Marriage, through the Bible is typically about Gods relationship with man. In the Old Testament it was always Gods will that Israel saw him as husband and such was the relationship. In Genesis 24 we read about a servant who is sent by the father in search of a bride for his master’s son . The father (God) sends his servant (Holy Spirit) to look for a bride (the Church) for his son (Jesus), a clear type of the Spirit finding the church… and Jesus is using this type to describe what he will find when he comes for his church.
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
To understand what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 25:1-13 we must understand each stage in terms of a 1st century marriage ceremony.
The first-century marriage contract and the “bride price.”
When a Jewish boy decided he wanted to get married he would go over to the girl’s house with a contract of marriage and pay the agreed the “bride price.” Jesus came from His Father’s house to where the bride lived – the Earth. He brought a contract, or covenant: the New Covenant or binding agreement, i.e., the New Testament. The price Jesus paid for His bride was His own death on the Cross.
- 1 Corinthians 6:20 – “…for you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
- 1Corinthians 7:23 – “You are bought with a price, do not be the slaves of men.”
- Hebrews 9:28 – “…so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. And to those who look for Him He shall appear the second time without sin to salvation.”
After the price is paid, the groom leaves and the bride and her bridesmaids wait attentively for the time when He comes back for her all the while she is being trained and prepared to take on the role of a wife and she prepares herself to be a fitting bride for her mate.
The Proposal — offering and taking the cup of wine.
In the course of the evening the suitor would pour her a cup of wine; that was the act of proposal. She would accept the proposal by picking up the cup and drinking it, or she could push the wine away and thus reject the proposal.
- 1 Corinthians 11:25 – In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
When we break bread we are re-affirming our EXCLUSIVE belonging to Jesus … that we are HIS ALONE and accept Him as our Lord and master. This is why breaking of bread is ONLY for believers – for those who have covenanted themselves personally to Him.
The groom’s preparation for the wedding.
If she picked up the cup and drank it, the new fiancé would respond “I go to prepare a place for you.” The man would return to his father’s home and begin building a wedding chamber for himself and his bride-to-be.
- John 14:2-3 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The bride’s situation during the engagement.
Now that the woman was betrothed, she was different. She was called consecrated, set apart, bought with a price; she was no longer her own. If she went out during the day, she would wear a veil, to indicate that she was “taken.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”
- Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
When anyone comes to Christ he is “taken” and conducts himself as such … no longer living for self but living as one who belongs to another. Just as a married womancannotlive like a single woman – so too we who are His must live transformed lives. We cannot belong to Christ AND to the world.
The time of the groom’s return was uncertain.
Under the contract, the fiancé could come back and claim his bride anytime, without notice.
- Matthew 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
- Matthew 24:39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
- Matthew 24:42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
- John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Obviously, if it were up to the young man to set the time, he would put something together as fast as possible, to get to the wedding night! Therefore, someone else would decide when the wedding chamber was ready – the bridegroom’s father. Because a new daughter would be joining the family, the father would want to make sure that she had a decent place to live. Hence, only the father would know the time when his son would return for his bride. In many instances, this could be many months, obviously, from time to time the young man’s friends would come around and ask “So, when is the big day?” His reply would be “Only my father knows.”
- Matthew 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
On the wedding night the groom arrived unexpectedly.
Finally, the groom’s father would announce that the marriage chamber was ready, and he would tell him “Go and get your brothers and your groomsmen and go and get your bride.” That night, the groom and his friends would head over to the bride’s house around midnight to surprise her. Because no one knew what date this would be, the prospective bride would sit in joyful anticipation by her window night after night, perhaps for months. In many cases she would not see her betrothed at any time between the proposal and the marriage night and it became a tradition for the prospective bride to keep a lamp filled with oil by her bedside, to avoid injury when her new husband showed up and suddenly took her to their new home. The fact that she had the lamp ready showed she was waiting as she had promised to do when she accepted the proposal.
- 1Co 15:52 in a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet. For a trumpet shall sound, and the dead
Jesus is alluding to the rapture and the taking away of the Church before the tribulation period. The courtship and marriage to the Church follows first century marriage tradition and Matthew 25 is the end or climax of a marriage ceremony.
The foolish virgins
The foolish virgins were unprepared. They had lamps but no oil, a lamp in scripture is often referred to as a symbol of the Word of God.
- “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105, Prov 6:23).
Oil is often referred to as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary records,
“Oil was a fitting symbol of the Spirit or spiritual principle of life, by virtue of its power to sustain and fortify the vital energy; and the anointing oil, which was prepared according to divine instructions, was therefore a symbol of the Spirit of God, as the principle of spiritual life that proceeds from God and fills the natural being of the creature with the powers of divine life. Anointing with oil, therefore, was a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God for the duties of the office to which a person was consecrated (Leviticus 8:12; 1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Samuel10:6; 1 Samuel 16:13-14; Isaiah 61:1).”
