-Jesus, still within the context of talking about His second coming and the last things, compares the Kingdom of Heaven to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five of them were wise. The wise ones brought along oil in flasks for their lamps due to the uncertain nature of the length of time the bridegroom would take to come for the wedding feast. This was cultural and easily understood to those in the audience of Jesus’ teaching. This is a foreign concept in our day and bears some need for instruction here.
-Jesus explains the story of the Jewish wedding and the mirror image it portrays of the first and second coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Looking at the parable of the Ten Virgins it is easy to speculate that it only refers to the second coming of Christ. But, for our edification, I am going to give the whole picture of the first coming of Christ, the Church, and the second coming for His bride. The Jewish wedding in the time of Christ is different than a Jewish wedding in this modern age. In Bible times the Jewish people were given in marriage by a betrothal (Kiddushin) which means to sanctify, this was the stage in which a covenant agreement was made for the marriage (Lamm, 146).
-The marriage consists of three stages and is expressed by the Biblical term kichah. In the first stage, the man gives a women money known as a kessef. The kessef is usually a coin, or something of value. The man is to stand before two witnesses and say, “You are hereby betrothed unto me with this symbol in accordance with the Laws of Moses and Israel.” The bride then agrees to the price given and accepts. This is an indication that she is willing to marry the groom (Lamm, 146). The bride and groom are not allowed to be live together, but are considered married. No intimate relationship occurs during this time of the marriage process.
-The second stage of the marriage agreement is the bond known as the she’tar. This pact is given by the man to the women as a contractual agreement which contains the names of the couple and the groom’s intent to marry. This contract does not give legal evidence for the marriage, but is done before two or more witnesses to move the marriage forward. The second half of this stage is known as the Ketubah (Lamm, 197). This is an agreement before witnesses that he, the husband, will take care of his wife humanely and financially. This contractual agreement secures a certain financial obligation to the wife in the event of a divorce (Lamm, 198).
-The third stage of the marriage is the consummation known as the bi’ah. This occurs after the wedding feast has taken place. The bride and groom go to private quarters and consummate the marriage with sexual intimacy and intercourse. At this stage, the marriage is complete both officially and legally.
-The process of the marriage agreement is drawn out for several months. The longest period of time from the betrothal to the consummation period is twelve months. The son returns to his father’s home until the time of the wedding feast. During this twelve month period the bride and the groom are immersed in water for sanctification before the wedding feast and consummation. Confession of any sin is stressed and emphasized during this period. Also, the bridegroom gets living quarters ready for his new bride, while the bride prepares and gets everything in order for her new married life.
-On the day of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom fast for a cleansing of their sins and to avoid drinking or being stained by worldly temptations (Lamm, 189-196). The groom has a table set up for the feast known as Kabbalat Panim (Lamm, 197). A throne is set up at the feast for his bride where she can be surrounded by her bridesmaids (virgins) in honor. The groom sings praises to his bride and all that are present partake in a glorious banquet.
-Historically and biblically speaking, this is the picture of Christ. The betrothal is a picture of the covenant agreement the Lord gave to Abraham and the people of Israel.
Genesis 17:9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.”
-The prospective bridegroom would then travel to meet his bride and negotiate the price (contract) for her. Christ came to earth to pay the price for His bride, the church, including both Jews and Gentiles. The price (kessef or mohar) that Christ negotiated for His bride was death on the cross, the ultimate gift (1 Corinthians 6:20, Isaiah 27:9). He then rose again on the third day.
-The Period of Preparation - Jesus after paying the price for our sins, returned to the Father’s House for a period of time. This is the period of the church age. This, then, is the stage between the betrothal and consummation period. In Matthew 25:1 it states, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.” The analogy given in this parable relates to people of the church. Each one of us should be waiting for the second coming of Christ just as the bridesmaids did for their wedding feast.
-In ancient Judaism the bride and the bridesmaids did not know when the bridegroom would come. Signs and indications were given to the bride and her party that the bridegroom was on his way, but they did not know the day or the hour. As the days came closer the virgins (bridesmaids) would wait outside with their lamps. The groom would always come at night, the virgins (bridesmaids) had to be ready to light the way to the feast.
-The bridegroom would arrive with a ‘shout’! He was coming to get his bride. This is a picture of Christ returning for the second time: Matthew 25:6, "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'”
-The wedding feast and all who were ready for the bridegroom go into the wedding feast. The bride was given a throne were the bridegroom would honor her. The virgins and bridesmaids would be all around her in the wedding feast.
-*Application* The most essential element to this parable is preparation. Is the church ready to meet the bridegroom? In answering the key questions of this passage one has to look at every aspect listed. The ten women in this parable were all virgins, equipped with a lamp and oil; all of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom. Let’s look at each piece and define the meaning.
