Good guys wear white. This is true in old westerns where the good guy always had a white hat, and it is true in Revelation. If someone is wearing white, they are a part of the covenant people of God, an angel, or Christ himself. Look at these verses towards the end of the book:
Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. She was given fine, pure white linen to wear, for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.
The bride of the Lamb, the bride of Christ, is the Church. She wears white because she has been redeemed. Yet there is more to the white clothes than just being redeemed. The wedding clothes she has were given to her. By whom? By God. This is something called a divine passive voice in writing. Jewish authors would write in passive voice (as opposed to active voice) if they were talking about something God does so they could communicate the idea without writing God. This is one of those instances, since John was one of the original apostles, and thus Jewish.
So, the garments were given by God, yet they are white because of the saints’ righteous deeds. There is a sense of cooperation here. God gives grace to us, then it is up to us what we do with that grace. Since grace is really a short-hand way to speak of God’s power and presence in our lives through the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the framework looks something like this:
God gives us his presence in the Holy Spirit, and it is up to us to allow the Spirit to conform us to the image and likeness of Christ. When we do this, we become more and more holy and accomplish righteous deeds. If we do not allow the Spirit to transform us, we reject God’s grace because we have turned our backs on the Holy Spirit in our lives.
There is another wedding story in the Bible that helps illustrate this point. In Matthew 22 Jesus tells a parable of a wedding feast. The guests would not come, so the servants are sent out to invite anyone they can find to come. When the king is walking through the party, he sees a man without a wedding garment and has him thrown out.
My initial thoughts on this parable were always confused. People don’t usually walk around carrying their best clothes in case they might be invited to a wedding that very hour! But knowing how weddings worked at that time and in that culture makes perfect sense of the parable. It was the duty of the groom’s father to provide the clothes to all the guests of a wedding. When the servants invited people and brought them to the party, they gave them the clothes from the king to wear. This man refused to wear the clothes provided. In essence he was saying to the king, “I’ll accept your invitation and I’ll feast at your banquet receiving from you all the wonderful aspects of being at the party, but I’ll do it on my own terms. Don’t expect me to conform to your desires. I’m just here for what I can get out of it.”
God gives the garments. God gives his Spirit, his grace. It is our responsibility to put the garments on, to allow the Spirit to transform us. It is not enough to be invited to the wedding feast; we must fully accept all that God has for us, which includes working with him to change and renew us in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.