Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 15, 2019
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Many thanks to Raymond Finney for this submission.
Yeshua’s End-time Parables (No. 1): Parable of the Virgins
First-century Jewish Wedding – The Bridegroom and Virgin Maidens
INTRODUCTION: I detour from some of the topics about which I have been recently writing. Over the next three weeks, I will discuss three parables about life near the end of the Age of Grace, also known as the New Covenant Age. We now live in this Age.
As a reminder of a Believer’s future, recall this sequence: Age of Grace (present life on earth) > Rapture (“snatching away” of living Believers) or Resurrection (bodily restoration to life of dead Believers) > Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of HaMashiach) > Marriage to/ Marriage Feast of the Lamb > Second Coming (Second Advent) of Yeshua, in the company of an army of angels and Believers with glorified bodies (saints) > Battle of Armageddon > expulsion of Antichrist and False Prophet to Hell, imprisonment of Satan in the Bottomless Pit (Abyss) > Millennial Kingdom (thousand-year reign of Yeshua, with angels and saints) > brief release of Satan with Gog-Magog Rebellion > final defeat of Satan, with his consignment to Hell > saints’ entrance into Heaven, occupation of mansions in New Jerusalem, exploration of New Earth. (The Tribulation will occur on earth, but Bible students do not agree whether Believers will face none or part of this time. Because of this controversy, the Tribulation is omitted from this sequence of events.)
A parable has been simply defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” By using simple short stories with common themes, Yeshua taught truths to the masses– truths that might not be understood through more formal teaching formats. Yeshua was asked why He taught in parables. His answer is given in Matthew 13:13-15, in which He quoted an Isaiah 6:9-10 prophecy about the need to simplify God”s message.
I will discuss three parables contained in Matthew, chapter 25. These parables follow the most important Olivet Discourse (Matthew, chapter 24), and describe events in our future.
PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS: Read Matthew 25:1-13.
Synopsis of parable: The heavenly kingdom may be likened to ten virgins, including betrothed maidens waiting for their bridegrooms to return to them. Each virgin possessed a lamp. Five virgins were wise; five virgins, foolish.
With a shout, a long-awaited bridegroom appeared suddenly at night, when no one expected. All virgins rushed out to greet the bridegroom.
Since travel to the village of the bridegroom’s father– the location of the marriage– would occur at night, light from lamps was needed. Five wise virgins maintained their lamps in good working order (filled with oil and wicks trimmed). Five foolish, lazy virgins had neglected their lamps and had no light.
The five wise virgins went with friends and relatives to the marriage. The five foolish virgins sought vainly to purchase oil, but it was too late. The bridegroom told them to stay home, saying, “I do not know you.” Yeshua added (Matthew 25:13): “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
FIRST-CENTURY JEWISH MARRIAGE: Yeshua used the most intimate human relationship– marriage– to describe His interaction with humans. Yeshua is called our “Bridegroom.” Believers are called the “bride of HaMashiach.” Our righteous deeds are even now preparing our bridal gowns (Revelation 19:8). The second event after the Rapture/ Resurrection is the Marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10), in which we Believers will be eternally, spiritually wed to Yeshua. [Lamb = the Apostle John’s designation for Yeshua.]
Yeshua attended marriage ceremonies. His first miracle was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-10). Here, He transformed water (contained in six waterpots reserved for purification of the Jews) into wine. Only this miracle– the most important of His ministry– was worthy of His first miracle because He announced to the world that He had come to transform traditional Jewish beliefs (purification by water) to Messianic beliefs (purification by Yeshua’s blood sacrifice).
How is the first century Jewish wedding pertinent to this parable? The stages of a Jewish wedding, following, foretold Yeshua’s ministry, and explains the parable. Yeshua fulfilled or will fulfill all of the stages in this marriage. All stages have a Scriptural basis. In the parable, the young man portrays the Bridegroom Yeshua; the young maiden portrays a Believer (you).
** A young man journeyed from his village, searching for a wife. Yeshua journeyed from His village (Heaven), searching for a bride in her village (earth). See John 15:16a; other Scriptures.
**After finding a suitable maiden, the young man “purchased her” with a price– a mohar. Yeshua paid a price for His bride (you) through His death. See 1 Corinthians 6:20a; 1 Peter 1:18-19.
** If the maiden showed interest in marrying the young man, he met with her and her father to discuss betrothal. A betrothal was the same as marriage, except no sexual contact occurred. They sat at a table upon which were placed a ketubah and a cup of wine. A ketubah was a marriage contract, clearly defining the duties and rights of both parties, should marriage occur. A Believer’s ketubah is the Holy Bible. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
** If the young woman agreed to the betrothal, she and the young man sipped wine from the cup on the table before them. The wine was a symbol of the joy they hoped their marriage would bring. We seal our betrothal to Yeshua, when we drink Communion wine. See Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7, 2:13; Colossians 1:14, 20; 1 Peter 1:9; other Scriptures.
