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The Ten Virgins Or The Midnight Cry

Matthew xxv:1-13

The study of this most solemn parable spoken by our Lord is very
opportune. It is also necessary because certain wrong interpretations
are being made of this parable, which have been accepted by not a few
of God's people.

We find the parable of the ten virgins exclusively in the Gospel of
Matthew, and here it is a part of the great discourse of our Lord,
generally known as the Olivet discourse. The Gospel of Matthew is the
Gospel of the King and His Kingdom. Three great discourses of the Lord
are recorded by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of Matthew. The first is
the so-called "sermon on the mount." This contains the proclamation of
the King concerning His Kingdom. The second discourse is found in the
13th chapter; this is composed of seven parables in which the Lord
makes known the mysteries of the Kingdom. In the last great discourse
He reveals the future of His Kingdom. First He reveals the future of
the Jews, how the Jewish age will close, what great events are yet to
take place in the land of Israel. He speaks of the great tribulation,
which is yet in store for the Jews and immediately after the days of
that great tribulation He will come in power and great glory. At the
close of His discourse He reveals the future of the Gentile nations,
who are on earth when He comes again. He will take His place upon His
own glorious throne and all nations will be gathered before Him. They
will be separated by the King, as a shepherd separates the sheep and
the goats. Between these two predictions concerning the future, the
beginning and the end of this discourse He gives three parables. These
parables do not relate to the Jews, nor to the Gentile nations nor do
they refer to the period of time, the end of the age, of which He
speaks in the first part of Matthew xxiv. In these three parables the
Lord shows the conditions which will prevail during the time of His
absence from this earth. This period of time is the present Christian
age. The three parables of the prudent and evil servant, the wise and
the foolish virgins and the faithful and the slothful servants, give us
a picture of the state of the entire Christian profession. This is
seen in the very beginning of this parable. The parable of the ten
virgins is one, which relates to the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of
heaven has here the same meaning as in Matthew xiii, that is, it means
the entire sphere of Christian profession.

And now before we follow the different stages of this important parable
I want to mention very briefly the two wrong interpretations, which
like all other errors in our day, became more and more widespread. The
first claims that the virgins do not represent Christians at all, but
that they represent the Jewish remnant during the end of the age. The
parable, according to this interpretation, will be fulfilled in the
future. I am not going to enter into the different arguments which are
advanced to support this view, but only wish to point out one fact,
which is sufficient to disprove this theory. The ten virgins fell
asleep, which, as we shall see later, means that they no longer
expected the coming of the Bridegroom. Is it possible to conceive that
the believing Jews during the great tribulation, when everything points
to the rapid consummation of the age, can go to sleep? This to my mind
is sufficient to overthrow this theory, not to speak of other reasons.

Another interpretation holds that the ten virgins represent indeed
Christians. However, the foolish virgins are looked upon as true
Christians, only they lacked a maturity of growth, depth of
consecration, were not baptized with the Holy Spirit, or had not the
so-called "second blessing." All this the wise virgins possessed.
This is the favoured view with a certain class of holiness people.
Others try to prove from it the theory of a first fruit rapture. The
wise virgins are the first fruits and they are taken first. The
foolish will have to pass through the tribulation and will be taken
later. Against such teaching we simply hold up the words of the Lord,
when He as Bridegroom tells the foolish virgins "I know you not." They
were never His, they never knew Him and therefore they do not represent
true Christians. Never will the Lord say this word to any one who has
truly trusted in Him, no matter how weak and ignorant, how imperfect
and erring that one may be.

And now let us look at the details of this parable, which gives us a
picture of the attitude and character of professing Christendom up to
the time when the Bridegroom comes.

Four historic stages can be easily traced in this parable. Three of
them are passed and the fourth is imminent. At any moment the fourth
may become actual history. They are the following:

1. A description of the Christian profession in its beginning and its
characteristics. 2. The falling asleep of the virgins. 3. The
Midnight cry. 4. The Coming of the Bridegroom. We are living in the
days when the midnight cry is heard and are facing the fourth great
event of this parable, the Coming of the Bridegroom, the entrance of
the wise virgins to be with Him and the shutting out of the foolish.
And this it is which makes this parable so very solemn in the days in
which we are living.

1. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins,
which took their lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom." In 2nd
Corinthians we read that the virgin is used as a type of the church.
"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste
virgin to Christ." The Lord in the parable uses the figure of ten
virgins, because the parable does not altogether refer to the true
church, His Bride, but because He had in mind the conditions of that
which professes to be the church. The number ten is the number of
testimony and responsibility. Nevertheless we learn from the beginning
of this parable what true Christianity is. The characteristics of the
Christian calling are three-fold: separation, manifestation and
expectation. Separation from the world; going forth with lamps, which
are for giving light, to shine as lights while the Bridegroom is not
here; and then to go forth to meet the Bridegroom. One can read in
these statements the very words and thoughts with which the Holy Spirit
describes the Thessalonian Christians, "How ye turned to God from idols
to serve the true and the living God and to wait for His Son from
heaven." The emphasis in this parable is upon the last of these
characteristics. The whole body of Christians in the beginning went
out to meet the Bridegroom. The blessed Hope of the coming of the Lord
was the Hope and the expectation of the church in the very start. It
was the original attitude of the true church and bears witness to the
heavenly hope and heavenly calling of the church.

In the next two verses the spiritual condition of the ten virgins is
laid bare. It is noteworthy that the condition is stated first, the
demonstration of it comes later; after the midnight cry had been
sounded the foolishness of the five becomes manifested. The division
of these virgins in five wise and five foolish brings out the fact that
in the professing church two classes of people are found, the true and
the false, saved and unsaved, professing and possessing. The wise
represent such who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who have
personal knowledge of Christ and are sealed with the Spirit; they have
the unction of the Holy One, who is represented by the oil. The
foolish are such who have the form of godliness and deny the power
thereof. They represent such who have taken the outward profession but
lack the reality. As they never truly trusted in Christ they have not
the oil, the Holy Spirit. The objection has been made that the foolish
virgins can hardly represent unsaved persons, because they are called
virgins and went out to meet the Bridegroom. In their profession they
were virgins, and in profession they had gone out to meet the
Bridegroom. Another objection is raised. Did they not later say "Give
us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out?" Then they must have had
some oil, else how could they say that their lamps were gone out?
There is no proof at all in this that they had a certain supply of oil.
It is distinctly said that they only took lamps, but they did not take
oil. They may have made an attempt to light the wick of their lamps
only to see that they did not give light and went out. No, they never
possessed the oil, just as the great mass of professing Christians in
our days have lamps, an outward form, but no reality. Christ was never
accepted and therefore the Holy Spirit and His power is lacking. A
fearful condition it is! Alas, the thousands and hundreds of thousands
who are in that condition to-day!

2. A second stage historically is seen in the fifth verse. "While the
Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Both the foolish
and the wise grew heavy, became drowsy and then slept. This has been
interpreted in different ways. However, the meaning of it is not hard
to discover. The Bridegroom tarried and they no longer expected Him.
As the centuries went on the professing church gave up the blessed Hope
and ceased looking for the Lord. This is an historic fact. The Coming
of the Bridegroom was forgotten and all, the most earnest believers as
well as the mere professing ones slept, and for long centuries nothing
was heard of the Bridegroom and His Coming. Darkness and confusion
prevailed in dispensational truths; the writings extending over
hundreds of years witness to this fact. Of the end of the world, a
universal judgment day, and the Day of wrath something was heard
occasionally, but the blessed Hope as it was known in the beginning was
completely forgotten. Nothing is heard of it for many, many centuries.
This is the second great historic event. The Lord was no longer

3. And now we come to the third. "And at midnight there was a cry
made, Behold the Bridegroom! go out to meet Him." The question is has
this period been reached, or are we still to wait for such a startling
cry, reaching the ears of both the wise and the foolish, the professing
and the possessing? Some teach in our day that that cry is the same as
the shout which is mentioned in 1 Thess. iv, the shout which the
descending Lord will give to call His own into His presence. But that
is incorrect. The midnight cry and the shout of the Lord have no
connection. The shout of the Lord is the first word which He will
utter. His last word was, "Behold I come quickly." The next word will
be His shout. The midnight cry is not uttered by Himself, but it is
given by the Holy Spirit. And has the midnight cry been given by the
Holy Spirit? Has there been a revival of the blessed Hope of the
Coming of the Lord? Did anything like this of which the Lord here
speaks take place? We unhesitatingly answer it with, Yes. We all know
of the Coming of the Lord. Most of us are cherishing the blessed Hope
and are waiting for Himself. We sing precious hymns full of hope and
expectation. Over the entire Christian profession the preaching has
gone forth of the Coming of the Bridegroom. This is sufficient
evidence that this stage in the parable has been reached. The midnight
cry has been given. When was it given? We do not hear anything about
the Bridegroom and His nearness during the great reformation period.
The great instruments which were used in the reformation had no light
on the Coming of the Lord. Luther, for instance, spoke occasionally of
the great universal judgment day, which he believed was near, because
he believed the Pope to be the Antichrist. In this conception he was
followed by all his contemporaries. It was not given to the great
reformers to be used in the revival of the prophetic Word and to give
the midnight cry. Nor do we hear anything like the midnight cry
immediately after the reformation; we go back to the first half of the
last century and there we meet with a revival of the blessed Hope, the
coming of the Lord. The Holy Spirit flashed forth this blessed truth
once more and ever since then the midnight cry has been heard, and it
is still being heard. We live in the fulfillment of this period of the
parable of our Lord.

