Within these verses in Romans 8 lies the key to understanding what has been delaying the marriage of the Lamb. All of creation has been waiting “for the revealing of the sons of God.” God has designed that redeemed mankind will become like Christ and will have dominion over the universe along with Him. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:14,17, 29). The fact that the saints will be joint heirs with Christ is all the more awesome when we consider what Christ is inheriting—“God… has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). Revelation 21:7 makes it clear that the redeemed will receive the same inheritance—“He who overcomes shall inherit all things.

John heard and saw “many angels around the throne” (Revelation 5:11). But the saints who overcome are not destined to stand around the throne of Christ; they will sit on His throne with Him![1] “To Him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11,12). The Book of Revelation clearly teaches that the redeemed will reign with Christ, first for a thousand years in Heaven (Revelation 20:4) and then forever upon earth when New Jerusalem and the throne of God are established on the new earth (Revelation 22:3-5, 5:9,10, 21:1-3).

Despite God’s promises, mankind has never shown itself fit to reign. Ever since the beginning, Adam and his descendants have been sinning and destroying rather than blessing and nurturing God’s creation. Righteousness has been imputed to sinners and eternal life has been granted by grace based upon Christ’s perfect life and His atoning death on the Cross, but this does not demonstrate their fitness to reign over the universe.

However, in the midst of the time of trouble God’s people will allow God to fully perfect a Christ-like character within them—“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). It is not that they will try harder and finally “get their act together.” Victory over sin and perfection of character is as much a gift of God as is repentance and forgiveness; and the conditions and events during the time of trouble will cause God’s people to seek His grace and submit to Him as never before. This is the meaning of Revelation 19:8, His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Imputed righteousness (justification) is based on the righteous acts of Christ, but imparted righteousness (sanctification) is demonstrated through the righteous deeds of the saints” and it is these acts of righteousness which show that the Church has finally made herself ready” to reign with Christ.

The church being ready to reign also makes it possible for Babylon to be destroyed. Babylon is not some evil entity that is so powerful that God could not protect His people from her. The Lord Himself has used His enemies to chasten and punish his people in order to bring them to repentance.[2] What this punishment really amounts to is that the Lord does not continue to protect His people when they persistently reject Him.

Laodicea, the church just before the time of trouble, offers the ultimate form of rejection— lukewarm indifference—and God will allow “Babylon the Great” to rise up against her. Laodicea’s experience with end-time Babylon will be like ancient Israel’s experience with Babylon when they rejected God. “The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings…yet you have not listened to Me’, says the Lord…‘Because you have not heard My words, behold I will send… the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land” (Jeremiah 25:4-9).

However, oppression by Babylon brings God’s people to their senses. “In those days and in that time’ says the Lord, ‘the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, with continual weeping they shall come, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces toward it, saying, ‘Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that will not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 50:4,5).

In response to their repentance God calls them to come out of Babylon so that they will not be harmed in the destruction He will bring against her. “Move from the midst of Babylon, go out of the land of the Chaldeans…for behold, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations” (vs. 9,10). The redemption of God’s people, although painful for them, will be complete—“The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve” (v.20).

Continue to next section: 19:9,10 THE MARRIAGE SUPPER

[1] Many translations of Hebrews 2:6-8 indicate that man was only temporarily to be lower than the angels. For example, the New Revised Standard reads, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.’ Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor.” Identical Greek wording for Jesus’ obviously temporary state “lower than the angels” and mankind’s status shows that just as Jesus was exalted “having become so much better than the angels” (Hebrews 1:4), so will be redeemed humanity.

[2] For example, “Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand” (Jeremiah 51:7). “I will send and take all the families of the north’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land” (Jeremiah 25:9). “The Lord will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people…The Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria…The Lord will shave with a hired razor, with those from beyond the River, with the king of Assyria…Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath” (Isaiah 7:17,18,20, 10:5,6).