So you're born again... but will you walk with Jesus in white? Part 4
The Tragedy of Complacency and Laxity in Doctrine and Practice
I want to start off this post with the ending statement from the last post in this series. It is an important thought that is germane to the study of rewards and accountability.
Jody Dillow has stated: In the Traditionalist “view, all who are Christians will be rewarded, and some more than others. Thus, they have created a version of Christianity where complete commitment is optional and not necessary. All that can be lost is a higher degree of blessedness, but all will be blessed. Could it be that this happy ending has lulled many into thinking they can continue their lukewarmness with no eternal consequences to pay?” (The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg 23).
I am aware of the traditional understandings of the kingdom ages to come that have all true Christians reigning with Jesus Christ and no real accountability for unfaithfulness. In my many conversations with pastor and laymen alike there is the universal belief that heaven will be basically the same for everyone. What a tragedy of incomparable proportions!
For Jesus, their was no glory, authority, and rule without enduring the suffering of the cross. Such is the same for those who desire to be His companions in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was capacitated and prepared for His glory. Are you following His lead?
The writer of the book of Hebrews was addressing Christian Jews who were tempted to return to the old ways of Judaism. But doing so would be tantamount to apostasy: leaving Christ, and failing to persevere until the end. To this group of people the writer issues this stern warning:
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers [companions / Greek = metachoi] of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said:
"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."
These were true Christians the writer was talking to. They had been “enlightened” and “tasted the heavenly gift” and were “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” having “tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5). Because of their Christian testimony they had “endured a great struggle with sufferings,” being “made… spectacle[s]” while “joyfully accept[ing] the plundering of [their] goods” (Heb 10:32-34). But now they were in jeopardy of forfeiting their co-heirship with Christ! In this often neglected (even more so, highly misinterpreted) warning, we find that only those who persevere until the end are the companions with Jesus in the coming age.
Addressing "brethren," the writer to the Hebrews warns against hardening one's heart through sin and separating oneself from fellowship with God. To do so is to forfeit intimate companionship with Christ.
What we have learned thus far in this series of articles is that it takes hard work, consecration, discipline, and endurance in order to walk with Jesus in white. Walking with Jesus, as we have already noted, is the superlative experience of intimate fellowship with Him. And being arrayed in white is sharing in His glory, the exclusive glory He merited through His righteousness, faithfulness, and suffering.
Do not harden your hearts!
This consideration of practical theology is for every Christian. There is the unparalleled opportunity, set before each child of God, to share in Christ’s glory and rule over the universe in the coming ages, and the sober possibility of failure, resulting in undesirable punitive consequences. Christians are robbed of God’s greatest motivations unto consecration when they are told the anti-Scriptural pronouncement that all Christians will reign with Christ.
Hear His voice!
As you will note from the first article, the topic at hand is walking with Jesus in white. Our first consideration was the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14) where we met the poor soul who lacked a "wedding garment" and was excluded from participating in the festivities for the son and his companions. The conclusion made in Part 1 stated that the "wedding garment" is not the imputed righteousness of Christ, but the righteous acts and deeds of each individual participant in the banquet.
Over the course of the next two articles we presented evidence, from the book of Revelation (and others), supporting the idea that the garment is indeed representative of the experiential righteousness of the one wearing it. We also noted the possibility of failing to do that which is required in order to be honored in wearing such a garment.
This article is the last of the series, and in it, we will be adducing more evidence for our conclusions.
The Proclamation of a Heavenly Voice Concerning Overcoming Saints (Rev 12:11)
Satan has busied himself employing his evil devices in order to destroy the saints. At the future time that Satan will be cast out forever from his access to heaven, an angelic voice will announce the victory of those saints who have defeated him and his ploys in this manner:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
The triumph of these overcoming saints is here revealed. They achieved their victory over Satan by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and by the fact that they did not love their lives unto death.
Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death is what makes every spiritual victory possible. We read that through Christ’s cross work He “disarmed principalities and powers… ma[king] a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15). It is only through appropriating the power of Christ that we can overcome Satan. He has won the victory, we are to operate within the sphere of it.
