Revelation 19:6-8 “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)”
When my wife and I got married, I was asked for input about a number of things. “Do you like these invitations? What do you want the organist to play for the processional and recessional? What kind of food should we serve at the reception?” As groom, I got no say about the wedding dress (not that I was asking). That was one hundred percent my wife’s choice. The same was true for my daughter’s wedding. She picked out the dress all by herself. My son-in-law was not consulted.
How different for the heavenly wedding planned for us! In this case the bride does not choose her dress. She takes what she is given. The groom, of all people, is the one who has picked it out. More than that, he has put the entire thing together himself, stitch by stitch. It’s made of the costliest fabric. It’s so white that it shines. Not even the tiniest stain mars the perfection of its fine tailoring.
As with most things in the Book of Revelation, this dress is a picture, a symbol. It isn’t a particularly difficult one for us to figure out, but because of its importance, John interprets the symbol for us: “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” Unfortunately, the NIV translation hasn’t interpreted John’s words very well. Rather than “righteous acts” of the saints, it is better to stick with the rendering we find in the King James Version, or Luther’s German: “…the righteousness of the saints.” After all, we have just heard that this isn’t a dress the bride has made for herself. It has been given to her by her groom. The only righteous acts involved in the making of this dress have been the righteous acts of Jesus. Moment by moment, day by day, he stitched a perfect life together with each new act of kindness, each new expression of love. He put the crowning finishes on this outfit with his innocent death for our sins and triumphant resurrection from the dead.
Then he presents this to us as our righteousness. You have already been fitted for the wardrobe provided by God’s Son. Paul writes the Galatians, “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ” (3:27).
Unlike most wedding dresses, this is an outfit that’s good for every day. A regular wedding dress looks a little out of place at a backyard barbecue, or the birthday party for your next door neighbor’s six year old, or your company’s weekly sales meeting. But Jesus dresses you in his righteousness every day, not just the big day we finally see him face to face. Wear it ten thousand times beforehand, and it will still be perfect for the wedding feast of the Lamb.