It is helpful when thinking about the details of the marriage supper to realise that the process in view here is how betrothals occurred at that time. An agreement was made regarding the couple; this was followed by a period between then and the actual wedding in which the couple were regarded as husband and wife; and then there was the actual wedding. One of the activities of a Jewish bride during the period between the agreement and the actual wedding was for her to make her wedding dress.
It is not difficult to see the parallels between that and what John says here. Jesus and his people become one at conversion – that is like the agreement. As his people wait for the wedding day, they make their wedding garments – this activity has nothing to do with merit, but is an expression of devotion. Then when Jesus returns, there will be the actual wedding.
Instead, it looks as if at the wedding feast the members of the Bride will be allowed to wear as a garment the actions that expressed their love for Jesus when they were in this world. In a sense, this should not surprise us. Even although none of his actions were sinless, the apostle Paul expected to receive a crown of glory as a reward for his years of service of the Lord. And he said that the same blessing would be given to all who loved the appearing of Jesus.
Of course, if we will wear then what expressed our love for him in this life, there is a real challenge for us to meet. Regarding earthly marriages, a lot of care is taken with the bride’s dress. How much more care should be taken with the attire for the heavenly wedding!
It is amazing to think about the nature of the attire. Linen was the type of garment associated with kings and priests, and the mention of it is a reminder of who God’s people are. They were a royal priesthood even when they were on earth and frequently in the Bible they are addressed by those names. Moreover, the actions are now described as bright and pure. Often on earth those actions of obedience were a struggle and always they were marked by sin to some extent. Others were forgotten about long ago, yet here they are contributing to the beauty of the Bride. Although she is now glorified (bright), the glorification is connected to what they did for Jesus out of love. And although she is pure, she is so because they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and can wear them on this notable day.