Rev. 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift. (HCSB)
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
This verse is a final call to salvation to all who receive it in faith. The call to eternal life is a call to come to Jesus, for He has come to us throughout human history – revealing Himself in creation and conscience; appearing in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud and fire, the Shekinah glory in the tabernacle and temple; visiting as the Angel of Yahweh, and most importantly as Jesus of Nazareth – the Word becoming flesh and taking up residence among us (John 1:14).
The call to come echoes throughout Scripture as a unified pleading of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit take the initiative to come first to us, and then they bid us to respond in faith to their grace and mercy.
The Father says “come” – come out of the ark for judgment has passed (Gen. 8:16); come up to the mountain to receive the Law (Ex. 24:12); come to the tent of meeting (Num. 12:4); come and reason with the Lord so your sins, though scarlet, may be white as snow (Isa. 1:18).
The Son says “come” – come, all who are weary and burdened, and He will give you rest (Matt. 11:28); come, you who are blessed by the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 24:34); come away and rest for a while (Mark 6:31); come and follow (Mark 9:21; Luke 18:22); come – those who are thirsty – and drink (John 3:37); come out of the grave (John 11:43).
And the Spirit says “come” (Rev. 22:17), wooing an unbelieving world to trust in the Savior. After Jesus returns to His Father in heaven, the Spirit comes to us and remains with us as we eagerly await Christ’s return. The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:6-7; Titus 3:5); seals us (Eph. 1:13-14); indwells us (1 Cor. 3:16); baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2); sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 1:2); counsels us (John 14:26); grants us spiritual gifts for service (1 Cor. 12:1-11); enables us to put to death the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:12-13); and reminds us that we belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).
But the Creator and Sovereign of the universe does not force Himself upon us or into our hearts. He comes to us and beckons us to come to Christ. Thus, the gentle but urgent plea, “Come!”
Sin, righteousness, and judgment
The Spirit’s primary purpose is to point people to Jesus. The Lord made it clear that the work of the Spirit in the world would be to convict unbelievers of their need for Christ. Specifically, in John 16:7-11, Jesus says the Spirit convicts the unbeliever of three essential truths:
- Of sin … “because they do not believe in Me.” Murder does not keep an unbeliever out of the kingdom of heaven. Nor does sexual sin, bigotry, anger, pride, deceit, or any other violation of God’s holy standard. While any sin separates us from God and invites His wrath, it is the sin of unbelief that refuses God’s remedy for all the rest. Through His sinless life, sacrificial and substitutionary death, burial and resurrection, Jesus has paid our sin debt and invites us to come to Him for forgiveness, reconciliation, and everlasting life. Jesus says all manner of sins will be forgiven except the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is attributing to Satan the works of the Spirit in Christ (Matt. 12:31-32). Unbelievers who reject the revelation of the Father, the person and work of Jesus, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit – going so far as to ascribe the Spirit’s work to Satan – must realize that there is nothing further God can do without violating the ability He entrusted in humans to make choices for which they are held accountable. So, the Spirit must convict unbelievers that their refusal to trust in Christ is the great gulf that keeps them from eternal life.
- Of righteousness … “because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me.” Unbelievers must come to understand that their own righteousness is insufficient to earn God’s favor or to buy their entrance into the kingdom. The prophet Isaiah lamented, “All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted [lit., menstrual] garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind” (Isa. 64:6). When we come to the end of ourselves we may finally realize that it is the righteousness of Christ – and only the righteousness of Christ – that saves us. God “made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). When unbelievers turn to Jesus in faith, they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Isa. 61:10; Rom. 13:4; Phil. 3:9). It can be no other way.
- Of judgment … “because the ruler of this world has been judged.” Satan’s destiny is hell – the lake of fire prepared for him and his demons (Matt. 25:41). While he is free at this time, prowling the earth and seeking people to devour (1 Peter 5:8), he will spend eternity tormented night and day (Rev. 20:10). God has judged him guilty, and there is no redemption for the evil one or his demons. Jesus did not come in the likeness of fallen angels but in the likeness of sinful and fallen people. However, the Spirit drives home the truth in the heart of unbelievers that if they persist in their rebellion against God, they are choosing the same destiny befalling Satan. That is, they, too, will spend eternity in hell.
And so, the Spirit says, “Come!” But the bride also urges, “Come!” Christ has entrusted to His church the responsibility to share the gospel with a lost world. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything Christ commanded us (Matt. 28:19-20). As we go, He is with us, never leaving us or forsaking us.
The indwelling Spirit enables us to testify of the truth of God’s Word and to beckon people to come to Christ. As the Spirit empowers us – in some cases giving us the very words to speak (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12) – He also is convicting the unbeliever of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The bride must take the gospel to the four corners of the earth, urging all people to come to Christ, yet it is the Spirit who awakens the dead spirit of the unbeliever and grants repentance so that the finished work of Christ may produce forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and eternal life.
Salvation is completely of God; we cannot save ourselves or anyone else. Even so, God has commanded His bride – not the Spirit, and not the holy angels – to proclaim the gospel. What an awesome privilege – and what a terrifying responsibility.
Anyone who hears …
John adds to this, “Anyone who hears should say, ‘Come!’ And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift” (Rev. 17b). Apparently, all who hear the invitation are to repeat it. This is an interesting call and may imply that unbelievers may take part in proclaiming the gospel.
Certainly creation testifies to the reality of a Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1). “For His [God’s] invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Rom. 1:20).
Jesus tells the Pharisees during His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when they urge Him to rebuke His celebrating disciples, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). If God uses creation to declare His glory, he may also use unbelievers who unwittingly, or for personal gain, proclaim the gospel.
Paul wrote about those who “preach Christ out of envy and strife … out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment … out of false motives” (Phil. 1:15-18).
Jesus tells us that some false prophets, standing in final judgment, will defend themselves by reminding Christ that they prophesied in His name, cast out demons, and performed miracles. And yet Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers” (Matt. 7:22-23).
These passages, and others like them, illustrate the sovereignty of God over human history and personal freedom. While God compels no person to trust in Him or reject Him, He is able to direct all human words and deeds in such a way that the gospel goes out to the ends of the earth, the elect are saved, and the wicked stand before God one day without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
Paige Patterson comments: “‘Come’ is in the present active imperative of erchomai and is at once both a mandate and an invitation. This invitation appears to be sincere on the part of the Spirit and the bride, joined by all who hear … The doctrine of election is a biblical doctrine of great importance and must not be ignored…. Whatever election means, this verse [Rev. 22:17] suggests that it cannot mean that a sincere offer is not being made. If anyone has the will, thelon, a present active participle meaning ‘will,’ and wishes to slake his thirst in the water of life, he is invited to come. The extensive warnings of the wrath to come that grace the book of Revelation on every page, as well as the gracious provisions of God for forgiveness and salvation occurring with almost equal frequency, are the grounds for extending this sincere invitation to all. The plaintive plea of the Spirit and the bride concluding the Apocalypse should be the appropriate consummation of the message of the church in every age” (New American Commentary: Revelation, p. 384).
Next: If anyone adds to them – Revelation 22:18-19