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Put on Your Wedding Dress (Revelation 19:6-10)

August 30, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Happy Ever After (Revelation)

Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 19:6–19:10

Put on Your Wedding Dress

Revelation 19:6-10

(One Truth: Walk in Truth)

August 30, 2015


I. Divided Highway or Intersection?

Studying the Bible, studying God's word should not be like a divided highway. It should always be like an intersection.

What do I mean by that? The roads on a divided highway never cross, do they? They always run parallel to each other. And that separation is wonderful because it's safe. But when it comes to the Bible, your life and God's word should not be separated like a divided highway. Instead, you and I should be like intersections, where God's word and our everyday lives meet, where they overlap, where they cross one another and we exit that intersection different people than when we entered it.

Unfortunately, the lives of countless people often run parallel to the Bible, but the two never really meet. Like kids in the back seat on a long road trip, such people feel content just staring across the highway as God's marvelous deeds, God's loving commands, as God's story of redemption passes by on the other side.

Brothers and sisters, friends, today, within your own heart, and as we open His word, ask God to help you enter that amazing intersection this very day and this week. With that in mind, turn over to Revelation 19 and what John tells us about what God revealed to him.


II. The Passage: “His Bride Has Made Herself Ready” (19:6-10)

In our last study, we made our way into chapter 19, but only up to verse 5. You may remember that from chapter 17, verse 1, all the way up to 19:5, the main subject has been God's judgment on “Babylon the Great.” Who or what is Babylon? It wasn't the city in Mesopotamia. As we've talked about, in light of all the evidence, Babylon is a way of describing that aspect of the dominant world system that seduces us toward moral and spiritual compromise through the allure of pleasure, possessions, power, and position.

In Revelation, this earthly city, this aspect of the dominant world system is visually represented by a beautiful, but corrupt prostitute; a dazzling but deadly temptress who will do anything for money; a foul harlot who seeks to become rich by dragging as many as she can into her bed of impurity.

The first readers of Revelation, seven very real churches in the western Roman province of Asia Minor, would have easily identified Babylon as Rome. In fact, identifying Rome as another Babylon goes beyond Revelation. Peter was most likely in Rome when he wrote these words in I Peter 5:13...She [i.e. the church] who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

But we've also talked about the fact that Rome was simply the contemporary expression of what that ancient city of Babylon had embodied in the past. In the same way, in our world today, the harlot is still at work. Though she always looks new, and fashionable, and exciting, she still aims to seduce us in the same old ways.

But as we saw last time, the triumphant declaration from heaven is “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great” (18:2). Just as He had done with previous expressions of Babylon, God judged Rome. He paid her back for the blood she spilled, the blood of so many Christians. And just as God judged Rome, one day, He will fully and finally judge all aspects of the dominant world system. It, she will fall, never to rise again. So in Rome's collapse (still future for John's audience), we see prefigured the judgment of mankind organized against God.

This morning, in verses 6-10 of chapter 19, we encounter an unforeseen, but wonderful development. As one woman falls, another rises. As the harlot is punished, a bride is presented. As the world system is coming to an end, a wedding is just about to begin. Let's break this passage down into three parts, and piece by piece, look at what God reveals to us about this amazing turn of events.


1. The Big Day Has Arrived (19:6-8)

In verses 6-8, we see that the big day has arrived. Look at what we read there:

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.

It's important to note that the “hallelujah” of verse 6 is the fourth “hallelujah” we find in the first six verses of chapter 19. Heaven is awash in praise. Men and angels alike are praising God, not only for His ultimate justice and His triumph over Babylon, but as we see here, heaven is (v. 7) rejoicing, exulting, and giving glory to God for the “marriage of the Lamb.” As the “Almighty” God, our heavenly Father will work out all things according to His plan.

