************ Sermon on Revelation 22:17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 4, 2010
Verse 17 has four emphatic commands: "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" They are all in the imperative:
(Rev 22:17) The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.There is a sense of urgency. So, "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!"
To understand what this passage means as we prepare for the Lord's Supper, we need to ask and answer four different questions.
I Addressed to the Churches
A "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" The first question: To whom are these four commands addressed?
Almost twenty years ago I preached on this passage. I made a mistake then. At that time, I said this was a prayer, a command, for Jesus to come. After all, three times in Revelation 22 Jesus makes the promise, "Behold, I am coming soon!" (Rev 22:7, 12, 20). And, John quickly responds with, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20). So, Jesus is being held to His promise.
In looking at this passage this past week, I realized there were a number of problems with what I said twenty years ago. First, who are we to issue a series of commands to the Lord Jesus Christ? After all, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Root of David, the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star (Rev 22:13,16); we learned last time that these titles mean He is God and Messiah. How can we sinful, fallen creatures possibly issue commands to One so exalted?
Second, notice the third command to "Come!" It is a command "to the thirsty." This cannot be a command to Jesus because, according to Revelation 21, it is He Who gives to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life (Rev 21:6). It is impossible for the source of living water Himself to be thirsty.
B To whom are the four commands addressed? Twenty years ago I also suggested that the commands of verse 17 are a final evangelistic appeal to the unbelieving to come to Jesus. Jesus is coming soon. Jesus is coming quickly. Jesus is coming at any moment. In light of this, "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" Don't wait until it is too late. Because, once the second coming has happened it is too late to come to Jesus.
How many evangelistic appeals have we seen so far in the Revelation? How many times has John appealed to the unbelieving? How often, up to this point, has John appealed to the pagans and heathens of the Greek and Roman worlds to believe in Jesus? How many? Zero. None. Nada. I really blew it twenty years ago, didn't I?!
C To whom are the four commands addressed? Let me ask another question: "To whom is the whole book addressed?" Who is the original audience? Remember what John wrote way back in chapter 1:
(Rev 1:10-11) On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, (11) which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."The Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor. These seven church represent not only all the other churches of Asia Minor; they, also, represent the earthly church of all times and all places. Remember what we saw last week in verse 16:
(Rev 22:16) "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches."The Revelation is "for the churches."
My brothers and sisters, in verse 17 John is still addressing the churches. He has never stopped addressing the churches. So, the four commands of our text are meant for the churches. It is to the churches that John says, "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!"
D To whom are the four commands addressed? The churches. Now, did you notice how our text describes the churches? "Whoever is thirsty." "Whoever is thirsty." Thirsty for what? Thirsty for God. Thirsty for a closer walk with God. Thirsty for God's forgiveness. Thirsty for God's grace. Thirsty for God's love and presence.
The Christian's greatest and biggest need is God. The Christian is parched and only God can quench his or her thirst. Remember how the psalmist puts this?
(Ps 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
The Spirit and the bride know of this thirst. And, as we prepare for the Lord's Supper, we know of this thirst. We know our thirst for God. So, hear and obey the four commands!
II The Water of Life
A "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" Take what? Take the "water of life!" Which brings us to the second question: What is the "water of life"? What is the free gift of the water of life that the churches are commanded to take?
To answer this question, some of you might be tempted to go to John's Gospel, chapter 4, where Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman about "living water." It is clear in this conversation that "living water" is the present-day experience of those who believe (Jn 4:10-13). In John's Gospel, "living water" is the present-day experience of eternal life for those who believe in Jesus. If you come to Jesus in repentance and faith, yours is the living water of eternal life.
But, notice, John mostly uses a different phrase in the Revelation. Only once does he call it "living water" (Rev 7:17). The rest of the time he calls it the "water of life." What's the difference? "Living water" is present. The "water of life" is future. According to John's Gospel, "living water" is the present-day experience of those who believe in Jesus. According to the Revelation, "water of life" is the future experience of those who believe in Jesus.
B To see how this unfolds, we need to go back to the beginning of Revelation 22:
(Rev 22:1-2) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (2) down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.What is flowing? "The river of the water of life." Where is it flowing? "Down the middle of the great street of the city." What city? The New Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city that comes down out of heaven from God after the making of the new heaven and the new earth (cf Rev 21:1-2). This means the water of life is future. The water of life is the experience of God's people in eternity.
Now consider Revelation 21. He Who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (Rev 21:5). When does that happen? Not now. In the future. When Jesus returns. Then notice what Jesus says,
(Rev 21:6) "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life."Notice, the water of life is given after everything is new, after it is done.
What is the "water of life"? It is God's future gift in the new creation. It is the gift of eternal life.
