For greater understanding and context, read Revelation 19:6-10 and Matthew 25:1-13.
There’s something sacred about a bride in white. There’s something rare and exclusive about the make, style and material of her wedding day garment. Clothed in purity, it’s this appointed day in which she makes a public appearance and statement. The music crescendos while the front doors open and all eyes in the room fixate on her beauty. The climax of anticipation has arrived as the prepared bride makes her first step toward the bridegroom.
Indeed, this scene is beautiful. Yet let the wise one know this – this beauty isn’t free nor easy to achieve. This beauty came at high cost. Yes, the dress was likely expensive, but there’s a beauty deeper than skin that demands the sacrifice of great time, daily surrender and abiding love. It’s this beauty that sufficiently prepares the bride for this momentous day. Her outward appearance is simply an expression of the inner heart, set apart and properly prepared for her chosen groom.
As followers of Yeshua*, our unique destinies are immersed in our bridal identities. The scriptures are lathered in allusions to this reality. We are called to be His intimate lover, His one-of-a-kind friend and holy partner. When the last page of this world has turned and all things are made new, Yeshua will be ruling as King with His wife and close companion reigning by His side. In Revelation 19, John, the beloved disciple of Yeshua, records a heavenly encounter in which he recounts the wedding of the Lamb to His bride. In this vision, he specifically describes the bride as ready.
“For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” -Revelation 19:7 (TLV)
Additionally, there are several instances in the gospels where Yeshua warns His followers to be ready for the coming of The Lord. In one parable, Yeshua describes the actions of ten virgins awaiting the return of the bridegroom. At the end of the story, in seemingly harsh language and definitive manner, He distinguishes five wise virgins from five foolish ones.
“And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. Now later, the other virgins came, saying, ‘Sir, Sir, open up for us!’ But he replied, ‘Amen, I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore stay alert, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” -Matthew 25:10-13
So how do we, the church, the cherished, desired and deeply loved bride, prepare ourselves for the day our Savior returns? How can we be a bride made ready for her Bridegroom?
To delve into this question, it’s beneficial to explore the context of Yeshua’s storytelling. The above parable is set during a specific and strategic step of an ancient Jewish wedding. Instigated and arranged by the fathers of the bride and groom, ancient Jewish marriages were contracts formulated by both families and contingent upon the abiding of the obligations within. One of the obligations outlined in the contract was the bridal price, the price the groom would pay to obtain his bride. Once this contract was agreed upon and the bridal price paid by the groom, the couple would take part in a betrothal ceremony. This ceremony took place in the presence of immediate family and included the exchanging of vows and covenant promises. At this point, the bride and groom were considered legally married, however, at the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds would undergo a period of physical separation.
Can you imagine the anticipation? Already married, this couple would endure anywhere from nine months to a year of separation. Though likely difficult, this separation was purposeful. The groom would return to his father’s house to prepare an abode for his future wife, while the bride would set out to be a ready bride. Part of this readiness included the fashioning of her bridal garment, the dress she would wear when the bridegroom returned to carry her away to their forever dwelling.
Though the bride knew the approximate timing, the exact date or hour of her groom’s arrival was unknown. However, at the perfect time – the time determined by the father of the groom – the bridegroom would go claim his bride. The groom, along with his wedding party, would make a scene as they marched through the street toward the home of the bride. Along the way, the ram’s horn would sound as the friend of the bridegroom proclaimed, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” It was the bride, as well as her bridal party’s role, to remain alert and ready for this arrival. Often, the bridegroom would come at night. Because of this, the bride and her wedding party would light lamps at night in case he returned at a late and unexpected hour.
In the same way the ancient Jewish bride waits for her beloved bridegroom, we, the body and bride of Christ, anticipate the return of our Savior and marriage to the Lamb. As the Jewish groom would have prepared a new home for his love, so Yeshua prepares a place for us in His Father’s house.
“In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be.” -John 14:2-3
And like the ancient Jewish bride, it is our role today to make ourselves ready for the day the Father tells His Son, the Messiah and Savior of the world, to go get His bride. In Revelation 19, after John defines the bride as ready, he declares how she’s ready by what she’s wearing.
“She was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” -Revelation 19:8
In this apocalyptic passage, John describes the church as having fashioned her wedding garment, just as the ancient Jewish bride would have done. Yet in this case, the material of her dress is made up of her righteous deeds! According to this scripture, part of our readiness includes how we conduct ourselves on this earth. A good barometer of our Christ-likeness and knowledge of Him can be revealed in the daily decisions we make and the way we live our lives. When the script of our lives has been sealed, will we be remembered as ones who loved as Jesus commanded (John 13:34)? Is the state of the bride’s dress currently white, complete and adorned with unique details?
Immersed in a culture with a works-based mentality and often religious approach to God, it’s necessary to discuss the intention and heart behind our righteous deeds. Sometimes we know what we ought to do and do it to save face, but our heart is selfishly motivated. How do we produce righteous deeds that are from The Lord and make us appropriately ready? I believe the parable mentioned above concerning the ten virgins holds the key. What made the five virgins wise compared to the five foolish ones?
“But the wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps.” -Matthew 25:4
Throughout scripture, when oil is mentioned, it is in reference to the Holy Spirit. What set the virgins apart? Five of the virgins had a continuous and fresh supply of oil. Within the lamps of their heart, in the deepest and most intimate place, was the flame of a life living in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. This uninterrupted fire and Holy Spirit stoked flame drove the way they lived their lives and prepared them for the coming bridegroom. Within their hearts was a real love that had not run cold. Their lamps were kept burning because they had stewarded this relationship with the Holy Spirit – because they knew Him. Hear the stark contrast He makes as He confronts the foolish virgins.
“Amen, I tell you, I do not know you.” -Matthew 25:12
Catch this truth. All ten of the women mentioned were virgins, possibly meaning they lived “pure” lives and “did the right thing”. But only five were ready when the Bridegroom came. The Lord sees the heart, so the source of our “righteous deeds” is paramount. When we live in an abiding relationship with The Lord and are propelled from that place to live holy lives, we will produce the “righteous deeds” that make up our wedding day garment. Believers in love with Jesus can’t help but follow in His commandments and shepherding. Righteous deeds in The Lord’s eyes are Spirit-filled works that come from a heart in a love affair with the perfect Bridegroom.
Indeed, the bride is beautiful on the day she is completely prepared for her groom. She stands in white as she confidently walks toward him with a readiness in her heart to live in complete union with her lover. Today, let us be this bride, anticipating the return of our Savior, and living in intimate relationship with the one who paid a high cost to be our groom. This I am sure of – there is nothing and no one like this love. And it’s this love that calls you His Bride, his bride made ready.
*Yeshua: the Hebrew name for Jesus meaning salvation
Today’s writer is Jill Sazera, WoCo’s Director of Faith. From Georgia and currently living right outside D.C., Jill spends her days flying the friendly skies. When she’s not on an airplane, you can find her discovering new coffee shops, mingling in music, and going on long drives. She’s a lover of all things fall, could break out in dance at any moment, and gets her fuel from long mornings with Jesus. You can reach Jill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @jillsazera.