One of the greatest sounds a new parent hears is the sound of their baby crying for the first time. That cry lets us know that our child is alive and breathing. It also lets us know that they are uncomfortable. They want to be close to their mother. They are immediately placed upon the mother’s chest and, if possible, they should begin nursing right away.
There is another kind of thirst that all humans possess from birth. However, this thirst is not something that can be quenched right away. In fact, it is a thirst that cannot be quenched by anything this world has to offer. That doesn’t stop us from trying.
We are born with a thirst that nothing in this world can quench. Unfortunately, due to the fall, we fill up our medicine cabinet with all kinds of worldly solutions. Every label promises to provide lasting satisfaction with minimal side-effects. But it is like dousing hot sauce on our tongue; every dose only serves to increase our thirst. This text concludes with the only answer that truly satisfies.
It is the offer to: Come to Jesus who freely offers living water so that you might never thirst again.
Read Revelation 22:14-17.
I. The Purification of the City (14-15)
At the final judgment a separation takes place. The sheep will enter the city through the gates while the goats are banished.
Those who recognize their filthy robes and wash them in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14) have the right to enter into the city and partake of the tree of life (Rev 22:14). However, the word for “wash” is in the present tense. It indicates an ongoing washing.
There is a sense in which salvation is past, present, and future. The emphasis here is the present, ongoing, washing that takes place in a believers sanctification. It is represented by our life of continual repentance.
We have seen this group of saints before as they gathered in “white robes” to worship around the throne of God (Rev 7:14). These saints—which represents all of the elect—will have access to the tree of life that yields fruit all year round (Rev 22:2; Eze 47:12). The vision depicts the full number of the invisible Church gaining access to their eternal inheritance.
We witness an outward symbol of this in church membership, but the blessings we experience now in the context of the visible church are a mere taste of the perfection that await us for all eternity.
This reference to the tree of life makes plain the implication that the covenant of grace, which began in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) is now finally reaching its consummation at the end of this present age. The blessing of eternal life, that humans were barred from receiving after the fall, is now restored. All of redemptive history concludes with the separation of those who identify with God through his Son, and those who identify with Satan.
Children do not always understand this, but it’s really difficult to smell your own stench. You might come home from the gym or working outside and have no idea how pungent you really are. You might even take a sniff of your armpit and still not detect an odor.
The consequences of ignoring your filthy stench is that everyone else has to suffer breathing in the air that has been polluted by your presence. God has assured us that won’t happen in the New Heaven and New Earth.
Those who remain in their filth will be banished from the city (Rev 22:15). They are never allowed to enter it (Rev 21:27). The list of wicked characters is not exhaustive, but they refer back to an almost identical list given in the previous chapter (Rev 21:8). There, this same group, is said to receive their portion in the lake of fire. They will receive their just judgment under the wrath of God.
Jews referred to Gentiles as “dogs”, but considering these churches are made up of Gentiles, it probably refers to all who remain “unclean”. Alternatively, the reference may point to the Judaizers who continued to teach that circumcision was necessary for Gentiles to be saved. That is how Paul referred to them in his letter to the Philippians, located Northwest of Asia Minor in the region of Macedonia (Phil 3:2). It might also have become more a common designation of false teachers in general by the time John was writing at the end of the first century.
Either way, the list of figures were familiar to the original audience as those who were outside the church. They stand in stark contrast to those who have been washed. They are forbidden from entering the city and contaminating eternity with their filth.
In our series on the Ten Commandments we acknowledged that every one of us has and continues to break the law of God. None of us are capable of perfectly fulfilling the law in this life. As long as we remain in this body of flesh we will wrestle with temptation (Rom 7).
Thus, the present tense verb “wash” implies that believers persevere in their repentance and faith. It is not an act we do at conversion and then move on to better things. The gospel remains just as important to the seasoned saint as it is to the newborn Christian.
Professing Christians, who were trying to live with one foot in the culture and one foot in the Church, had to choose their master. If they had more in common with the description of those outside the city, this warning would have given them pause.
They might have thought Christianity provided a nice supplement to their worldly lifestyle. They thought they could indulge the wayward cravings of their deceitful hearts without any of the consequences. In reality, their lives proved their need for purification.
May the Lord open the eyes of anyone who remains in their sinful filth this morning. May they repent of their wickedness, their rampant idolatry and sexual immorality. May they know their need of the cleansing blood of Christ.
Ensure that your robes have been washed and that you are continuing to wash them. Some of you are too busy comparing how much dirt you have on your garments. It’s not about making sure you have the cleanest robe. One stain is enough to condemn you outside the celestial city.
On the other hand, if you have washed your robe, then every stain has been removed. Jesus offers cleansing, healing, and eternal blessing. You need to be reminded that you’ve been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Your entrance to the city is secured because of an alien righteousness, a righteousness that did not come from you, but was imputed to you.
› The purification of the city is accomplished by the one speaking in the next verse.
II. The Declaration of the Messiah (16)
The epilogue of Revelation has focused on the foundation and motivation for worshiping God. Believers are encouraged to face the final judgment with hope rather than fear. The words of Jesus are interspersed throughout the section which authenticate the message. All of that is reiterated in this passage culminating in a final invitation to come and receive the water of life.