In living in light of Christ’s triumph over Satan, we can “hold” our “confidence steadfast” (Heb 3:14) in the “word of [our] testimony” (Rev 12:11). This word of the saints’ testimony “opposes the deceiving work of Satan in that the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Walvoord, op. cit., p 193). The gospel tells us how we are to be sanctified, mortify sin, and overcome temptation. It is good news for the believer! (see my article Preaching the Gospel to the Saved for more information on this concept). It is through open confession and identification with the name of Jesus that both temporal and eventual eschatological salvation (in other words, salvation, or triumph and victory, at the Judgment Seat of Christ) is experienced. There is no glory and honor on the Day of Jesus Christ for secret saints.
Lastly, the saints overcame Satan by not loving their lives until the end. It takes dedication to faithfulness in order to win the glories of the age to come. The words of John Walvoord are here instructive. “Though they do not foolishly seek a martyr’s death, they do not regard their own lives (literally ‘souls’; Gr., psyche) as precious. They follow the instruction given to the church of Smyrna (2:10) of being faithful unto death as well as the example of the Saviour who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15; c.f. Matt. 16:25)” (Walvoord, op. cit., p 193).
Remember the admonition and encouragement to the church of Smyrna:
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Satan can level against us every machination at his disposal, but he can never achieve victory against the faithful saint. Here it is manifestly shown that the significant reward of the “crown of life” is contingent upon endurance until the end in faithfulness. Christians cannot achieve overcomer status unless they rise to the challenge to become co-heirs with the King and to enter abundantly into His joy and glory.
Reader, have you received the free gift of God, everlasting life, by simply believing in Jesus for it?
Do you publicly identify yourself with Jesus Christ and seek to bring Him glory through your testimony?
Do you consider your identity in Christ to be more precious then your very life?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you are on your way to receiving the crown of life, and being worthy honor and glory at the manifestation of the Son of God. You are on your way to walking with Jesus in white!
Jesus Christ’s Beatitude and Warning (Rev 16:15)
We observed in our first article that the king in the parable of the wedding feast observed that the sub-coming (or non-overcoming) saint was not properly attired for the festive celebration he was giving in honor of his son. This man was not prepared for the joys that the king intended for his son and son’s companions. The man without the wedding gown was found in shame, evidenced by the fact that he was “speechless”. Yet just as much as this man was held in contempt for failure in his responsibilities, so those worthy of sharing in the regalement of the son were greatly rewarded by the surpassing delights afforded by the king.
Note the words of Jesus saying the same thing:
"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."
In this verse we have one of seven Beatitudes given in the text of the Apocalypse. In a study of each of these we find that the pronouncement of blessing is always contingent upon works. This beatitude is no different. The benediction is conditioned upon 1) watching and 2) keeping one’s garments. This hearkens us back to the message to the Church of Sardis: “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy…” (Rev 3:4). Blessed, happy, and joyful is the man who watches for Jesus Christ and keeps his garments undefiled!
The first condition of this blessing is to watch for the advent of Jesus. This is a command with attached blessing expounded upon in great detail elsewhere in Scripture (Mt 24:42; 25:13; Mk 13:33-37; Lk 12:37-40; 21:34-36). The reader would do well to look up those references!
We find this from the pen of the Apostle Paul shortly before his death:
2 Tim 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Do you recognize the weight of this import? Those who love Christ’s appearing (and thus will watch for Him) are to receive the crown of righteousness from the Lord when He comes in His glory! We must be watchful, prepared for His coming, and living in light of that day. Oh what honor we shall receive from Him in front of the Father and the holy angels!
Christian stay true! Christian watch! Christian prepare for that day!
When one is born again, he is “cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet 1:9), and has a new beginning; he has been made white as snow. At that point one should strive to remain unspotted before the world (Jas 1:27) and thus keep his garment. Yet there is the sad possibility that one may be characterized by barrenness and unfruitfulness (2 Pet 1:8), and unrighteousness (1 Cor 6:8) and thus experience loss and shame at the judgment seat of Christ.
Note how thorough of an investigation will take place before Christ! Note the possibility of two different outcomes, as one is recompensed for what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad!
No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.
There are those who seem unspotted and undefiled but in all reality it is by pretense alone. Everything secret and hidden will be revealed, made known, and come to light! And in the case of the pretender, “even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
The one who does not “keep his garment” will appear before Christ “naked” and in “shame”! The same writer of the Apocalypse wrote this moving appeal: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28). We must remain committed to Christ, persisting in steadfastness until the end; watchful for His appearing and keeping our garments undefiled.
Walvoord notes, “The symbolism of preservation of the garments is… the righteousness of the saints… as expressed in their life and testimony (c.f. 19:8)” (op. cit., p 238). There is a distinct possibility that saints may be found spiritually naked (not having a garment consisting of good works, thus being unprepared for the glories of the ages to come). We therefore must be watchful and proactive in righteousness, both in deed and in truth!
