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The parable of the ten virgins is found in Matthew 25:1-12. Verses 8-9 (ESV) read:

And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.

My understanding is that the oil represents the presence of God in our life. It could be taken as the the presence of the Holy Spirit. It's the oil that keeps the fire burning. It is mentioned in the parable that the oil is to be purchased. Which means that a price is to be paid to obtain the oil. To have a continual presence of God in our life, we are to pay a price, by spending time at the feet of Jesus. Only a substantial presence of God in our life can keep the fire burning through the dark nights. Such a person who has the fire burning in him at the time of the Bride Grooms return, will go in with Him.

Is this an accurate understanding of the intended meaning of 'oil' in this parable?

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  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take our site tour. and check out what makes us different from other sites that study the Bible. Be sure to properly cite the text you're asking about. The chapter and verse numbers do not always line up between the Hebrew, Greek, and English texts. Also please note that this is not a Christian site, we focus on the text in its original context. – Dan Sep 8 '14 at 18:58
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    @Daи: If I'm not mistaken (though on rare occasions I am--back in aught-six, for example--1906, that is), I suggest your locution, "this is not a Christian site" is a bit of an overstatement. A more accurate description of the BHB site would be as follows: "Though BHB attracts many Christians--and Jews, for that matter--who contribute questions and answers, the site is not just for Christians and Jews but for people of all faiths or no faith at all. What unites us all is our interest in the Bible as a text worth interpreting." What thinkest thou? Don – rhetorician Sep 9 '14 at 3:27
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    Well said, rhetorician. My point is that this question appears it may be asking for application: "our life... we are to pay... our life..." etc. The OP should note we stop short of this and focus solely on the text in its original context. We are not an exclusively Christian site, so such prescriptions should not be imposed on readers. – Dan Sep 9 '14 at 3:30
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    Why does the oil have to represent anything? It's a parable, not perfect analogy. – curiousdannii Sep 15 '14 at 7:53
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    @curiousdannii: I think I may be with you in this. The oil need not represent (or be symbolic of) anything. Oil in Jesus' day was fuel for a lamp. The foolish virgins did not begin their wait for the bridegroom with enough fuel, thus they missed the anticipated event, whereas the wise virgins DID have enough fuel and consequently were ready for the bridegroom. It's what they DID that distinguished the wise virgins from their counterparts: they were prepared AND ready for the big event; the former virgins were only ready. Big difference. The oil is irrelevant. Don – rhetorician Oct 1 '15 at 22:03

16 Answers 16

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It can be somewhat dangerous exegetically to try to force too much meaning into a specific word or phrase from a parable. Parables are meant to be evocative illustrations (not encrypted cyphers), so dissecting them too rigidly is akin to assigning specific meaning to every brush stroke in a Van Gogh painting. The most important thing, when approaching one of Jesus' parables, is to understand what the picture as a whole is all about.

In this case, that picture is very clear, because Jesus underscores its meaning in his final sentence: "Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour" (vs 13). And, as was pointed out in other answers, this picture is just one of several parables in the context with the same theme (cf 24:42, etc). Jesus explains that to be on your alert means to be "on your guard" (e.g. against theives, cf 24:43). The same word is translated "keep watching" in the following chapter along with some accompanying clarification:

"Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41)

Ray Steadman offers this helpful observation in his commentary on Mt 25:

The reply of the wise [to the request for oil from the foolish] indicates that oil is not something that can be borrowed or loaned. Whatever it may represent, it is an individual matter... [In an] hour of crisis... each has what he has and nothing more.

So, in answer to your question, I believe the oil is simply representative of that which keeps me ready and alert and "on task", so to speak, until the Day the Messiah returns. To borrow from the Mt 26:41 passage, it is that prayerful attitude that guards me from temptation when I struggle with spiritual sleepiness. It is the fully-charged batteries for the flashlight of my soul that keeps me ready for the Wedding Feast.

But after all my verbage, I still like your phrase the best: "Only the continual presence of God in our life can keep the fire burning through the dark nights."

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  • "the oil is simply representative of that which keeps me ready and alert and "on task"" In the parable, all of the brides-to-be fall asleep, and all awake before the bridegroom arrives. This interpretation doesn't make much sense, IMHO. – Anthony Burg Jul 1 '20 at 21:05
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I agree with the gist of several comments and previous answers that the oil does not need to have an specific symbolic meaning for the parable to make sense. That said, meaning can still be tied to the oil, and on that subject I think the questioner is on the right track.

Meaning of parable as a whole

To understand the (possible) meaning of the oil, one must first understand the meaning of the parable as a whole.

The wedding feast is a common New Testament image, but is especially prevalent in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew 22 contains the Parable of the Great Banquet. In this parable, a king is throwing a wedding party for his son. Commentators nearly universally see the king as God the Father and the son as Jesus. For example, Ellicott's Commentary says:

The interpretation of the parable lies, so far, almost on the surface. The king is none other than God, and the wedding is that between Christ and His Church, the redeemed and purified Israel.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-12 then can be seen as a continuation of sorts of this theme. Explaining the cultural background of the parable, Benson's Commentary writes:

it was usual for the bridegroom to bring home his bride in the evening, sooner or later, as it might happen. And that she might be received properly at his house, his female friends of the younger sort were invited to come and wait with lamps, till some of his retinue, despatched before the rest, brought word that he was at hand; upon which they went forth, with their lamps trimmed and burning, to welcome him, and conduct him with his bride into the house. And for this service they had the honour of being guests at the marriage-feast.

