Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

August 6, 1894

The Ten Virgins

By Mrs. E. G. White

Seated upon the Mount of Olives, which was over against the temple, with his disciples around him, Jesus seeks to make clear in a prophetic discourse the deeper mysteries of the kingdom of God. Through his favorite medium, by parables, he endeavors to imprint upon their minds the special truths connected with his second coming to our world. The sun has set behind the mountains, and the heavens are curtained with the shades of evening. A dwelling house is lighted up brilliantly, as though for some festive scene. The lights shine from the open spaces, and an expectant company wait around, indicating that a marriage procession is soon to appear. In many parts of the East wedding festivities are held in the evening. The bridegroom goes forth to meet his bride, and bring her to his home. By torchlight he will bring her along the streets from her father's house to his own, where a supper is prepared for the guests invited to the wedding.

Lingering near the bride's house are ten young women, in attire suitable for the occasion. Ten was the usual number who were chosen as bridesmaids. Each of the bridal attendants has a lamp and a small vessel for oil. Their lamps are lighted, and as hour after hour of waiting goes by, they grow weary of watching, and, one after another, they fall asleep. About midnight the sleepers are awakened with the cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” They exchange their slumbers for life and activity. They spring to their feet. The wedding procession is in sight, with the brilliant torches shining, and they can hear the joyous music as they approach. The ten virgins seize their lamps, and begin to trim them to go forth; but five of the watchers have been wise and five foolish. Five have neglected to fill their vessels with oil. They have not expected the bridegroom to tarry so long, and have not prepared for the emergency. They are in distress, not because they see that their lamps are going out, but because they know that there is nothing in their vessels by which to replenish them. They address a piteous appeal to those who have provided themselves with oil; but they are denied, for the wise virgins have only enough to fill their own lamps, and they are bidden to hasten away and buy oil from the dealer. And while they are away on this errand, the bridegroom comes. The wise virgins, with lamps trimmed and burning, join the procession, and go in to the wedding, and the door is shut.

Soon after the door is shut, the foolish virgins come, knocking for admittance to the banquet hall, but they meet with an unexpected answer to their call. The Master of the feast says, “I know you not.” There is no evidence given that the foolish virgins did obtain oil, but there is abundant evidence that they did not enter into the marriage feast, but were left standing outside in the empty streets in the blackness of the night.

Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins to represent the condition of the church before his coming, and the question that concerns each one of us is, Are we among the five wise or the five foolish virgins? Without going into the details of the parable, we may ask ourselves, What is our condition before God? Those that were wise went in to the wedding. We shall make it manifest what is our true condition by our conduct and conversation. Jesus has warned us as to what should be our position at this time. He says, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.”

He who relaxes his vigilance because he knows not the day nor the hour when his Lord shall come, who becomes careless, and neglects to have his vessel filled with oil (the grace of Christ), will be found unprepared, and will not go in to the wedding. How solemn is the oft-repeated warning that our Lord has given to watch! He says, “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” If a much-loved friend in the last hours of his association with us should give us counsel, warning, or instruction, how carefully would we treasure his words, how faithfully would we follow his instruction, and give attention to his cautions! Christ is our best Friend, for he has purchased us at infinite cost, and has made us his sons and daughters, and these soul-stirring words have been uttered by him for our benefit. Shall we not regard his claim upon us, and give him our service and our sympathy? If we do this, we shall not be neglectful of his warning, “Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at evening, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you [my disciples] I say unto all, Watch.” “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 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.”

Now is the time to look to it that we have on hand an abundant supply of the oil of the grace of Christ. It was the wisdom of the wise virgins in supplying themselves with oil that made the difference between their fate and that of the foolish virgins, who had neglected to keep oil in their vessels with their lamps. In the Scripture, oil is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The wise virgins are those who have faith and love and patience, whose experience day by day is nourished by the Holy Spirit. They do not conform to the world in careless inattention. They do not put off their daily preparation, but follow Jesus wherever he leads the way. God is not pleased with a flickering faith. It is compared to a lamp that is going out. He is pleased with those whose experience is like that of a lamp that is burning brightly. His followers are to shine as lights in the world. Christ's servants are to keep their lamps trimmed and burning, that they may add their light to the light of others who are following Christ. Those who are not daily desirous of gaining a living, daily experience in the things of God, will not meet his approval, but will be found with those whose lamps are going out, and will not be prepared to go in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. We cannot be ready to meet the Lord by waking up at the last minute, when the cry is heard, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,” gathering up our lamps, from which the oil has burned away, and thinking then to have them replenished. Our only hope is daily to love God, to love the truth, not for the sake of its clear arguments, but for truth's sake alone. We must bring the truth into our hearts and minds, and every day be living, shining lights, learning daily more and more of Jesus. Our conversation must be in heaven, from whence we look for our Lord Jesus Christ. We should talk much of his coming; then we shall be constantly receiving the grace which cometh from above, from the Source of all spiritual power.

The time is far spent. It is too late now to sleep the careless sleep of indifference. It is time now to rejoice greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice. It is time to sing of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The question for us to settle is, Which class shall we be among, the wise or the foolish? God help us to be among the wise. “Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

“The watchmen on the mountains
Proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go meet him as he cometh
With hallelujahs clear.

“The marriage feast is waiting;
The gates wide open stand;
Up, up, ye heirs of glory,
The Bridegroom is at hand.”

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