THE CLOTHES OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 7:9-17
By Glenn Pease
A taylor who used an apple as a trade mark was asked why he used that particular symbol. He replied, "If it hadn't been for the apple, where would the clothing business be?" He had a good point. The clothing business did start in the garden of Eden because of sin, and the need to cover the bodies of those who had started sin by eating of the forbidden fruit. Clothing is not a part of the origin of sin, but rather, a necessity to overcome the emotions set loose by sin.
God was the first taylor to create garments for man. Adam and Eve had sewn fig leaves together to cover their bodies, but shortly thereafter we read in Gen. 3:21, "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them." From that point on, clothing has played a major role in the life of man. Scripture is literally packed with references to clothes and their significance.
Man is the only creature that God created who has a desire to adorn itself with clothes. No animal has any appreciation for styles, and for a variety of clothing, or for jewelry. Males often wish God would have made females more animal like in this respect. Wilfred Funk calls the daughters of Eve the Insatiable Sex. He goes to great extremes to express himself in poetry.
If I scaled the heights of Venus
And ransacked ten million stars
Of their fineries--Orsinus,
Mercury, Arcturus, Mars.
Plucked the pleiades and hung them
Flaming on your ivory breast,
With the shining moon among them
As a diadem and crest.
Seized the Milky Way and tore it
From the skies to make a gown
For you, dearest, and you wore it
With Orion as a crown--
Would it help you? Would you try a
Little thrift then? No! my guess is
You would merely go and buy a
Dozen other hats and dresses!
Most of the humor directed at clothing is connected with women, but the facts of history reveal that men have been just as involved in the fashion fuss, vanity, and folly connected with clothing. The history of men's pants is a joke if there ever was one. Battles have raged over them from ancient Persian times. Church councils have met, sermons have been preached, and pamphlets have been written declaring them to be designed by the devil. A ruler in Germany in 1790, ordered all criminals in chain gangs, working on the roads, to be clad in long trousers, in order to deride and discredit the fashion. In 1820, it was forbidden in England for any clergyman to wear long trousers in the pulpit. Nothing could stop the onward march of a good idea, and so, we all now feel perfectly comfortable in what has become a traditional garment with us.
Men, of course, did not wear pants in Bible days, but they wore what we would call a robe. They were as proud of their robes however, as the modern man is of his suits. Joseph had a robe of many colors. It made him the best dressed man in his big family. It was a garment of great value and was an expression of his fathers affection.
Wealth was often determined by the number of garments a man possessed. Samson is usually portrayed as half bare, to show his great muscles, but his goal was to become the best dressed man in Israel. In Judges 14, he made a deal with 30 men at a feast. If they could guess his riddle, he would give them 30 linen garments and 30 festal garments. If they failed, however, they would give him the 60 outfits instead. Samson was confident that he would start out married life with a huge wardrobe. It turned out, he lost, and had to pay them their 60 garments. The whole transaction reveals that clothes mean a lot to men, just as they do to women.
Clothes mean a lot to God as well. Numerous are the references to the holy garments that God ordained for the priests to wear, and to the beautiful jeweled garb of the high priest. Several references are even made to the garments of God. We read in Psalm 93:1, "The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, He is girded with strength." In Psalm 104:1-2 we read, "O Lord, my God, Thou art very great! Thou are clothed with honor and majesty, who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment." Looking at God's wardrobe is like looking into the sun. Don't you wonder what kind of clothes we will wear in the presence of God? If He demanded holy garments on those who served Him here on earth, what will he demand when we are before Him in heaven? The book of Revelation answers this question for us, not just to satisfy our curiosity, but because clothing has such important symbolic meaning.
John makes it clear, that there is no going back to Eden's innocent nudity, but a moving ahead to cosmic clothing and divine dress. The future fashion will be garments of glory. Jesus modeled this garment briefly when He walked the earth, His daily garments were, doubtless, of fine quality, and He had a special robe of unique value. The soldiers at the cross gambled to possess His robe rather than throw it away. Even His daily attire had to be attractive, to convince the seriously sick woman that a touch of the hem of it, could heal her.
His earthly clothes were of fine quality, but they were still earthly clothes. Only briefly did He model the garments of glory. This He did on the Mt. of Transfiguration. We read in Mark 9:3, "...his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them." White was the common color, and so a lot of bleach was used in that day, but no bleach could create the whiteness the disciples saw that day. You favorite detergent could not match the whiteness produced here, for it was not due to any miracle product, but to a literal miracle. Christ was suddenly clothed with the garment He will wear in glory. Mark 17:3 says, "His garments became white as light." Only one other time did the disciples ever see clothing so white, and that was when they saw visitors from heaven. In other words, angels also wear these bright white garments of glory. In Matt. 28:3, the angel at the tomb is described like this-"his raiment was white as snow." If white is the color that always describes the garments of heaven, then we could guess that white is what we will wear also. There is no need for guessing, however, for Scripture makes it clear, white will be the color of our garments of glory.
This fact has much meaning, or otherwise, it is hard to understand why the book of Revelation stresses it over and over. I counted 17 uses of the word white in this book. Jesus promises, that those who conquer, will walk with Him in white. In our text, twice the vast multitudes of heaven are described as being clothed in white robes. If we are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, white is to be a part of our spiritual menu. The white garments are a way of saying, we will be partakers of the divine nature, and will share in the very glory of God.
