A Meditation on Revelation 19

Kevin J Youngblood

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.

(Revelation 19:7-8)

“The bride has made herself ready,” says John. This is the first of four references to the bride of Christ in Revelation. The others are found in 19:7; 21:2, 9; and 22:17. This first mention of Christ’s bride is ambiguous. Little in the immediate context helps us identify precisely who this bride is. The prophetic tradition of the OT would suggest that it is a reference to the people of God. As we come to the later references, however, we get the impression that the bride is more than just the people of God, it is the divine city itself – the New Jerusalem, the New Creation, the New Heaven and New Earth. This certainly includes the people of God but cannot be limited to them. The Lamb joins in holy matrimony with all creation.

This is probably hard for us to imagine without sufficient reflection on the rich OT background of this imagery. When YHWH first took up residence in Israel, he descended Sinai and entered the tabernacle Moses had constructed for him. This action of moving into Israel’s midst and cohabiting with the nation as they wandered through the wilderness was later understood in marital terms (Jer 2:2, 32; Hos 2:14-15) and once Israel was settled in the land and the temple was built in Jerusalem, this imagery transferred to the permanent sanctuary which YHWH similarly filled with his glorious presence (Isa 61:10; 62:5). The bride, therefore, is a combination of people and place. This is underscored by the reference to fine linen with which the bride adorns herself in preparation for her wedding. The phrase “fine linen” connotes sacred space and priesthood as this was the primary material for both the tabernacle and the priestly vestments (Exod 26:1, 31, 36; 28:5, 6, 8, 15, 39). This suggests that both sacred space and the priesthood expands. The Holy of Holies expands to engulf the entire creation and the priesthood expands to include all of the people of God. Thus both are decked out in fine linen due to their new, sanctified status.

All of this is preliminary to the real point I am trying to make. The bride has made herself ready. In anticipation of her groom’s arrival, the bride has bathed, perfumed, dressed, set her hair. Then, finally, in the last line, John is explicit about what he is talking about – the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. The way we prepare ourselves and creation for the groom’s arrival, for Christ’s return is by performing righteous deeds. But note once again the precision of John’s language here: “It was GRANTED to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure.” The righteous deeds are not of our own making. We need not think them up and dig deep within ourselves for the moral fortitude to perform them. These righteous deeds are themselves a gift from God as is the power to perform them. We need only accept the gift. We need only say “yes.” One of the hardest bad theological habits for me to break is my stubborn tendency to think of my obedience as my gift to God rather than thinking of it as God’s gift to me through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. This mental shift is a total game-changer in Christian sanctification and the times I’ve been able to get this straight in my head has totally revolutionized the quality and consistency of my obedience. I suppose this is because it is no longer arising from my flesh but from the Spirit. Oh that I could keep mind fixed on this blessed truth!


Thank you for the gift of holiness, for the fine linen which is the righteous deeds of the saints. Thank you that I do not have to think of things to do to please you, because you have told me what pleases you. Thank you that I do not have to rely on my own pathetic will power and endurance to sustain this obedience because you have given me your Spirit. Lord Jesus, your perfect obedience came so naturally to you. You wore it so well without the slightest hint of pretension or superiority. This is because you modeled for us perfect, consistent reliance on the Spirit. Thank you for your example that enables to envision what this kind of life looks like. Holy Spirit, come and make me ready to meet the groom. Dress me in your righteous deeds and groom me for married life in the New Jerusalem.