Like the guests of the earlier parable, the virgins are a metaphor for individual members of the Church. The identity of the groom is not stated, but it is natural to assume that it is again Jesus. The meaning of the parable is strongly hinted at by Jesus/Matthew's conclusion:

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (25:13, ESV)

This verse has strong eschatological tones, using similar language to, for example, Matthew 24:42 which is part of an explicitly eschatological passage. Thus, the parable is about being prepared for Jesus' second coming. The well-prepared will enter into the "wedding feast", while the unprepared will be turned aside, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you." (25:12)

Meaning of the oil specifically

With this overarching interpretation in mind, we can offer a suggestion as to what the oil represents. It seems that the well-prepared virgins have sufficient "oil", but none to spare, while the others run out. Understanding that the first group represents true believers and the second group represents shallow (apparent) believers, commentators have generally suggested that the oil represents God's grace and/or the Holy Spirit.

Ellicott writes:

the lamp or torch is obviously the outward life of holiness by which the disciple of Christ lets his light shine before men (Matthew 5:16), and the “oil” is the divine grace, or more definitely, the gift of the Holy Spirit, without which the torch first burns dimly and then expires. The foolish virgins neglected to seek that supply, either from the Great Giver, or through the human agencies by which He graciously imparts it.

Similarly, Matthew Henry says:

Some wanted oil to supply their lamps when going out. Those that take up short of true grace, will certainly find the want of it one time or other... those that would be saved, must have grace of their own; and those that have most grace, have none to spare. The best need more from Christ. And while the poor alarmed soul addresses itself, upon a sick-bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, death comes, judgment comes, the work is undone, and the poor sinner is undone for ever. This comes of having oil to buy when we should burn it, grace to get when we should use it. Those, and those only, shall go to heaven hereafter, that are made ready for heaven here.

Grace, he says, cannot be transferred from person to person. Each believer must acquire their own grace. Nor can sufficient grace be acquired at the last hour on one's death bed.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary draws on several Bible passages (Exodus 30:23-25, 30; Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9; John 3:34) where oil is mentioned and especially the "golden oil" described in Zechariah 4:1-14. On this passage, the authors argue that the oil represents the Spirit of God:

for the prophet is expressly told that it was to proclaim the great truth, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts"

Likewise, they conclude that oil is usually used as a symbol of God's presence, the "inward reality of grace". On Matthew 24, they write:

This supply of oil, then, representing that inward grace which distinguishes the wise, must denote, more particularly, that "supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ," which, as it is the source of the new spiritual life at the first, is the secret of its enduring character. Everything short of this may be possessed by "the foolish"; while it is the possession of this that makes "the wise" to be "ready" when the Bridegroom appears, and fit to "go in with Him to the marriage."

They then compare this parable to the parable of the sower, saying the foolish bridesmaids are like the plants with no roots - when the troubles come they abandon the faith. In regards to the suggestion to go and "buy" oil, the authors write:

Here again it would be straining the parable beyond its legitimate design to make it teach that men may get salvation even after they are supposed and required to have it already gotten. It is merely a friendly way of reminding them of the proper way of obtaining the needed and precious article, with a certain reflection on them for having it now to seek. Also, when the parable speaks of "selling" and "buying" that valuable article, it means simply, "Go, get it in the only legitimate way."

Likewise the Pulpit Commentary of v9 says:

The wise cannot of themselves supply the lack. They have no superabundant store of grace to communicate to others; at best even they are unprofitable servants; the righteous shall scarcely be saved; so they direct their companions to the only source where effectual grace may be obtained. They that sell are the ministers and stewards of Christ's mysteries, who dispense the means of grace. These are said to be bought, as the treasure hid in the field or the pearl of great price is bought (Matthew 13:44-46). Divine grace can always be procured by those who will pay the price thereof; and the price is faith and prayer and earnestness, - nothing more, nothing less (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 3:18)... Every one must bear his own burden. The grace must be their own; what is required of those who would meet the Bridegroom without shame and fear is personal preparation, personal faith and holiness.

Conclusion

The meaning of the parable is clear without assigning a specific meaning to the "oil". No believer knows when Christ will return (or when he/she will die), and so must always to prepared. The foolish do not properly prepare and there is nothing the wise can do to help them when the hour of judgment comes - it is already too late by then.

That said, viewing the oil as God's grace imparted through the Holy Spirit makes a lot of sense and enhances our understanding of the passage. The believer must grow abundant in grace/deep in faith, as much may be required at the final hour. The believer should strive to grow in spiritual maturity throughout his or her life, not leave the acquisition of sufficient grace (=spiritual perfection) to a later day.

Thus, I think the answer to the OP was correct when he said:

My understanding is that the oil represents the presence of God in our life. It could be taken as the the presence of the Holy Spirit. It's the oil that keeps the fire burning.

The price "paid to obtain the oil" is then the practice of Christian living - that is prayer, good works, and repentance for sins - throughout life.

