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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.

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.

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.

As the parable unfolds, Jesus focuses first on 1) The Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1–5), then on 2) The Bridegroom (Matthew 25:6-12), and finally on 3) The Warning (Matthew 25:13) that the parable is given to reinforce.

1) The Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1–5)

Matthew 25:1-5 [25:1]"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. [2]Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. [3]For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, [4]but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. [5]As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. (ESV)

Preparation for Christ’s second coming will be more decisive and consequential than preparation for His first, because those who rejected Him during His incarnation had continued opportunity to be saved as long as they were alive. Doubtlessly many of those who cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion in place of Barabbas or who voted against Him in the Sanhedrin were later convicted to turn to Him as Lord and Savior. But there will be no such continued opportunity when Jesus comes again. Then, at His second coming, the opportunity for salvation and citizenship in the kingdom of heaven will be past. The kingdom of heaven, used almost exclusively in Matthew’s Gospel (33 times), is a Jewish way of saying “the kingdom of God.” The Jews avoided saying the name of God out of respect for Him. Therefore they often used the word heaven as an alternative way to refer to God. The word heaven also points to the heavenly nature of Jesus’ kingdom. His kingdom did not involve a political restoration of the nation of Israel as many Jews had hoped. Instead He brought a heavenly kingdom with a spiritual domain, the hearts of His people. Such a kingdom demanded internal repentance, not just external submission. It provided deliverance from sin rather than political deliverance (Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.).

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