Beautiful flowers decorate the wedding chapel. The groomsmen and bridesmaids stand at the front of the room in their impeccable tuxedoes and gowns. The groom, handsome and nervous, is eagerly awaiting the entrance of his bride. Now the majestic strains of the wedding march swell and fill the chapel. The audience stands, turns–and gasps in horror. The bride’s gown is stained and filthy!
Although we will never witness this scene here on earth, the day of Christ may present such a spectacle as people assemble for final judgment. The prophet Isaiah explains that “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment [menstrual cloth]” (Isa. 64:6). Being clothed with a righteousness not our own is the only way to escape the pollution of sin.
In a vision the apostle John sees “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9). Who are these people? How do they please God? What makes their sin-stained clothing clean and bright? From one of the 24 heavenly elders, John learns that these redeemed people “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14).
The blood of Jesus, shed at the cross, cleanses me at the moment of conversion. Paul says that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3). This “washing” is no work of personal merit but rather the working of God’s grace. Jesus “saved us,” Paul writes, “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5, NIV). Anyone expecting to inherit life on the basis of personal merit (e.g., honesty, generosity, compassion) makes himself as repulsive to God as a soiled bride would be to us.