Revelation 22:17-21

Revelation 22:17-21

THE LAST INVITATION IN THE BIBLE

In this lesson we summarize the simplicity and availability of the Gospel.

OUTLINE

   We have grown so accustomed to comfortable and privileged lifestyles that we are overwhelmed by the Bible's images of judgment. The world, minus the Church, is headed for catastrophic days ahead which some will believe only when they see them. Better to believe now than then.

I.          The Reason Anyone Responds to the Gospel

II.        The Restrictions on Anyone Responding to the Gospel

III.       The Responsibility for Anyone Responding to the Gospel

IV.       The Requirement for Anyone Responding to the Gospel

OVERVIEW

   Forty-two lessons ago we began our study of the book of Revelation. If you have trekked through all four volumes of the study guides on Revelation, may I say congratulations on your perseverance and hunger to know the Word. When these messages were originally preached in our church, God did great things through the words of His prophecy in Revelation. I trust the same has been true in your life as well, that you have already begun to reap the blessings promised to those who read and obey this book.

   It could not be more appropriate that the invitation to come to Christ in verse 17 comes where it does, at the end of the Bible and the book of Revelation. It would be heartbreaking for someone to read this book, to get a glimpse of the future through John's visions, and then leave Revelation without personally coming to know the One who is soon to come. Thus there is the invitation, "And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."

   In our last lesson we learned that until Christ comes, we are to walk submissively, worship triumphantly, witness urgently, work fervently, and watch expectantly. But before anyone can do any of those things, he must first come to Christ. Actually, there are two invitations in verse 17. First the Holy Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" And then the last part of the verse is an invitation to all who thirst to come and take of the water of life freely. John is writing this last chapter not from heaven or from the perspective of the future, but from earth. That is where the Church is, and the Spirit which indwells the Church, as he writes. So the Spirit and the Bride say, "Come back to get Your Church, Lord!"

   Are you saying, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (verse 20)? Some people have told me that their desire for the Lord to return increased as they got older. As their friends and other loved ones began to die and go to be with the Lord, the desire for the Lord to return increased. I know people who are persecuted for their faith

today are probably saying daily, "Come, Lord Jesus!" But in reality, this world is not the true home for any believer. It groans and travails under the curse of sin. Everyone who knows the Lord should be saying, "Come quickly, Lord!"

   John says that "him who hears" should say, "Come!" That is, anyone who hears or reads the words of prophecy he has written down should be responding by asking the Lord to return. Anyone with their spiritual priorities in place will long for Christ to return upon hearing the details of the book of Revelation. Sometimes we get so caught up in our long-range plans we forget that the very best thing that could happen to us if we are believers is for the Lord Jesus Christ to return today. "Come and establish Your kingdom, Lord. Rid the earth of sin. Let righteousness and truth and justice fill the earth."

   This presentation of the Gospel is about as pure and uncomplicated as it gets. Are you thirsty? Then come and drink freely of living water. When we send missionaries from our churches around the world, they are taking this simple message to all who thirst. There are four things about the Gospel as expressed in this verse that we should note as we close our study of Revelation.

THE REASON ANYONE RESPONDS TO THE GOSPEL

   John clearly tells us the reason why anyone comes to Christ through receiving the Gospel message about Him: They are thirsty! All human beings are born with a vacuum, an empty place in their lives, which can only be filled with living water. As people grow and begin to see their own inability to fill that space with what the world offers, and they see the collective empty space in the soul of the whole human race, they begin to identify their thirst. And then when they come in contact with someone who knows the Lord, that thirst becomes more pronounced

and they identify it as spiritual thirst. That is one of the reasons Jesus said we are "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

   Salt is a preservative, first of all, but it also creates thirst. My uncle used to put gigantic blocks of salt out for his cattle to lick so they would eat and drink more and be healthier. That is our purpose as salt in the world, to make the spiritual thirst of people around us so strong that they reach out for the living water which Christ offers. The reason we emphasize godliness and purity and commitment and walking in the truth is, first of all, out of obedience to Christ. But when we do that we so distinguish ourselves from the world that their thirst for living water becomes stronger when they see our lives. The reason people come to Christ is that they are thirsty and discover He is—not He has—living water.

THE RESTRICTIONS ON ANYONE RESPONDING TO THE GOSPEL

   The restrictions on those who might come to Christ are . . non-existent! There are no restrictions. John says, "Whoever desires" Who can come to Christ? Anyone who wants his or her thirst quenched forever.

