Many ecclesiastical sectarian interpreters have taught that Jesus is referring to some time in the future where the world will end, and he'll come galloping through the sky to save those who have followed him.
This imaginative tale has many holes, however. Remember that Jesus is discussing this privately with a few of his close disciples. Now if we consider that the world has yet to end, some two thousand years later, how are these disciples supposed to remain prepared, having died two thousand years before?
Some ecclesiastical sectarian teachers have tried to cover this inconsistency by creating a fictitious "purgatory" state, where everyone who has died before the world ends supposedly waits. How are they waiting? And what are these billions of people doing while they wait? Just standing around, like its a cocktail party or something?
Some ecclesiastical sectarians have supposed that people will be waiting in their graves for this end of the world scenario. In what form will they be waiting? Their bodies have thoroughly decomposed. For most, even their bones are now part of the surrounding soil.
In fact, many of Jesus' disciples that he was speaking to here, as did many Jews during the Jewish-Roman wars that Jesus foretold, were burned in fires, as the Romans burnt down Jerusalem and many other villages throughout the region. These burnt bodies decomposed even more quickly. Their remains are thus part of today's dirt of that region - all soil is made up of decomposed dead organisms.
Rather, Jesus is discussing the moment of death: That moment when each spirit-person within the physical body leaves that body.
It is not hard to predict that everyone will die. Every person will experience the moment of death within a few decades at least. Some of us will experience the moment of death within a few years, some even a few months, weeks or even days. Are we prepared for that moment?
This is the point of Jesus' discussion here.
A significant amount of evidence from scripture indicates - and clinical death experiences confirm - that just following the moment of death, we will be judged on the results of our physical lifetimes. Our lives will be reviewed, including every event that hurt someone and every event that helped someone.
As such, the moment of death has been called "Judgement Day" and the day we "Meet our Maker".
More importantly, our spiritual progress will be reviewed at the time of death. Did we use our lives to re-develop our relationship with God? Or did we squander our lives away chasing after money, fame, the opposite sex and other accomplishments that all vanish upon the moment of death?
In Jesus' parable, those who used their lives to re-develop their relationship with God are being compared to the five maidens who were prepared, and kept enough oil to keep their lamps lit. They were prepared for the bridesgroom.
The other five maidens are like those who have wasted our physical lives chasing the temporary physical goodies of the physical world. These maidens were not prepared, and thus had to run off to find oil, and missed that moment when the bridesgroom came.
This analogical story - parable - of the ten virgins and the bridesgroom has clear symbolism. The virgins represent each of us. We are each spiritual beings who were created by God to care for Him and exchange a relationship of loving service with Him. However, He also gave us the freedom to love Him or not. Love without freedom isn't really love, after all.
The bridesgroom represents the Supreme Lord, God, who gathers up those who have used their physical lives to re-develop their loving relationship with Him. God wants all of us back, but only those who choose to return to Him become ready to re-enter our natural position of being His loving servants: Only these are let back.
This is because God only wants us back if we want to return to Him - and become committed. He never forces Himself upon us. If we want to continue our self-centered existence trying to enjoy ourselves and ignore Him, then we simply are not prepared to return to God. Those of us on this path remain in the hellish physical world by taking on another physical body. This fate is symbolized by the five virgins that didn't have enough oil and had to go get some, thereby missing the arrival of the bridesgroom.
The lamps of the story symbolize the ability of those who love God to help others. Those who have re-developed their loving relationship with God render the ability for others to gain wisdom as they share their relationship with God with others.
The oil for the lamps symbolizes our relationship with God. No oil signifies no relationship, or a relationship of disdain, doubt or simply a state of ignoring the Supreme Being. Those of us who try hard to ignore God and His various lessons and signals throughout life have no oil, and thus they give off no real light.
Jesus was very clear about this message. He didn't teach love of God just to entertain himself or be trendy. Many ecclesiastical sectarians' focus on Jesus as though his mission was to die for our sins. This couldn't be further from the truth. Why did Jesus bother to teach, then? If the death of his physical body saves everyone, why did he spend years traveling the countryside preaching to people then?
And why did Jesus tell his disciples to also go out and teach to others, then?
Those who embellish upon this teaching that Jesus died for our sins simply do not want to do the hard work of preparing ourselves for the moment of death. We want an easy way out. We want to continue being focused upon ourselves and the goodies of the physical world, and then spend an hour in church on Sunday making sure that Jesus' death cleared out all our sins. Jesus himself clarified that this would not work:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)Notice Jesus refers to "that day" in this statement, just as he does above. Again, Jesus is talking about that moment in time when we must face God and/or His angels - the moment after the death of this physical body.
Doing the "will of my Father who is in heaven" is part of having a loving relationship with God. It is not as if we simply do what God wants so that we get something in return. It is not a business transaction. It is supposed to be love. Doing what pleases another is part of a loving relationship. If we love someone, we don't do what pleases them so we get something in return. We do what pleases them because we love them and care for them.
So we must re-develop our loving relationship with God. This was Jesus' most important teaching, and the teaching that if we follow will indeed save us:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)