But what is indicated by these words? You noticed we left out the word
"cometh." The authorized version reads, "Behold the Bridegroom
cometh." The revised version has left out the word "cometh" and that
is the right way to read it, "Behold the Bridegroom! Go ye forth to
meet Him." This tells us that the midnight cry is more than a mere
announcement of the coming of the Lord. It is, of course, indicated,
but the Holy Spirit in the midnight cry calls attention to the person
of the Bridegroom. He unfolds His glorious person anew and brings out
the fact that His church, whom He has loved, is His Bride and that He
is the Bridegroom. And along with this message of the Bridegroom there
is a call to go forth to meet Him. What else is it than a call to the
original position? It demands a return to that as it was in the
beginning. It is a call to separation from all that is false and
unscriptural. How can any one, or how could any one honestly believe
that that adorable Person, the Bridegroom, is near, soon Coming,
without turning away from all that is displeasing to Him, without
turning the back upon all which dishonors both His Person and His Word?
This then is the significant meaning of the midnight cry. Exactly this
took place and still takes place in out present day. Along with the
revival of the blessed Hope, the preaching of His imminent Coming, we
have a return to other great truths, such as the teaching concerning
the church. Just as the giving up of the blessed Hope affected the
other great doctrines of the Bible and became in part responsible for
the fearful decline, confusion and departure from the faith once and
for all delivered unto the saints, so the recovery of the blessed Hope,
the imminent Coming of the Lord, results in the recovery of these same
blessed doctrines which were given up and leads to a return to the true
position. All this has come to pass. All is still coming to pass.
The midnight cry, "Behold the Bridegroom, go ye forth to meet Him,"
stands in closest connection with the church message to Philadelphia,
in the third chapter of Revelation. There the person of Christ, as
the Holy One and the True One, is in the foreground. Once more a
company of His people at the very last days are keeping His Word and
are not denying His name as well as keeping the Word of His patience,
which has reference to His Coming, and to His Philadelphia remnant He
gives the encouraging message, "I will keep thee out of the hour of
trial which is to come upon all the earth." Philadelphia assuredly
originates with the midnight cry. The two are inseparably connected.

But to return to the parable of the Lord. We notice that the midnight
cry discovers the true condition of the wise and the foolish. They all
arose and trimmed their lamps. The message has an effect upon the
entire Christian profession. Of the wise we read but little, but the
foolish now discover that they have no oil and further demonstrate
their foolishness by appealing to the wise to give them oil. The wise
in turn direct them to go to those who sell and buy for themselves.
The words have occasioned much controversy.

It is not at all necessary that in a parable everything must have a
definite meaning. It shows simply the utter blindness of these foolish
one in looking to human beings for that which they lacked. The oil,
the Holy Spirit, can be obtained only from Him, who gives without money
and without price. But their foolishness just consisted in this very
thing that they came not to Him, who is so willing to give. One can
imagine the haste and activity of these foolish virgins in running here
and there trying to get oil, to have burning lamps to meet the
Bridegroom. It is exactly that which has happened since the midnight
cry has been given and which we still witness about us. There is a
great deal of religious activity, an immense amount of religious
fervor, all kinds of endeavor and service, trying to do this and
attempting to be better and do better. The so-called religious world
feels that there is something in the air. Something is troubling them
and yet they refuse to go to Him who alone can give and whose Grace
alone can save and make ready. This is, alas, the sad condition of a
great part of Christendom to-day. They hear the midnight cry and yet
refuse to go to Him for oil.

