New Clothes for the Bride
In Rev. 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.
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.
Under the Old Covenant, the priestly clothing was fine linen, for this was a type of right behavior that expressed a heart that was right with God. Physical clothing, being external, speaks of behavior (or “acts”), so it is “the righteous acts of the saints.”
Those martyrs under the altar, who were killed for their testimony in Rev. 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, more overcomers yet had 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 Covenant clothes represent our glorified bodies, which are 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 (Lev. 23:39, 40) to signify being clothed with immortality. This is the promise given to us.
The Apostle Paul comments on this law in 2 Cor. 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, or 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 present 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.
The Marriage Supper
Rev. 19:9 concludes this section about the bride, saying,
9 And he said to me, “Write, ‘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.”
The New Testament has much to say about the privilege of being invited to the wedding. In Matt. 22:2-14 Jesus told a parable about the “wedding feast,” saying,
2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come… 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
This parable was directed at the Judeans who were the first to receive the invitation, but who refused to come. Worse yet, they mistreated and killed the prophets who had been sent with the invitation. Although this particular parable does not mention the fact that they also killed the son himself (as in Matt. 21:39), it is clear that Jesus was giving the reasons for Jerusalem’s destruction. In this case, “his armies” were the Roman armies, sent by the king (God), not so much because they rejected the invitation, but because they killed his servants, the prophets.
The parable then continues in Matt. 22:8-10,
8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.” 10 And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
This is a broad picture of the invitation that was extended to everyone else (non-Judeans). Many of them, “both evil and good,” accepted the invitation. This is a prophecy of the church that is filled with people who accepted the invitation, though some were “evil.” Matt. 22:11-14 continues,
11 But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?” And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14 For many are called [kletos, “invited”], but few are chosen [eklektos, “chosen, elected”].
The “evil” ones who came to the wedding were those who were “not dressed in wedding clothes.” Even though they had accepted the invitation (wanting to follow Jesus Christ and give Him honor), they were rejected. Many have interpreted this to mean that they were not real Christians, and each denomination presents its own criteria as to how to be a real Christian. Certainly, there are many church members who are not real Christians. But the parable tells us that these were cast out for not having appropriate wedding clothes. This is how the parable is tied to Rev. 19:8, for one must be clothed with spiritual “fine linen, bright and clean.”
Those who are not clothed appropriately will be expelled. This shows that the time of the wedding feast is not the time for the restoration of all mankind. In fact, as we will see in Revelation 20, the first resurrection is limited to the overcomers, who, by definition, are properly clothed in fine linen. Some believers, then, will be expelled!
In other words, to attend this wedding feast, one must put on the glorified body by experiencing the feast of Tabernacles. The problem is that most Christians know little or nothing about this feast and are thus unprepared. They think the requirement is to accept the invitation as one of the “called,” when, in fact, that is only the first step.
To accept the invitation is to experience Passover. To hear the word and grow to spiritual maturity through the Holy Spirit is to experience Pentecost. To receive the heavenly clothing, that is, the glorified body, is to experience Tabernacles.
Those who fail to come to the wedding feast, along with those who are cast out, will remain in “outer darkness,” dressed in their mortal clothing until the general resurrection a thousand years later. They will not be consigned to “hell,” nor will believers lose their salvation, but neither will they have the honor of ruling with Christ as immortals during the Tabernacles Age in the Kingdom.
The message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 admonishes the believers themselves to “overcome.” These are the eklektos, the chosen ones, in Jesus’ parable. Those who overcome are to be rewarded; those who do not overcome will have to wait until later.