The church had been through a tough time, it had suffered heavily and the cry had gone up, ‘how long O Lord?’
As we saw in the last post, the Scarlet Beast and the Harlot were none other than historic Rome and unfaithful Israel. It was they who had been the cause of the suffering, including the bloodshed and death of the saints… but the time for judgment came. Yes God is patient, but his patience does not last forever – there is a day of reckoning, for every man and woman, be they emperor or everyman, prime minister or pauper, educated or not…..
Unfaithful Israel had rejected the One they should have known and received – their Messiah, the saviour Jesus. Their house was left empty. 40 years had passed, but they were not for turning. The glory had departed. There was ritual but no relationship. Now she stood judged and found wanting, and God uses the ‘powers that be’ to execute his judgment – Rome sweeps through the land exercising a scorced earth policy, and those who know the prophetic words flee – just as Jesus had said.
Jerusalem was devastated, the Temple and all it represented destroyed.
It was the beginning of a new era. The old had gone and the new had come. A celebration was in order. “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God, because his judgments are true and righteous, because he has judged the notorious prostitute…” (Rev. 19:1,2). God had decisively acted, God had powerfully saved, for all glory and power are his. This was some party!
Then immediately following unfaithful Israel’s judgment we have the announcement of the marriage of the Lamb – with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the church becomes the Bride of Christ. This is not future, this is a past and ongoing event, as many people believe in and are joined to Christ.
As verse 8 puts it: “She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure.” Notice that, ‘given’. But the next verse muddies this in most modern traslations by saying that the “fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.” If that’s the case, it’s not given, it’s what I’ve done or put on. It’s better to stay with the old translation here and read, “the righteousness of the saints,” in other words as the Reformers liked to put it, an ‘alien righteousness’, something outside of, and given to them – imputed righteousness. As Paul says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not considered a gift, but somehting owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be rightoeus, his faith is credited for righteousness.” (Rom 4:3-5)
The words of Zinzendorf come to mind….
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue,
The robe of Christ is ever new.
O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.