The Importance of Understanding Idioms


Idiom: “Be Made White”

By Karen Thompson
Third in a Four-Part Series

Idiom: “a language, dialect, or style of speaking peculiar to a people.”

Idioms are expressions, or sayings, used and shared by a particular group of people. For instance, in America, we have literally thousands of idioms that are unique to our culture. There are general idioms that are pretty much understood by most, but within the vast American culture, there are cultural subsets that have their own unique idioms. If you’re not part of that subset, you won’t understand its idioms. It can lead to embarrassing situations.

That’s what happened to a mother who didn’t have a firm grasp on the ever popular communication style of acronyms made fashionable through texting. She thought she understood the acronym she was using, but clearly she did not. Her faux pas happened when she texted her son to inform him that one of their relatives was in the hospital. She signed her text “Mom, LOL.” He texted back and asked her what she thought was so funny. She texted back and said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Mom, you texted LOL. That stands for laughing out loud.” She texted back, “Oh dear, I thought it meant ‘lots of love.’ I have to go now. I need to call everybody I sent that text to and explain myself.”

Idioms—if you don’t get them right, a lot of confusion can ensue.

Here’s a popular idiom in America: Going green. It’s an idiom that means living your life in such a way that is friendly to the natural environment and that will cause no ill effect to the earth. Sometimes it’s shortened to just one word: green. Example: “That company is green now, but I think it has less to do with its concern of the environment and more to do with making green, as in green money.”

The prophets also had a one-word idiom: white.

The book of Daniel is where we see the one-word idiom of “white” used. In fact, it’s used twice. In Daniel chapter 11, an angel told Daniel how the Jewish people would go through a time of testing in the end times: “And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed” (Dan. 11:35). The angel said the Jewish descendants living in the end times would experience a time when they would be tried, and this time of testing will purge out from among them the unbelieving. Then he used the one-word acronym to describe how this would make them “white.”

This same language is used again in Daniel chapter 12. The angel of the Lord was again speaking to Daniel about what would happen to the Jewish descendants in the end time; Daniel asked how it would all end. The angel said, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried…” (Dan. 12:10). Again, we are told what would happen to the Jewish people during the end times. They will go through the greatest testing of their entire existence. The angel repeated the expression saying they would be purified and “made white.”

In both instances in Daniel, we can tell from the context of how the word white is being used that “made white” means to be purified in faith toward God. The Hebrew definition of white confirms it. The Hebrew word translated as white is laban and it means “to be white, to make white, become white, purify, to show whiteness, grow white; to become white, be purified (ethical).”

Let’s look at how Jesus used it in His messages to the churches in Revelation. In His message to the church at Sardis, Jesus talked about white clothing and said, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. … Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment…” (Rev. 3:1–5).

Sardis is known as the dead church. The believers there were on the verge of dying spiritually. Jesus told them to repent and to remember what they had received and heard and to hold fast to it. He singled out certain believers in their midst for praise. There were some believers in Sardis that had not defiled their garments. Those believers, He said, would “walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” In the next verse, Jesus explained what He meant when He said they would walk with Him in white: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment….” When He said they would walk with Him in white, He meant their clothing would be white.

Let’s look how Jesus used the word white in His message to the church at Laodicea: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; … I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear…” (Rev. 3:14–18).

They thought they were spiritually right with God, but Jesus said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. His advice for them was to “buy of me … white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed….” He called them spiritually naked, and then He advised them to buy from Him clothing, specifically white clothing.

Again, from the context of how Jesus used the word white, we know it means to be purified in faith. The Greek definition of the word white confirms it. In both of these references in Revelation, the Greek word translated as white is leukos and it means “light, bright, brilliant; brilliant from whiteness, (dazzling) white; 1. of the garments of angels, and of those exalted to the splendor of the heavenly state 2. shining or white garments worn on festive or state occasions 3. of white garments as the sign of innocence and purity of the soul.”

Ecclesiastes 9:7–8 also uses the idiom of white clothing to mean purity: “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white….”

The great prophet Isaiah used the color white to symbolize the forgiveness of our sins: “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).

Also, the symbolism of holiness in the color white is reflected in Israel’s most holy day. On the holy day of atonement, the high priest’s garments—a linen coat, linen breeches, and a linen girdle, and a linen mitre (the headdress)—were all white. In addition, the temple choir was dressed in white linen, as well (2 Chron. 5:12).

In the Bible, the beings that dwell in heaven, whether they be human or angelic, all wear white garments. The two angels that were present at Jesus’ empty sepulcher were wearing white garments: “The angel of the Lord descended from heaven … His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow…” (Matt. 28:2–3).

When Jesus ascended to heaven, two men wearing white appeared to His followers: “And when he had spoke these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel…” (Acts 1:10).

When Daniel saw God sitting on His throne in heaven, His garment was white: “I beheld … and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow…” (Dan. 7:9).

In Revelation, the 24 elders seated around God’s throne all wore white: “…and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment…” (Rev. 4:4).

The saints who were martyred for their faith were given white robes: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God … And white robes were given unto every one of them…” (Rev. 6:9–1).

When John saw the multitude that went through the tribulation, he said they were wearing white robes: “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude … stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes … And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? … And he said to me, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9, 14, 13). Notice John said their robes were made white by being washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Even the army of the Lord Jesus that accompanies Him into the battle of Armageddon will be dressed in white and riding white horses: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True … and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:11–14).

Furthermore, the seven angels that pour out the seven plagues on the earth are all dressed in white linen: “And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen…” (Rev. 15:6).

In fact, it was the custom of the early church to wear white on Easter Sunday. Down through the years, however, the tradition went from wearing white to wearing pastel colors. I’m sure the color change was due to not understanding the symbolism of the color white.

The color white symbolizes righteousness, holiness, and purity. White is the color of heaven. Beings in heaven wear white. The only exception of angels not wearing white is when they walk among us disguised as one of us. As it says in Hebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for there by some have entertained angels unawares.” Stories of angels taking on the appearance of regular folk, dressed in normal clothing are numerous. But if they appear before you in their natural state, they will be dressed in white.

That brings me to an unusual experience a woman once shared with me concerning angels. At one point in her life, beautiful angels began to appear before her. They had no message. They simply appeared and then vanished after a few moments. They were typical in appearance in how one would imagine an angel would look. They had wings and were dressed in long beautiful, flowing garments. Then one day, an angel touched her shoulder. She said it didn’t feel right, and she had a bad feeling about it. It was at that moment she realized they were not sent from God, but it was “Satan … transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). She told them to leave, and they never appeared again. But false angels don’t manifest without cause. She learned later that she had inadvertently opened the door to them. But the clue that should have told her immediately that they were not sent from God is that their beautiful, flowing garments were all in pastel colors. Not white!

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