** The young man presented gifts to the maiden to show her how highly esteemed she was to him and his family. Yeshua left the Holy Spirit and His spiritual gifts with us, when He left. See John 13:16-17, 16:7; 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13; other Scriptures.
** The maiden was expected to be and remain free of spot (not defiled by adultery), holy (inwardly pure), and free of blemish (outwardly pure) during her betrothal. She promptly bathed in a mikva with running water to symbolize washing away life’s impurities. Believers are expected to remain free of spot and blemish and to remain holy during betrothal to Yeshua. Believers are commanded to be baptized in water (burying the sinful person in a watery grave, washing away old sins, and rising as a new, forgiven person). See John 6:3-11; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Ephesians 5:27; other Scriptures.
** The young man left the maiden in her village (Believer’s village = earth), while he traveled to his father’s village (Yeshua’s village = Heaven). He likely told her something like Yeshua told us: “I go to prepare a place for you [but I will return for you].” The young man would be gone approximately one year, while he built a home and furnishings. See John 14:2-4.
** The maiden was expected to remain a virgin in the bridegroom’s absence. She placed a veil across her face to signal to potential suitors that she was betrothed and would not entertain advances from any other man. Betrothal was the only time a Jewish woman wore a veil. She congregated with other virgins. Together, they kept each other pure and in good spirits. A Believer is expected to spurn advances from suitors (Satan), while the Bridegroom is away. Congregating with other virgins or Believers (Shomair, for example) is one way to encourage others to remain faithful to Yeshua. See Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:32; Hebrews 10:24-25.
** The bridegroom labored intensely to build a home for his future family. His father determined whether the home and furnishings were adequate. The father determined when it was time to bring the young man’s bride to the marriage. Yeshua said that only His Father would know the day and hour of His return to earth for His bride. See Matthew 24:36.
** With the father’s approval, the young man gathered a group of his friends (a bridegroom’s party) to accompany him, as he traveled to the maiden’s village. Bridegroom Yeshua will travel to earth in company of a host of angels to call His bride (Believers) home– an event known as the Resurrection/ Rapture. See Acts 1:9-11.
** The bridegroom’s party waited until early morning to make an appearance. The bridegroom shouted out the bride’s name, calling her to come out of her home to him. When Yeshua returns, there will be shouting, the sounding of God’s trumpet, and the command, “Come up here!” Those who know Yeshua’s voice will be resurrected from the dead or translated from life to be evermore with their Lord. See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1.
** The bride’s party, including virgins who had kept her company during her betrothal, was always ready to meet the bridegroom because they did not know when he would return. The trip to the bridegroom’s village would be made at night, and clay lamps would be necessary to light the path. Lamps were filled with oil and the wicks were neatly trimmed. To meet Yeshua in the air, a Believer must remain vigilant and ready. See Matthew 24:42-44; other Scriptures.
** At last, the bride and bridegroom were united in marriage, just as the Bridegroom Yeshua and His bride (Believers) will be united forever. See 1 Corinthians 15:51b-52; 1 Thessalonians 14:17.
** A Jewish wedding was not legally binding until it was consummated. The newlyweds were sheltered in a chupah (“bridal chamber”) for seven days, during which time consummation was expected to occur. Believers will be sheltered in Paradise for the seven years of the Tribulation. See multiple passages in Revelation.
** A rabbi quoted seven blessings over the newlywed couple. Seven blessings are given for “overcomers” – Believers who will enter Heaven– in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
** Finally, there was an elaborate wedding banquet to honor the newlyweds. The couple shared a cup of wine, symbol of joy. Thereafter, they were husband and wife. We Believers will participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. At this banquet, each of us likely will have a chalice of wine, and we will drink the wine, along with our Bridegroom Yeshua. Then, we are eternally wed to Him. In the “last supper,” the Passover Seder just hours before Yeshua’s crucifixion, He refused to drink from the fourth Seder cup– the Cup of Hallel (Cup of Praise) – saying (Matthew 26:29): “… I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s house.” Surely, that fourth cup has been reserved for Yeshua and Believers as a toast at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
THE MEANING OF THIS PARABLE: Yeshua told this parable for a reason.
** In this parable, Yeshua is the Bridegroom ascended to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Read John 14:2-3: [Yeshua said] “In My Father’s house are many mansions; …. 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.”
** In this parable, we Believers living on earth in Yeshua’s absence are the virgins waiting for His (the Bridegroom’s) return.
