We should never be seen without our clothes.
Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his tunic with him, that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.Jesus, Revelation 16:15
It sure seems like this is an open and shut condemnation of shameful public nudity here, doesn’t it? After all, it says the words naked and shameful in the same verse!
Modern Christians tend to immediately (and mistakenly) agree that nakedness automatically equals shamefulness.
But what is this verse really talking about?
Biblical scholar FF Bruce explains what readers would have once understood:
The captain of the temple in Jerusalem made his rounds of the precincts by night, and if a member of the temple police was caught asleep at his post, his clothes were confiscated and burned, and he was sent away naked in disgrace.
The symbolic picture here is that of being vigilant! It reminds us of how the Israelites were instructed in Egypt to eat the Passover:
With your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand…Exodus 12:11
There was no time to undress for sleep that night! Instead of knee-jerk reactions, biblical interpretation requires more than one verse.
Sleeping naked was, and still is, a normal nightly state and this makes perfect sense.
If you’re a firefighter or a policeman, however, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice. We should likewise be ready – spiritually awake!
The book of Job tells us that humanity can be clothed with either “righteousness and justice” or with “shame.”
Which would you rather wear?