   I often have people ask me, "How does 'whoever' fit with the doctrine of election?" The Bible does teach election, but it also teaches "whoever." Therefore, both are true. I do not pretend to understand how all of that works out in the mind of God, but that is not my job. My job is to make the Gospel attractive to the thirsty—whoever is thirsty—and trust God to work out the election part. There are thirsty people all over the world wherever I go. So there is no shortage of opportunity to be salt to create thirst and then offer living water through the Gospel of Christ.

   Whether they get saved or not is not my business; I leave that part to God. All I have to do is say to a thirsty person, "Jesus Christ loves you and died for you and wants to fill your life with the meaning and purpose God created you to enjoy." The Bible places no restrictions on my ability and my responsibility to do that wherever I go.

   If you think there is someone you have witnessed to who is "unsavable," you need to read the "whoever" verse again. Anyone who wants to be saved can be saved.

THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYONE RESPONDING TO THE GOSPEL

   We've talked about the Christian's responsibility to be salt to "whoever" is thirsty. But what about the responsibility of the person who is responding to the Gospel? His or her responsibility is best seen in the King James ("whosoever will") and the New King James ("whoever desires") versions of verse 17.

   Where does a person get saved? In his intellect? Does he gather and retain a certain kind and amount of information, and then he is saved? Is it a matter of education? Apparently not since we all know highly educated and intelligent people who are not saved. We cannot educate people into the kingdom of God.

   What about the emotions? Do people get saved because they feel saved? The danger with that is, if they are having a good day they have assurance of their salvation, but if they are having a bad day they think they lost their salvation. That makes the Christian life a roller coaster experience that is foreign to the Gospel. We do not get saved in our emotions.

   Before you object to what I am saying, let me acknowledge that the intellect and emotions are, of course, important in the Christian life. We do have to know certain things to be saved, and we will have emotional responses to our salvation experience. But the thirsty person is not responsible first and foremost to be smart or emotional. In the truest sense, we are saved in our will— "whoever will" or "whoever wants to." We are saved when we say, "Lord, I will place my faith in You to forgive my sins, and I receive eternal life."

   One of the best illustrations we have of this in Scripture is the prodigal son. This is the boy who rose up and demanded his share of his father's inheritance, then left home and spent it all on wasteful living. He had no money and ended up feeding the pigs on a farm in order to get something to eat. Then he began to think about how life had been at home, how the servants in his father's house lived better than he was living.

The Bible does not focus on his intellect or his emotions. It simply records his words: "I will arise and go to my father" (Luke 15:18). His deliverance out of his desperate situation came as a result, not of intellect or emotion, but of the choice of the will.

People put off believing in Jesus all the time because they "don't understand enough" or they "don't feel like it" when those are not the issues. Salvation is a choice of the will, choosing to believe in Jesus as Savior and to follow Him as Lord.

THE REQUIREMENT FOR ANYONE RESPONDING TO THE GOSPEL

   Finally, the Gospel requires something of anyone coming in need of living water. Verse 17 says, "Let him take the water of life." The only thing a thirsty person has to do is reach out and take

the water.

   Now some people will say that is just too easy; there must be more to it. There must be something I have to say, or there must be some level of maturity or goodness I have to attain, or there must be some kind of schooling or education I have to undergo. And the answer is nothing. All you have to do is take the water. Others will argue that the very act of taking the water is a form of good works, that there is absolutely nothing we do to be saved, and that it is all of grace. Well, reaching out and receiving a gift does not then mean that I did something to earn the gift. The grace part of the gift is that it is offered freely. The response of the thirsty person is simply to take that which is offered freely, by grace.

If there was anything you could do to help yourself get saved even a little bit do you think God in heaven would have sent Jesus Christ to this earth to die on the cross for your sin? If there was any human way you could merit salvation or recommend yourself to God, do you think He would have paid the high price He did

of killing His own Son as a sacrifice? He sent Jesus Christ into this world because there is not a single thing any of us can do, except take the living water that is freely offered to us. That is the one requirement. We call it by various terms--belief, trust commitment— but it means the same as "taking" the living water and drinking deeply.

   Isaiah the prophet said, "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance" (55:1-2).

   As we conclude our study of Revelation, only one question remains. Have you taken the living water which God offers in the person of Christ? If so, then the book of Revelation is for you a glorious confirmation of the fact that you will never thirst again. If you have not taken a drink of that water, may I encourage you to do so today? The Bible says, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Call upon Him and quench your thirst both now and forever.