-The lamp is a symbol of light. Each virgin, being pure and set apart, was equipped with the ability to produce light in dark places. Many scriptures can be cross referenced to back the meaning of the lamp. Let’s look at Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.” The lamp is the word of God; each of the virgins was equipped with the ability to know the Lord. Other illustrations given in the Scriptures, especially in Matthew, make the point that the lamp refers to the soul. (Matthew 6:22, Luke11:25) Once a lamp is lit who would hide it (Matthew 5:15)? From reading the parable all were equipped with a lamp and oil. Each girl was set apart and pure (virginity) before the Lord. Yet, five unwise virgins were not prepared with extra oil.
-The oil- What is the meaning of the oil and the preparation of the coming of Christ? Do we literally sell our homes, buy a virgin dress and sit outside waiting for our Messiah. Some have attempted this. However, this is not what the Lord meant by preparation.
-We must first take a look at Exodus and the meaning of the lamp stand and the oil in the Old Testament. Aaron was a required by the Lord to refill the lamp day and night to keep the flame burning at all times (Exodus 27:20-21). The people of Israel were to bring pure, crushed olive oil to Aaron daily. This refers to the constant presence of the Spirit of the Lord that is needed and essential if there is to be His indwelling blessing.
-The preparation for the five wise virgins illustrates how we are to honor the Lord with our lives and wait for His coming. Those who are wise understand that the cultivation of the soul is essential to their walk with Christ. Having an abiding relationship should naturally result in the daily reading of the Word of God, prayer, and meditation, all of which are vital to being ready for the Messiah. As believers we are to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). As Christians we cannot afford to grow complacent, drifting into worldliness while we are waiting. A good example of this is found in Matthew 24:35-51 referring to a servant who was caught unaware.
-The unwise virgins, or fools, represent hypocrisy in Christianity. These women were not prepared; they had a form of godliness but denied the power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). During the great day of testing those who do not have an abiding relationship through the oil of the Holy Spirit will find their lamps going out. By studying Scripture you can observe that those whose lamps are going out cannot borrow at the time of Christ coming from the wise. Each believer is responsible for attending to his or her own soul. Do not be like the unwise who is caught unaware with worldliness, complacency, and drifting in the faith. You do not know the day or the hour in which the Lord will return. Are you ready?
-Source: Talmud, Jewish Tradition of Love and Marriage by Maurice Lamm
-The next section depicts the scene when Jesus, the Son of Man, comes in His glory with all the angels and sits on His glorious throne (Matthew 25:31-46). All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will judge them separating the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers). Sheep will go to the right into an inherited Kingdom with blessed eternal life and the goats will go to the left departing into accursed eternal punishment, which was prepared for the devil and his angels (notice it was not designed for mankind but his rejection of Christ led them there) (Matthew 25:34, 41, 46).
-First of all in the parable of the giving of talents we see that the Lord’s Kingdom is compared to a man who went on a journey and entrusted his possessions to his servants (doulous, slaves). Next we see that there is a distribution given out according to each’s ability but in abundance (a talent, or resource, was a great amount of money). Then we see either the produce of effort, or the squandering of opportunity by the servants. There is a “long” time before the master comes back and settles his accounts with the servants blessing the first two who produced double and chastising the one who was lazy. The disciples were near Jerusalem and thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately (Luke 19:11), but Jesus says basically that He (as the nobleman in the story) was going to be going away to receive a Kingdom for Himself and then return (Luke 19:20). The focus is on how the stewards of the kingdom’s treasures use their resources to increase. The king was so hard on the man who didn’t increase because: 1) he didn’t share his master’s interest in the kingdom; 2) he didn’t trust his master’s intentions; 3) his only concern was for himself; and 4) he did nothing to use the money. *Application* Like the king of this story, God has given you gifts to use on behalf on His Kingdom. How bad do you want His Kingdom to increase? You have been given much and have the power to make a difference. So you may not have all the talents in the world, but you have been given abundant measure. Don’t squander any prospect to do God’s work and especially don’t throw your opportunity for salvation away by neglecting what Christ has done for you. Those who have done more in this realm will be given even more in the Heavenly realm if they produce.
-The Lord makes the point that it was Him who these were ministering to, or not ministering to, in each situation whether it be feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, including the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, or coming to the prisoner for companionship and encouragement.
-*Application* It is obvious here that we will be held accountable for everything we do in the Name of Jesus Christ here on this earth. These acts of kindness come from a pure heart that has been changed by the love of Christ and extends to others who are in true and desperate need. Don’t reject the promptings of the Holy Spirit when He tells you to help people. You are actually doing it, or not doing it, directly to the Lord as we plainly see here in this passage.
Verses to Memorize: Matthew 25:13, 46