Revelation 21:1-14

Sermon preached on October 11, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I read an article online a few weeks ago that I found very bizarre. There's a new fad going around called,
Trash the Dress. Some days or weeks after their wedding, brides put on their wedding dress, get a photographer, and they proceed to destroy the wedding dress in one way or another. They have the photographer take pictures of the process. Apparently they're trying to create art, to create pictures that contrast the beauty of the wedding dress with scenarios that are horrific and frightening. For example, one of the pictures had a bride in her wedding dress and the whole back and side of the dress was in flames. It was like a man on fire stunt that you'd see in the movies. I don't know how they protected the woman, but it showed the back of her dress in a ball of fire with horrible black smoke rising from it. There were even flames on the ground behind her where the train of her wedding dress would normally be. It was bizarre. Beauty and horror were in the same picture. Another picture showed a bride in her wedding dress and she looked like she had been attacked with a knife. It looked like there was blood flowing down the front of the dress. But it wasn't blood. It was red wine that had been purposefully spilled over her. She and her husband had a food fight with red wine. Other stunts noted were of a bride and groom being involved in a paintball fight. Still another showed a woman in her wedding dress, floating on the edge of a lake or river, appearing to be unconscious. It was morbid. Those pictures were so bizarre. Beauty and tragedy in the same picture.

As horrible as those pictures are—they reminded me of the state of the church today. We are the bride of Christ, but we are marred by sin. Jesus has died for us. Our place is secure. But there is much preparation left for the wedding.

Yes, even today the church is the bride of Christ. It is a theme we see in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 54:5 Israel was told that God was her husband. We read,

"For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth."

When Jesus came to this earth, He came as a bridegroom. In John 3:28–29 John the Baptist said,

" 'I am not the Christ
but am sent ahead of him.'
The bride belongs to the bridegroom.
The friend who attends the bridegroom
waits and listens for him, and is full of joy
when he hears the bridegroom's voice.
That joy is mine, and it is now complete."

John said that he was merely the attendant of the bridegroom. Jesus was the bridegroom. The church is the bride of Jesus. But the wedding hasn't taken place yet. The bride is not fully prepared. The actual wedding will take place at the end of the age. In Revelation 19:7 John heard a great multitude shouting,

"Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready."

When Jesus comes again He will take His bride. John Frame writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 1021)

"In the NT, the church is the bride, who will be presented spotless to Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb."

Yet what will be is going to be glorious.

The church is the bride of Christ.

In verses 2 and 3 we read,

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be
with them and be their God.' "

In verse 9 we read,

"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls
full of the seven last plagues came and said to me,
'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' "

What is the bride like? Verses 10 and 11,

"And he carried me away in the Spirit
to a mountain great and high,
and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God.
It shone with the glory of God,
and its brilliance was like that
of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal."

It's such a wonderful and fascinating picture—one that sheds light on many biblical truths. It's amazing. Indeed, I think that the fact that the church is the bride of Christ is

the greatest honor that God could bestow on human beings.

It's so wonderful that it truly staggers our minds. Marriage is one of the most wonderful of institutions. It conveys images of utmost commitment and exclusive love. It conveys joy and happiness. It conveys images of purity, of intimacy, of pleasure in each other's presence, of delighting in each other. To think that we are in that relationship to Jesus is astounding.

This morning we're going to look at one of these themes—the beauty of the bride.

The bride is beautiful.

The church, the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God,

"prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband."

And in verse 11 we saw that the bride, the wife of the Lamb,

"shone with the glory of God,
and its brilliance was like that
of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal."

The thing about this picture is that the bride is not just beautiful outwardly, superficially.

Of what does this beauty consist?

It is obvious from the context that the beauty is one of holiness. The old saying,

"Beauty is only skin deep."

—is true in one sense and but not true another sense. It's true that outward beauty is only skin deep. It reminds me of the answer a little school girl gave on a test. The question was about a person's skin—I think the question was something like,

"What's one of the purposes of human skin?"

The girl answered,

"To keep people from throwing up when they see you."

But there's an inward beauty, a moral beauty that the Bible speaks about. For example, in 1 Peter 3:3–4, Peter told Christian wives,

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,
such as braided hair and the wearing
of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self,
the unfading beauty of a gentle
and quiet spirit, which is
of great worth in God's sight."

In our text the beauty of the bride of Christ is holiness. The New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, is described in verse 2 as,

"the Holy City…"

One of her main characteristics is holiness. This is emphasized when she is further described as,

"coming down out of heaven from God,"

Heaven is a place of holiness.

