KEY TEXT: Revelation 19:6-10 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
KEY THOT: The Lord Jesus will return for two purposes: firstly, to judge the world and rid it of all evil-doers and secondly to receive His Bride, the believers who have prepared themselves for His return by clothing themselves with righteous deeds: "his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (vv.7-8). Note the reflexive verbs used here: "made herself" and "clothe herself". The reflexive verbs suggest that the righteous deeds were not something done for the Bride by another (on her behalf) nor something done to the Bride by another (while she remains passive). Rather, the use of a reflexive verb suggests that the righteous deeds are a result of something the Bride has done to herself. This is an important issue because it means that to attain to the righteousness that allows us to participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we must prepare ourselves by clothing ourselves with the righteous deeds that we have done in this life.
For some theologians, this may sound like "salvation by works" rather than "salvation by grace through faith". Again, we must not fall into Greek dichotomous "either-or" thinking. The righteousness of Christ is not either Christ has done the works for us, or we must do it all by ourselves. It is the old theological argument of imputation vs. impartation of righteousness of Christ. But the truth is both are necessary in order that we may clothe ourselves with Christ's righteousness.
Imputation is like the Bride, having been washed clean, has received the whole wedding paraphernalia (wedding gowns, make-up sets, special face and body lotions, perfumes, etc.)--free! She doesn't need to pay a single cent for it (that's imputation of grace). But in order that she can be ready for the wedding, she has to start beautifying herself by applying these paraphernalia of grace (that's impartation of faith). This is hinted in Ephesians 5:25-27 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." This passage of Scripture tells us what Christ has done and what He hopes to see done by the church.
What Christ has done for the church is indicated by this verse: "having cleansed her by the washing of water and the word." Through the act of baptism and the Word of God, we are cleansed of our past sins. We are now new creations in Christ. And we stay clean and cleansed by confession of our sins when we occasionally stumble and get dirt on our body. But this is not the whole story. There is a second part to this preparation for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: "that he might sanctify her... that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle... holy and without blemish."
Note that in the original Greek, the words for "sanctify" and "present" are both in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood (indicated by use of "might") implies that the "reality remains contingent upon future developments." In other words, though the church is made clean by baptism and the Word of God, its future development in holiness is contingent on her own actions: "it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure".
Grace has "granted her" (imputation of righteousness through faith) the gifts of God (God's Word and His Holy Spirit) so that she might "clothe herself" (impartation of righteousness through obedience) with fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints. The reality that is staring in our faces is that many in the church of Jesus Christ are not prepared for Christ's coming because their deeds are far from righteous. In other words, we have become passive about sanctification, expecting everything to be done for us and to us.
This is the self-entitlement spirit of this age. But the reality is that we have a personal responsibility to do something in cooperation with the grace granted to us, in order to translate potentiality into reality: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).
May we be proactive, not passive, in clothing ourselves with the fine linen that is "bright and pure" so that when Christ returns, we may be ready, a Bride prepared for the wedding.
Abba-Father, deliver us from passive faith that assumes too much. But grant us a proactive faith that will take what You have granted to us by grace and transform it into righteous deeds of the saints. Amen.