The focus is not really on whether or not they had known a man, it is just that these are young unmarried girls.
Marriage custom of that day was as follows: The Groom would prepare a place for his bride. It might be his own house or a place at his father’s house. Then he would go to her father’s house to get her. There might be a small party at her house, so there was a small delay. Then the Bride and Groom would return to his father’s house for the marriage feast or banquet (which usually lasted for seven days).
The ten young ladies would be somewhere along the route between the bride’s house and the groom’s house. They are waiting for the bride and groom to return and they hope to join the procession and enter with them into the party. If they are with the crowd, they will be able to slip right in. If they aren’t with the procession, then the door keepers will turn them away because they don’t know them. They don’t have an invitation.
It is crucial to understand the historical setting for the last three parables. You need to understand who the audience is. If you don’t, you will be try to make direct application to the church. This parable is written to those (perhaps specifically to Jews) who will be alive during the Tribulation.
What will determine whether a Jewish person will participate in the wedding feast of the Bridegroom in the kingdom of God?
There is debate about what kind of lamps these were. Were they the little clay lamps or torches? It seems that the clay ones fit the story better because they would be the kind that run out of oil and need to be refilled. What is important is that they were unprepared.
vs. 9 There was not enough oil for both. These ladies were not being selfish. The point is you need to make your own preparations. You may have heard the saying, “God has no grandchildren. He only has children.” The point is you have to have your own faith. Someone else can’t believe for you.
I think that all the Jews in the Tribulation will know that the King is coming, but they will not know exactly when he will return and will not be prepared.
What does being “unprepared” mean? Not believing. No faith.
Preparedness is the response of faith which will enable one to enter the kingdom at the time of the Bridegroom’s unexpected arrival. The lack of proper preparation is the demonstration of unbelief which will disqualify one from the entrance and enjoyment in the kingdom.
The question of salvation or entrance into the kingdom is the subject of this parable where the subject of the next will detail the basis of rewards. Preparedness is the mark of faith which is the only prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom and the participation in the celebration of the wedding feast of the Bridegroom. In view are those people who will be alive at the end of the tribulation who have been witnesses to the events and warnings as to the nearness of the kingdom.
Some people stress the idea of “alertness,” but notice that all the ladies were asleep.
The cultural background of the wedding feast in the ANE
The imagery of the Bridegroom for Messiah and the wedding feast for His Kingdom.
This passage does not have much direct application to us. It is directed toward Jewish people in the tribulation. But we can draw some general principles from it.
Faith is demonstrated in alert preparation for the Lord’s return.
Failure to prepare for the eternal future will result in the exclusion from eternity in the future.
Just because people have heard and been impressed by the truth, doesn’t mean they believed. Certainly there will be Jews who have heard of the rapture and will recognize it when it happens, but they will not believe. They will put it off and not be prepared when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation.
What are we doing to evangelize those left after the rapture? Are there any tracts made up that can be distributed when all the Christians disappear? Who will distribute them? I don’t know any organization that is investing its money in witnessing to tribulation people.
This parable just shows that those that were not prepared will be shut out. The next parable goes a little further and shows that there will be judgment (cf. Mat 25:30).