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  • "No believer knows when Christ will return (or when he/she will die)" There seems to be a big difference between these two categories. A person might have a very good idea of when he will die. Certainly, as one gets older, the chances increase, until at some point it is almost certain it will happen soon. I think this reflects a larger problem with ideas about the 2nd coming - it didn't happen within 'a generation', it seems. Or perhaps we are misunderstanding what the 2nd coming is. – Anthony Burg Jul 1 '20 at 21:22
  • @anthonyburg, I think the issue is not about misunderstanding what the rapture is, but rather the heart of the matter seems to be understanding which generation will not pass away- referring to Christ's warnings about the end times. A widely held view is that it's referring to Israel as the fig tree, and the generation that saw the birth of Israel. 1948. That's 73 years. In the window of what Psalms said was a generation 70-80 years. – Tennman7 Jan 29 at 22:41
  • @Tennman7 Good point! – Anthony Burg Jan 29 at 23:34
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Oil symbolises something without which it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Moreover, this something is that which does not depend solely on the merit of God, for otherwise all virgins, i.e. all Christians, would have had it; on the contrary, the possession of the oil depends also on the merit of the virgins themselves, for otherwise their reprimanding on the part of the bridegroom, i.e. Christ, loses any logic and sense.

Now, what is it without which nobody can enter the Heavenly Kingdom and gathering of which does not depend solely on God but also on our effort? I guess the answer is one: those invisible and eternal (2 Cor. 4:18), i.e. divine features which "do not rot and thieves cannot steal" (Matthew 6:19). Exactly this means "gathering with Christ", for all gathering outside Him is plundering (Matthew 12:30). And whether we gather with Him or plunder outside of Him, depends on our free choice.

Thus, those Christians who are nominally so, have received baptismal grace and talent, but did not work to increase it (Matthew 25:14-30), and thus even that was taken from them, which they thought they possessed (Matthew 13:12), for if you do not increase the grace and talent given to you by God, then it means you are losing it, like in all disciplines, science or sport: unless you are progressing, you are degrading.

Can anybody enter the Kingdom of Heaven without having gathered divine features? It is an oxymoron! - for how can you enter even a championship in swimming, unless you have learned how to swim? How much more so in the Kingdom of Heaven! If you haven't gathered in yourself divine features, of which first and foremost is mercifulness, then how can you enter the citizenship of the Heavenly Jerusalem the "visa" into which citizenship is obtained only through practicing mercifulness (cf. Matthew 25:35-40)? How can a Christian accustomed to lies and not honing his heart in love of truth and justice be a partaker of "a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13)?

Thus, "oil" denotes eternal, divine features that a Christian can and should gather throughout his life, so as to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those divine features are multiple, but first and the foremost is mercifulness, and perhaps exactly that is the reason that it is expressed by the Greek word ἔλαιον (oil) which is so alike the word ἔλεος (mercy); for all divine features are necessary for salvation, yet mercy has a priority even among them.

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  • Are "divine features" and "fruit of the Spirit" interchangeable expressions? If so, does that mean that the wise virgins were filled with the Spirit and the foolish ones weren't? – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 29 at 23:10
  • +1. Mainly for the comparison of the two Greek words at the end of your answer. Looked them up in Google translation. They sure sound related. – Constantthin Jan 30 at 1:07
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Thanks! Yes, they are interchangeable, for all those fruits of Spirit which Paul mentions are exactly the eternal features that account for our being a part of the Heavenly Kingdom. – Levan Gigineishvili Jan 30 at 7:05
  • @Constantthin Thanks! Indeed, those two words phonetically are so similar, to the effect that (even if they are not etymologically connected, which also is to be checked) they are semantically associated: oil was applied to wounds, so mercy was associated with alleviating pain and healing through oil. Moreover, theologically, Adam inflicted wound on human nature through his primordial sin, and Christ, the Second Adam, came to heal this wound by His mercy and restore the human nature. – Levan Gigineishvili Jan 30 at 7:11
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First, the context. The parable of the 10 virgins is part of the "synoptic apocalypse" which consists of seven signs of Jesus' return (Matt 24:3-31) followed by seven warning parables as follows:

  1. Warning Parable #1: Fig Tree, Matt 24:32-35 - observe the signs of Jesus return
  2. Warning Parable #2: Noah & Flood, Matt 24:36-41 - Day and hour of Jesus' return is unknown and life will continue until then
  3. Warning Parable #3: Thief, Matt 24:42-44 - The return of Jesus will surprise most so be prepared
  4. Warning Parable #4: Servant, Matt 24:45-51 - Until Jesus return, keep doing what Jesus has instructed us to do by evangelizing the world
  5. Warning Parable #5: Ten Virgins, Matt 25:1-13 - Have enough oil!!
  6. Warning Parable #6: Talents, Matt 25:14-30 - use what Jesus has given us to expand the kingdom of God
  7. Warning Parable #7: Sheep and Goats, Matt 25:31-46 - be kind and generous to the needy

Thus, the parable of the 10 virgins is part of a series about working and preparing for the unknown time of Jesus return. So what is the oil?

Here is what we know about the oil -

  • The oil did not stop the girls falling asleep (V5)
  • The oil in their possession enabled the girls to enter the wedding (V10, 11)
  • The oil fueled the flame of the lamps (V7, 8)
  • All 10 girls had been especially invited to be attendants at the wedding had initial supplies of oil (V1)
  • The only difference between the five foolish and wise girls was the amount of oil they possessed (V3)
  • The wise girls took extra oil in separate jars to re-fill their lamps (V4). That is, the foolish girls only had oil in their lamps and did not carry separate jars of oil.
  • All 10 girls were eagerly waiting to meet the bridegroom (V1)
  • As far as the parable is concerned, the cause of the difference in supply of oil is the expected time of the bridegroom's arrival - the wise prepared for a delay, the foolish expected the bridegroom to come much sooner than he did.

