I got asked last night what I thought about why the Lord has not returned, and if I thought it had something to do with the bride NOT preparing herself. I gave that some thought and wanted to read the few scriptures in the New Testament that use the word "bride" (very few) before I replied. Here are several things that I pondered, and then I summarize my very tentative answer below. I'd be interested in your take on the question.
1. We don't have a single instance of Jesus' teaching his disciples about the people of God as the Bride (and he never uses the word "bride" in the four gospels, or the rest of the NT including Revelation).
2. John the Baptist makes a DECLARATION ("this is true, ponder this!"), NOT an EXHORTATION ("become the bride!"): John 3:29 "The bride belongs to the bridegroom" (cf. Rev 21:9: "of the Lamb" = belonging to). It reminds me of 1 Cor 12: we ARE the Body of Christ and each one of us is a part of it. Declaration: it is a fact. It doesn't mention the purity of the bride here, just that the bride belongs to the bridegroom.
3. Revelation 19:7-9 (quoted below) APPEARS to answer your question in the affirmative, yet not quite.
(a) God brings the wedding: the wedding of the Lamb "has come" = divine passive construction="God has brought the wedding."
(b) Our part begins with "AND." "God has brought the wedding AND his bride has made herself ready." Why is that important? We are not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). It does not say "because," but "and." The two happen at the same time.
(c) Verse 8 puts it in a divine passive construction again: "was given to her to wear." God clothes her in fine linen...
(d) ...AND this fine linen is our righteous acts (the parentheses () in the quote below are in the text itself, not my insertion). God's action AND our action. God's clothing and our obedience. Grace AND good works/obedience...
(e) We don't need to go there, right? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken: GRACE upon grace results in obedience (and, James corrective: if no obedience, there was no grace).
(f) All in the context of Jesus' teaching that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will inherit the kingdom, but only those who DO what He says (for whom He is truly Lord=if He's your Lord you can't not do what He is saying).
Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
4. It all ends with a divine passive construction: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). Dressed by Whom? You don't need to ask: divine passive construction: dressed by God.
So, after pondering these passages afresh (is there one I overlooked? Please let me know), here is my answer: The Lord will come when He comes. He is the Lord. If He chooses to wait, it is His choice-not ours. If He arrives and we are not ready, He arrives nevertheless. Not everyone will be ready, and the consequences will be disastrous for them. Those who are ready have no boast--they have been made ready by Him, they have been washed and cleansed and salvaged by His gracious hand. If He has done that for them, you can observe it in their behavior: they obey Him.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue to do what He says, AND not go beyond what is written. Let us pray as we should, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Let us be found ready when He comes.