( Heb. 13:13 ) To stay in that "camp" is to stay in the world, to partake of its pleasures and to reap its rewards - the wages of sin that is death. ( Rom. 6:23; top )

Then all the young women woke up and started to put their own lamps in order. (v. 7 )

This represents that obedience to the hope that is within us that causes us to "purify ourselves" ( 1 Jn. 3:3 ) and that obedience to the truth by which we have purified our own souls through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren. ( 1 Pet. 1:22 ) For fathers and children, it is a submission to the "spirit of Elijah" that comes just before the Day of the Lord and turns their hearts towards one another. ( Mal. 4:5-6 ) For all true followers of Christ and God, it is a return to one's first love of having all of one's life in conformity with the will of God. ( Rev. 2:4 , Mk. 3:35 ) It is an ordering of one's life according to the will of God in true righteousness (what is right in His eyes) and a forsaking of ordering one's life according to what is right in one's own eyes - lawlessness. ( 2 Cor. 6:14; top )

The "Secret"

The foolish young women said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise young women replied, "No, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves." (v. 8-9; top )

Here is where we discover the "secret" about the second source of oil. What do the flasks represent? They represent the ability of the wise to tap into the things of God for themselves. They represent the believer's obedient interaction with the Holy Spirit of God for himself. In many "Christian" circles, this is the difference between claiming Christ as one's Savior as opposed to actually having Him as one's Lord and King (which is when we really begin to have Him as our Savior!). This can also be the difference between hearing the Lord for one's self and having to take one's "words of the Lord" from one's neighbor, a process the Lord has declared Himself to be in enmity with. ( Jer. 23:30; top ) There simply is no place for vicarious (through others) living of the real life of Christ. Please, hear this well - whether we will be the wise wedding maids in this story or the foolish wedding maids hinges on this point - ignore this at your own risk.

The foolish had to go to those who sell the things of God because they knew not how to draw from the Well of living water for themselves. They had not known to bring along a "second container" that enabled them to continue to walk in the light and power of the Holy Spirit and they had to go find someone else whom they thought did. How sad.

"My sheep hear My voice," the Lord said. ( Jn. 10:27 ) And John wrote, "As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not [constantly] need anyone to [constantly] teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in Him." ( 1 Jn. 2:27 NIV, words in brackets from Wuest's translation; top) The New Covenant that God made with His people - a covenant we were supposed to be operating in since 33 a.d., a covenant which the followers of the first century operated in to a large degree, at least for a time - is according to these terms:

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest." ( Heb. 8:10-11; top )

The wise young women of Jesus' parable are those who have stepped back into the fullness of the New Covenant and know how to hear the Lord for themselves and who know how to "read" and obey the laws God wrote on their hearts when He came to abide within them by His Holy Spirit!

This is why in eternity there will be those from "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" who were purchased by the blood of the Lamb. ( Rev. 5:9; top ) Those who have tapped into the things of God for themselves and who have walked according to the light they had (even if that did not include the gospel!) will be among those who spend their eternity in the presence of God.

This is also why Peter warned, "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." ( 2 Pet. 2:3 ) Greedy teachers exploiting their hearers with fables (an echo of Paul's warning in 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ) - though men have been sleeping ( Mt. 13:25 , 25:5 ), their condemnation, judgment and destruction has been accruing. The things of God are not for sale - they are to be as freely given as they were received! ( Mt. 10:8 , 1 Cor. 2:12; top ) Anyone who has to sell the things of God so as to enjoy a "lucrative career" or even just to feel some power over the crowd has come in the power of a different god and not in the power of Christ.

Active Obedience Rewarded

But don't expect anyone from the "church," the falling away from the faith, to agree with these truths. This is bad for business as the "church" needs its passive victims to sit quietly and idly in the pews, there only to support "the man of God for the hour" in his "work for the Lord." What an abomination! There are even "theologies" being taught today that any and all "self-effort" is nothing but a return to the law and to the flesh. This bogus fraud is nothing but an attempt by the demonic to keep the wise young women of Jesus' parable from being wise. The wise young women know that they cannot burn the lamp without oil - but how stupid would the woman be if she had the extra flask of oil but refused to pour the oil from the flask to the lamp because that would be "self-effort"? Oh, how foolish those are who learn the things of God by the arm of the flesh! We are required to be diligent - to make every effort - to add to our faith the additional elements that constitute true, mature godliness in Christ Jesus. ( 2 Pet. 1:3-5; top )

The most important commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. ( Mt. 22:37; top ) Though this is no longer a law over us, it remains a principle of following God that has repercussions in our life. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" is a piece of folk-wisdom and it is a truth. Wherever we are disobedient to loving the Lord God with all that we have, are and do, we leave a place of passivity that is an open invitation to demonic activity.

