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by Patrick Heron
I received several emails after my last article, ‘The Coming Slaughter of Christians’, from folks who say that the Parable of the Ten Virgins has nothing to do with the Rapture and the Church of God. I decided to dig a little deeper into this parable and see if the Word can clear up any confusion regarding its interpretation. So let us go through the story as presented line-by-line with the help of a Greek scholar whom I have consulted and, by the grace of God, may we come to a better understanding of its true meaning? Matthew 25:1-
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”
So the context set here is ten virgins going out to meet their bridegroom. This parable is the middle one of three which are all dealing with the same subject i.e. “Watch therefore for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt 24:42). The first parable is known as the parable of the faithful and wise servant. Then we have the ten virgins and thirdly, the parable of the talents. All three are concerned with the same theme; namely, the going away and coming back of the Lord. And all three encourage us to; “Therefore be ye ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.”
Of course the whole of Matthew 24 and 25 are a response to a question to Jesus by some of his closest confidents as to what would be the signs of His second coming (parousia) and of the end of this age. So the three parables are a sort of summing up of what he had told them regarding the signs of the coming Apocalypse, what would happen during the Apocalypse, and what would occur after the Tribulation. All these are covered in Matt 24 and 25.
So the context of the Ten Virgins parable is the coming of the Lord and their going out to meet him.
“And five of them were wise and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”
Many teachers have proposed that the word ‘virgins’ should be translated as ‘bridesmaids’. Thus, they conclude that the marriage has already happened, Bride (Church) is already in heaven and therefore these five bridesmaids represent those saints who are to go through the Tribulation and they will meet their Lord when he comes back at the end of the Apocalypse. In order to test this thesis, I wrote to an aged scholar who lives near Athens, Greece and with whom I have become friendly over the past two years. Manos Nomikos has written several books and has translated books from Greek to English and vice versa. He is also a committed Christian. I told him what was being proposed by several writers in the USA and asked him about the Greek word parthenos which is the word in the text for ‘virgin’. Here is his reply verbatim;
“Regarding the Ten Virgins, I can assure you that in Greek, both ancient and modern, any female that has not come into sexual intercourse with a male, and has not lost her maiden membrane, is a parthenos, i.e. "virgin", irrespective of what USA scholars claim. Noticeable that the Zodiac sign of Virgin in Greek is called "Parthenos.”
It is quite clear from this that ‘virgins’ is the proper and true rendering of the Greek text. Therefore to suggest that these virgins are actually bridesmaids is to make the Word say something other than its true meaning which is not in the original text.
In fact the word for ‘bride’ in Greek is nymphe, and the Greek for ‘bridesmaids’ is paranymphos. Neither of these words are found anywhere in the Gospels or epistles referring to the Church or to the bridegroom. You have to go to Revelation 21 to find the word ‘bride’ and this is a description of the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven. So to suggest that these five are not virgins and to say they are bridesmaids totally changes the meaning of the parable and skews it to allow a different interpretation be put on the story.
For if these virgins are changed to bridesmaids, this suggests that the bride is a different entity and it is a small step to suppose that she is already in heaven and the Marriage Feast with the groom is long over and done with. This is a presumption and is not the case. We read on.
“And at midnight there was a cry made, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him’. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise; ‘Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out’. But the wise answered and said, ‘Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you. But go ye rather to them that sell and buy for yourselves.”
Most scholars agree that the oil is representative of the Holy Spirit. So the wise virgins represent those that have received the Holy Spirit. Again this concurs with the Church Epistles that tell us that when we believed in the Lord we received the seed of God which is the gift of Holy Spirit. As a result we are the ‘sons of God...in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among who ye shine as lights in this world’. It is interesting to note also that the virgins were directed to ‘go ye out to meet him’. For this is what will occur when the Rapture takes place. We are going out to meet the Lord in the air. On the other hand, when Jesus returns with his Church at Armageddon, the Tribulation saints are not going out to meet him. Rather he is returning to earth to them.
“And when they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage and the door was shut. Afterward also came the other virgins saying, ‘lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered and said, ‘Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”
Now there are a couple of important points at issue here. Firstly, when the bridegroom came, the five wise virgins were ready to go and met him and together they went to the marriage and the door was shut. As far as I am aware, there is only one marriage feast between the Lord and His church. This occurs in heaven after the Rapture and while the Apocalypse is happening on earth. So if the Bride is already in heaven, as some propose, then what marriage is this referring to?
In Matthew 22:1-14 there is another parable speaking about the same marriage. The marriage is prepared by the king for his son but all those that are invited refuse to come. So the king sends his servants into the highways and byways and invites as many as they can find to come to the marriage feast. You know the story. The invited guests were the Jews. But they would not come. The people who did come represent the Gentiles who are the Church. But the point is it is speaking of the same marriage between the son of the king and his chosen. So when the wise virgins meet their groom and go into the marriage feast and the door is shut, this has to be a reference to the Marriage Feast in heaven that we will all be attending someday soon. It cannot be that the marriage took place seven years earlier and the Bride is already in heaven and now there is a second marriage.