Thirdly, we see that she has been 'prepared'. God has prepared her. Christ has cleansed her. The bride is pure. As we read in Ephesians 5:25–27

"Husbands, love your wives,
just as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her to make her holy,
cleansing her by the washing with water
through the word, and to present her
to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle
or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

This idea of cleansing is also evident from Revelation 19:6–8 where it says that the bride has made herself ready. John writes,

"Then I heard what sounded
like a great multitude,
like the roar of rushing waters
and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.'
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"

Christians, think of the glory that is ahead for you—that we, the church, are going to be the bride of Christ, the King of Glory. 1 John 3 uses another image, but it shows us how high we are going to be raised. (1 John 3:1–2)

"How great is the love the Father
has lavished on us, that we
should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

We will be holy. We will be like Christ. We will be His bride.

This is astounding because of what we human beings are in ourselves.

We are sinners. Sin has corrupted us. It makes us unfit to dwell with God. Shortly after Adam and Eve sinned they were put out of the Garden of Eden. There was no more walking with God in the cool of the day. As the prophet Isaiah said to the sinful people of Judah in Isaiah 59:2,

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear."

Indeed, the words Adam said to God after he sinned show how corrupt he had become. Adam said, (Genesis 3:12)

"The woman you put here with me—
she gave me some fruit
from the tree, and I ate it."

He blamed both his wife and God for his sin. Sin has made us into hateful and impure creatures. As David said in Psalm 14:3,

"All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one."

Sin has made us filthy, dirty, unclean. Lamentations 1:8 says,

"Jerusalem has sinned greatly
and so has become unclean."

We have another example of this in Zechariah 3:3–4. We read,

"Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes
as he stood before the angel.
The angel said to those
who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.'
Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin,
and I will put rich garments on you.' "

Yet people today try to deny or minimize their sin. I was talking to a man who is a therapist the other day and I was surprised that he said that he tells some of his clients that they should feel shame when they've done something bad. That was surprising because one of the things we hear from our society is that we need to get rid of guilt. They tell us that guilt is bad for us and that we shouldn't feel guilty.

Today's society is like the one in the day of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 6:15 we read,

"Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush."

Even the most righteous among us are sinners. Isaiah 64:6 says,

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind
our sins sweep us away."

Even our best acts are tainted by sin. Sin makes us contemptible in God's eyes. When Isaiah saw his vision of God on His throne, he said, (Isaiah 6:5)

"Woe to me! I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips, and
I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

What is God going to do with His disobedient people? Is He going to destroy them forever? No.

That's what Satan wanted. He wanted to destroy God's for mankind. He hated Adam and Eve and led them into sin. He wanted them and all their descendants to be cast away from God forever.

But God had different plans. John 3:16

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

The book of Hosea is an illustration of God's amazing love. The prophet was told by God to go and marry a woman who would be unfaithful. Her unfaithfulness would represent Israel's infidelity to God. Would God give up sinners? No. In Hosea 11:8–9 God said,

"How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath."

Not only did God not come to us in wrath—but He came with such grace in Jesus Christ that He made us, His redeemed, the church, His bride. He died for her. He forgave her sin. He cleansed her. He made her pure—and she is going to come down from heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. How can it be?

This means at least three things for you Christians.

First, you should be amazed at God's grace, His love for you.

How could God love us when we were sinners, when we were everything we should not be, when we were vile and unfaithful to our Creator? Habakkuk 1:13 tells us that God's eyes are too pure to look on evil, that He cannot tolerate wrong—yet He somehow loved us sinners? How can it be?

It would be amazing enough if He just saved us—but to make us His bride! It's incredible. How high we will be raised. We will be His beloved forever. We will be with Him forever. These things are the most glorious.

Secondly, this means that we should strive to be holy.

The Ephesians 5 passage that we quoted earlier told us that Christ gave Himself for the church, to make her holy, cleansing us by the washing with water through the Word. 1 John 3:2 tells us that,

"Everyone who has this hope in him
purifies himself,
just as he is pure."

As we have seen from Revelation 19:7, Christ's bride makes herself ready because clean linen, righteous acts are given to her. The bride makes herself ready by righteous acts. When she is fully ready, when she has done all the righteous acts she is to do, the wedding will be held. This reminds me of what the apostle Peter wrote about the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:11–12.

"Since everything
will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming."

We speed the coming of the wedding by living holy and godly lives.

Thirdly, this means that

you should love the church.

One of the church fathers, Cyprian wrote, (On the Unity of the Church, section 6)

"You cannot have God as your Father if you will not have the church as your mother."

Mark Jones puts it this way, (Knowing Christ)

"you cannot claim to love Christ and hate his bride. Why? Because Christ loves his bride. Are you in any position to think and act differently?"

Do you love the church? Do you love God's people? Do you love gathering with God's people?

Fourth, if you're not a Christian,

this shows you the only way to be saved.

We're sinners. We're lost on our own. We can try to work our way into heaven by our good works—but we'll never get there that way.

We need to have our sins forgiven. We need to be purified. There's only One who can do that for us—Jesus. He died in our place. He invites you to Himself. Go to Him for salvation.