Note the comments from the Pulpit commentary -

All the virgins were outwardly the same, were provided with the same lamps, prepared to perform the same office; the difference in their characters is proved by the result. Their folly is seen in the fact that at the time of action they were unable to do the part which a little care and forethought would have enabled them to perform successfully. Matthew 25:2

If we reasonably assume that the bridegroom is Jesus and the entry to the wedding represents Jesus second coming, then the oil is essential for entry to the kingdom of heaven.

Interpretation #1

It is possible to understand the teaching of this parable without necessarily interpreting each symbol, especially the oil. At its most basic level, the parable teaches that the Lord's return will be delayed longer than we expect - and we must be prepared for that delay. This is consistent with Jesus teaching earlier in the same sermon where He warns of a delay; Matt 24:6, 8, 12, 24, 26, etc. See also Rev 10:6.

Interpretation #2

It is possible to understand that the oil represents the function of the Holy Spirit in the living Christian's life, providing a source of spiritual illumination in the life (John 16:13, 14, 2 Peter 1:20, 21, etc) The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to the Christians' life as shown in Rom 8:9 and John 16:7-11.

Oil is used as one of the symbols/metaphors of the Holy Spirit in the NT, eg, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, 2 Cor 1:21, 22, 1 John 2:20.

Interpretation #3

The interpretation preferred by most commentators is that the oil represents the vibrancy of the Christian life and essentially the degree of earnestness with which the person keeps their eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:2, 3). For example, note the remarks of Ellicott:

In the interpretation of the parable, the lamp or torch is obviously the outward life of holiness by which the disciple of Christ lets his light shine before men (Matthew 5:16), and the “oil” is the divine grace, or more definitely, the gift of the Holy Spirit, without which the torch first burns dimly and then expires. The foolish virgins neglected to seek that supply, either from the Great Giver, or through the human agencies by which He graciously imparts it.

The problem with this interpretation is that the under this idea, the wise girls should not have fallen asleep. It also tends to make our "earnestness and piety" a work done to earn salvation. This interpretation is also not explained in the text.

Conclusion

I personally prefer interpretation #1 - the point of the parable is a warning to be prepared for delay with an unknown arrival of the return of Messiah. Thus, Barnes is closer to an interpretation consistent with the other six warning parables:

Oil in their vessels - The five foolish virgins probably expected that the bridegroom would come immediately; they therefore made no provision for any delay. The wise virgins knew that the time of his coming was uncertain, and they therefore furnished themselves with oil. This was carried in "vessels," so that it could be poured on the torches when it was necessary.

That is, the point of the parable is not identifying the oil but being prepared for a delay and making appropriate preparations for such a delay.

Further, such an interpretation does not exclude the oil representing the Holy Spirit and the illumination of Jesus life and character for the longer than expected vicissitudes of the Christian life.

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The "oil" as Ray Steadman points out, is the Holy Spirit.(from here)

With these revealing words from the Lord we can now discover what the oil signifies. Obviously, it was the lack of an adequate supply of oil which caused these foolish maidens to be met with the words, "I do not know you." They did, of course, have some oil when they began but it was not enough. Oil, in the Old Testament, is frequently used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Kings and priests were anointed with oil as a sign of their consecrated (and, supposedly, Spirit-filled) lives. Zechariah, the prophet, was shown a vision of a great golden lampstand with two olive trees standing beside it. The trees dripped oil into the bowls of the lampstand, and Zechariah was told: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). The oil symbolized the Spirit of God by which the light of testimony could be maintained in the hour of darkness.

This is a parable, as a previous answer noted, so it should not be taken out of the context it was meant to communicate. '10' is typically a number representing man; 10 fingers, 10 toes, of course our numbering system is base 10. The point of comparison is 5 Foolish/5 Wise.

They were all virgins, meaning they were all "acceptable" for the Lord's Return, and initially, all their lamps were lit. It was intended that they "all" be ready for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

But the Lord delayed His Return-over 2000 years. And they ALL fell asleep. The point the Lord was making wasn't 'don't fall asleep', but "Be ready for My Return". When the shout came, they all awoke; we can trust that the Lord will let His 'elect' be aware of His Eminent Return. But then came the separation; 5 virgins thought it 'wise' to keep a measure of oil-the Holy Spirit, for His Eminent Return, and 5 virgins didn't. It was not enough for the virgins to be awake, they also had to(Luke 12:35)

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

The sad truth is while the others were looking for the 'oil sellers', the Master came and closed the doors-leaving them outside, no different than the rest. And to make matters worse, when they 'reminded Him" of their invitation, He says,"I knew you not".(Matt. 25:12)

This parable can certainly apply to the individual, as vs 13 says

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh

but since the picture is one of the Marriage Feast, which the believer is invited to when the Lord Returns,(Rev. 19:7-9)

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

I believe the inference is to the churches-some of which have waited 2000 years. Are they(and their members) equipt with the Holy Spirit and ready to meet the Lord? Or have they 'frittered' away their oil, and are no different than the world around them; searching with programs and methodologies which only the Holy Spirit can give. The oil(when lit) 'illuminates'; are they a light? Or is it just more darkness?