** Each of us, a virgin waiting for the Bridegroom, possesses a lamp. Yeshua is the Light of the world (John 9:5): [Yeshua said] ““As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Before He left us, He transferred His light to His followers (Matthew 5:14a): [Yeshua said] “You are the light of the world…..”
** Any lamp– including a virgin’s lamp in this parable– requires fuel to give off light. In Yeshua’s time, olive oil was lamp fuel. Throughout the Bible, oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with olive oil. When Yeshua left to be with the Father, He sent the Comforter (Helper, Advocate, and other titles– the Holy Spirit) to walk beside us (as our Paraclete). The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is our Guide, while Yeshua is away from us. We should listen to Him and heed His gentle messages. The Holy Spirit will never lead us astray, whereas Satan’s messages will always lead us astray.
** The wise virgins kept (wise Believers still keep) their lamps filled with oil (the Holy Spirit), which gives off light (the Light of Yeshua), as is intended for a lamp. They went (Believers will go) with the Bridegroom (Yeshua) to the marriage feast (one of the first steps to Heaven).
** On the other hand, the foolish virgins did not keep (foolish Believers do not keep) their lamps filled with oil (the Holy Spirit), and their lamps do not give off light (the Light of Yeshua), as lamps should. The foolish virgins did not go (foolish Believers will not go?) with the Bridegroom (Yeshua) to the marriage feast.
Yeshua did not elaborate on details of this parable. Are the foolish, lazy virgins (Believers) forever banished from entering Heaven? As a boy and young man, I worshiped as a Southern Baptist. Baptists (and other denominations, perhaps) hold dear the doctrine of eternal salvation of the Believer. This doctrine can be simply summed up as, “once saved, always saved.” Various Scriptures are quoted to defend this doctrine, including Hebrews 5:9: And having been perfected, He [Yeshua] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,…. The foolish virgins once were friends of the bridegroom (as wise Believers once followed Yeshua), but their laziness and inattention to demands required by the Bridegroom (Yeshua) caused them to stay home (on earth), when the time came for them to go (the Rapture) to the marriage feast.
I am not smart enough to sort this out, but you should give it some thought. Is the doctrine of eternal salvation of the Believer true or false? Can a person lose his/ her salvation? I have been troubled by a statement of Yeshua (Revelation 9:5a): “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life;….” “Blot out” may also be translated “erase.” If Yeshua promises not to blot out (erase) a person’s name from the Book of Life, might He do the opposite and actually blot out (erase) a name? In other words, is a Believer’s name written in the Book of Life in indelible ink or pencil?
Does this parable teach that a saved person (a virgin in this parable) may lose his/ her salvation, if he/ she does not keep working for the Lord? Preview: In next Sunday’s RR, a discussion of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Yeshua made an equally disturbing statement about the unprofitable servant (Matthew 25:30): “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” To me, such a place sounds like Hell.
When I was an actively worshiping Baptist, the doctrine of eternal salvation of the Believer was an important teaching of that denomination, but it bothered me. I knew Baptists who behaved in an un-Christian manner, but were considered saved because they made a profession of faith in Sunday School as a child. I asked Baptist pastors about sinful activities of such people and whether this doctrine always applies. A typical answer I received was, “Well, such person probably was not saved in the first place.” Maybe so, but that was not a satisfying answer for me. The wise virgin (wise Believer) should continue working for Yeshua’s kingdom, whether the doctrine of the eternal salvation of the Believer is true or false.
Father, thank you for life. We can never repay you for the many things– both known and unknown– You have provided for us, including eternal life in Heaven. We can never repay Yeshua for His sacrifice for us as our New Covenant offering. The only way we can begin to make even a small down payment on the debt we owe You is by living a life that is worthy of our royal calling. May we serve You with gladness and honor. At our Bema Judgment, may we be a sufficiently worthy servant to see Yeshua smile and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.
Rabbi Trail: This is a note from Rabbi Michael. I am very thankful for this lesson from Raymond Finney. I want to add one thought. There may be a tendency to allow fear to become our motivation. Toward the end of this lesson, Raymond discusses the possibility of losing our salvation.
Faith and fear never exist in the same place at the same time (like light and dark). Faith, hope and love are three foundational principles. We are to be love motivated and not fear motivated. Our focus belongs on loving God, not on fear of losing relationship with Him.
There is much more to this that we don’t fully understand. We know that salvation is by grace through faith alone. We also know God is not mocked. We cannot expect to live like hell and get to heaven.
In fact, I’m not sure “getting to heaven” is even a worthwhile goal. As Asher Intrater puts it, do we want to get us out of here or get Yeshua in here? Having a relationship with the Lord and preparing for His return seems more to the point, and more to the point of this parable. Thank you again Raymond. End RT.