But the wise arose and trimmed their lamps. They had the oil and they
responded to the message, "Behold the Bridegroom! go ye forth to meet
Him." It is a significant fact that the blessed Hope faithfully
preached is causing separation between the true and the false. That is
exactly why we must preach it and preach it more faithfully. And this
continues. It has continued for a good many years, longer than those
who were used by the Holy Spirit in the recovery of the blessed Hope,
anticipated. The infinite patience of the Lord has delayed the next
great event. How long will it all continue yet? Who can give us an
answer to this? For all we know the next moment may usher in the
actual appearing of the Bridegroom.

The next is "the Bridegroom came." How solemn this is. While the
foolish kept on running and seeking and the wise had arisen and the
separation between these classes had taken place, He came at last.
That is exactly what is before us now. Oh! I wish I could impress it
upon every heart that this solemn event may be upon us at any time.
Surely the Bridegroom will not delay his coming much longer. When John
the Baptist announced the first Coming of the King through the power
and energy of the Holy Spirit did it take long for Him to come? And
now for so many years already the Holy Spirit has announced the
nearness of the Bridegroom, His soon Coming; can it then take much
longer? Every waiting one, every spiritually minded believer who has
intelligence, answers with thousands of others, "It cannot be much
longer. He will tarry no more, but will quickly come."

How it fills our hearts with joy. The Bridegroom is coming and it
reads, "They that were ready went in with him to the marriage." The
wise, those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and know Him, are
ready. Grace has made them ready and when He comes He will receive
them. What a happy and glorious moment it will be at last. Said my
little boy, who has an interest in the Coming of the Lord, "I wonder
how He will look. I wonder what kind of a face He has when we see
Him." That is exactly what you and I have often thought about and
often wonder what it will be when we see Him at last as He is. And we
shall see Him.

But there is another side, fearful indeed. "The door was shut." What
words these are. The door closed in the face of the rest of the
virgins. No more possibility, for them to enter in. Directly they
come saying "Lord, Lord, open to us." But He answered and said,
"Verily I say unto you, I know you not." They find themselves shut
out. And let me say this is their final state. One of the fearful
things with some of these new theories concerning this last parable is
that they meddle with these last words addressed to the foolish
virgins, as if they have another chance. No, no, the door was shut and
when the door opens again He comes forth not as the Bridegroom, but as
the King of kings and the Lord of lords, as the mighty judge. I know
you not--what words from such lips! What eternal misery they foretell!

And this is the doom which hangs over the heads of the large masses of
Christian people, Christians in name only, never saved. The moment He
comes the door will be shut for these foolish virgins. Forever outside
will be their destiny.

Perhaps I am speaking here to some, not many, but some, who have not
the oil, who have not the Spirit of Christ and are none of His. Let me
address these words to you, and if it is but one person. Delay no
longer. Arise this very moment and go to Him who still waits in
patience. He waits for you and invites you to come to Him to buy
without money and without price. Oh! come now, confess yourself with
all your religiousness perhaps and self-righteousness a lost sinner.
You need to be no longer in that dangerous position. Believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ; decide it now and I can assure you He will give you
that which you lack in your empty profession; and should He come
to-night, as may be the case, you will be ready to enter in with the
oldest saint of God. He died for you to have you with Himself. Will
you reject then the offer of salvation as it comes in this solemn hour?
How can you? Delay no longer, but now cast yourself into His arms.

And we who know Him and wait for Him with longing hearts, there is more
than one solemn message which comes to us from this parable. Think of
the awful doom of the multitudes of professing, but unsaved,
Christians. Some believers who believe in the eternal punishment of
the unsaved act as if it were not true. If it is true as alas! it is,
how can we be idle? Brethren, we have a great responsibility towards
the foolish virgins, the great mass of the professing church. God
forbid that we should be negligent in discharging this duty. Away with
the miserable sectarian spirit which takes the skirts together, like
the Pharisee of old and says, "I am holier than thou," and refuses to
go to those who need the truth and the Gospel. We have a debt to pay;
we are debtors to all. As long as the Bridegroom tarries let us go to
those who are Christians in name and who know Him not and He will
graciously own our testimony.

"Watch, therefore, for ye know not neither the day nor the hour." Soon
all will be reality. Soon we shall enter in to be with the Bridegroom;
shut in with Him. God grant that none of us may be shut out.

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