And His word tells us that His plan is to move all things, to direct all human history toward an incomparable wedding at the end of time. But if the Lamb is a symbolic representation of Jesus (not only in Revelation, but throughout the NT), then who is His bride? Well, Revelation tells who she is in chapter 21 (turn there for a minute). Notice the parallel between this passage and the opening of chapter 17 when the harlot was introduced):

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” [10] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God... (21:9-10)

So the Bride is the new Jerusalem. She is the heavenly city. But remember, the earthly city Babylon represented one aspect of fallen humanity. In contrast to this, the symbolic imagery of a new Jerusalem represents an aspect of redeemed humanity.

The Bride is the Church. She is the church glorified. She is redeemed humanity organized, not against God, but under God. In fact, the Apostle Paul confirms this identification in two of his letters. Listen to Paul as he tells us about the “Bride of the Lamb”...

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! [2] For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (II Corinthians 11:1-2)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] 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. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

In Revelation and in Paul's writings, we see a continuation of the very thing we find in the OT: in so many passages, God chose to describe His loving, committed, covenant relationship with His people using the imagery of marriage. He is the husband, they the wife.

And what these two passages from Paul confirm is the very thing we find in Revelation 19: we the church are, at the present time, the wife of Jesus by betrothal. The wedding is still to come. Remember, in the ancient world, there were three stages of a wedding: first was the betrothal. It was like an engagement, only legally binding (cf. Joseph's plan to divorce Mary in Matthew 1:18, 19). Second, after a dowry was paid, the groom and his friends would leave his home, usually at night, and go to the home of the bride, where a wedding ceremony would take place (cf. parable of the ten virgins (bridesmaids) in Matthew 25:1-13). Third, the wedding party would return to the groom's home for a wedding feast.

So in both Paul's writings and in the Revelation, the imagery is a bride being prepared in order to be presented to her betrothed on their wedding day. And did you see how John describes the bride's preparations? In stark contrast to the harlot and her overdone opulence and ornamentation, the Bride's wedding dress is simple, but stunning. Verse 8: fine linen, bright and pure.

And as we go on to read, this symbolic contrast is shown to represent something far more significant. The first woman's outfit was that of a prostitute. She was described in terms of vice and impurity. But the second woman, the bride, she is adorned with the righteous deeds of the saints. We'll talk about that more in just a few minutes. But look at how the wedding symbolism continues into verse 9.


2. Are You on the List? (19:9)

This is what John writes in verse 9...

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.”

Verse 9 contains the fourth of the seven blessings we find throughout the Book of Revelation. What is so interesting about this blessing is that it not only points us again to the blessedness of the Church and our future wedding, but it does so by describing us as the wedding guests.

We ARE both the bride and the guests. This seeming contradiction simply reminds us of the nature of apocalyptic literature. Multiple symbols can be used, even when they seem not to go together. The symbolism of the Bride speaks of purity and covenant and consummation. The symbolism of the guests and the supper speak of joy and celebration. All of it works because there is no contradiction between any of those spiritual realities.

But what is this marriage supper? The supper is simply a symbolic way of talking about an eternity of joy feasting on God and His goodness. It is a powerful picture of what Jesus talked about when, through the parable of the talents, He announced, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21, 23) Earlier in the same Gospel, Jesus spoke of eternity using this same imagery: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven...” (Matthew 8:11)

And who are the ones invited to this feast? Although it was using the imagery of warfare, chapter 17, verse 14 described them this way: ...and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. How do you get an invitation for the “marriage supper”? You have to be on the list. And in Revelation, that list is called “the Lamb's book of life”; a phrase used six times throughout this book (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27).


3. It's All About the Groom (19:10)

The final verse we want to talk about this morning is 19:10. After seeing the judgment of the harlot and hearing the praise of heaven, John tells us this about his reaction:

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.

Now this passage is troubling for a couple reasons. First of all, most of us are astounded that John, an Apostle of Jesus, seems to forget the boundaries of true worship (amazingly, he does this a second time in chapter 22, so we can talk more about it when we get there). But second, this verse is troubling because it seems disconnected from the stirring wedding imagery of the previous verses. But I think it is connected. I think that connection is best expressed by another John: John the Baptizer. He said this in John's Gospel, 3:29, 30...