Here is another point; when the five unwise virgins return, they knock on the door and ask to be allowed in. Of course it is too late. But the clear inference here is that when they returned, they had oil in their lamps. They went off to buy oil, and returned with it. This suits the thesis which suggests these unwise virgins represent those masses of people who will turn to God and Jesus after the Rapture and during the Tribulation. Sure they will receive the Holy Spirit (oil) and bare testimony to Jesus. But it will be too late to get them to the marriage feast as the Rapture will have already passed. The unwise virgins likewise cannot represent unbelievers during the Tribulation. For they hate Jesus and have no interest in trying to gain entry to the marriage and will not be banging on the door shouting, ‘lord, lord, let us in’.
Some say that this whole section has to do with the Jews and has nothing to do with the Church of the Body. I agree. But often there are dual or more meanings to prophetic statements. Thus even though Jesus is addressing the ‘lost tribe of Israel’ here, he is also speaking of the church to come post Pentecost and the gathering together of the saints. Others suggest that Jesus never spoke of the Rapture because this was only revealed to Paul later on. Balderdash. Jesus plainly speaks of the Rapture in John 14:1-4 and also right here in Matt 24:40, 41
“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left.”
I know that many people will say that this not referring to the Rapture. They say for instance, ‘one shall be taken for judgement, and the other left to go through the Tribulation’, or some such argument. But hold on a minute; did we not just learn that you cannot change words to make them say something that is not written? You cannot change ‘virgin’ to ‘bridesmaids’ in order to suit your own theory on what this parable means. To do so is to play fast and loose with the Word of God.
Remember the lesson from Genesis 3 when the Devil deceived Adam and Eve? God had given specific instructions to them regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then along came Old Nick and started to debate with them. First he questioned what God had said; then he omitted a word; then he added to what was said, then he changed a word, and finally, he flat out contradicted what the Word said. The pattern is usually the same when it comes to interpreting Scripture. The point being, you cannot go around adding to or subtracting from what the plain truth states in order to suit a particular interpretation. And in the above quote, if it says, ‘then shall two be in the field, one shall be taken and the other left’, then that’s what it means. Leave it at that and accept it. ‘Two women will be grinding. One shall be taken and the other left’. That is what it says and that is what it means. It does not need us to add on a few more words. That’s what Satan did in the garden. I have no doubt this is referring to the Rapture because the context of Matt 24 and 25 is in answer to the question, what is going to happen when you return? Remember, these are the words of Jesus Christ who was no ordinary mortal prophet.
As I said, there is no mention anywhere in the Gospels or epistles of the Church being the Bride of Christ. However, it does refer to believers as ‘virgin’. 2 Corinthians 11:2
“For, I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
So there you have it. The epistle to the Corinthians is addressed to the Church of the Body of Christ. This compares the believers to a chaste virgin and ties them in with the five wise virgins (not bridesmaids) who went out to meet their bridegroom who took them to the marriage feast and shut the door behind them.
Although the Church is never called the Bride of Christ, it is actually inferred in Ephesians 5:22-33 where it likens the relationship of a wife and husband to that of Christ and His church. Paul finishes with, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church”.
But what is not a mystery is that the five wise virgins represent the church and when we go out to meet Him in the Rapture, then the door will be shut and those poor souls who will believe in Christ afterwards will be left to suffer the horrible events which will soon fall upon the earth.
In the meantime, we are to ‘watch therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord cometh’. This is referring to the church today. For, we do not know when Jesus will return to gather us together in the air. It might happen tonight or it may happen in 50 years time. But the Tribulation saints, on the other hand, they will know when Jesus is coming back. They will know that he is coming at the end of the Apocalypse when the armies are gathered at the Valley of Megiddo and the Beast from the Abyss, the Antichrist, goes into the Temple declaring that he is God. So they will have a fair idea of exactly when Jesus is returning to earth whereas we today have no inkling as to when the Rapture will occur. Sure we have a hope that it will be soon as we can see the signs being fulfilled all around us. But we just do not know. It may be some time yet.
I do not mean to discredit those teachers and people who hold to a different interpretation of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we all want to do the right thing and rightly divide the Word of truth. But we are also encouraged to be like those Berean believers who searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were true. Many great scholars such as EW Bullinger, Hal Lindsey, Dave Hunt and Charles Capps amongst others agree that the five wise virgins represent the Church. I believe this short essay proves this to be the case and I offer it for your perusal.
(You can read the Introduction to Patrick’s new eBook, “The Return of the Antichrist and the New World Order”, which can be downloaded for $5 at www.neph.ie).