But First, His Bride
And at midnight a cry was heard: "Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!" ~Matthew 25:6
Matthew 25 1-13 is a parable of the wise and the foolish virgins (or bridesmaids) awaiting the bridegroom's arrival to come get his bride. To better understand the depth of this portion of scripture, I think it is important to look at the wedding custom of the time of this writing. A correlation of Christ's return to this marriage custom is so intricately woven throughout this passage of scripture.
Let's look at the marriage customs of that culture and see how this is so.
First, the father of the groom is the one who chose the bride for his son. The young lady could either accept or decline the offer presented to her. She showed her acceptance by drinking the wine cup given to her. Once she drank the wine, a covenant was made. Next, an agreement called the Ketubah was set up and a bride price called a mohar was paid for her. The covenant agreement was in place and technically the couple was now married even though they are not together at this point.
Next, the father and son went away to go prepare a place for the couple to live. The son built a home on his father's property for his precious bride to be. However, before he could go back to get her, his father must give approval that the home meets his expectations and that it is suitable for them to live. Meanwhile, the bride to be makes herself ready for her new life as well.
Finally, a call for the wedding is made. The shofar is blown and word is sent out that the wedding is about to happen. The father, the son, and others parade down the road in the dark of night to the bride's home. It was customary for one of the groom's men to go ahead and shout, "Behold, the bridegroom comes!" The father would exclaim, "Son, go get your bride!"
Now with this understanding in place, let's look at Matthew 25:1-13
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. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
It is interesting that this parable follows Matthew chapter 24; the chapter that details what the world will be like when Jesus returns for His bride. It describes the sin and darkness that will cover this world. (The very sin and darkness we see in the world right now!) Matthew 25 then follows with this parable about the groom that walks through the darkness to get his bride. Amazing.
Yet, as we can see from this passage, there is an expectation from the bridegroom when he comes. Only those with their lamp lit can enter the banquet. The oil in a lamp is bought at a price. It cost something to get it. Is it any different for the Christ follower, for those who deeply love Him and are called according to His purpose? Doesn't it cost us something to lay down our very lives and lose them for His sake? At the same time, what is really lost or given up when so much more is gained?