By Bill Fiess with Pam Esteven
In the book of Revelation there is an impressive number of references to clothing which encompasses a variety of Greek words. Often in Scripture, the believer’s garment represents righteous works done in faithful obedience to God (e.g., Rev 16:15; 19:8).
For the sake of brevity, we will examine a few of the verses in Revelation which mention the himation, an outer garment or cloak that was typically woven from wool or linen. The himation was put on over the chiton, the inner tunic, and was worn by Jews and Greeks alike. The Hebrew style and the Greek style were virtually indistinguishable. When himation occurs in the plural, it can refer to both the outer and the inner garment.
Three occurrences of himation are found in Revelation 3, the second half of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor.
Jesus told the church at Sardis, “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments [himatia]; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev 3:4).
Some believers in Sardis had remained faithful to Christ, even in the midst of a church which He had called “dead.” Jesus promised that those who overcome “shall be clothed in white garments [himatiois], and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev 3:5).
It quickly becomes evident that the himatia mentioned here are much more than physical garments; they also refer to lifestyle choices and deeds. Each believer must take care to guard his own “garments,” and for those who do, there is the promise of great reward.
We find the third occurrence in Jesus’ letter to Laodicea: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments [himatia], that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed…” (v 18a).
Jesus gave them a list of items they needed to purchase from Him in order to change their status. The white garments Jesus mentioned in v 18 represent the “righteous acts of the saints” (see Rev 19:8). At the time of this letter, the Laodicean church had no righteous acts to their account.
Apart from Christ, our lives will not produce righteous acts worthy of God’s approval. In encouraging the believers in Rome to “put on Christ” (see Rom 13:14), the Apostle Paul used a word regularly employed to describe putting on a garment. We must “put on Christ” if we want to live lives that produce works pleasing to God. Jesus and His Word are the only sources from which God-approved works flow; they do not flow from self, a lesson the Laodiceans badly needed to learn.
The Greek word translated “nakedness” in Rev 3:18 can mean the state of being completely stripped of all clothing, or it can simply refer to the lack of a himation. Whether the word here refers to complete nakedness or merely to the lack of an outer garment (and thus, a lack of righteous acts), it is clear that shame is a real possibility when a believer is assessed by the Lord.
He Who Watches
A significant use of himation is found in Rev 16:15b: “Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments [himatia], lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
The Greek word translated watches refers to spiritual alertness and vigilance, while keeps denotes both observing and preserving.
In other words, it is the believer’s responsibility to take care that his works are pleasing to the Lord. Good and godly works do not occur automatically in the believer. If they did, the Bible would skip everything between Acts and Revelation.
Note that vigilance leads to blessing, but a lack of vigilance leads to shame (see also 1 John 2:28). A believer who is not watchful is in danger of not producing works pleasing to God (hence, the nakedness referred to here), and therefore not reigning with Christ in the Kingdom. This is more evidence that there are various degrees of rewards and experience for believers in the life to come.
Just as our himatia will reflect our righteous deeds, so, too, does the Lord Jesus’ himation reflect His.
When Jesus returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation, His clothing is noteworthy: “He was clothed with a robe [himation] dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (Rev 19:13).
Jesus’ himation is dipped in blood, not His own, but that of His enemies (see, e.g., Isa 34:1-8; 63:1-6; Mic 2:12-13; Hab 3:12-16). Jesus’ himation commemorates His righteous works. He has acted righteously as Avenger of Israel and Conqueror of God’s enemies. His himation will be inscribed with the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16). Operation Footstool will be accomplished at last!
Getting Dressed for the Occasion
A cursory survey of clothing mentioned in Revelation demonstrates the importance of the topic, especially as it relates to the himation representing righteous acts approved by God. Each believer is responsible for the condition of his himation, and no believer can accomplish anything without Christ: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
It is beneficial to remember that “we must all appear before the Judgment Seat [Bema] of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
Are you planning now what you will wear at the Bema? Do you need to update your spiritual wardrobe?
Bill Fiess teaches math in Virginia and is an ardent LOGOS user. Pam Esteven is a writer and editor in Baton Rouge, LA.