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  • (-1) "This is a parable, as a previous answer noted, so it should not be taken out of the context it was meant to communicate." - I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. The rest of your answer does not take any account of the parable's own context, and seems to be based on a mixture of Zechariah and a 21st century perspective. – Steve Taylor Jan 29 at 15:00
  • @SteveTaylor Hi Steve, the context was for the Lord's Eminent Return, this passage, along with the parable of the Talents, clearly refers to the time and preparation one needs to make. That said, there are excellent answers which go into greater scope and detail than mine. I believe it was a specific admonition to the churches, although you certainly can't ignore the specific instruction to the individual. – Tau Feb 23 at 3:44
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The foolish virgins did not have oil in their lamp. In Exodus 35:4-5,8 and Exodus 39, the Bible talks about the oil for lamp and spices for anointing oil, so two oils are discussed one for anointing and one for lamp. Anointing oil is the Holy Spirit as many Bible scholars have taught. Oil for Lamp - "oil in the dwelling of the wise..." and (Proverbs 21:20a), "oil to make his face to shine..." (Psalms 104:14a,15b),

Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed (Ecclesiastes 8:1).

This passages therefore shows that the oil in the lamp is WISDOM. We are also instructed "if any of us lacketh wisdom let us ask from the Lord." And "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).

To us, WISDOM is taught in Psalms 111:10 as "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that do his COMMANDMENTS, his praise endureth for ever."

May the GOD of Abraham Isaac and Jacob BLESS US!!!

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The assumption in many of these answers is that this is a warning for the modern "Church" but Matthew's concern is the imminent return of Christ to set establish the earthly kingdom of God (glorified Israel), destroy the nations (IE: Rome) and reign forever from Zion. Instead, because Israel's leaders did not repent and acknowledge Christ, instead he smote the land with utter destruction in 70 AD:

KJV Malachi 4: Mal 4:4  Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.  Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:  Mal 4:6  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

John had repeatedly warned that judgment had arrived:

Mat_3:10  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

This is why Jesus begins the parable with "Then":

Mat 25:1  Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

The virgins (better translated "girlfriends" IMHO) are not the bride of the Messiah but rather her friends whose responsibility it was to hold torches to illuminate the way for the bride to safely reach the groom's house.

Paul claims he played that role:

2Co 11:2  For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 

2Co 11:2  ζηλω γαρ υμας θεου ζηλω ηρμοσαμην γαρ υμας ενι ανδρι παρθενον αγνην παραστησαι τω χριστω

From Albert Barnes:

For I have espoused you ... - The word used here (ἁρμόζω harmozō) means properly “to adapt, to fit, to join together.” Hence, “to join in wedlock, to marry.” Here it means to marry to another; and the idea is, that Paul had been the agent employed in forming a connection, similar to the marriage connection. between them and the Saviour. The allusion here is not certain. It may refer to the custom which prevailed when friends made and procured the marriage for the bridegroom; or it may refer to some custom like that which prevailed among the Lacedemonians where persons were employed to form the lives and manners of virgins and prepare them for the duties of the married life. The sense is clear. Paul claims that it was by his instrumentality that they had been united to the Redeemer. Under him they had been brought into a relation to the Saviour similar to that sustained by the bride to her husband; and he felt all the interest in them which naturally grew out of that fact and from a desire to present them blameless to the pure Redeemer. The relation of the Church to Christ is often represented by marriage; see Eph_5:23-33; Rev_19:7; Rev_21:9.

To one husband - To the Redeemer.

That I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ - The allusion here, according to Doddridge, is, to the custom among the Greeks “of having an officer whose business it was to educate and form young women, especially those of rank and figure, designed for marriage, and then to present them to those who were to be their husbands, and if this officer through negligence permitted them to be corrupted between the espousals and the consummation of the marriage, great blame would fall upon him.” Such a responsibility Paul felt. So anxious was he for the entire purity of that church which was to constitute “the bride, the Lamb’s wife;” so anxious that all who were connected with that church should be presented pure in heaven... Barnes' Notes

So the virgins/girlfriends in the parable are the apostles who are charged with leading and accompanying the bride to the bridegroom. He is warning them to be prepared for delay:

Mat 24:42  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.  Mat 24:43  But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.  Mat 24:44  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.  Mat 24:45  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  Mat 24:46  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  Mat 24:47  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.  Mat 24:48  But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;  Mat 24:49  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;  Mat 24:50  The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,  Mat 24:51  And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So this is a stern warning to the apostles to be vigilant because they have been tasked to minister to his bride and they must not be negligent. In particular they must be prepared to be faithful even if he delays. This is because in fact Jesus knew that his coming could not occur on schedule and would be deferred:

KJV Mat 23:37  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Mat 23:38  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.  Mat 23:39  For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

While the warning was initially specifically for the twelve it has application now for all charged with preparing, leading and accompanying the bride of Christ (faithful Israel) to Christ.

KJV Rev 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  Rev 19:8  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  Rev 19:9  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

KJV Joh 3:27  John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Joh 3:28  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.  Joh 3:29  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  Joh 3:30  He must increase, but I must decrease.

