The Marriage of the Lamb and the Bride's Preparation

"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness* of saints. And he says to me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true sayings of God" (Revelation 1:6-9).

{* It is not the righteousness of saints in this passage, but the righteousnesses (see N.Tr.). The Lord is our righteousness, "He is made to us righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30). The righteousnesses of saints are the saints' works.}

God has given to His church a living hope, a hope which must come to a most glorious realization, for it is linked up inseparably with the everlasting supremacy of God. This hope is that of being the Lamb's wife — the one supreme object of His love in the creation of God, and the sharer of His glory as having universal dominion. To no more exalted destiny than this could God call us, and the thought of it deeply stirs the heart. And yet, if the truth as to it is rightly learned, we shall not exult in this hope because of the high and glorious place that it assigns to us, but because this great event will be the manifestation of the triumph of the Godhead over every hostile force, and the consummation of their highest counsels. This will yield a truer, deeper and more lasting joy to us than could any thought of what we shall gain.

Heaven is to be filled with divine gladness because "the Lord God omnipotent reigns" and the supremacy of the Godhead — known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — will be declared in the marriage of the Lamb. Yes, out of the darkness and degradation into which sin had plunged the human race, and from the depths of that moral death in which all men lay in the power of the devil, there shall come the wife of the Lamb, sanctified and cleansed, without spot or wrinkle, all glorious and without blame, fit companion for God's beloved Son, and clothed in fine linen, clean and white: the righteousnesses of saints — a garment produced upon earth in a defiling environment, yet suited for heaven and for the wife of the Lamb.

This will be the triumph of God. It will be the triumph of the FATHER, who had determined in eternal counsels to give to His well-beloved Son a bride, made meet to be His eternal companion. It will be the triumph of the SON OF GOD, our Lord Jesus Christ, for He will see of "the travail of His soul" as He receives to Himself His church — holy and without blame — His church which He loved and for which He gave Himself. It will be a triumph for the HOLY GHOST, for as Abraham's servant brought Rebecca safely through the desert to Isaac, so shall the Holy Ghost bring the church safely out of this world to Christ, and the fine linen, clean and white, will be the result of the response to the love of Christ which has been wrought in the hearts and lives of the saints by His power.

The whole might and subtlety of the devil has been put forth from the very beginning, and is still being put forth, to frustrate the fulfilment of this central thought in the counsels of God, but all is in vain. And the moment is drawing near when "As the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings," there shall roll to the utmost bounds of the glory of God the great and exultant shout: "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready."

This is the hope that lies before us, and until it is realized God's purposes of blessing for the earth cannot be fulfilled, for they all depend upon the taking up of His inheritance by the Lord, and upon His reigning as universal King, and He will not do this without the church, who, as His wife, is to share it all with Him. It seems certain that this hope cannot be long deferred, and those words of the Lord should be sweeter to His saints now than ever: "I will come again and receive you to Myself" (John 14:3); and "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17). It is thus that the church shall be raptured from the earth, and then within the doors of the Father's house on high the long looked for marriage shall take place. The thought of it gladdens the heart, and makes us say "Even so, come, Lord Jesus," in response to His words "Surely, I come quickly."

How the Fine Linen is Produced

It is part of the purpose of God that the wife of the Lamb shall be clothed in a glorious garment of fine linen, clean and white, on that marriage day; she is to appear adorned in the righteousnesses of saints. But how shall such a garment be produced? It were useless to look for it from men in their natural condition; nor by the legal requirements of the law could this clean and white linen be secured, for men by nature are at enmity against God, and the testing of the ages has proved conclusively that all their righteousnesses are but filthy rags. Then how shall the threads of these righteousnesses be spun? Upon what loom shall they be woven, and what fingers shall form them into the marriage dress?

Everything depended upon the wisdom and grace and power of God. If the wife of the Lamb was to be adorned according to His thoughts He Himself must create the instrument for the bringing forth of the clothing, or it would never be brought forth at all. Permit me to illustrate. A man desires to build up a garment for a great occasion, that shall be unique in design and priceless in value. It is there in his mind in every detail, but he knows of no cloth upon earth that will meet his requirements, nor of any loom that can produce it. Then if he is to carry out his design he must first invent a loom capable of making the material that he wants. He brings his inventive genius into play, and after much labour and cost his loom is perfected, and under his careful control it brings forth the desired material, and his garment is finished for his own pleasure and the honour of his skill. So God must work according to His own infinite wisdom if His purpose respecting the wife of the Lamb is to be fulfilled.

But first we have the perfect pattern of this garment of God's own design in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ upon earth. As a Man here every thought and word and deed of His was as the fine linen, clean and white, for in everything He did, and in His every motive He answered fully to the mind of God. So that when the Father's approval encircled Him upon the holy mount His garments were white as the light, emblematic of the perfectly holy — and in every detail of it righteous — life that He had lived before God in a sinful world.