Here Jesus provides another assurance that these words are his own testimony. The second half of the verse describe three different Messianic references.
• The Descendant of David (Mt 1:1)
• The Bright Morning Star (Num 24:17)
The Messiah will return with righteous judgment, but he will also bring the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to their culmination. As members of the Church we are to always be ready.
This testimony is “for the churches.” Again, we need to recognize what this means for the early church. This passage, along with the rest of Revelation, was relevant to their lives. It’s not as if Jesus sent the angel to provide a word for churches way off in the future.
This is the danger of reading biblical prophecy in one hand with the newspaper in the other. You are highly likely to miss the purpose of the book. You are liable to interpret Revelation in such a way that would never make sense to the first century church. This ought to safeguard us from over complicating the interpretation with references to modern technology that has no reference point for the original audience.
The other danger is that you see God has having one purpose for Jewish saints and an entirely different purpose for Gentile saints. For instance, those who believe the Church has already been raptured prior to Christ’s return in judgment, will see the vast majority of this book as only speaking to those Jewish converts that were left behind (along with anyone converted through their witness). The biggest problem with that interpretation is that it was completely unheard of prior to the late 19th century. It is as if Jesus’s own words lack the necessary qualification not to worry about most of these details.
We don’t have time to get bogged down in the minutia of Dispensationalism, but the revelation of God is a gift to the Church in every age. He has secured the deliverance of his word through his angel and authenticated the message by his testimony. The question is whether or not you believe his word. You may still have questions about the meaning of certain passages, but do you trust in the One who revealed it?
So many people get stuck trying to solve every question they have before even taking the first step of faith. We don’t approach any other field of study that way, but some think Christian faith requires an omniscient understanding of the world.
Revelation does not provide us with a comprehensive knowledge of the end times, but it does provide us with sufficient knowledge to respond in faith and repentance. We may quibble about the details, but all believers should be clear about this point. The first and proper response to revelation is to trust in the one who provides it. And we know that faith itself is a gift from God, it is not the result of works so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9).
› The purification of the city followed by the declaration of the Messiah has prepared us for…
III. The Invitation to the Thirsty (17)
This verse provides much more than the climax of the epilogue; it is the most fundamental theme of all Scripture. Many commentators see the first half of this verse as a call from the Spirit and the Bride for Christ to come. We see that very clearly in Rev 22:20. But it is equally clear that the second half of the verse is directed toward unbelievers.
Joel Beeke says it is as if the church is holding out one hand to heaven calling for Jesus to come, while holding out another hand to the lost inviting them to respond. It’s a nice illustration and certainly possible, but I think it is more likely that the object is unbelievers in both invitations.
The invitation to “come” is extended from three different sources: the Spirit, the Bride, and “the one who hears”. It fits with the key reference to Isa 55:1which includes three imperatives to “come” (Beale).
• The Call of the Spirit is effectual. This is the same Spirit who spoke through the prophets in the old covenant. The same Spirit invites people in every age. Those who respond in faith do so because the call of the Spirit is effectual. It is the work of the Spirit to enlighten our minds, transforming our hearts of stone and giving us hearts of flesh, and renewing our wills. The only reason any of us see the beauty of Jesus and willingly embrace him as our Savior is because of the Spirit’s effectual drawing.
• The Call of the Bride is general. The Church extends the call of the gospel to all people. We do not pick and choose those who are worthy to hear the gospel. We preach to anyone who is willing to hear it. One characteristic of preachers during the first Great Awakening was their invitation for sinners to respond to the preaching in faith. George Whitefield would end nearly every sermon with his hands raised and tears streaming down his face as he would plead for sinners to “Come to Jesus!”
• The Call of the Hearer is natural. It is an instinctual response to the life transforming power of the gospel. We desire to share what has had such a significant impact upon our life. Has the excitement for sharing your faith waned over the years? Has repeated rejection left you timid to invite others to “Come to Jesus”? If you have heard the gospel and responded with faith, you are expected to add your voice to the testimony of the Bride. Along with the rest of the saints you can boldly extend the invitation to the lost, recognizing with confidence that the Spirit will effectually draw some.
Those who thirst for the water that Jesus offers will respond to the invitation and come.
When Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman at the well he offered her living water that would quench her thirst forever (John 4). When we respond to the gospel invitation with faith our thirst shifts from worldly pleasures to the Lord’s superior blessings.
This living water is priceless, but we receive it free of charge. Again, this reference alludes to…
Isaiah 55:1 ESV
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
The invitation is extended to those who know they are thirsty. There comes a point in every believer’s life where they recognize that only God can satisfy the longing of their heart.
If you sense your thirst and hear the voice of the Spirit and the Bride saying, “Come,” then you have the incredible opportunity to receive the water of life today! Do not delay your response! The same Spirit who extends the invitation to you will also enable you to respond.
Your flesh might come up with a thousand excuses for why you are not ready. You might have so many questions you would like to be answered first. Here’s what it boils down to. Do you desire the water of life? Do you thirst for a spiritual fulfillment that can only be found in Christ? If so, He has removed every excuse you can think of. He freely offers himself to you this morning. You cannot purchase living water, you simply receive it by faith.