Jesus called John a "burning light":

KJV Joh 5:35  He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

Luke's account makes the charge to keep the lamps ever burning more explicit:

KJV Luk 12:35 

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;  Luk 12:36  And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.  Luk 12:37  Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.  Luk 12:38  And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.  Luk 12:39  And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.  Luk 12:40  Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Luke also brings out that the application of the parable is not only to the 12 but to all so charged:

KJV Luk 12:41  Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?  Luk 12:42  And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?  Luk 12:43  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  Luk 12:44  Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.  Luk 12:45  But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;  Luk 12:46  The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.  Luk 12:47  And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  Luk 12:48  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

So the spare oil is "preparation for delay".

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  • Right. +1 for discussing the immediate audience. However, the conclusion simply pushes the question back a step. How does one prepare adequately for the delay? – Anthony Burg Feb 3 at 21:47
  • Hi Anthony. It seems the intended preparation was carrying adequate reserves of oil. – Ruminator Feb 4 at 8:44
  • That's circular, though. The spare oil is preparation, and the intended preparation is carrying spare oil. I mean how does the preparation translate into the real world? – Anthony Burg Feb 4 at 18:00
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In my opinion, one of the wonderful things about Jesus’ parables is that while they are immediately accessible, they can also yield new insights with each examination. Thus sometimes an element in a parable may yield more than one meaning or interpretation.

On re-reading this parable, one detail stands out to me: the number of virgins. Specifically, the equal proportion of five virgins in each category draws attention to the ways the two groups mirror one another: they were all virgins, they all took their lamps, and they all went to meet the bridegroom. So far, the external characteristics are the same. These similarities serve to highlight the one characteristic that distinguishes them:

  • When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. (Mt 25:3-4)

The difference between them lies in whether they made provisions to keep their lamp burning through the long night. The imagery of the lamps shining in the darkness serves as a moving metaphor for the light of God that we are called to keep alive in the darkness of this world. Interpreting the oil as “the presence of God in our life” or the “fire burning in” us fits well with this metaphor. If the bridegroom represents Jesus, then he is both the light that we go out to meet and the light that guides our way:

  • “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)

An alternate interpretation of what the oil represents is presented when we ask the question another way: What things might possibly represent the oil? In other words, what do we need to keep the light of God burning visibly in the world? The words of Isaiah 58 (6-10) regarding the elements of true worship offer some clues:

  • Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

His list goes on. Thus, the oil could be more than one thing, could actually be a combination of many things that together help to keep the light of God burning brightly in the darkness. According to Isaiah, if we are faithful in these things, then when we call, “the Lord will answer.”

  • Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. (Is 58:9)

The value of any interpretation lies in whether it helps us to decipher God's will. I believe both of these interpretations have merit. Moreover, I like the message that both seem to support, that is, it is not only about the destination that we reach in the end but also about the light that we need to tend to along the way.

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Wonder if Elisha and the widow’s oil, in 2 King’s 4, has something to do with this. That we need many vessels with oil, not just a few, to get our debt paid. Oil could be taken to stand for good works. Not good works of the law, but good works of grace. Remembering Jesus words:

“What you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters you have also done to to me” (Mat 25:40)

Thus, we don’t only need to be virgins, we also need to have a decent amount of works of grace stored up in our heavenly bank account:

”store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”. (Mat 6:20)

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  • +1 for reference to Matthew 6:20. – Anthony Burg Feb 4 at 18:42
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Thanks all for the beautifully researched response to my question!

Its obviously understandable that there is a clear connection between the 'Oil' & the 'Fire'. Fire is something that can be seen and testified from outside. But Oil is something that is hidden within. If the 'Fire' is going out, it means that the 'Oil' is running out.

But the interesting aspect of this Oil-Fire combination in connection to a lamp is... more Oil doesn't necessarily mean more Fire. But more Oil means that the Fire burns longer. So i think its possibly the reserve Oil that's the key in this parable.

But i believe, the presence of God/Holy Spirit, cannot be kept in reserve. Everything God gives us is, 'for-the-day', like in the case of 'manna'. So what could possibly be that still remains, even when the virgins 'sleep'?

Considering "Thoughts" as the "Oil", brings the question.. how can thoughts be purchased? Since thoughts are generally shared.

But the Bible does say "Your WORD is a lamp to my feet" (Psalms 119:105). So could the WORD of God in our hearts, be the Oil that keeps the fire burning?

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 that, The WORD of God is 'living'. So could keeping this 'living' WORD always in reserve within our hearts, be the key to keep the fire burning?

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. Due to the nature of this site, references may be required in order to support your conclusions. – Paul Vargas Sep 9 '14 at 13:09
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    @Stan I agree w/Paul Vargas, I believe you have insights but aren't familiar with our site directives. Either way, I encourage you to persist in your diligence in seeking the truth, and in presenting it in a way which satisfies our site requirements. – Tau Sep 13 '14 at 6:11
  • "Its obviously understandable that there is a clear connection between the 'Oil' & the 'Fire'. Fire is something that can be seen and testified from outside." I was just picturing the tongues of fire appearing over the heads of each of the Apostles at Pentecost. – Dieter Aug 7 '17 at 5:54
  • The "lamps" in this imagery are not actually lamps but rather flambeaux (hand held torches) made by wrapping rags around a stick. So more oil might mean more light as well as longer lasting, though longer lasting seems to be in view here. – Ruminator Apr 8 '18 at 11:26
  • " the presence of God/Holy Spirit, cannot be kept in reserve. Everything God gives us is, 'for-the-day', like in the case of 'manna'." +1 HS or presence of God fits more with the manna which cannot be used past the given day (similar to the 'daily bread' of the Our Father), basically the opposite of the oil in this situation which is precisely to be carried forward. – Anthony Burg Feb 4 at 18:02
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As a couple of comments have already said,

