Q.

Please comment on the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. If it refers to the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation and not to the rapture of believers before the Tribulation, why does it talk about the unexpectedness of the Second Coming when it is the Rapture that is supposedly imminent?

A.
The general context of Matthew 24 and 25 dictates that we believe the parable refers to the second coming of Christ, after the Tribulation, if we take Scripture literally. Thus the ten virgins depict Israel. Israel is waiting for her Messiah, the Bridegroom. During the Tribulation, Israel will realize that Jesus is coming, but many of them (portrayed by the five foolish, sleeping virgins) will not be prepared for Him. Since the oil mentioned in this parable likely stands for the Holy Spirit, we can conclude that those who had no oil represent those who merely profess salvation but do not truly possess salvation. In other words, mankind will be no different than now or at Christ’s first coming: there were true believers, and there were mere religionists. So when Christ comes, the phonies will not be ready and will subsequently be unable to enter the Kingdom.

It is true that the parable shows unexpectedness. The fact that the Rapture is also imminent (possible at any moment) does not mean that the Second Coming cannot be unexpected and imminent as well, even with the prior Tribulation being an ordained and marked time span of seven years.

Some scholars emphasize the words “day” and “hour” in the passage, as opposed to “century” or “year.” The purpose is to show that while there was not much time, it was enough time to keep the unfaithful from waking up and being ready for the King’s coming. The distinction also shows that there was a time lapse; they could not pinpoint the exact second He would come.

These observations may be valid, but it is also true that people tend to neglect spiritual realities and responsibilities, regardless of how much or how little time they have. As the sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane illustrated, individuals can be totally unprepared for events that are just about to happen. One does not need much time to be either ready or unprepared.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (May 1996).
© 1996 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.