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. [30] He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This is what the angel is telling John: “It's all about the groom. Why are you worshiping me? We are fellow servants. It's all about testifying to Jesus.” And that's why John adds this interesting, but absolutely critical saying at the end of the verse. Testifying of Jesus Christ, in light of the testimony He gave as the “faithful and true witness” (3:14), is what Revelation, is what all true prophecy is about. This glorious angel might be conveying the prophecy. This esteemed Apostle might be recording it. But they stand on level ground with anyone who stands for and speaks of Jesus. Isn't that encouraging?


III. Through the Fire

And so, as we think about the significance of this scene, I think up to this point, we've mainly been on a divided highway. But I am convinced God wants to begin searching for an intersection. And to do that, I want you to think for a minute about the order of events in chapters 17-19. The presentation of the Bride was preceded by the punishment of the harlot.

And in talking about Babylon, we've spent a fair amount of time in the past couple of weeks thinking about what not to do, where not go, how not to surrender or yield. But this book, this Revelation is so amazing in that it not only reorients us away from her, but back to Him; back to Jesus. And as we see her, looking to Him, we must talk about what TO do, where TO go, and how TO surrender.

What do I mean? Well, remember how the Bride is clothed here: [v. 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. I believe God, through John, is reminding the seven churches here, that God is reminding us this morning, to put our wedding dress on. How has the Bride “made herself ready” (v. 7)? Through the “testimony of Jesus.” Through testifying of Jesus.

Remember, John was on the prison island of Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (1:9) Who did the dragon pursue in chapter 12? It says he went off to make war on...those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (12:17)

Preparations for that incomparable heavenly wedding do not include ordering flowers, creating a seating chart, or picking out bridesmaid dresses. Preparations for that wedding are made as the Bride of Jesus endures the enemies of Jesus. Through His astounding power, God has used and is using the harlot to ready the Bride. I love how Peter describes this in I Peter 1:6-9:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [that's the wedding day...listen to this great language about our heavenly spouse] [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

When you give like Jesus, instead of just taking like the world, you are putting on your wedding dress. When you forgive instead of staying bitter, you are preparing yourself for the big day. When you are used by God to bless others, instead of trying to use others (like the harlot), you Christian, you church, are beautifying yourself for your heavenly husband. When you celebrate Jesus, and not the vain things of this world, you are making yourself ready.

From the very outset of this book, we have been encouraged to keep it. And as we've seen, keeping Revelation is anchored in that beautiful phrase in 3:10...”patient endurance.” When we testify of Jesus, in both word and deed, when we continue to testify of Him in the face of her temptations, we are keeping Revelation.

But lest we drift too close to the idea of making this about our own works, our own efforts, our own performance, we need to see the balance in our main passage. Yes, the Bride “has made herself ready” (v. 7). But the very next phrase in verse 8 grounds that statement: it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure...

The “bright and pure” garment of the bride is surely the white garment we've already encountered throughout the book of Revelation; the garment promised to overcomers in the church at Sardis (3:5, 6); offered to the church at Laodicea (3:18); given to the souls of the martyrs under the altar in 6:11; seen on the great multitude in 7:13. And, critically, it tells us there in verse 14 of chapter 7: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Revelation presents us with a beautiful and powerful picture of the very tension Paul presented in Ephesians 2:8-10...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The white garment, the wedding dress is a gift. And even our preparations for the wedding, our patient endurance, our testifying, has been “prepared beforehand” by God, “that we should walk in them.” What will it look like for you to put on your wedding dress this week? What will it look like for you to prepare for your big day this day? With your family members, your friends, your coworkers, your neighborhood?

There's the intersection. Let's ask God to help us enter it in faith and leave it changed.

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