Before the dreadful Judgment Throne
Of holiness and pow’r
A terrifying scene is shown
Of sinners’ fateful hour.
For there the Law reveals their guilt
And all will fall in shame,
Arrayed in only rags of filth
With nothing good to claim.
But hope remains, for near the Throne
An Advocate now stands.
He lives the precious ones to own
Whose names are on His hands.
Before the sentence comes to bear
He stays the Judge Divine,
And makes His strong petition there,
And calls the guilty “Mine.”
The penalty reserved for them
By Him is fully paid.
No longer can their debt condemn;
Atonement has been made.
He takes their filthy, tattered clothes
And gives them His own dress,
And with this spotless robe bestows
His perfect righteousness.
No longer stricken still by fear
Nor dreading punishment,
The ransomed raise their heads to hear
The verdict: “Innocent!”
To those He has defended well
Assurance now is giv’n
That since He knew their horrid Hell
They all will know His Heav’n.
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This hymn was largely inspired by the imagery of Zechariah 3, which gives us something of the “courtroom drama” of Heaven. In that chapter we find the High Priest, Joshua, standing before the judgment throne of God in rags of filth. This represents his sin, and guilt before an all-holy God. Satan is nearby, as the prosecutor, sure to remind Joshua of his unworthiness. Yet just as he is about to despair, fully expecting condemnation, the Angel of the Lord appears, saying: “‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments’” (Zech. 3:4). This is, of course, a picture of what happens for us in our justification: our sin is taken away and we are given the righteousness of Christ. Take heart, dear Christian. As this hymn reminds us, when we too will stand unworthily before the throne of God, we shall have an Advocate pleading our cause, silencing the accusations of sin and Satan. This Advocate, Christ, will take our filthy rags and give us His pure vestments—His very own righteousness.
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