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The Virgin Bride

6 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. 7 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; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19:6-8 (ESV)

The organist strikes up the measured refrain of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. A hush falls, the doors open, the congregation turns. In steps the bride, radiant in her long white dress, joyful tears adding luster to her beauty, as her father escorts her to her bridegroom’s side.

Culturally speaking, even though she lives amidst prostitutes (17:1-19:3), the Church’s wedding day is coming. The glory of earthly brides and marriages will fade into a distant memory as, to tumultuous joy, the virgin Church is revealed, having prepared herself for her Husband.

In her innocence, Eve was presented naked to her husband. By contrast, bright, pure linen will clothe the Bride of Christ on the last day (v. 8). These beautiful garments are “the righteous deeds of the saints,” works of obedience performed by God’s people (v. 8b). This bride is clothed not by her own merit, however, but by the grace of God; He gives to her the fine linen garments (v. 8a); He creates in her the good works that she does (cf., Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12-13). The Church’s wedding dress is Christ’s gift.

Those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” do “righteous deeds” (v. 8, 10). This probably means both holding fast to Jesus’ teaching, even in the face of opposition, bearing witness to Him even when the response is hostile.

The Church prepares her wedding dress when, in God’s power, she obeys Jesus fully, and proclaims the gospel to unbelievers. When Mother Teresa of Calcutta addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on February 3, 1994, a hushed audience awaited to hear what the frail and tiny servant of God would say. Flanked by President Clinton and Vice President Gore, she stunned nearly everyone by reflecting that “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child.” But it is not enough to believe that abortion is an evil, she said. The Church must learn to right the wrong. In her case, she explained that her congregation in Calcutta was fighting abortion by adoption. To those who were willing to kill because they did not want the unborn, Mother Teresa implored, “Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child.”

If “the righteous deeds of the saints” is the raiment of God’s people, one must wonder how well-clothed the modern Church might be. The book of Revelation’s depiction of the future is a challenge for the present. Each congregation must examine itself and the needs of its community and ask, “What does the love of God constrain us to do?”