In the context of this parable, the oil is that element that causes the lamp to function, in the case of this Scripture, the Holy Spirit is that which causes the word of God to function. The Bible reveals that without the Spirit of God the natural man cannot receive the things of God for they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2.9-16). Therefore, without oil in the lamp, there will be no natural illumination, and without the Holy Spirit there will be no spiritual illumination. Without the Holy Spirit this Bible is ONLY a book! It is clear then, that ALL of the virgins possessed a lamp, just as many would be Christians carry a Bible, yet only five of the virgins had oil in their lamps and could actually produce light. The lamps ONLY work when they are filled with oil and Christianity ONLY works when we are OPEN to the working of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, only half of those that call themselves Christian have the Holy Spirit and are capable of spiritual enlightenment. It must be noted that these ten virgins picture the state of the earthly church when Christ returns. It is a church evenly divided between those who ARE part of the spiritual body of Christ and those who THINK they are a part of the spiritual body of Christ. They look the same there is no difference in outward appearance. It is the manifestation of the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Those with Lamps but without oil are those who are believers in name only. Their hope is that their association with true believers (“give us some of your oil” Matt 25:8) will bring them into the kingdom at the end. This, of course, is never the case. One person’s faith in Jesus cannot save another.
The double emphasis “Lord, lord” and “I do not know you” of verses 11 and 12 fit very well with Jesus’ condemnation of the false believers of Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” How descriptive this is of the backslider who ONCE trusted Jesus, who ONCE had oil, but as time went on, and as “nothing happened” their zeal grew cold. They were banking on a particular scenario and when their vision of how it should be fails, they are empty. They had not taken care to be personally prepared for whenever it would happen rather than when they wanted it to happen.
They ONLY found out they had none when the bridegroom came. Had they taken action before that time they would be ready – had they done some “oil based stock taking” they would have prepared better, but because they SLEPT WHILE NOTHING WAS HAPPENING – emptiness sneaked up on them in their slumber. Had they been awake to the slow and steady loss they would have gone for more oil.
We must take stock of our oil levels. Am I in step with the Spirit? (Gal 5:25), Am I filling up every day with the fresh supply that never runs out? (1 Kings 17:16) Am I taking the warning of scripture to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit? (Eph 5:18) Is my experience truly spirit filled? Is the life of the Holy Spirit EVIDENT in my life ? Is the lamp burning brightly – is the word working together with the spirit? Do I see the words of the Bible manifest by the spirit in my life?
IF NOT, could it be that I am running low on oil? Could it be that I must get before God who “ GIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT ABUNDANTLY WITHOUT MEASURE ” (John 3:34)
Luke 11:13 says that God is willing to fill everyone by simply asking. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
BUT – WHY BOTHER …WHATS THE POINT… IT SOUNDS TOO MUCH LIKE HARD WORK
THE POINT IS – ITS ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH, HEAVEN AND HELL, to suggest it “wont” happen is to deny the Bible.
ALL THE WHILE they slept the DOOR WAS OPEN for them to enter the marriage – to be filled, be ready to go at a moments notice, but NOW the clock was ticking… they suddenly came awake at a point when there was limited time to act and tragically it concludes with the words “and while they were off trying to get refilled”… the “DOOR WAS SHUT”
When speaking to the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3) Jesus reminds us that when HE opens a door no-one can close it but when he closes a door no one can open it. When a door closes in scripture there is something final and fearful about it. The other place you read about that is the life of Noah.
- 2 Peter 2:5 “And He did not spare the old world, but saved Noah the eighth one, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.”
- Matthew 24:38 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark. 39 And they did not know until the flood came and took them all away. So also will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes.”
Noah preached to people about the judgement coming and how they could be spared by entering the ark he had been commanded to build, but only his family heard the message until suddenly the day came
- Gen 7:16 “And they that entered, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.”
The Bible states
- Rev 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts; and shuts and no one opens, says these things”
This is a particular chilling passage for those who assume attendance at the marriage supper.
- Rev 3:8 “I know your works. Behold, I have given before you an open door, and no one can shut it. For you have a little strength and have kept My Word and have not denied My name.
When God shuts a door no one can open it – BUT when He opens a door no one can shut it . Today the door is still open and YOU can go when He comes and save yourself a lot of pain, it all depends upon whether you want to keep running on empty or IF you are willing to come before Him who gives the spirit full and free and open your heart to receive…
- Rev 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.”