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,
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.
Revelations 19:6-8 ESV
Revelation, the last bookend of the book, depicts the coming of the Lord and the end times. After depictions of coming wrath, we witness the vision of the coming Lord. The Bride has made herself ready. The Bride, the Church from all places, times, and peoples will be united as one. She has been preparing herself for this final union, clothing herself in beautiful linens. What kind of linens?
These are the righteous acts of the saints.
From the past to the present, till the day the Lord returns, the Church has, is, and will be preparing herself. This clothing is not just reserved for the future, but we are clothing her now, in the immediate. Our deeds are not just grandiose acts that affect peoples and nations, but also the day to day choices we make, the moments in the mundane.
Linens Through the Times
And while we are clothing ourselves, we must not forget those who have clothed her before us. The Church has over 2,000 years of history, and even more if you expand her to Israel and all the people of God.
Church history is more than Acts 2, Calvin, C.S.Lewis, and the founding of your local church.
What of Athanasious, who defended the deity of Christ against Arianism, and was exiled 7 times? Who can neglect Augustine and his confessions of God’s goodness? Can you recall the councils that helped define and affirm the faith? Forget not the martyrs of old who laid down their lives for their love of God. May we not neglect the saints all over the world who are suffering and dying for the faith!
We often forget our forerunners of old and rely on our current heroes of faith. And we do have great heroes today, heroes and thinkers like Pope Francis, Tim Keller, N.T. Write, and Fred Sanders. We must remember that our community of faith is much larger than our present and immediate context.
While the church has a rich history of righteous acts, she also has her dark moments, her sackcloth to the linens. There’s a reason reforms took place, schisms occurred, mega churches have fallen, and spiritual healing is needed.
Sometimes she falls in the mud.
But do we help her back up? Do we lend her a gracious hand or kick her back down? I have seen both, but too often the latter. In the macro context, we can be quick to judge, to bash, and point out the great faults in the church. There is a plethora of articles shaming the church, going beyond guiding criticism to harsh explanations of why people are leaving her, often by Christians themselves.
So too on the local scale. It’s easy to become frustrated and disagree with our local churches, the immediate embodiment of the Church. Criticism and correction is often warranted.
Yet what if we put down our mud clods and instead offered a helping hand? Instead of slinging mud across the aisle, what if we continued with grace and understanding? I’ve seen this too in the local church, and it’s in those moments that the invisible becomes visible. It’s in these moments of grace and reconciliation that we clothe the bride.
The Church is the bride of Christ. While we may have been hurt by the acts and deeds of our local church, or even the great body of believers over time, how can we not love her? She is the one Christ died for (Eph 5:25). We are the Church. We show our love for Christ by clothing ourselves in deeds of righteousness.
A few weeks ago I read Profiles in Courage, a collection of displays of courage showed by American senators in our early to mid history. The senators gave up popular opinion, even election to the White House, for the sake of the American Union. If senators can show such courage to protect the Union, can we not show the same courage to stand up and clothe the Church?
So what will you do? What part will you partake in clothing the bride of Christ? We have our work cut out for us, and now is the time to start.