on Matthew 25 :1
Then shall the kingdom of heaven - The state of Jews and professing Christians - the state of the visible Church at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the day of judgment: for the parable appears to relate to both those periods. And particularly at the time in which Christ shall come to judge the world, it shall appear what kind of reception his Gospel has met with. This parable, or something very like it, is found in the Jewish records: so in a treatise entitled Reshith Chocmah, the beginning of wisdom, we read thus: "Our wise men of blessed memory say, Repent whilst thou hast strength to do it, whilst thy lamp burns, and thy oil is not extinguished; for if thy lamp be gone out, thy oil will profit thee nothing." Our doctors add, in Medrash: "The holy blessed God said to Israel, My sons, repent whilst the gates of repentance stand open; for I receive a gift at present, but when I shall sit in judgment, in the age to come, I will receive none." Another parable, mentioned by Kimchi, on Isaiah 65:13. "Rabbi Yuchanan, the son of Zachai, spoke a parable concerning a king, who invited his servants, but set them no time to come: the prudent and wary among them adorned themselves and, standing at the door of the king's house, said, Is any thing wanting in the house of the king? (i.e. Is there any work to be done?) But the foolish ones that were among them went away, and working said, When shall the feast be in which there is no labor? Suddenly the king sought out his servants: those who were adorned entered in, and they who were still polluted entered in also. The king was glad when he met the prudent, but he was angry when he met the foolish: he said, Let the prudent sit down and eat - let the others stand and look on." Rabbi Eliezer said, "Turn to God one day before your death." His disciples said, "How can a man know the day of his death?" He answered them, "Therefore you should turn to God to-day, perhaps you may die to-morrow; thus every day will be employed in returning." See Kimchi in Isaiah 65:13.
Virgins - Denoting the purity of the Christian doctrine and character. In this parable, the bridegroom is generally understood to mean Jesus Christ. The feast, that state of felicity to which he has promised to raise his genuine followers. The wise, or prudent, and foolish virgins, those who truly enjoy, and those who only profess the purity and holiness of his religion. The oil, the grace and salvation of God, or that faith which works by love. The vessel, the heart in which this oil is contained. The lamp, the profession of enjoying the burning and shining light of the Gospel of Christ. Going forth; the whole of their sojourning upon earth.
on Matthew 25 :1
Then shall the kingdom of heaven - See the notes at Matthew 3:2. The phrase here refers to his coming in the day of judgment.
Shall be likened - Or shall resemble. The meaning is, "When the Son of man returns to judgment, it will be as it was in the case of ten virgins in a marriage ceremony." The coming of Christ to receive his people to himself is often represented under the similitude of a marriage, the church being represented as his spouse or bride. The marriage relation is the most tender, firm, and endearing of any known on earth, and on this account it suitably represents the union of believers to Christ. See Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:9; Ephesians 5:25-32.
Ten virgins - These virgins, doubtless, represent the church - a name given to it because it is pure and holy. See 2 Corinthians 11:2; Lamentations 1:15; Lamentations 2:13.
Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom - The "lamps" used on such occasions were rather "torches" or "flambeaux." They were made by winding rags around pieces of iron or earthenware, sometimes hollowed so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. These torches were dipped in oil, and gave a large light. Marriage "ceremonies" in the East were conducted with great pomp and solemnity. The ceremony of marriage was performed commonly in the open air, on the banks of a stream. Both the bridegroom and bride were attended by friends. They were escorted in a palanquin. carried by four or more persons. After the ceremony of marriage succeeded a feast of seven days if the bride was a virgin, or three days if she was a widow. This feast was celebrated in her father's house. At the end of that time the bridegroom conducted the bride with great pomp and splendor to his own home.
This was done in the evening, or at night, Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 25:10; Jeremiah 33:11. Many friends and relations attended them; and besides those who went with them from the house of the bride, there was another company that came out from the house of the bridegroom to meet them and welcome them. These were probably female friends and relatives of the bridegroom, who went out to welcome him and his new companion to their home. These are the virgins mentioned in this parable. Not knowing precisely the time when the procession would come, they probably went out early, and waited until they should see indications of its approach. In the celebration of marriage in the East at the present day, many of the special customs of ancient times are observed. "At a Hindu marriage," says a modern missionary, "the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, in the very words of Scripture, 'Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.' All the persons employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the procession. Some of them had lost their lights and were unprepared, but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed in a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut and guarded by sepoys. I and others expostulated with the doorkeepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at this moment - 'And the door was shut.'"
The journal of one of the American missionaries in Greece contains an account of an Armenian wedding which she attended; and, after describing the dresses and previous ceremonies, she says that at 12 o'clock at night precisely the cry was made by some of the attendants, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh;" and immediately five or six men set off to meet him.
Bridegroom - A newly-married man.
on Matthew 25 :1