God's thought was to reproduce the graces of that altogether lovely life in men down here: to bring out in the practical everyday life of His saints those moral excellencies that shone in all their perfection in Jesus. But for this Christ must die, for unless a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone, but if it die it brings forth much fruit. So Christ died for us, and in His death sin in the flesh was condemned, and judgment passed there upon the flesh that could produce nothing but filthy rags. But that death has also brought forth a new race of men, for Christ is raised again, and God has quickened us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, together with Him, and as thus quickened, a new life and nature is ours; we are created in Christ Jesus; we are God's workmanship in order to bring forth these fore-ordained good works.

God has wrought Himself according to His own wisdom and wealth of grace, "WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS WHICH GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM" (Eph. 2:10).

How supremely blessed is this thought of God, that we who are saved by grace, without works, should now be the work of His own hands, formed and fashioned by Him — created in Christ Jesus, to bring forth, in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, fine linen clean and white — the righteousnesses of saints. But this can only be by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the heart. No loom ever produced cloth by its own effort. The weaver stands over it working in the warp and the woof, and as he does this the loom works out the cloth. Here we may apply that well-known passage from Philippians 2, for it fits our subject at this point: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which works in you both, to will and to do of His good pleasure." It is by the Holy Ghost that this is done, He, as the great and perfect weaver, works in all that is necessary that we might work out, in obedience and lowliness of mind, that which shall ever be for the pleasure of God — the fine linen, clean and white.

Let none say I am not up to this, for if we are God's workmanship we are fully equipped for this purpose for which He has created us in Christ Jesus. It is true that there is the flesh within us, and sin ever seeking to have dominion over us, but there is a way of deliverance from these, the details of which are quickly learnt if our love is set upon Christ, and if the purposes of God have their right place in our thoughts; then in Christian liberty, walking in the Spirit, God's purpose in and through us will not be hindered.

The fine linen, clean and white, is not always that which appears great and attractive to the eyes of men. A man, prominent and popular, may preach to thousands and produce nothing but filthy rags, while a poor woman, unnoticed and alone, toiling for her family, or to earn her own living, too timid almost to speak to a neighbour of Christ, may be bringing forth the fine linen abundantly. It is the life lived under God's eye, and the deed judged according to its motive. It is the reproduction by the Holy Ghost of the life of Jesus in the saints. To serve the froward master with meekness and, godly fear, to give the soft answer to the wrathful word; to be kind to the unthankful, forbearing and forgiving; to love the saints of God, and to serve them for Christ's sake, and to be compassionate towards the ungodly because Christ died for such; to be ready to take the low place, nay, to take it gladly, and to suffer if needs be for righteousness and the name of the Lord, patiently and without complaint — all this is the fine linen, clean and white, and no thread of it ever spun in the life of a saint shall ever be lost; it is precious and imperishable, and preserved in heaven for that great marriage day.

The church has been tested during the period of waiting, and how has she answered to the test? Sadly, indeed, if we dwell upon her public history, but there is another and a brighter side. The Holy Ghost came down to identify Himself with the church in her earthly pilgrimage, and He has not failed; and silently and surely He has carried on His work all through the centuries, producing in the saints of God likeness to Christ, and working out these righteousnesses in out-of-the-way places, amongst the poor and afflicted, who have left no record upon earthly tablets, but whose lives have been fragrant to God, and whose works were morally great. The marriage day, when all the gracious work of the Spirit In this regard will be seen in its completion, will be, as we have said, a great triumph for Him.

The Great Centre of the Marriage day

In speaking of the wife of the Lamb and her preparation for the marriage day it is necessary to bear in mind that the Lamb is the great and central object of that blessed festival. It is THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB. And while the wife's preparation for that day, and the garment she will wear are specially noticed in this scripture, and are more particularly our subject in this paper, it must not be supposed that these are her title to be in heaven as the wife of the Lamb. Revelation is the book of responsibility, and in it everything, whether good or evil, of God or the devil, is seen in its final issue. That which is good and of God comes into manifestation as of Him, and takes its fore-ordained place in consequence, and that which is evil and of the devil goes into the lake of fire. The garment has a prominent place in the Book; it sets forth the character of the one who wears it, it is the revelation of that which lies at the seat of the life, the declaration of the nature within.

It is the Lamb Himself who has won the title to have the church as His wife in the glory of God. He won that title by going down into the judgment of death. It was there that His love to her was tested, but the many waters did not quench it, nor could the floods drown it. On the cross He closed up the guilty history of those who compose the church by bearing their judgment; His precious blood has atoned for ever for all their sins; His life, as raised from the dead, is theirs, a life to which neither sin nor condemnation can be attached, they are accepted in Him the Beloved, and shall appear in God's glory in His own beauty. All this He has done and secured for her, and this must ever be first, and yet that of which we have spoken is of infinite importance, and the work of the Spirit within the saints is equally part of God's great purpose for the glory of that coming glorious day.