Watch and keep your garments so that you may walk with Jesus in white!
The Garment of the Wife of Christ (Rev 19:7-8)
One of the images that Jesus chose to use in describing the loss of the significant and peculiar joy provided by God the Father for His Son and companions is that of a man being discovered shamefully unprepared for an exclusive wedding banquet (the Parable of the Wedding Feast). In this parable a man was found, by the observation of the king, unready for this regal and festive event. His lack of preparation is described in “not hav[ing] on a wedding garment” (Mt 22:11). In part one of this article we noted that the wedding gown signified “the preparation [of oneself] for conditional, superlative eternal glories, consisting of a faithful and consecrated life, steadfast until the end”. This garment represents a life of sanctification and fidelity that manifests itself in righteous deeds. Jesus Christ, as our example, won His peculiar messianic glory to be displayed unto the age of the ages, by such a life. Unto God’s “firstborn”(see Heb 1:6), Jesus the Christ, He says:
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions."
Because Jesus has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, God has anointed Him with an exceedingly great joy that His companions (Gk: metachoi) will share in. Jesus prepared Himself and was capacitated for His glory. We too must follow in Jesus’ example!
In Part 1 of this series, we asked these questions concerning our exposition of the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14): Is there any corroborating evidence to this interpretation of the wedding garment? Can it be maintained that the wedding garment in this parable corresponds to the preparations that one takes in this life for the contingent glories of the next? Furthermore, let us ask: will unfaithful Christians, who have not loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, share in Christ’s glory, being co-heirs with Him? In Parts 2, 3 and now 4, the final article in this series, we have been attempting to lend support to the interpretation of this parable which was given in Part 1. This last reference we will examine truly lends the greatest support for this interpretation and furthermore gives us another inducement to holiness:
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The term “wife” here is a collective identification for those saints who have made themselves ready by their righteous acts. This "wife" of Christ is portrayed for us as being given the right to wear “fine linen, clean and bright” because of the merit of those who make up this particular group (Christ’s companions). This is clearly shown in the fact that the linen itself “is the righteous acts of the saints”. This body of saints, Christ’s intimate band of co-heirs (symbolized by the word “wife"), made themselves ready through loving righteousness and hating lawlessness; through their purposeful, determinate, and intentional practical acts of righteousness.
What is significant here is that the picture is of a wedding celebration, where overcoming saints, who are characterized by experiential righteousness, are joined to Christ in a very intimate way. This body of saints made themselves ready, in other words, prepared themselves for the privilege that is here described! Because of this assembly's preparation, they wore fine linen, which is told to us is their righteous acts!
The parallels of this passage to the Parable of the Wedding Feast are striking! Those participants in the wedding feast needed to come in proper attire. The man observed without a wedding garment was excluded from the joy within. He did not come prepared! He lacked making himself ready! Those so described as the “wife” in this scene (Rev 19:7-9) called “the marriage of the Lamb” made themselves ready, in other words, prepared themselves for the superlative experience of this great intimacy with Christ symbolized by marriage.
Both discuss a wedding feast, a garment, being prepared (or lack thereof) for the festive occasion, and opportunity for intimate, and grand fellowship with Christ. They are strikingly parallel. The passage found here in Rev 19:7-8 adduces very strong support for the interpretation that the wedding garment in Matt 22:1-14 is indeed the preparation of the life for the glories to come consisting in experiential righteousness.
Conclusion of the matter
Most people in Christendom today regard the wedding garment of the man in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14) as the righteousness of Christ. But the greatest weight of evidence supports the truth that what he really lacked was practical righteousness, “righteous deeds”.
Reader, it is my desire that you take the time to seriously consider this biblical and logical position as expounded in many places all over the New Testament. This life is a testing ground which will determine our roles in the coming ages. It is a time for preparation and capacitating for the glories, honors, and authority of the Kingdom of God. The view expressed in these articles best accounts for all the biblical data. Test it. As you read the Bible, try to understand the many conditional structures that you once considered as discussing the Perseverance of the Saints as conditions for the abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pt 1:11). You may very well find "exegetical gold"!
“Take heed how you hear!” Jesus says, because, “whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him"! (Lk 8:18).
Will you walk with Jesus in white? Such will not be the outcome for every child of God.