40 Missional Life (2) 

Sean and Steven were fraternal twins. They grew up wearing the same outfit, attending the same school, joining the same activities; however, they were very different in temperament and personality. Older Sean was a carefree and light-hearted person, he always joked around and grasped every opportunity to enjoy life; younger Steven was serious and prudent, thoughtful and made the best use of time to excel in everything.

Although both of them attended Sunday school and were raised up in church, they had different perspectives of life. Sean would try to have fun whenever he could; he was good at organising his leisure time, and was always packed with activities: Friday evening after work, he would go to pub with his colleagues, sometimes drunk! On weekends during the summer, he usually went to the cottage with his buddies, fishing, canoeing, golfing…..etc. In winter, he would go skiing, go to gym and play squash….life to him was wonderful! On the other hand, after Steven joined a short-term mission trip to Africa when he was in University, his purpose in life started to change drastically. Steven aspired to have the heart of Apostle Paul, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:23) Hence, he determined to do anything that could advance the Kingdom of God, he started an Evangelical Bible Study at his workplace and brought some of his colleagues to Christ; during his free time, he would go out and preach the gospel, also take the initiative to join different activities, such as volley ball team, scout leaders…..etc, in order to befriend with unbelievers and practice friendship evangelism. Every year, he would plan ahead for his annual leave to go to different short-term mission trips and help the nationals to share the gospel of Christ to the people. Instead of feeling himself sacrificing for Christ, like some of his friends said so, Steven felt very joyful in serving the Lord and experiencing His presence. 

When Sean was delivering the eulogy for Steven in the midst of the funeral, he sobbed affectionately, “…..Salute to my beloved brother Steven! Although we were born on the same day, we did not leave at the same time. Steven lived a short life, only 33 years on earth, but he led a fabulous life, because he lit up his life up for Jesus! That was not his first time commuting in a propeller airplane, but accident happened anyway, at last, Steven sacrificed his life for the sake of gospel during his 13th short-term mission trip. 

I am proud of my brother, because he was still serving God and preaching the gospel in his last breath. This is his mission and aspiration of his life; for sure God will accept and highly regard it! Throughout his life journey, Steven loved God fervently, he grasped every opportunity to save some lost souls; even went on a mission trip while he was on a honeymoon trip with his newly-wedded wife. He served God with ‘3 no’s attitude’: No reserves, no retreats, no regrets! …..”  Suddenly Sean was asking himself in his mind: What are you grasping every opportunity for? If it was Steven who was delivering the eulogy for me, what would he have said? How could I live a life with no regrets?……….. (To be continued)

Your Initial Response

If you have to answer Sean’s questions honestly, what would you say?

Matthew 25:1–13

1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 

2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 

3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 

4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 

5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 

7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 

8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 

9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 

10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 

11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 

12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 

13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.  (Matthew 25:1–13 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Circle all the words “the kingdom of heaven.”

3 Circle all the words and works of the foolish bridesmaids and number them in ascending order.

4 Circle all the words and works of the wise bridesmaids and number them in ascending order.

5 Circle all the words and works of the bridegroom and number them in ascending order.

6 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

Jesus Christ used the parable of ten bridesmaids to speak about the truth of the kingdom of heaven; at the end of this parable, the Lord focused on the subject of keep watch. By means of meditating this parable, let us keep watch in spending our days.

1 What is the meaning of “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 25:1)?

2 Why did Jesus speak about the parable of “The ten virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13)?

3 The five wise virgins did not give some of their oil to the five foolish virgins, were they being too selfish (Matthew 25:8-9)?

“Kingdom” appears fifty-six times in Matthew, twenty-one times in Mark, forty-six times in Luke and only five times in John.

The synoptic gospels are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three gospels emphasised that Jesus Christ came to establish the millennial kingdom. “Kingdom” occurred for the first time in Matthew 3:2. John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and this was the same message that Jesus Christ preached (Matthew 4:17). Of one accord, they exhorted the people to repent in anticipation of Messiah’s kingdom.

Before we attempted to understand the meaning of “the kingdom of heaven,” or “the kingdom of God” in Matthew, we must first come to understand the meaning of the terms. Generally speaking, the English word “kingdom” has the idea of a king exercises authority over a physical or spatial region, which includes people and land. This agrees with the words used for “kingdom” in the Old and New Testaments. However, “kingdom” might also indicate to the exercise of rulership or authority. The usage of this term is more of a dynamic active sense, referring to the imposition of the will of the ruler and his sovereignty over his subjects.

“Kingdom” has double meanings in the Hebrew and Greek language respectively. First, it can be interpreted as “Realm;” second, it means “Rule.” Both meanings are in fact the theological focal point of the Old Testament that not only God rules the land of His chosen people, but he also rules human hearts. In actual fact, this was the message of John the Baptist that humankind must repent, and let God rule in their hearts, then the promised “kingdom” will be descended on earth. That is to say, “Rule” is before “Realm.”

1 The Background of the Parable

The Procedure of the wedding

Jewish marriages are consisted of three parts; the first part was the engagement. Most of the weddings were often arranged by the fathers of the bride and bridegroom. The engagement brought the contract of marriage into effect, but the couple had little direct involvement. The second stage was the betrothal. Brides and bridegrooms exchanged vows in the presence of family and friends in the marriage ceremony. At this point the couple was considered as husband and wife. Their relationship could only be broken by formal divorce, as if they had been married for many years. Though the marriage had not been physically completed and the two had never lived together, but if the husband happened to die during the betrothal, the bride was considered a widow. The period of betrothal could last for many months, sometimes a year, during this period the bridegroom would establish a business, trade, or farming to provide his living expenses, and money to build a place for the couple.

