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soon as it reached them, and who were, therefore, obliged to wait at some convenient station until that time. But it matters very little how we decide this point. The first would seem to be the more natural; and the last would agree very satisfactorily with the things meant to be represented. Perhaps the Savior's silence respecting this particular was intended to leave the mind of the hearer free to take in both suppositions and to interpret the parable as if both were true.
There is no question, however, that the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ.
To this all interpreters agree. There are many other passages of Scripture in which he is so represented. David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and John the Baptist, and the apostles, have all referred to him under this interesting figure. His Bride is the Church, to which he has given his promise, and to which he has betrothed himself for a blessed and eternal union. Hosea beautifully represents him as coming to his believing people, and saying to each, “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” (Hosea ii. 19, 20.) This engagement he has made with all his Church, in the promises and ordinances of his gospel, on condition that each shall be ready when he comes.
The time for the fulfilment of these engagements is the period of his return to the earth. It usually requires two visits to effect a marriage,—the one in which the proposal is made and the preliminaries arranged, and the other in which the marriage actually takes place. So Christ comes twice to the Church. The visit in which he made the proposal and arranged all the preliminary requisites is long past, and is all presupposed in the parable before us. The other is yet future, when he will come to receive his people, and to convey them to the place which he has gone to prepare for them, that they may be ever with him.
The subject of this parable plainly is, the Church, — the congregation of believers, with reference to the experiences and qualifications necessary to secure the high honors of the world to come. It refers to a state of things preceding the second advent of Christ and having special regard to that great event. It is "the kingdom of heaven” which is meant to be illustrated,—not, indeed, in every aspect in which it is viewed in the Scriptures, but in the condition in which it is found in the times anterior to Christ's return, and the estate of its subjects with respect to that return. Properly, “ the kingdom of heaven" embraces all that the gospel proposes, both in its means and in its end, whether in this world or in that which is to come. It includes all the provisions of grace, the whole economy of administrations by which salvation is conveyed to us, the experiences which it works in us, the system of remedial appliances under which it brings us, and all the rewards and glories in which Christ's mediatorial dealings are to eventuate. It is the most comprehensive conception contained in any one phrase in the entire word of God. It sometimes embraces more, and sometimes less, as the kingdom in its fuller sense, or particular sections or phases of it, are the subject of remark. In the parables it is generally used with reference to the Christian State, in which Christ is king and the saints are his subjects; in which laws of government are enacted, and proper officers appointed for their explanation and execution; and which consists in God's administrations in and over a class of people united under one Head, distinguished from all other orders of men, and on their way to a perfect and eternal empire, to be more fully manifested hereafter.
It is called the kingdom of heaven, in distinction from earthly empires or confederations. Its subjects are born from on high, and have a celestial citizenship. It originates entirely from above, and has its head and centre in a celestial King, although located upon earth. The word, laws, and ordinances of it are all from heaven. There is also some resemblance between it and heaven. It embraces many heavenly elements.
It is also very near to heaven,—the next thing to it, the suburbs of it, and includes whatever upon earth is most heavenly. And it is this kingdom, as made up of purified souls hoping, looking, and waiting for the coming of their Lord to complete their bliss, which the Savior has here set before us.*
* “The kingdom of heaven is the body of believers in Christ; who are brought, by renovation by the Spirit, into the relation of children and heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; in whom, therefore, he dwells by his Spirit, and of whom such as have died are at his second advent to come with him, and be invested with authority as priests and kings, and reign with him over the living nations of the earth, through their endless generations. It is this kingdom, in some of its stages or characteristics, that a chief part of the parables are employed to illustrate.” -Theol. and Lit. Journal, vii. 242.
It has been doubted by some whether the ten virgins in this parable represent the whole Church of Christ, or only that portion of it which shall be found on the earth at his coming. It seems to me that the latter is the proper acceptation, without, however, entirely excluding the former. All must agree that the parable relates particularly to "the last times," which include, in general, the entire space between Christ's ascension and second coming, but more especially that portion of it lying immediately before the second advent. It was in answer to questions concerning the Savior's second coming and the end of the world, that it was given. (Matt. xxiv. 3.)* It is part of a discourse which is mostly taken up with an account of the last things. The whole context is engrossed with the signs and circumstances of the end of the present order. And the parable begins with the remark that " Then"-at that time—the kingdom of heaven shall be like unto these ten virgins. It seems also to be implied in the narrative that these virgins were but one company in a grand procession made up of many similar companies, –
* For an explanation of this chapter, see my Last Times, First Lecture. The following are Dean Alford's remarks upon the subject:—“The question was concerning the time, and the sign of these things happening, viz.: the overthrow of the temple and desolation of Judea, with which, in the then idea of the apostles, our Lord's coming and the end of the world were connected. Against this mistake he warns them, vv. 6, 14, Luke v. 24, and also in the two first parables in our chapter xxv. For the understanding of this necessarily difficult prophetic discourse, it must be borne in mind that the whole is spoken in the pregnant language of prophecy, in which various fulfilments are involved. (1.) The view of the Jewish Church and its fortunes, as representing the Christian Church and its history, is one key to the interpretation of this chapter. Two parallel interpretations run through the former part as far as ver. 28; the destruction of Jerusalem and the final judgment being both enwrapped in the words, but the former, in this part of the chapter, predominating. Even in this part, however, we cannot tell how applicable the warnings given may be to the events of the last times, in which, apparently, Jerusalem is again to play so distinguished a part. From verse 28 the lesser subject begins to be swallowed up by the greater, and our Lord's second coming to be the predominant theme, with, however, certain hints thrown back as it were at the event which was immediately in question, till, in the latter part of the chapter and the whole of the next, the second advent, and, at last, the final judgment ensuing on it, are the subjects. (2.) Another weighty matter for the understanding of this prophecy is, that (see Mark xiii. 32) any obscurity or concealment concerning the time of the Lord's second coming must be attributed to the right cause, which we know from his own mouth to be, that the divine Speaker himself, in his humiliation, did not know the day nor the hour. All that he had heard of the Father, he made known unto his disciples, (John xv. 15;) but that which the Father kept in his own power (Acts i. 7) he did not in his abased humanity know. He told them the attendant circumstances of his coming. He gave them enough to guard them from error in supposing the day to be close at hand, and from carelessness in not expecting it as near.”-Greek Testament, Matt. xxiv. 3. See also Greswell's Parables, v. 197-443.