The portion of the Word of God that we consider today is found in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” This verse forms a beautiful response, really, to the whole book of Revelation and especially a response to the truth that Jesus is coming again.
The book of Revelation assures us that all that must take place before our Lord’s return is directed by Christ, and that Jesus is coming in and through all things. And the response, now, to this message is: “Come, come, Lord Jesus.”
Specifically, this is the response to the Lord’s own promise, “Behold, I come quickly.” For twice in this chapter, verses 7 and 12, Jesus said that He is going to come. Those words of the Lord, “I come, I come quickly,” stir in the hearts of all believers, and in the church, the response, “Come, come, Lord Jesus.”
You will notice, if you look at that verse (Rev. 22:17), that the response is stated twice. We read, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” There is, first, the response of the whole church, the church as the body of Christ. The Spirit and the bride are not to be taken separately, but to mean the Spirit as He dwells in the body of the church, the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ the Bridegroom. The Spirit of Christ that worked in His church causes the bride, the church, to respond to His word, “I am coming,” by saying, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Naturally. This must be the response of the church. It must be our response as believers, as we are in the midst of this present world and as we have here no abiding place, and as we struggle with our sin, and as we endure trial and suffering. The bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true church of Christ on earth, says, “Come!”
Then we read, secondly, “And let him that heareth say, Come.” That is, not only the church collectively, but the individual believer who had heard Christ’s words echo in his soul, “I come,” responds: “Come!” It is a little different from the first. We read that the Spirit-filled church says, “Come.” That is what lies in the heart of the church. But here it is an exhortation, “And let him that heareth say, Come.” The individual believer, then, who has heard, heard Christ say through His preached word, “I am coming,” that believer is exhorted to say, “Come!” We need to be aroused, to stir. So often the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the desire for that coming is far removed from our hearts, and we are tempted to direct our hearts to the earthly, to that which perishes. So we are exhorted to say, “Come.” Our minds are quickly filled with this present life, with tomorrow, with marriage, with college, with jobs, with children. Do you, each morning and each night, say, “Come, Lord Jesus”? That is why you are exhorted. That is why you are called as a believer. Say, “Come, come, Lord Jesus.”
This is the call of Jesus. Though it is announced widely, namely, the call “and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely; and let him that athirst come,” yet it is addressed to particular persons. Not all are addressed, but those who are athirst, those who will. “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
This verse is used by many to contradict the truths of God’s sovereign grace, namely, the truth of holy Scripture that God saves whom He will and that the will of man cannot and does not save him; the truth that salvation is entirely dependent upon God’s election and mercy, namely, the truth that we read in Romans 9:15, 16: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Many will point to this Word of God and say, “Does not this call of Jesus mean that the matter of coming to Jesus and taking hold of the water of life is left to the choice of the sinner? Whosoever will, let him come. And, if you say that salvation is only for those whom God has elected and given to Christ, then you cannot stand up in a public place (or even on this radio program) and say these words: “Whosoever wills, whosoever is athirst, let him come, let him drink freely of the water of life.”
Response to that objection is: “Not at all. We do not concede the objection. It is false!” Believing that salvation is dependent only upon God’s will and grace, and that man contributes to salvation nothing by his choice; believing that with all my heart, I declare, in the name of the Savior: “You who are willing, you who are thirsty, Come! Come to the fountain of life.” But, you understand, that will and that desire and that thirst and that longing and that yearning to come are the precious gift of the Holy Spirit in the heart of those whom God has freely chosen from eternity. If the will to come to Christ, and if the will to come to these waters, arises out of man’s will, and if Christ is asking for a decision of man’s will to be the deciding factor of whether or not one will come to these waters of life, then no one will come! If the will that is being appealed to in this verse of Scripture, and being called upon by Christ is man’s own will as a fallen sinner in Adam, no one will drink of the waters of life! No one will come. Heaven will be empty. For the truth about you is this: you would not come, you could not come, you would refuse to come according to your own will. Jesus said, John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” So dead, so rebellious are you and I that we would not and could not come to these fountains unless God draws us. We would not will to come unless God created that will in us.
To will to come to Jesus means that the Father, through the Holy Spirit, has created in us this desire. We are born again, John 1, with this new will, a will that is given to us of God. So we read in Psalm 110:3, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” God’s power is at work in our hearts. He implants in us the will and the desire, the thirst for these waters of life. Coming to Jesus Christ for salvation is not built upon the scaffolding or the footing of the sinner’s own will. What is that will of the sinner? The will of the sinner is bound in sin; it is content with its sin. It would not come.
No, coming to Jesus and drinking of the fountain of life is built upon God’s will, a will that works powerfully in His children, in us, so that we will and we do of His good pleasure. You, then, you who will, you who desire, you who know your need, you who are thirsty, you who are this way because of His wonderful love touching you and giving you to know your misery – you, come. You who, by grace, have learned to see that old, hard, evil heart of yours which wills nothing good toward God; and now, not only see it, but you detest it and desire more and more to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for your flesh; you, come! Do not hesitate in fear and doubt exactly because grace has shown you that you are an evil sinner. Do not look for something in yourself to be the merit of worthiness to come. Do not draw back because you find one thousand reasons why you do not deserve the blessedness of Jesus Christ. Do you thirst for Christ? Do you desire Him? Do you count everything dung, loss, for the knowledge of Jesus Christ? That is God’s work, the work of the Holy Spirit in you. You are addressed. Come, come to the waters of life freely.