The Commencement of the Wedding Feast

The wedding feast would be held at the end of the betrothal period, and the entire community was involved in the feast and its related celebrations. The groomsmen escorted the bridegroom to the bride’s house, where the bridesmaids were waiting with her. This was the commencement of festivity, which could last a week. The bride and groom and their attendants would parade through the streets afterward, proclaiming that the wedding feast was about to commence. Generally, the procession was held at night, and lamps or torches were used by the wedding party to light up their way and to attract attention.

The Conclusion of the Wedding

At the end of the wedding, a close friend of the bridegroom would act much like a best man. He would take the hand of the bride and place it in the hand of the groom, and the couple would be left alone together for the first time. The marriage would come to a conclusion and the couple would live together in their new home from this day forward. It was that third part of the marriage rite that the Lord Jesus used as the construction of this parable.

2 The Timing of the Parable

With reference to the context and the framework mentioned in 24:29 and 24:40, these ten virgins were referring to the Jewish remnant in the Tribulation.

3 The Keynote of the Parable

Usually a parable, like a sermon illustration, is teaching a single truth. Since some other scriptures mentioned that Christ was the groom (Matthew9:15; Jn 3:27-30), and also the parable of the ten virgins followed right after the teaching of “nobody knows when Christ will come again,” thus one has to wait watchfully (Matthew24:36, 42, 44). Therefore, the groom referred to here should be Christ Himself. Regarding the details of the parable, many scholars considered it as an analogy of faith, deeds, or Holy Spirit, but they were never mentioned within the context. The keynote of the ten virgins is to be on guard, reminding the believers to be prepared at anytime.

4 The Content of the Parable

The Five Wise Virgins

Their Preparation (25:4)

In this parable, both the wise and the foolish virgins were carrying their lamps, but the wise went a step further by taking oil in jars along with their lamps (Matthew 25:4)

Their Drowsiness (25:5, 13)

Since the bridegroom was delayed, all the ten virgins got drowsy. This was understandable; hence, they were not being scolded in return. Therefore, drowsiness was not necessarily non-alertness.

Their Faith

What is the difference between the five wise and the five foolish virgins?  The five wise virgins had taken oil in their flasks, showing that they believed that the bridegroom would certainly come; but the five foolish ones did not act like this, implying that they did not believe that the bridegroom would come to get the bride.

Their Response

After Being Awakened

The Meaning of the Lamps (25:3)

The lamps here refer to torches, and they may have been sticks wrapped with oil-soaked rags. However, the burning time was very short; therefore, the replacement of new oil-soaked rags was needed during operation.

The Meaning of Trimming (25:7)

Most probably, trimming the lamps means trimming the rags, and then saturating it with oil to make it ready for illumination.

The Immediate Response (25:7)

When the five wise virgins were awakened from their dreams, knowing that the bridegroom was coming soon, they prepared their lamps immediately, waiting for the immediate need.

The Response to Their Peers (25:8-9)

It might be a selfish act that the wise ones did not share their oil with their peers. If we interpreted in this way, then we would make the mistake of wrongly interpreting the parable, because there was only one theme or emphasis in a parable. The teaching of the parable of the ten virgins was to be prepared anytime, and the five foolish virgins did not prepare oil for their lamps, even if they asked their peers for it, it was already too late. At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will come immediately; it would be too late for those who had not prepared to see Him.

Their ending

When the bridegroom came, the five wise virgins could eventually get in to the wedding feast with the newly-weds (25:10). At the end of the Great Tribulation, those who prepared to see the Messiah would definitely enter His Kingdom and be blessed.

The Five Foolish Virgins

No Preparation (25:8)

The five foolish virgins did not prepare oil, on one hand this showed that they were indifferent to the coming of the groom; on the other hand, if they really believed that the groom would come, they would have prepared for the oil. This implied that they absolutely did not believe that the groom would come for the bride. During the Tribulation, to some of the Jewish remnants who firmly trust that the second coming of the Messiah, they will make good preparation to receive Him. However, some, after hearing the message of the second coming of the Messiah, do not have any response. This depicts the actual situation of the foolish virgins.

Their Ending (25:10-11)

The ending of the five foolish virgins was pathetic! They were being rejected to go into the wedding feast, because the host did not know them.

5 The Conclusion of the Parable

The Lord Jesus ended this parable with “be on the alert” (NASB), and also pointed out that the hour of His second coming was not made known to anybody.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Owing to the lack of watchfulness, the five foolish bridesmaids were refused going to the wedding banquet. When the Lord Jesus comes again, many unwatchful people will be refused entering God’s kingdom, a warning that is worthy for Christians to take.

2 To wait watchfully, pay attention to how we utilise our time, are the principles that believers must obey.

3 Memorise Matthew 25:9-10.

9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. (Matthew 25:9-10)

4 Resolve to live watchfully, attaining strength and guidance by reading the Bible and praying, with the purpose of facing the challenges of the day. Furthermore, end your day in reflection and prayer.

5 Have a watchful heart in dealing with people and things, and be careful with your works and words.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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