When God looks at the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:15–18, He sees a people who are neither cold nor hot; they think they are rich and in need of nothing, but they make God sick. In fact, so much so that He will spue them out of His mouth. Their condition appears appalling but there is still hope for them if they buy “gold tried in the fire” and anoint their “eyes with eyesalve, that they may see” their need.
We are encouraged when we read in Revelation 19:7–9 that there is a small company within the Laodicean church who have heeded this counsel and availed themselves of the righteousness of Christ. It says, “and his wife hath made herself ready. 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: And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
Every normal individual wants to wear good apparel to cover his or her body in a manner that is representative of Christian standards of morality. No Christian in his right mind would want to appear before God improperly dressed. Yet some are totally unaware of their wretched appearance and so blind that they are actually unaware that they are naked.
How could this be? God’s last day servant tells us how such a thing could take place. “The knowledge of our state as God views it, seems to be hidden from us. We see, but perceive not, we hear, but do not understand; and we rest as unconcerned as if the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, rested upon our sanctuary. We profess to know God, and to believe the truth, but in works deny Him. Our deeds are directly adverse to the principles of truth and righteousness, by which we profess to be governed.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 84.
Christ advises us to take certain steps that will place upon us the proper clothing that will cover our nakedness. The problem is we do not see for we are blind because we have not surrendered our will to the Saviour. The fact is Christ does not live within the life. Such individuals do not possess His perfect character which He developed while on earth as a human being and which He offers to us as a free gift.
Our condition as God sees it is hidden from us so that we perceive it not. We hear His voice describing our condition, but we do not understand. Many are naked of God’s garments. They want God’s way but they want it their way. “When Adam and Eve sinned the covering of light, God’s clothing, disappeared. Perceiving they were naked they tried to fashion clothing for themselves from fig leaves and this is what the transgressor of God’s law has done ever since this time. They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 311. God cannot accept us if we wear our own clothing, for our clothing reveals our nakedness. Without the divine clothing that God has provided for us, He cannot save us, for we are spiritually unclothed.
This is exactly why God could not save the Jewish nation when Jesus lived here on earth among them. “It was this that proved the ruin of the Jews, and it will prove the ruin of many souls in our own day. Thousands are making the same mistake as did the Pharisees whom Christ reproved at Matthew’s feast. Rather than give up some cherished idea, or discard some idol of opinion, many refuse the truth which comes down from the Father of light. They trust in self, and depend upon their own wisdom, and do not realize their spiritual poverty. They insist on being saved in some way by which they may perform some important work. When they see that there is no way of weaving self into the work, they reject the salvation provided.” The Desire of Ages, 280.
This is why God has declared of Laodicea that they are wretched, miserable, poor, and blind, and naked because they are following man’s divisive teachings instead of being clothed in obedience to God’s word.
Now it’s time for some vital questions. What is God’s clothing? How do we put it on and keep it clean? These questions must be answered, for we are about to enter the new earth and no one will go there if they are naked in God’s sight.
The clothing which is designed by God is spoken of as the robe of Christ’s righteousness, but many have overlooked the fact that Christ’s righteousness consists of two parts. One, the robe of Christ’s imputed righteousness, and the other, the wedding garment of imparted righteousness. Both garments must be worn to be acceptable in God’s sight and approved for heaven and some day sit with Christ on His throne.
This lovely gift from Christ when placed upon us provides us with forgiveness and justification before God because we are now covered with Christ’s righteousness, not our own righteousness which is but filthy rags. As we examine the fabric of this garment we find it to be imputed, meaning to be attributed vicariously. This simply means that the condition of the sinner is now assumed by another, which Christ called a born-again experience, for when we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, we can then stand before God justified as though we had never sinned. This condition gives us a legal right to possess heaven because it legally satisfies the requirements of God’s eternal law.
Once the filthy garment has been exchanged for Christ’s robe of righteousness in the sinner’s life, he is now in a position to put on the second article, which is called the wedding garment. This is also a gift from Christ to the forgiven sinner and it is imparted to sanctify, to make holy, the person’s character. This is clearly explained in the chapters of Christ’s Object Lessons, beginning on page 307. Here we told that the article of clothing is called a garment, the robe of heaven, and as you examine the texture, it is referred to by Ellen White as our character. “It is in this life that we are to put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness. This is our only opportunity to form characters for the home which Christ has made ready for those who obey His commandments.” Ibid., 319. The moment we put this garment on we begin the sanctification process, which, if consistently followed daily by faith in Christ we shall be recognized in God’s sight as perfect, making us fit to live in heaven with Him.
Perhaps you have never thought of Christ’s righteousness as two separate garments, but note how Inspiration indicates that there are two garments, for it is always referred to as being in the plural. “He is waiting to strip them of their garments stained and polluted with sin, and to put upon them the white robes [plural] of righteousness.” Steps to Christ, 53.
