Pamela Ayn Austen
The Symbol of
Artist: Frank Mason
A robe symbolizes honor in Scripture, or the honor of a particular thing. When someone is given a robe, they are being honored. However, when the Roman soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus, they were mocking him and making fun of him for saying he was a king; so they scornfully bowed to him in a sarcastic display of honor.
A judge is given a black robe to symbolize the gravity of his position, not just for the one he's judging, but for himself, in case he judges wrong and causes harm to the innocent before God.
The prodigal son was given "the best robe" by his father, who was so pleased the son was "alive again" that he wanted to promote him on that day, making him the man of honor.
Jacob gave his favorite son, Joseph, a special robe of many colors, and Joseph's brothers became so jealous about the special honor that they sold him into slavery. They brought Joseph's robe back to his father ripped and stained with blood, so as to cause their father to believe that Joseph had died by an animal attack. The ripped and stained robbed was what Joseph's brothers did to the honor that Jacob, his father, had given to him. They were really the animals who attacked Joseph's honor, and sent him away as a dishonored, humiliated slave. (Jealousy takes power in people's heart when they see someone being honored; and they seek to destroy that honor, and symbolically pelt filth on the person's clean robe, so that humiliation, shame, and disgrace takes its place.)
Christians will be given white robes in honor of their saving faith in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. What he did for them, and their faith in him, is what washes their soiled robes and makes them gleaming white.
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day for desiring to wear long robes in public just to gain attention, and they decorated their robes more than they had to, in order to exaggerate their own honor. Their robes symbolized honor, but Jesus called those men "white washed tombs" that looked attractive and honorable on the outside, but were full of rot and evil on the inside. Their robes hid their hypocrisy, and they turned what was honorable into dishonor before God, who sees the heart. Their honorable robes were used to deceive others, and Jesus said, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1
A filthy robe, on the other hand, symbolizes lost honor and a soiled reputation. And I would put forth here: every human being wears a soiled and filthy robe until they are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb: until they are forgiven by God for their sins and they are washed clean by his grace through faith. In Revelations 3:4, Jesus says to the Church in Sardis: "But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments, and because they are worthy, they will walk with me in white."