Friday, December 16, 2016

"COME"

Finally we have arrived at the very last words of the book of Revelation and, in fact, of the entire Bible. These last words can actually be summed up in a single word. “Come.” 

First, a Few Words of Caution

There is also a caveat in this final portion of the book. John writes, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19 NAS).

These are cautionary words and should be heeded. It may seem a rather obvious warning to those who follow the Scripture, but because so much of what is written throughout the book of Revelation is not completely understandable to us, it sometimes becomes very tempting for those who study it to substitute that which is beyond our ability to comprehend with their own ideas about what must happen. It is a short step between theorizing what a particular passage may mean, and assuming that we have a particularly accurate insight that others do not have. 

An Invitation

But that warning aside, the concluding remark of our revealed Scripture is one of invitation. The message is: “Come.”
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“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17 NAS).

The Spirit, of course, is the Holy Spirit of God. He is one of those who are giving the invitation. The other is the bride. Who is the bride? The bride is a metaphor for the church, and the church consists of all the redeemed ones of the Lord. The identity of the church as the bride is the mystery that is carried over from when John first began to witness the events unfolding before him in seeing the New Earth and the New Heavens. It was then that John first saw the holy city of the New Jerusalem descending to earth from heaven. He described its beauty as “a bride adorned for her husband.”

As John watched, an angel spoke to him, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). What he showed to John was not what one would ordinarily think of when one hears the word bride. Instead he showed him a city – the New Jerusalem. However, it was a city unlike any that we have ever known and even unlike anything that we can imagine. 

Of Cities and People

There is a sense that this city and those people redeemed by the Lord are intimately connected. Even in our own experience, residents of cities often identify themselves not only as living in a certain city, but as actually being part of the city. Residents of the city of New York usually do not refer to themselves as being “from New York,” but as “New Yorkers.” One does not only live in Paris, but is a “Parisienne.”

With the New Jerusalem, the intimacy is even stronger. I am not able to explain to you just what this connection is, but although the angel described the city as the bride of Christ, there is also something else to consider in this. Just a bit earlier in the book of Revelation, we have explained to us an event called the marriage supper of the Lamb. The “Lamb” of course, refers to Jesus, and in this case, the bride is not described as a city but rather seems more like it is those people redeemed by the Lamb. At least it is said that it was given to the bride “to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, the fine linen being the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).

In other words, the bride consists of those people who have been saved because of the sacrifice that Jesus subjected himself to on their behalf. They are the saved ones. These people are what make up his church. Here, it not the city that is called the bride of Christ, but it is the church who is the bride. In addition, as I mentioned several times in other posts, the Apostle Paul, in discussing the intimate marriage of a man and a woman, reflects on the institution of marriage by saying, “This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32, NAS).

This is a connection that we cannot understand fully, but one that is revealed to us only in part. Because all of this is beyond our understanding, it remains to us as it did to Paul – a mystery. It is something that we shall have to wait and to see how it all comes together. In some way, both the city and the church have a relationship with Christ that is so intimate that both are called the bride. We do not see this now but we will see when we ourselves see the New Jerusalem. 

“Come”

And now, in this final portion of Revelation, the bride is bidding us to come. The Spirit also is saying, “Come. Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost”

This invitation to come is not a new one. It was given even back in the Old Testament times. There, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words: 

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
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 delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to me. (Isaiah 55:1-3 NAS) 

A couple of blog posts ago, I talked about the concept of working for bread that is eternal. There, I mentioned that Jesus told some people who came to him seeking something to eat, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”

That particular story of the people seeking bread is found in the sixth chapter of the gospel of John. In the fourth chapter of that same gospel, Jesus speaks to someone who was instead seeking water. I have also mentioned this story before, but I must mention it here again. It concerns the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at the well in Samaria.

The subject of that conversation also centered on the living water. Concerning the physical water that the woman came to draw from the well, Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13b-14 NAS).
 
Living Water at the Feast

That is what he told the woman in John chapter four. Then, in the seventh chapter of the book of John, we read this:
 
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 NAS) 

The feast mentioned here is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles, otherwise called the Feast of Booths. It is Succot in the Hebrew language. Yet another name for it was the Feast of the Ingathering, since it came about at the harvest time when all of the crops were gathered.

Although the feast was centered on the harvesting of the crops, it was not the word picture of seeking food that is eternal that Jesus used here. Just as with the woman at the well of Samaria, here again it is the water of life. “From one’s innermost being will flow rivers of living water” Jesus told the crowd. This “living water” is reminiscent also of the River of the Water of Life that flows in the New Jerusalem.

Added also to this mystery is that when Jesus was speaking to the people of Jerusalem of the living water during the Feast of Tabernacles, John explains to us that Jesus was actually speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in Jesus would receive.
 
All of these Biblical references center around the idea of the living water. And now, in the final verses of Revelation, the invitation is again extended: “Come, and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” 

The Invitation

Again, it is “come.” As we look at the ministry of Jesus, his entire message to us is simply an invitation.
“Come.”
Many people think that the main thing that Jesus tried to do and still tries to do is to make people feel guilty because of the sin in their lives. I do not want to pretend that there is nothing worthy of guilt about us, for we indeed are sinners in need of repentance and redemption. However, Jesus himself said on several occasions that his purpose in coming was not to judge us, but rather to save us from a situation from which we could not escape. His message is mainly one of invitation: 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30 NAS) 

On one occasion during the ministry of Jesus, the parents of some small children where bringing them to Jesus in able to be blessed by him. The disciples did not like this and would not have it. They thought the children were only causing commotion and told them not to bother the master.

But Jesus rebuked the disciples. He told them. “Let the children come, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Then Jesus picked up those little ones and his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17) 

The Wedding Invitation
 
In another instance, Jesus told the story of a wedding feast that a man gave for his son. Jesus used this story to illustrate the kingdom of heaven. The father in the story sent out many invitations for the dinner, saying, “Come, enjoy the celebration of the marriage!”

However, all the people whom this man had invited were unwilling to come. Everyone claimed to have something more important to do on that day. One person was busy with a land deal that he was trying to close. He needed to go and inspect the property. It was something that had to be done quickly or he may lose the deal. Another had just bought some oxen and needed to try them out. Apparently, it was almost like the guarantee was good only if he returned them immediately. Another had himself just been married and for some reason saw this fact as an explanation why he could not attend. Each had something else that they saw as more important.

When the father saw that no one was coming, he said to his servants, “Go then out into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame… so that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:21, 23).

Do you see that what was required was that the people actually had to come? It is not enough to receive the invitation. One must come. At the communion time in our church where we attend, we do not pass around a tray with the bread and the wine in the little glasses to the people sitting. The people who wish to have communion must get up and come forward and receive it.

I am not saying that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this, but I like the idea that those who wish to worship must come. The Lord invites us, but we must come.

The Lord always invites us. “Come, drink of the water.” “Come, eat of the banquet.” “Come unto me, all who are weary.” “Let them all come.” “Come, for everything is ready.”

The Lord is still inviting you. How long will you give excuses that you have more important things to do? “Come, for everything is ready.” 

We Also Give an Invitation

Now, in the very final words of the Scripture, the very last words is a promise and a longed for desire. First, the promise: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’”

And then – the desire of our hearts. Or perhaps it is an appeal. For me at least, the desire for this at times becomes so strong that I do not think that I can wait another day. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

    The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Bible study on when God calls us to come. I am glad you leave it a mystery that it is about Jesus and His Church Bride. I love it too at our church that we come forward to receive communion. It is a fast and brief switch from us coming and Jesus coming again but I am sure most get it. Thank you for your hard work you put into this, Honey.

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