There are certainly ways to seek to "obey" God by the arm of the flesh (which is in reality just being one's own "God") but it is an equal foolishness to think that God will raise our feet for us just because He told us to walk down a certain pathway. There are aspects of our walking in His Way that He alone can do but there are aspects of that Way that He will not do for us. After commanding us to take up our cross and use our feet to follow after Him ( Lk. 9:23 , etc.), by what foolishness can we suddenly expect Him to bend over, pick up our cross and then reach over and move our feet for us? Rather, He expects us to co-labor with Him by His Spirit, power (grace) and strength as our character is transformed into the likeness of Christ. ( Rom. 8:29 , etc.) We can certainly rely on Him to do His parts in our walk - but can He rely on us to do ours? When He returns to the earth, will He find true faith ( Lk. 18:8 ), that is, faith demonstrated by genuine obedience to God? ( Rom. 16:26; top ) Since Jesus said in this parable we are examining that there will both wise and foolish believers upon His return, we know the answer to His question is "yes" - but the question for each individual is: "Will you be demonstrating such faith when He comes?"

Let us return to the parable of the young women.

While the foolish young women were gone - that is, while they went to their "church" to find their "pastor," their "personal pastor," their "apostle," their "prophet," their "elder," their "spiritual father," or whatever title or tag their spiritual guru travels under - the bridegroom came. The young women who were ready went into the wedding feast with him and the door was shut. (v. 10 )

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." ( 1 Cor. 2:9 ) Any attempt to describe what awaits this group of prepared followers of Christ at His return must surely fall short of the reality. To know as we are known ( 1 Cor. 13:12 ), to see Him even as He is ( 1 Jn. 3:2 ), to have all tears wiped away as there will be "no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." ( Rev. 21:4; top ) How can any words we might try to use do justice to these unimaginable joys that await those who have prepared themselves for their Husband and King, Christ Jesus?

Some time after the bridegroom has come and the wise young wedding maids have entered the wedding feast, the foolish wedding maids come to the door of the feast and call out to be let in. But the bridegroom says, "Most assuredly, I tell you, I don't know you." (v. 11-12 )

It is here that we find the sobriety with which we must judge how serious it is to "run out of oil." These foolish young women receive the same judgment as those who did so many wonderful things in the name of the Lord but in the end were told, "Depart from Me - I never knew you!" ( Mt. 7:22-23; top )

We must conclude that these foolish young women are the "church" goers who reject sound doctrine but love to have their ears scratched and soothed. ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ) These are those who will drop perhaps even large amounts into the "church" offering plate or box so as to practice vicarious charity - but they do nothing to attend to the orphans and widows and leasts of Christ's brothers themselves. (see Isa. 58:6-7 , Jas. 2:15-16 , etc.) These are those who say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But these do not realize that they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. ( Rev. 3:17; top ) This is the general state and condition of the modern apostasy most men commonly call "church."

A Final Warning

Jesus concludes His parable by telling us to "Be on alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come." (v. 13; top )

Negligence and presumption are the common practices of the "church." It is commonplace to hear the demonic and their ability to deceive - and the consequences of imbibing too much deception - mocked and ridiculed. It is uncommon in many "church" circles to even hear about the bride of Christ and her need to prepare herself ( Rev. 19:7; top ) for the soon return of her Husband and King. Wariness and alertness are foreign words in many circles of "Christianity." This only shows that there indeed will be many foolish wedding maids on the earth at the time of Christ's return.

Soon there will be no more warnings being sounded. Soon - if not already - the Lord will be (is?) saying to all peoples on the earth: "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still." ( Rev. 22:11 ) The time to change what one actually is in the depths of one's hearts is now. "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..." ( Heb. 3:15 ) Only those true brothers who are not in darkness will not be surprised by the day of Christ's return. ( 1 Ths. 5:4; top ) Only the wise wedding maids, who know how to tap into the things of God for themselves, will be those now coming out of the darkness of false religion and today coming into the light and truth of the genuine way of following Christ, a way that includes a cross, a tomb and a resurrection morning. Only these will be ready and waiting for Him when He appears and only these will be permitted to remain with Him when He takes them into the wedding feast of eternity.

Let he who has ears hear.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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