  1. Why does the oil have to represent anything? It's a parable, not perfect analogy. – curiousdannii.

  2. @curiousdannii: I think I may be with you in this. The oil need not represent (or be symbolic of) anything. Oil in Jesus' day was fuel for a lamp. The foolish virgins did not begin their wait for the bridegroom with enough fuel, thus they missed the anticipated event, whereas the wise virgins DID have enough fuel and consequently were ready for the bridegroom. It's what they DID that distinguished the wise virgins from their counterparts: they were prepared AND ready for the big event; the former virgins were only ready. Big difference. The oil is irrelevant. Don – rhetorician.

I would say that the emphasis on the chapter in question, is on "keeping watch", and not on the oil.

Notice how the bridegroom arrives at midnight (Matthew 25:6), when most people would be sleeping.

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.

Unlike the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had been keeping watch for the coming of the bridegroom.Even if the wise virgins had been sleeping when the bridegroom came-They were not spiritually dead! But the foolish virgins were spiritually dead.

A question i asked was given an excellent answer from @Joseph.I feel it relates to the question asked in this post.Please read here.

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In Matthew 25:8-9 what does the oil in the ten virgins parable represent?

The lamps without oil, do not give light. The oil reminds us of God’s Word the Bible, "the truth" and his holy spirit, that true worshipers to be light bearers.

Psalm 119:130 NASB reads:

130 The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

At Matthew 5:14, Jesus told his disciples: “You are the light of the world.” They were to follow in his footsteps. Both by their way of life and by their preaching, they were to direct others to God as the Source of true enlightenment.

Thus the spiritual oil enables the prudent virgins to shed forth light in welcoming the bridegroom during the procession to the marriage feast. But the foolish virgin class do not have in themselves, in their receptacles, the needed spiritual oil.

Conclusion:

The oil represents God's Word the Bible and the gift of the holy spirit, that God grants to the true followers of Jesus -Acts 2:38. The fact that the prudent ones, refused to share their spiritual oil, indicates that the foolish ones were not spiritually prepared to be watchful and to maintain their integrity.

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As @Ruminator mentions, this parable is addressed to an immediate audience - Jesus' disciples. It follows shortly after Jesus' prophecy re the destruction of the Second Temple (Matthew 24:2).

At this time, the Church is in incipient form. Jesus knows 1. He is going to be killed. 2. Others will come and claim to be the Messiah. 3. There will be war (perhaps the Jewish-Roman War). 4. There is going to be extreme persecution against his followers. But that 5. They need to persist (Matthew 24:13) and 6. Preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire (or 'world') (exactly what St. Paul did) until 7. The coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) which will be like a 'flood' (Matthew 24:39) at which point he will 8. Gather the 'elect' (Matthew 24:31).

Most people approach this from a futurist view ~2,000 years later, but almost certainly for the disciples, they viewed this as something that would happen 'soon' ("Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened." Matthew 24:34), perhaps while they were still alive.

The key to the 10 virgins parable is at the end of Matthew 24.

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the others their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says in his heart, ‘My master will be away a long time.’ And he begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not anticipate. Then he will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 24:45-51

In the parable of the 10 virgins, the 10 are the 'servants'. The obvious correlative to 'servants' is the disciples to whom he was speaking. The 5 who do not have enough oil are the 'wicked' servant, who begins to engage in bad behaviour because he doesn't think the master is returning anytime soon - beating fellow servants, drinking with drunkards, and so on.

So, the oil was what enabled them to persist in behaving righteously while going through Jesus' crucifixion, false Messiahs, war, and persecution - through the 'flood'.

What does Jesus give us to prepare for a 'flood'?

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because its foundation was on the rock."

Matthew 7:24

The 'oil' is to hear Jesus' words (in particular as given in the Sermon on the Mount) and to cultivate them into one's life such that one acts on them consistently.

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First the Greek Analysis

Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (Matthew 25:3-4 NKJV)

The Greek Word for Oil
ἔλαιον is used for both Matthew 25:3 and Matthew 25:4. Short Meaning Olive Oil.

The usage is to imply that olive oil used as fuel for a lamp to burn, so that light may result. The foolish had not enough fuel to keep the fire burning, where as the wise had fuel to keep the fire burning.

How it is used Metaphorically
We can understand what the "Oil Metephor" means when we understand what the "Lamp Metephor" means. Luckily Jesus has told us what this "Lamp Metephor" means.

We Have Two Accounts

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV)

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34 NKJV)

This was determine when doing a study on the Light talked about in "1 John" resulting to mean "Understanding". However the study of the term Light will be placed aside for this teaching, for because of its bulky substance to get that conclusion. It is better to just ignore it for now.

Is Your Eye Good?
Let us understand this saying from the real greek meaning of the word here for good. For it says "when your eye is good". Luckily Greek is very specific for us so we can get the full meaning now.

The Greek word ὀφθαλμός means "the eye: from the root, ὀπ, to see"

The Greek word ἁπλοῦς means "properly, unfolded, single – literally, "without folds" (J. Thayer), referring to a single (undivided) focus"

So Matthew 6:22 could read "The lamp of the body is your focus. If therefore your focus is undivided, your whole body will be full of understanding."

