Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Revelation has one big question on its mind: What are you wearing?
Clothes and what we look like on the outside can often reflects who we are on the inside. A man wearing an expensive suit might be a high-powered ad executive (or just some guy with an expensive suit). Someone dressed in dirty, torn-up clothes might be homeless (or have a broken washer and sewing machine).
They say don't judge a book by its cover, but, in Revelation, clothes clearly make the man (or woman).
The Guys in the White Hats
For example, if you're a good guy, you're clearly wearing white:
• The martyrs get white clothes when they enter Heaven (3:4, 4:18, 6:11, 7:9). Die for Christ, get a free robe? Not a bad deal.
• John sees seven angels "robed in pure bright linen" (15:6). They must have some nice detergent with bleach.
• The armies of Heaven "wea[r] fine linen, white and pure" (19:13). This is their post-battle attire, of course.
• The Bride of the Lamb (in other words, The Church) is "clothed with fine linen, bright and pure" (19:7). And we thought Queen Victoria started the whole wearing-white-on-your-wedding-day thing.
The higher ups even get to add fashionable accessories. Jesus and some of the angels sport fabulous golden sashes (1:13, 15:6). And the Woman Clothed with the Sun is, well, clothed with the sun (12:1). Eat your heart out, Anna Wintour.
Revelation also contains plenty of warnings not to get clothes dirty. If you have clean clothes, you'll be blessed (3:4) (cleanliness is next to godliness). Wash your robes and you also get a one-way pass into the New Jerusalem (22:14). Also acceptable is washing them in blood (7:14). The blood of the Lamb, of course. Tide doesn't really make a very good blood-based detergent.
Great White Hope
All this white, bright, golden clothing stands for the purity and goodness of those who are wearing it. You'll also notice that everything is super simple. Just modest, freshly laundered robes… with an occasion golden sash thrown in. But that's always in good taste.
So these guys are clearly the good guys because their clothes are clean and modest to reflect the inward modesty and innocence of their souls. Too bad we can't say the same thing for other people.
The Guys in the Black Hats
By contrast, the bad guys are seen wearing gaudy outfits, like the Whore of Babylon, who shows up to the party "clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls" (17:4). It's also not so great to be naked. Stay awake and stay clothed, otherwise you expose yourself to shame (16:15). That's actually a good tip.
So the Whore of Babylon is wearing red (a sexy, decadent color) and purple (a royal color—even though she's not a true queen anyway). She's also dripping with jewels, which shows her lavish lifestyle and greed. Anyone who's naked is missing their pure, white, good robes. They're not only wandering around naked, though; they're wandering around without Christ, which is way, way worse.
These stereotypes about clothes and colors play out all over the place:
• Jessica Rabbit wears red to indicate her sex symbol status.
• Darth Maul was born to be a villain. Even his skin is red and black. And he fights with a red lightsaber. Come on…
• The nasty queen bee in Heathers always gets the red scrunchie.
• On Lost, Jacob wears white, but his nemesis The Man in Black wears, well, black. Although, come to think of it, they're both pretty sketchy.
• God wears a pristine white suit in Bruce Almighty.
• Luke Skywalker wears all white, just like his sister, Leia.
• In the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus wears a white suit in the courtroom.
• Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings goes from tacking "the Gray" on the end of his name to being Gandalf the White. Meanwhile the corrupted Saruman takes the name Saruman of Many Colors.