Summary: The parable of the ten virgins is given to accentuate the incalculable importance of being spiritually prepared to meet Christ when He returns to earth, because after He appears, unbelievers who are then alive will have no further chance for salvation.

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A fun part of summer are the frequent weddings that occur. So much has changed over the years with weddings. No longer just a formal service in a church with a standard liturgy and vows, now couples often write their own vows, and for the more ambitious couples, it may be an outdoor service at an exotic location. The preparations have become so elaborate and expensive. The costs for photographers, caterers, hall rentals, flowers, dresses and formal wear have seemed to go through the roof. Yet, we must admit the focus and cost is most on the ladies. Often with ones who specify the exact flowers, meals, hall, dresses etc, there is a great discrepancy. The bride ensures she has the best flowers, dress and the entire focus on the ceremony is on her. For the groom, he is not even the best man, and often almost indistinguishable from the rest of the wedding party.

The setting for "The Parable fo the Ten Virgins" of Matthew 25 is a typical Jewish wedding ceremony. In Israel, as well as in most other parts of the ancient Near East, a wedding was the most celebrated social event. Virtually everyone in a village or in a neighborhood community of a large city would be involved as a participant or as a guest. It was a time of great happiness and festivity.

A Jewish marriage consisted of three parts, the first of which was the engagement. Most often arranged by the fathers of the bride and groom, the engagement amounted to a contract of marriage in which the couple had little, if any, direct involvement. The second stage was the betrothal, the marriage ceremony at which the bride and groom exchanged vows in the presence of family and friends. At that point the couple was considered married, and their relationship could be broken only by formal divorce, just as if they had been married for many years. If the husband happened to die during the betrothal, the bride was considered a widow, although the marriage had not been physically consummated and the two had never lived together. The betrothal could last for many months, sometimes a year, during which time the groom would establish himself in a business, trade, or farming and would make provision for a place for the couple to live.

At the end of the betrothal period the wedding feast would be held, and it was in the feast and its related celebrations that the entire community became involved. This festivity, which could last a week, began with the groom’s coming with his groomsmen to the bride’s house, where her bridesmaids were waiting with her. Together the bride and groom and their attendants would then parade through the streets proclaiming that the wedding feast was about to begin. The procession was generally begun at night, and lamps or torches were used by the wedding party to illumine their way and to attract attention.

At the end of the feast period, a close friend of the groom, who acted much like a best man, would take the hand of the bride and place it in the hand of the groom, and the couple would for the first time be left alone together. The marriage would be consummated and the couple would henceforth live together in their new home. It was that third part of the marriage rite that Jesus used as the framework for this parable.

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