"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom." (Matt 25:1)
Thus begins the parable of the ten virgins. Many sermons have been preached about this parable. Every now and then (maybe more often now than then) a preacher gives what may be a misinterpretation of the parable. Quite often the interpretation goes, something like this. "The ten virgins represent the people on earth. Some are wise and accept Christ as the savior, and are ready for the judgement. Some are foolish and reject Jesus, and when the judgement comes they are unprepared. So come accept Christ and be like the five wise virgins." This interpretation ignores the verse above.
To those of us who believe that the kingdom is the church this parable can be even more sobering. If we look at it as the Jews would have looked at it, it may become downright scary.
To most of Jesus' original hearers, the kingdom meant the Jewish nation. Thus all ten of the virgins would have been in the kingdom. To those of us who don't believe that God made a mistake and couldn't establish his kingdom when Jesus was crucified, the church is the kingdom. (Col 1:13; 1 Cor 15:24) Thus the ten virgins would all have been in the church. Either way we can come to a different conclusion than the interpretation above.
All ten virgins are in the kingdom. All have chosen to follow God, to obey Him. All are waiting, with joy, for the bridegroom to come. They are in the church. They are among the saved. They have come out of the world. And yet some virgins are foolish. They don't have enough oil to last until the bridegroom comes.
These, then, may be compared to those in another parable. In Matthew 13 Jesus told what we sometimes call the parable of the soils. In it some of the seed fell on stony ground, and some was choked by thorns.
"But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." (Matt 13:20-22)
These are like the five foolish virgins. These are people who believe and obey. They are Christians, elect of God. And yet they may be rejected by God at the judgement!
Some people will tell us that those who are truly among God's elect can not sin so as to be eternally lost. That is not what Jesus is saying here and in the parable of the soils. What he is saying should make some people shudder.
The ten virgins are Christians who have been ready, have eagerly anticipated the coming of Jesus. But the fire has gone out. They may be resting on their laurels, or their pews. Soon they realize that they aren't ready for the bridegroom. They may have let sin snuff out their lamps, or they may just have let the oil run low for lack of activity. They have been in the church, but they choose to leave to look for oil. They just don't last until the end. And that is terrible! Somebody left the salvation they had, and end up in the darkness outside.
We all need to know that we can't stop growing in Christ, for to stop is to regress. All Christians need the warning Jesus gave at the end of the parable (verse 13): "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."