“Only those who are clothed in the garments [that’s plural again] of His righteousness will be able to endure the glory of His presence when He shall appear with ‘power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30).” The Review and Herald, July 9, 1908. So in comparing the robe of light which surrounded the first sinless parents to the garments we must put on, Ellen White has stated in Christ’s Object Lessons, 310, “The robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments.”
Again speaking of Christ’s willingness to clothe the repentant sinner, we read in The Great Controversy, 415: “Christ could stoop to raise unnumbered multitudes from the abyss of ruin and clothe them with the spotless garments [plural] of His own righteousness.”
“Clothed in the glorious apparel of Christ’s righteousness, they have a place at the King’s feast. They have a right to join the blood-washed throng.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 315.
Did you catch that phrase apparel of Christ’s righteousness? Since Christ’s righteousness involves two garments we should be very careful to be sure that we are clothed with both garments, because He is coming soon and unexpectedly, and we must be appropriately attired to rise in glory with Him.
In Revelation 16:15 He tells us, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments [plural], lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Plainly is seen that the righteous garments which Christ provides are 1) the robe of justification which is imputed to the repentant sinner and, 2) the wedding garment of sanctification imparted to those forgiven and justified and willing to cooperate with Christ in the development of a Christ-like character.
“Righteousness within is testified to by righteousness without. He who is righteous within is not hard-hearted and unsympathetic, but day by day he grows into the image of Christ, going on from strength to strength. He who is being sanctified by the truth will be self-controlled, and will follow in the footsteps of Christ until grace is lost in glory.” The Review and Herald, June 4, 1895.
In clear words we are told: “The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.” Ibid.
Oh what precious gifts God has made available to us, especially to those longing to be saved. We should be proclaiming this message of Christ’s righteousness and justification and sanctification everywhere we go, for this is indeed the third angel’s message.
“All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 92.
Christ’s righteousness, both justification and sanctification, are the clothing necessary to be worn by a candidate for heaven. This is God’s prescription for naked Laodicea and it is a prescription to be taken by the individual.
“The work of preparation is an individual work. We are not saved in groups. … He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” The Great Controversy, 490.
Now when God says Laodicea, He means you and me, for we are the church. Let us carefully consider our individual spiritual condition, for the scriptures tell us that the majority within the church are unaware of their personal condition. Remember, we have all sinned. We must never forget what happened to our first parents who sinned.
“When sin entered, they [Adam and Eve] severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.
“This is what the transgressors of God’s law have done ever since the day of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. … They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable to God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 311.
God is permitting the shaking which is now taking place within the church to awaken the sleepers to their nakedness so that they put on the clothing that God is anxious to provide to enable them to stand before our God, fully clothed in the righteousness of Christ, justified and preparing unto perfection by the sanctification process. We are to be arrayed in the garments of heaven: “… in the fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:8).
There is no doubt that most everyone reading these words has experienced the effects of wearing the first garment where you have repented of your sins and have been forgiven and by faith, believed in Jesus Christ who has justified you before His Father as though you have never sinned. So there’s no doubting that you have received the imputed righteousness of Christ because you accepted Christ as your personal Savior. But what about this second garment which has to do with our character?
“It is the righteousness of Christ, His own unblemished character, that through faith is imparted [meaning, given] to all who receive Him as their personal Saviour.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310. This imparted gift will transform our character, making our character Christ-like.
“Righteousness is holiness, likeness to God, and ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16). It is conformity to the law of God, for ‘all Thy commandments are righteousness’ (Psalm 119:172), and ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10). Righteousness is love, and love is the light and life of God. The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him.
“Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it. ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat, … without money and without price.’ ‘Their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord,’ and ‘This is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness’ (Isaiah 55:1; 54:17; Jeremiah 23:6).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 18.
Character has to do with our moral constitution, our peculiarities, our qualities. If Christ is to conform our character to His character, we must therefore partake of His divine nature. In Selected Messages, Book 1, 374, it says, “In order that we may have the righteousness of Christ, we need daily to be transformed by the influence of the Spirit, to be a partaker of the divine nature.” And why is it so important to be a partaker of divine nature? Because by this power we can gain the victory over every sin.
“He [Christ] makes an end of the controlling power of sin in the heart, … for it is necessary that every believer should be delivered from pollution, as well as from the curse and condemnation of the law. … for Christ works within us, and His righteousness is upon us.” Ibid., 395.
Then these words: “Without this no soul will be entitled to heaven.” Ibid.
