Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Righteousness of the Saints, Part 1 of 2

In Revelation 19:8 we read that the bride of Christ (which is the church) is granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, which are the righteous acts of the saints. Our righteous acts do not merit our entrance into Heaven, but they are to be our adornments, if they were done in God, to magnify our heavenly Husband, Jesus. It is only through the Holy Spirit that a Christian may serve God, and that God should find such service acceptable, Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; Romans 6:19; 12:1-2. We are saved solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; works do not enter the equation, Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; 11:5-6; John 3:18, 36; 6:37; 10:28-29; Titus 3:5-7; 1st Peter 1:5; 2nd Timothy 1:9-10; etc. What are these righteous acts the Holy Spirit is speaking of, and will every saint at the throne of God have them?

There is a passage earlier in Revelation that speaks about these garments of righteousness. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels,” Revelation 3:4-5. Before I directly answer the verses quoted, let us trace this Book of Life through Revelation to learn its secrets. We find it again in Revelation 13:8: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [Antichrist], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The literal rendering of this passage reads: “...whose names have not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of the Lamb that was slain.” When properly understood, the verse clearly and plainly explains that a believer, according to the doctrine of God's foreknowledge and election, has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life before creation began, Romans 8:28-30. It may be that every person's name is present at the first, yet they are blotted out when they reject the salvation God offers in Christ, and die in that rejection. Can one's name truly be blotted out through disobedience? One's name could feasibly be blotted out through the rejection of the Savior, but obedience cannot enter the equation when our salvation is concerned. Otherwise salvation is, at the end of the day, a matter of a reward rather than a free gift of God's grace.

The Book is mentioned again in Revelation 17:8, where we read, “those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast...” The beast deceives and ensnares the unsaved in his net. Those who do not know God, or are not known by God, will marvel at the Antichrist. This verse does seem to indicate that only the names of the elect (those saved by faith in Christ) are written in the Book of Life.

In Revelation 20:12 we come to the Great White Throne Judgment. This is not the judgment seat of Christ, where believers are brought to have their works tried; this is a throne, and upon it sits One who will judge the living and the dead. This Judge is Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:18; Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-10; John 5:24-30; Acts 10:42; 17:31. The verse from Revelation reads, “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which was the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Verse 15 adds, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” The books mentioned in verse 12 are the books of every word, thought and deed the unsaved commit. By the knowledge you obtain, you are judged by it in accordance with how you conducted yourself, Luke 12:47-48. Why are the dead judged thus? Their names were not written in the Book of Life, or else they had been blotted out of the Book upon death, since they had never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is a relevant possibility, since John writes, “Who is he who overcomes (notice the same word “overcome” as used in Revelation 3:4-5) the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1st John 5:5.

We reach Revelation 21:27 and find: “There shall by no means enter it [the heavenly Jerusalem] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.” Our bodies of sin become glorious resurrection bodies when we are raised from the dead, or caught up in the air to be with Christ, 1st Corinthians chapter 15; 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1st John 3:2. We are washed in Christ's blood (Revelation 1:5), cleansed by the word of God (John 13:10; 15:3; Ephesians 5:26; Romans 10:8-10), and have become a new creation (2nd Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3; Galatians 6:15). All of these things do not occur because we are righteous, but because God's righteous Spirit so works in us.

Finally, we read Revelation 22:19. “...and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy (the Book of Revelation; see 1:3), God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This verse (along with verse 18) comprises a stern warning not to allegorize, mythologize, or otherwise treat Revelation as if it were not a description of future events which happen as literally as the vivid descriptions the Holy Spirit gives them. The Holy Spirit warns that Revelation is to be taken literally, unless symbolic language is specified.

Revelation was meant as a terrible word of warning to the unsaved, and also a powerful word of comfort and triumph for the elect. All things will reach a consummation at God's appointed time, and in God's appointed way. Revelation teaches a church age (chapters 1-3). It is followed by the Rapture (chapters 4-5). Then comes the literal seven year tribulation period, half of which Christ referred to as the Great Tribulation (chapters 6-19). There is the thousand year reign of Christ, when Israel receives their Messiah and King, and the land God promised Abraham (chapter 20).  There is the final judgment of the unsaved at the Great White Throne at the end of time (chapter 20), followed by the creation of an eternal heaven and earth, where there is no sin or death, and only those saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ may enter (chapters 21-22).

God has been gracious to reveal a massive duration of time, which merges into eternity. He has revealed the scope and conclusion of His great plan, how our Lord is the Mediator and Savior of mankind, and also the Judge and Executioner of mankind. To tamper with the word through liberality, ecumenical jargon, or unbelief is sinful. To the believer Jesus warns, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:19. This verse indicates loss of reward (being least in Heaven’s kingdom) but not loss of salvation.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Ian, Rev. 19:8 in the KJV says:
    "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" rather than "righteous acts" of the saints, as in the NKJV.

    Barnes Notes on the NT says "it is implied here, as it is everywhere in the Scriptures, that this is not their own righteousness, for it is said that this was "given" to the bride-to the saints. It is the gracious bestowment of their Lord; and the reference here must be to that righteousness which they obtain by faith-the righteousness which results from justification through the merits of the Redeemer."

    Matthew Henry says something similar: "The church appeared; not in the gay, gaudy dress of the mother of harlots, but in fine linen, clean and white. In the robes of Christ's righteousness, imputed for justification, and imparted for sanctification."

    Praise God that believers are clothed in His righteousness, that no one can take away. Praise Him also that He will also reward us for acts done in His service, with the proper motives, that will survive His purifying fire.

    God bless you!
    Laurie

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  2. I just love the book of Revelation because for the Believer it is the final end of all evil and the beginning of all that is good. However, it is a strong warning to those who are not saved. Great post. God bless, Lloyd

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  3. Philippians 3:9 further supports Laurie's comment. It is troubling how often sincere efforts to simplify understanding inadvertently introduce confusion.

    Good post.

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