Matthew 25:1-4 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”
The Kingdom of Heaven has been described in many ways, the variety of illustrations reveals the importance of understanding this concept.
Jesus often depicted the Kingdom of Heaven in ways that people could understand. When I was young, I used to attribute the idea of God’s Kingdom to Heaven but Jesus described the Kingdom in a multitude of ways so we could understand its importance.
When considering Jesus’ teaching found in Matthew 25, there are elements of God’s Kingdom that must be considered to understand the scope of God’s plan.
The bridegroom is Jesus. The depiction of a bride waiting for her groom to take her to His home is one that would have struck a chord with the Jews of Jesus’ day. The eager expectation for the return of the groom was one that found itself in jewish tradition. The man would go and prepare a home for his bride and then return at night to receive her when it was completed. The parable of the 10 virgins has value when held to the understanding of those to whom the message was given.
Before we go further, understanding what led to this moment can be helpful. By drawing from tradition we can see how the elements God placed within the ceremony are comparative to what we know for believers today.
Jewish Wedding Customs
Shiddukhin refers to the first step in the marriage process – the arraignments preliminary to the legal betrothal. It was common in ancient Israel of the father of the groom to select a bride for his son.
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
As the father of the groom used to select a bride, so our Father in heaven draws the Bride of Christ to the Son.
Ketubah means – “written” Written in Hebrew as – hbtk. The ketubah was and still is today the – “marriage contract.” The ketubah includes the provisions and conditions of the proposed marriage:
* The groom promises to support his wife to be.
* The bride stipulates the contents of her dowry – financial status.
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
The Lord has promised to support His Bride forever. For those who choose to follow Christ, the dowry of their lives is all they have to give.
The Mohar – or Bridal Payment
This is sometimes called – the Bride price. It is a gift paid by the groom to the bride’s family – but ultimately belongs to the bride. It changed her status and set her free from her parent’s household.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”
Hebrews 9:15 “Therefore Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that He has died to redeem them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
The price Jesus paid for His bride was His very life. The cost reveals the value God places upon His people.
The Mikveh – or Ritual Immersion
Although not mentioned in the narrative – to prepare for betrothal it was common for the bride and groom to separately take a ritual immersion. The ritual immersion – mikvah -taken from the Hebrew – hwqm was prior to actually entering into the formal betrothal period, and was symbolic of spiritual cleansing.
Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
As Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river, so does the Bride of Christ upon salvation. Baptism is a fundamental part of following Christ and making that commitment.
Aspects of the Betrothal
After the couple had undergone – Mikveh hwqm (immersion) , each separately, they would appear together under the Huppah – or canopy – and in public they would express their intention of becoming betrothed or engaged. From ancient times – the wedding canopy has been a symbol of a new household being planned – (Ps. 19:5; Joel 2:16). While under the Huppah the couple participated in a ceremony in which some items of value were exchanged – such as rings, and a cup of wine was shared to seal the betrothal vows. After the ceremony – the couple was considered to have entered into the betrothal agreement.
Romans 10:9-10 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”
Luke 22:19-20 “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
The vow of belief is found in the heart of repentance. The communion of believers share the bread and wine because it represents the blood and body of Christ. The symbolism of death that we might have life is ingrained in all who trust in Him.
The Matan – or Bridal Gift
Following this betrothal ceremony the groom would return to his home to fulfill his obligations during the betrothal. But just prior to leaving he would give his wife to be a Matan ntm – or bridal gift, a pledge of his love for her. It’s purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her – and that he would return to receive her as his wife.
John 14:26-27 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.. “
When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, He sent a precious gift to His people. The Spirit is the seal on God’s people and leads them into being prepared for His return.
The Couple’s Responsibilities During the Betrothal
During betrothal the groom’s responsibility was to focus on preparing a new dwelling place for his bride and family:
* In Biblical times this was most often done not by building a new home – but by simply adding additional rooms to the family’s existing home.
* The Rabbi’s determined that the place to which the bride was to be taken must be better than the place she had lived before.
* It was not the groom’s duty to determine when the place he was preparing for the bride was ready – his father would make that determination and give the go ahead to receive his bride.
The bride also was to keep herself busy in preparation for the wedding day – specifically wedding garments were to be sewn and prepared.
John 14:1-4 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
As the groom would prepare a home for His bride, so Jesus has been preparing a place for His people for the past 2000 years. The promise is sure as well as His vow to return one day and receive her.
The final step in the wedding process is called – Nissuin – the word commons from the Hebrew verb – hsn ( nasa) – which means , “to carry.” This is a graphic description – as the bride would be waiting for her groom to come – to carry her off to her new home. The period of the betrothal – was a time of great anticipation – as the bride waited for the arrival of her betrothed. One of the unique features of the Biblical Jewish wedding was the time of the groom’s arrival – it was to be a surprise.
Isaiah 61:10-11 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”
The value of waiting for the Kingdom of God to come is first knowing how to become apart of it today. The Kingdom has come for those who believe and the culmination of this Kingdom will be a time of great rejoicing. One day the Bride of Christ will be received by the Son and the marriage supper of the Lamb will be the ceremony uniting God’s people to Himself forever.
Do you want to know eternal life?
It seems like a silly question but for many, the troubles of this world are too difficult to overcome. The inexpressible joy of seeing the return of Christ will be the realization of all they had ever hoped.
What a day that will be.