Jesus talked frequently about the kingdom of heaven and used parables to teach his followers about the principles of the spiritual realm in which God exists. After he instructed his disciples to watch for his return (Matthew 24:42) and warned them about the punishment of unfaithful servants (Matthew 24:51), Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins to emphasize the importance of being prepared for his imminent return. He said, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matthew 25:1-4). The picture Jesus painted to illustrate his return was a wedding ceremony in which the bridesmaids were looking for the bridegroom’s signal to start the processional. The lamps Jesus referred to were torches that consisted of a long pole with oil-drenched rags at the top. The lamps were trimmed by cutting off the charred ends of the rags and adding oil. “Torches required large amounts of oil in order to keep burning, and the oil had to be replenished about every 15 minutes” (notes on Matthew 25:1, 7, 9).
The initial point Jesus made in his parable of the ten virgins was the need to be prepared ahead of time for a lengthy wait. Jesus stated previously, “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” (Matthew 24:43). It can easily be assumed from these two examples that Jesus’ return will be an unexpected event. It is possible that no one will be looking for Jesus to return when he finally does come back to Earth. He stated in his parable, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). The Greek word translated tarried, chronizo means “to take time, i.e. linger” (G5549). Chronizo as a verb, means literally “to while away time.” This seems to suggest that time is being wasted, but Jesus made it clear that he would return at a set or proper time (Luke 19:44). It could be that Jesus’ delay is due to his preoccupation with activities in heaven. Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
A correlation between Jesus preparing a place for us in heaven and his return to Earth may be found in his example of the wise virgins that were ready when the bridegroom arrived. Jesus said, “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:6-10). The separation of the wise virgins from the foolish ones indicated some people that appear to be Christians might be attempting to enter the kingdom of heaven under false pretenses. Jesus’ preparation of a place in heaven for believers might be his way of determining who belongs in his kingdom and who does not based on something like a reservation system that indicates a particular room or space has been set aside for a specific individual.