That should cause us to think. So the wedding garment when worn gives us Christ’s character and this means victory over every sin. This is why we must bring our character into conformity to Christ’s character so we can stop sinning before He comes. Sanctification is a gift of God to each one who will cooperate with Him. His character is to become our character. Without this garment no one will be fitted for heaven. So I ask you sincerely, are we permitting Christ to impart His pure, spotless character, His divine nature, to us?
Consider how sanctification is tailored to fit the individual. First, it is God’s gift. It is free for the asking. Secondly, it requires a hard, stern battle with self every day, through and by the grace of God. “Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble, all-around character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to examine ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected.
“Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you can not overcome. The real difficulty arises from the corruption of an unsanctified heart, and an unwillingness to submit to the control of God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 331.
We have a perfect right to the imputed righteousness. This garment of justification gives us a title to possess heaven, but in order to possess heaven we must also have a fitness for heaven, which is sanctification.
This is the difference between the Seventh-day Adventist church and all other Protestant churches. The other churches claim to have received the imputed righteousness, that is, they accepted Jesus. Therefore they are forgiven and they are justified. They’ve only put on the first garment. But the Laodicean church of Christ is to put on both garments. Not only are we to have a title to heaven, having received forgiveness and justification, but we are to put on a wedding garment tailored to each individual so that our humanity can be combined with divinity. Are you grasping this mighty wonder? For as it was experienced by Christ, so it may happen to you.
“Christ’s humanity was united with divinity, and in this strength He would bear all temptations that Satan could bring against Him, and yet keep His soul untainted by sin. And this power to overcome He would give to every son and daughter of Adam who would accept by faith the righteous attributes of His character.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 223.
Praise God! Can we comprehend such a gift? God giving us power, the same power He gave to His Son? We too can then live above sin if we will permit the sanctification process to develop within us a Christ-like character. When the imputed righteousness of Christ is received by the repentant sinner it is then possible for Christ to impart through the Holy Spirit His pure spotless character to the believer, thus placing the wedding garment upon Him. So it is that we become partakers of the divine nature which enables us to overcome just as Christ overcame, having developed a perfect Christ-like fitness for heaven.
But the problem of Laodicea is an alarming problem, for so many seem to be content with only the robe of forgiveness and justification, giving them a title to heaven. But friend, a title to heaven is worthless until we take possession of heaven, which involves obtaining a fitness for heaven, an experience gained only through the sanctification process. We all agree we have been born with a sinful nature, but given the wedding garment tailored to our perfection by divine nature, we can possess a power to overcome as Christ overcame.
Here’s where new theology and the truth differ. The new theology would have you believe that because you inherited a sinful nature you are going to sin till Jesus comes. This is a most dangerous and damnable teaching that is being promoted by the devil himself, but God gives us both the imputed and the imparted gift of righteousness so that the following statement can be fulfilled in our lives: “The obedience that Christ rendered God requires from human beings today.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 282.
Since His power of divinity is to be ours, a few words of caution are now in order.
“Let not God be dishonored by the declaration from human lips, ‘I am sinless; I am holy.’ Sanctified lips will never give utterance to such presumptuous words.” The Acts of the Apostles, 561.
“If we do not progress, if we do not place ourselves in an attitude to receive both the former and the latter rain, we shall lose our souls.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 306.
“The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God’s grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed to the likeness of Christ.” Ibid., 506.
But, “Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection.” Ibid.
“As we seek God for the Holy Spirit, it will work in us meekness, humbleness of mind, a conscious dependence upon God for the perfecting latter rain.” The Faith I Live By, 334.
You see, the seeds of grain must have received the former rain to germinate and continue to mature. They must be watered by the latter rain until the characters are perfected in Christ’s likeness. It is encouraging to learn from Steps to Christ that such growth in Christ is as effortless and natural as the growth of flowers (see the chapter “Growing Up Into Christ”).
“Let no one despair of gaining the victory. Victory is sure when self is surrendered to God.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1095.
That tells me that I can do it and that you can do it. But we must depend on God and not on man’s word, for we must have heaven’s robes upon us to cover our nakedness.
“The Scriptures plainly show that the work of sanctification is progressive. When in conversion the sinner finds peace with God through the blood of the atonement, the Christian life has but just begun. Now he is to ‘go on unto perfection’ (Hebrews 6:1).” The Great Controversy, 470. Therefore, let us recognize that God has placed both justification and sanctification in their proper order. Both are of faith and both are necessary in God’s plan for saving man. Remember, the nakedness found in Laodicea is largely because of an improper understanding of justification and sanctification. The vast majority are satisfied with forgiveness and justification only. They feel no need of sanctification, of developing Christ-like characters.
May God help each of us to lay hold on and to put on the robes of justification and sanctification, for we cannot continue to hold on to one sin and be saved. Our commitment must be inclusive, absolute, and complete.
[All emphasis supplied.]
For more than fifty years, Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.