In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus describes a hypothetical situation in which ten virgins are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Five are foolish and the other five are wise. The reason for such an assessment is that the wise virgins took oil for their lamps in case there was a delay in the bridegroom’s coming while the foolish virgins made no such preparation. Then, at midnight, a most unexpected time, the arrival of the bridegroom is announced. Because the prudent virgins had oil enough only for themselves and the foolish virgins did not have enough for their lamps, they were forced to go to the dealers in the middle of the night to buy more oil. While they were away, the doors were shut and they were unable to gain access into the wedding feast (Mt. 25:1-11).
The events described in this parable may sound strange to the ears of modern-day disciples who are unfamiliar with Hebrew marriage customs. The Bible Knowledge Commentary provides the following insight:
Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity given concerning the bride. If she was found to be with child in this period, she obviously was not pure, but had been involved in an unfaithful sexual relationship. Therefore the marriage could be annulled. If, however, the one-year waiting period demonstrated the purity of the bride, the husband would then go to the house of the bride’s parents and in a grand processional march lead his bride back to his home. There they would begin to live together as husband and wife and consummate their marriage physically.
As the bride of Christ, the church is currently in a phase of preparation—a time of waiting for the appearance of the bridegroom (Eph. 5:25-27). The church is betrothed to Christ, awaiting the day of presentation (2 Cor. 11:2). We must “Be on the alert then, for [we] do not know the day or the hour” (Mt. 25:13). John identifies our wedding day in the events that mark Christ’s second coming, saying, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1–2).
Concerning these matters, we observe two important things: (1) Continual preparation is wise, neglect is foolish; and, (2) We cannot borrow preparation from others—it must be our own. In the light of such truths, how diligent ought we to be in preparing for our eternal future!
written by Glen Elliott
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