III The Spirit and the Bride
A "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" The third question: Who is speaking? Who gives these four commands?
Notice what our text says: "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"" The Spirit, of course, is the Holy Spirit. That is simple and easy enough to understand. But who is the bride?
Go back to Revelation 21 and John's vision of the new heaven and new earth. What does John see?
(Rev 21:2) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.The bride is the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
Now, consider the shouting John heard from the great multitude of Revelation 19:
(Rev 19:7-8) 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.)
Who is the bride? Or, who is the bride of Christ? It is the church. It is the glorified church. It is the full company of perfected believers at the end of history.
When we look elsewhere in the New Testament, the church on earth is described as the bride of Christ. But not in the Revelation. In the Revelation, the bride of Christ wears robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, robes that are white and clean. This can only mean the heavenly church, the perfected church, the glorified church. Because what is worn by the church on earth? What is worn by the seven churches of Asia Minor? Look at the letters to the seven churches. We are told their clothes are soiled (Rev 3:4). They have made compromises with sin and evil. They are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17). But the bride John sees is "beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev 21:2).
B This creates a bit of a problem. The bride is speaking. That is, the church is speaking. Remember to whom she is speaking? She is speaking to the seven churches and therefore to all the churches.
So, the church is speaking to the church? Does that even make sense? Is John's bride someone senile, someone mumbling to herself? Is she bi-polar?
Remember, though, we are talking about two different churches. The intended audience is the church on earth – the one with soiled and dirty clothes. The speaker is the glorified church in heaven – the one wearing fine linen, bright and clean. The heavenly church is talking to the earthly church.
This makes me think of the letter to the Hebrews. Remember what is said in Hebrews 12:1?
(Heb 12:1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.Who are these witnesses? The saints spoken of in chapter 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Daniel, and so on. All of them now saints in heaven. All of them glorified saints. So, according to Hebrews, the saints in heaven surround and encourage the saints on earth.
That is what we are to see in our text as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper. The saints in heaven are encouraging the saints on earth.
A "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" The fourth question: What specifically do these commands mean? What exactly is the church in heaven saying to the church on earth? And, what do these commands mean for us as we prepare for the Lord's Supper?
To answer this question, we need to say more about the church in heaven, the church that is speaking in our text. To do that, we need to go back to the great worship scene of Revelation 7. This scene starts with a crowd beyond number from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7:9). They are wearing white robes and holding palm branches (Rev 7:9). We are told that never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst (Rev 7:16). Why? Because the Lamb "will lead them to springs of living water" (Rev 7:17).
Now, notice – this is very important – "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14).
Who are these people to whom the Lamb gives the water of life? They have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus. And, they have endured the great tribulation. They have endured the great tribulation. They have endured the great tribulation. Meaning what? Meaning they are overcomers. Meaning they have persevered to the end. Meaning they have held true to the Gospel. Meaning they have not compromised the faith. Meaning that they have withstood the attacks of the beast, the lies of the prophet, and the allures of Babylon.
The church that overcomes is the church that says "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" The church in heaven speaks to the church on earth and tells her three times to come. Come. Come. And, come again. Come, come, and keep on coming. Come, come, and keep on coming so you can take the living water. Come, come, and keep on coming so you can enjoy eternal life.
B "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" What is the point? It is obvious, isn't it? The church in heaven is calling the church on earth to imitate her and follow her and be like her. The glorified church in heaven is calling the church on earth to persevere. To keep the faith. To finish the race. To fight the good fight (cf 2 Tim 4:7). To hold on to the prize. Don't relent. Don't relax. Don't cave in. Don't give up. Don't let go. Don't succumb. "Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!"
The Tour of California came through Visalia a couple of months ago. Lance Armstrong crashed 10 miles outside of town. After the accident, Armstrong could have decided to quit racing, especially since many of the riders are 15 or more years younger than him. Instead, he trained harder than ever for the Tour de France. So hard, in fact, that he is in fourth place after the first day of racing yesterday – ahead of all his major rivals.Likewise, the church in heaven urges the church on earth to keep on trying and fighting.
Why is the church in heaven saying this? Because the church on earth often grows weary. Because Christians – especially many older Christians – become tired of fighting sin and evil and Satan and the dragon and the beast and the false prophet and Babylon. Because Christians become tired of fighting the sin woven into their garments: the threads of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.
"Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" Come, come, and keep on coming to Jesus – with your sin, with your guilt, with your shame, with your struggles, with your doubts, with your fears, with your worries. And take, take, take from Jesus the free gift of the water of life.
"Come!" "Come!" "Come!" "Take!" My brothers and sisters, listen to the Spirit and the bride. As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, hear their call to persevere. Hear their call to come to Jesus. And yours will be eternal life in the new heaven and new earth.
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