But, we ask, How do I know that the true, heavenly, miraculous will to come to Christ has been given to me? The Bible says, “My heart is deceitful.” How do I know that I have been given the true will to come, that my desire is genuine and God-worked? And, besides, as you know, that desire is so weak. And Satan and my sinful flesh is good at mimicking and counterfeiting the work of grace. How do I know that I am the one who Christ calls to come?
Do you thirst? Let him that is athirst, come. Whosoever will, and him that is athirst, describe the same person whom Christ calls. You see, Christ knows those who are His. He calls them. He calls them by their name. He calls His sheep by their name. He creates in them the will to come. And He gives them to know that they are His by creating in them a deep spiritual thirst for something that Christ alone can give them. To be athirst is more than simply to lack, to feel withered, to long for satisfaction. All men, in that sense, lack. If one is honest with himself, he knows that human life and man is empty and vain. All men really know that there is nothing that they can use to fill the void: money, lust, power, education, beauty. It all ends up empty. No, you see, this thirst is spiritual. Listen to Psalm 63:1: “O GOD, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee….” To be athirst spiritually is to long for the forgiveness of your sin. It is rooted in the love of God. It is the heart-felt knowledge of God that nothing can be right without Him. To be athirst is to know your need of righteousness, to be burdened to tears over your sins, to sigh over that sin before God, to find that nothing can satisfy, nothing can give pleasure unless you know that you are right with God, unless you are assured that His smile is upon you, that grace is in His eyes toward you.
You, you thirsty ones, you for whom God alone will be adequate, you who know yourself as sinner, you who feel the great need of the forgiveness of your sin in the sight of heaven, you for whom these are realities in your heart, come! Right now, Christ says, Come to the water of life!
The water of life? That water is God’s grace which is found in Jesus Christ, and everything included in it. In verse 1 of this chapter John was shown that in the New Jerusalem there is a pure river of the water of life proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Whatever this water of life is, it is plain where it comes from. It comes from God’s throne and from Christ. That is the place from which it bubbles up and springs. That is its headwater.
This water is the grace, the undying, the undeserved favor of God as shown in Christ. It is a pure grace. It comes from God’s holy heart. It is the water of life. To drink it, one will live, for it gives eternal life. The water of life is God’s grace, salvation, and blessing found in Jesus Christ. It is righteousness. To drink of this water by faith is to have the righteousness of Christ assured to me as my own, so that I am not only forgiven, but seen before God as innocent. This water of life is power; it is strengthening; it is refreshment; it is the love and mercy of God brought to a parched heart, making that satisfied, refreshed, and invigorated.
To take the water of life is to come, by faith, to Jesus Christ and find in Him the grace of God, to find righteousness, peace, and forgiveness. To come is the soul of a believer being filled with Christ and all of His blessings, even life eternal. It is to take and to be given complete satisfaction and refreshment in Christ. All the blessings of salvation, of knowledge and wisdom, of life and glory, of righteousness and holiness – all of these to be given to me! Perfect righteousness, favor with God, sins blotted out. This is found in one place: in Christ and in the grace of God in Christ.
Find in Christ all things necessary for salvation. Take the water of life. Trust solely in Him. By faith receive in Him the satisfying, the refreshing grace and righteousness of God.
How shall we do this? Freely! “Let him take the water of life freely.”
How do we do this? We do this by God’s power, His work in our hearts. We do this with nothing of ourselves, nothing in our hands, nothing to pay for this water. This water is free. We cannot buy it. We cannot pay for it. We have nothing to give. It is given freely. You have nothing in yourself to deserve it. It is entirely gracious. Do not look to yourself as the reason for your acceptance with God. Do not search for something in yourself! Do not search in the works of men for something to make you worthy before God. It is not there. It cannot be found there. No, it is entirely in the amazing grace and in the unfathomable mercy of the eternal God. Come obediently, for Christ calls. And His call is a command and it is compelling. When He calls, we must come.
He says to His own, “Come!” And they come. Even as He stood before the grave of Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came forth, because the word of Christ is as the word of no other. It is not a weak wish. It is not an impotent desire. It is not a fond hope. His word is powerful. It is His Word. It is a Word which draws. It is a Word which constrains, overwhelms, and compels the heart. We must go to Him, for He has called us. To whom else could we go? We go confidently.
You who, by His grace, by the divine work of God in your heart, will, and are athirst for righteousness and forgiveness, you may come. You may be quite sure that you may come. You shall surely be received. You shall never be cast out.
Do you desire to come to Christ? Is that your desire – to drink at the fountain of the living water? Is this the work of God in you? Then, do not hesitate. Do not stand afar off discovering a thousand reasons in yourself why you should not be received of the Father. You are summoned by the Son and you are drawn of the Father. Come.
And hear the words of Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”
Let us pray.
Father, We thank Thee for Thy Word. We thank Thee that all the glory is Thine alone. And we thank Thee that Thou dost address us after Thy own work in the heart whereby we might know that work and come to Thee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.