New clothes for the bride
Aug 10, 2016
In Revelation 19:7 the bride is not “ready” until the end of the age, for she prepares herself until the time of the marriage. The bride in this case is a collection of overcomers that are taken from each generation from the beginning of time, so the preparation is long.
Lesser and Better Promises
If we look for a precedent from the Old Covenant, where God married Israel at Sinai, we see that the betrothal took place 430 years earlier when God gave the promise to Abraham. While this promise could also include the time going back to Adam, it is better to think of the promise to Abraham as the true betrothal. Genesis 12:1-3 says that she was to leave her father’s house, which was normal in a marriage. God was to bless His wife, honor her by making her name great and to give her many children. He was also to cause her to be a blessing to others. Likewise, He was to protect her from the curses of others, saying, “the one who curses you I will curse.”
These are the main elements in a betrothal. The actual marriage fulfilled those promises in fleshly ways, but not in the way that God really had in mind. Israel did increase in numbers, but her children were fleshly, not spiritual. The real promise was to bring forth the sons of God, but they brought forth only fleshly children that were begotten by mortal, fleshly parents.
Their “house” was Canaan, an earthly land inheritance, which was different from the country and city that Abraham actually sought (Hebrews 11:16), while “he lived as an alien in the land of promise as in a foreign land” (Hebrews 11:9). Though Abraham lived in Canaan, he “died in faith without receiving the promises” (Hebrews 11:13). The book of Hebrews makes it clear that his failure to receive the promise was not on account of his lack of land ownership in Canaan, but rather that he sought “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). It was better than Canaan.
Hence, the Old Covenant was about fleshly promises and fulfillments that were designed to fail on account of their fleshly nature. By contrast, the New Covenant was about better promises and better things. Speaking of Christ in contrast to Moses, Hebrews 8:6 says,
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
Zionists, by definition, seek the lesser promises given by the Old Covenant, for they either reject the New Covenant or do not understand the difference between them. They cite the promise to Abraham, who was led to the land of Canaan, without realizing that God often speaks covertly in earthly terms while having something heavenly in mind. The writer of Hebrews understood this. In the end, because there were to be two covenants, the promises were fulfilled in two ways but at different times.
Donkeys and Sheep
When we study the heart condition of Israel during the time of Moses, it is clear that they were not yet ready to receive the better promises that God had in store for them. Their spiritual mother, after all, was Egypt, for Hosea 11:1 says, “out of Egypt I called My son.” God was the Father in this case, while Egypt (Hagar) was their mother. This made fleshly Israel a type of spiritual Ishmael, a condition in which it was not possible to receive the promise. The angel had prophesied to Hagar herself that her child would be a wild-donkey-man (pereh awdawm, Genesis 16:12). By contrast, Israel was to be a sheep, that is, a clean animal.
After centuries of disobedience and rebellion, the prophet asks, “Is Israel a slave?” (Jeremiah 2:14). The implication is that Israel had a slave mentality, which is characteristic of Hagar and Ishmael (Galatians 4:25). Later, in Jeremiah 2:24, the prophet calls Israel “a wild donkey,” In other words, Israel was spiritual Ishmael, born out of Egypt. Israel’s Father was not the problem. The problem was Israel’s mother.
For this reason, Israel had to be redeemed by the Passover lamb in order to change from a donkey to a sheep, spiritually speaking. They did this by keeping Passover. Yet even so, their hearts were not changed, and most of them remained spiritual donkeys. So one of the first laws given after they left Egypt—even before they were given the Ten Commandments—is found in Exodus 13:12, 13,
12 that you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. 13 But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem.
The reason the Israelites had to redeem their first-born sons with a lamb was because they were unclean donkeys, spiritually speaking. Though they proceeded to redeem their first-born sons according to the law, this could not change their hearts. A better sacrifice was needed for this, as Hebrews 7:19 tells us.
The Old Covenant, with its temporary laws of sacrifice and ritual, was not evil, but inadequate and temporary. It was made void by their disobedience (Hebrews 8:9) and obsolete by the better covenant that Christ brought with Him (Hebrews 8:13). The time of the Old Covenant was designed to discipline God’s people and to bring them to maturity (Galatians 4:1-5). Discipline seems evil (to the child), but it is actually good. Nonetheless, discipline ought not to last forever, nor, as adults, ought we to revert back to our stubborn days as children in need of further Old Covenant discipline. Those who cannot immigrate from the Old to the New Covenant remain as spiritual Ishmaelites that are yet in need of a lamb to redeem them.
So Revelation 19:7 tells us that at the end of the age, “His bride has made herself ready.” A big part of her readiness is that she lives by the New Covenant, rather than the Old. She no longer identifies with Hagar, the slave-bride, but with Sarah, the free woman (Galatians 4:26). Christ’s first marriage was to Israel, the slave-bride; but that marriage ended in divorce. He will not marry another Hagar. For this reason, when we speak of Israel being the bride, it is apparent that we do not mean fleshly Israel, for that would be a reinstatement of the old bride. Such a marriage could only end in divorce once again.
This second marriage will be to a Sarah bride, and she represents the New Covenant. Those who are part of this company are the overcomers—those who have truly been redeemed by the lamb in their hearts by an inward work of the Holy Spirit, rather than by external rituals of cleansing or external changes of behavior.
Revelation 19:8 says,
8 And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The priestly clothing under the Old Covenant was to be fine linen, for this was a type of right behavior that expressed a heart that was right with God. Clothing is external, and so it is “the righteous acts of the saints.”
Those martyrs under the altar, who were killed for their testimony in Revelation 6:9-11, were given white robes, but they yet had to wait until the end of the age until others like them had been killed. In other words, other overcomers would yet have to be born, to live, to bear witness, and to die in order to make up the complete body of overcomers. That body of overcomers, then, could not be complete until the end of the age when the bride is finally ready. Then the complete bride is given the new clothing in order to prepare for the marriage.
These new clothes represent the glorified body, which is given at the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites left their homes or tents and built booths for themselves in order to contemplate the law of God for a whole week. The booths were made of living branches (Leviticus 23:39, 40) to signify life, or being clothed with immortality.
The Apostle Paul comments on this law in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, saying,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
This is Paul’s commentary on the feast of Tabernacles. Those who receive the glorified body are those who are clothed with a heavenly dwelling (body, house). These are the ones who fulfill the feast of Tabernacles at the appointed time. Those individuals who fulfill this feast are part of the bride company that will be married to Christ at the end of the age.
As we will see later when we study Revelation 20, a resurrection must occur first, in order to bring to life all of the overcomers from past ages, gathering them as one body at the end of the age.
This is part 153 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones