Enough of the banter about the Rapture, now for something more serious. Yes, really. This post started out as a section of my post The Rapture: will we be clothed or naked? But there is a serious point here which I didn’t want to be lost in that not so serious post.
There is a scene in the 2006 film Marie Antoinette where the young Austrian princess leaves her home territory to enter France. The year is 1770. Before entering her new kingdom, and meeting her bridegroom who will be king, she has to leave behind all her clothes and personal possessions, even her Austrian pet dog. A French lady in waiting tells her she can have as many French dogs as she likes. But nothing Austrian is allowed in France, at least for the bride of the Dauphin who must become completely French.
Similarly, when we as Christians enter the kingdom of heaven as the bride of Christ, we have to leave everything of this world behind us, to receive new things fit for the kingdom of God. This is not so much literally about clothes, although it might include them, as about spiritual encumbrances. We can send treasure on in advance (Matthew 6:20), but we cannot take it with us.
The problem with this rather simplistic picture is that, despite what Harold Camping and other advocates of the Rapture might think, Christians do not move in one simple step, or flight, from this world into a kingdom of God in the sky. Instead, when we become followers of Jesus we start to live in two kingdoms at the same time, the old worldly kingdom over which Satan still claims to be the the prince (John 16:11), and the new kingdom of God which has been breaking into this world ever since the resurrection of Jesus.
So we have time to put aside the worldly things gradually and pick up the things of heaven. There will be no embarrassing intermediate step of nakedness. This is what is traditionally known as “sanctification”, the process by which a Christian gradually lives a more and more holy life. While we can aim to complete this process in this life, unlike John Wesley I don’t believe we will become perfectly sanctified this side of the grave, that is if we reach it before the return of Jesus.
It is only when Jesus does return that we will become perfectly holy. We will then have to put aside every last remnant of our old life. The old kingdom of the world will be destroyed and only the kingdom of God will remain. And we will be clothed again in our holy heavenly garments, our white wedding dress, as the bride of the Lamb.