The word for evil in Matthew 6:23 is πονηρὸς meaning "an adjective which is also used substantively, derived from 4192 /pónos, "pain, laborious trouble") – properly, pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies (misery) that always go with evil."

So Matthew 6:23 could read "But if your focus is laborious, your whole body will be full of confusion. If therefore the understanding that is in you is confusion, how great is that confusion!"

So if the Lamp is Focus the "Oil Metephor" maintains that Focus
Let us do a substitution to see what Jesus is saying.

Those who were foolish took their focus and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their focus. (Matthew 25:3-4)

Decrypting The Vessles
The word translated as vessles is ἀγγείοις meaning "a vessel, flask, can". In other words something to carry the oil. Yet it is "with thier focus".

What do we carry with our focus?
For me and this is an educated guess, but I would say that I carry my thoughts with my focus.

So the Oil is "In My Container of Thoughts"?
Here I would define that the "Oil Metephor" is a "Type of Thought". Let us continue doing substitutions to see what Jesus is saying.

Those who were foolish took their focus and took no specific thought with them, 4 but the wise took a specific thought in their thoughts with their focus. (Matthew 25:3-4)


So let us read this understanding in context to the full message that Jesus was saying.

MT24.1 The Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-33 Decoded Version 1.0)

“Now learn from this: When a person has already become relaxed and starts to think, you know that the word is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that the word is near—at the tip of the lips!

MT24.2 The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant (Matthew 24:45-51 Decoded Version 1.0)

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them sayings in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be depression and anger.

MT25.1 The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13 Decoded Version 1.0)

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their attention and went out to meet the speaker. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their attention and took no conversation topics with them, 4 but the wise took no conversation topics in their memory with their attention. 5 But while the speaker was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the speaker is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and readied their attention. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your conversation topics, for our attention is fading away.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who will prepare you, and ask for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to get some topics, the speaker came, and those who were ready went in with him to the conversation; and the opportunity for conversation ended.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the words spoken by a man is coming.

MT25.2 The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30 Decoded Version 1.0)

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his sayings to them. 15 And to one he gave five sayings, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five sayings went and traded with them, and made another five sayings. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and put it in the back of his mind, and hid his lord’s saying. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five sayings came and brought five other sayings, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five sayings; look, I have gained five more sayings besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two sayings came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two sayings; look, I have gained two more sayings besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one saying came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your saying in the back of my mind. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my saying with others, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the sayings from him, and give it to him who has ten sayings.

29 ‘For to everyone who has paid attention, more attention will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does pay attention, even what attention he has been given will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be depression and anger.’

MT25.3 Sheep and goats will be separated (Matthew 25:31-46 Decoded Version 1.0)

When the glorious word comes, and also those watching, the master of Joy will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides words from the spirit of Love from the words from the spirit of error. 33 And He will set the words from the spirit of Love on His right hand, but the words from the spirit of error on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I wanted to know and you taught me what I needed; I was in need of comfort and you gave me encouragement; you did not know what I wanted to say and you listened to me; 36 I was exposed and you covered me; I broke my word and you still listened to me; I thought I could tell no one and you where a safe place for my words.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we teach you, or encourage you? 38 When did we see listen to your unknowns, or cover you? 39 Or when did we listen to your mistakes, or your secrets?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my words, you did it to me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels to be forgotten: 42 for I wanted to know and you taught me nothing; you gave me no encouragement; 43 you never would listen to me, when others found out things you just laughed at me, everything wrong that I said you picked on me, and I never felt that I could trust you with my dark secrets.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see needing to learn or needing encouragement or lost in an unknown environment or exposed or understanding in error or deep in thought about your secrets, and did not minister to You?’

45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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    You have a number of interesting thoughts here, but your central interpretation seems to rest on the apparent parallel between the uses of the word "lamp" in Mt 25:1ff and Mt 6:22. However, entirely different Greek words are used in those two passages ( λαμπάδας vs λύχνος ), so your interpretation sounds like a bit of a stretch. – kmote Sep 8 '14 at 22:22
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    Both those Greek words are still lamps, however the one sits on a stand. λαμπάδας:2985 lampás – a hand-held "torch". λύχνος:3088 lýxnos – an oil-fed portable "lamp," usually set on a stand. The similarities is that they both allow for Light. So they connect by purpose of functionality not by specific Greek word usage. However if you believe it to be a stretch, then for you it will be as you believe. – Decrypted Sep 9 '14 at 2:49
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The 'oil of gladness' (joy, exultation, anticipation) comes to mind as possible fuel that ignites the lamp of the word. The joy of the Lord is my strength. I guess the danger of sleeping on stony ground (parable of the sower) is that one can initially receive the word with joy but then when discouragement, trials or persecution come (or excessive waiting upon the Lord), the gladness dries up because there was no root. As for gladness being something one can purchase? Not sure where to go from there, haha.

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The oil is our desire to enjoy the light of God, Chokhmah. The wick is the symbol of our opposition to using this desire solely to benefit ourselves. The parable is about the constant need to scrutinize our intentions.

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    Andy, improve your answer by defining Chokhmah for readers not familiar with Hebrew. Citing sources for your definition is also recommended. Cheers. – Jacob May 13 '18 at 6:02

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