There are many things in nature more beautiful than man. Jesus said even Solomon in all his glory could not match the beauty of the lilies. Isaac Watts lamented the fact, that man cannot make any clothes to match the beauty that God has given to lower creatures. He wrote,
The Tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I.
Let me be dressed as fine I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.
This will no longer be true, however, when we get our garments of glory. We will then possess the beauty of the Creator of all beauty. Let's focus on these garments of glory and consider the reasons for their whiteness. The first reason most commentators suggest is-
I. WHITENESS SYMBOLIZES PURITY.
Eccles. 9:8 says, "Let your garments be always white." To keep unspotted by the world is the Christian ideal, but it will never be completely accomplished until we become the Bride of Christ, without spot or wrinkle. The only clothes we will ever have that never need washing will be the bridal gown of heaven. No sin will ever stain this garment again. Charles Spurgeon preached one of the greatest sermons I have ever read on these white robes. He says they refer to the actual character of the saints. They are not symbolic of the righteousness of Christ, for his righteousness is not washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is the righteousness of men, which once was filthy rags, but now has been washed in the blood of Christ, and made perfect. What is now inputted, will there, be imparted.
He points out that white is the union and blending of all the colors of light. White is the symbol of perfection, because it is the perfect combination of all colors. Spurgeon says, "In the character of just men made perfect we have the combination of all virtues, the balancing of all excellencies, a display of all the beauties of grace. Are they not like their Lord, and is He not all beauties in one?" No color but the combination of all colors, could express the balance and completeness of our perfection in heaven.
These garments of glory are our assurance that in heaven we will be able to stand before God, and not feel guilt because of our sinful past. They are to challenge us to keep unspotted by the world in this life. Peter, after saying we look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, says, in II Peter 3:14, "Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by Him without spot or blemish." The Christian is not to look back at his spotted past, but to look ahead to the pure white garments of the future. The poet said,
Waste no tears
Upon the blotted record of the lost years,
But turn the leaf, and smile, oh, smile to see
The fair white pages that remain for thee.
For the Christian, the future is always bright, and we will walk forever with Jesus in white. The second reason white is stressed is-
II. WHITENESS SYMBOLIZES JOY.
It is no accident that wedding gowns are white. White is a universal symbol of the joy of marriage. No other color can portray the joy of love between two people. No other color can convey the joy of the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. These beautiful garments of glory are to fill us with anticipation.
All through history, generals have ridden into conquered cities on pure white horses, to symbolize they are victors. Jesus is pictured as riding on a white horse as He rides to victory. The great White Throne Judgment symbolizes the victory of God over evil. White it the color of joy because it is the color of the victor. When the enemy runs up the white flag they are saying, we surrender, you win.
These white robes are to fill the Christian with the joy of anticipation. Just having such a future to anticipate is the basis for Christian joy. The English novelist, C. P. Snow, was asked what he regarded as the main difference between the world in which he grew up, and the world we share now. His immediate response was, "The absence of a future." That is one of the problems, in the thinking of man, that leads to the devil may care attitude-let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Where there is no future, nothing matters but the now. The lack of a future robs man of a motive to live with eternity's values in view.
The Christian has future goals that radically affect his present behavior and joy. They can be summed up in these three statements-
1. To be in Christ.
2. To be like Christ.
3. To be with Christ.
All three of these involve the color white. To be in Christ is to be forgiven and delivered from sin. It is to be given the spotless robe of His righteousness. To be like Christ, is to keep unspotted from the world, and to stay clean by confession and forgiveness. To be with Christ, is to walk with Him forever in white. All of life is a sort of getting dressed for the greatest of all parties.
Karl Olson, in his book, Come To The Party, expresses the fact that the Gospel is like an invitation to a party. When the Prodigal Son returned, the father was concerned about the clothes he was wearing. He said in Luke 15:22, "Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." After he was dressed for the occasion, they began to make merry. Beautiful clothing and joyful times, go together.
The message of the Gospel is the good news that God has a great party planned, but only those who are dressed properly can get in. Unless you are clothed in the bright white garments of glory, you will be excluded. There is only way to get your garments white enough to be fit for this party. All the soap in the world will fail; all the scrubbing of good works will fail. Only those who wash there robes in the blood of the Lamb will have a whiteness fit for the joys of heaven.
That is why the song of the saints gives all the glory to God and to the Lamb. They are not congratulating themselves on being clever spot removers, but recognize that all the whiteness of their garments is due to grace alone. The white robes are symbols of the joy and the victory of the cross. No words can describe the total victory over sin like the message of these white garments.
They are whiter than snow, or the feathers of a dove.
They are whiter than the lilies below, or the clouds which are above.
Whiter than is a moonlit sail, whiter than the foam of the sea.
Whiter than fleece or chalk or hail, lime, cotton, or pearl or ivory.
No whiteness man has ever seen on earth or in the skies
Can match the whiteness of the garments of glory we'll wear in paradise.
The most important thing you can do in life is to get ready for that party, and the only way to do it is to put your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. When you do this you are ready to wear the garments of glory.