The 31 words of the 30,997th Bible verse, in its 1189th chapter, are quite remarkable.

They contain the last invitation God would offer for two thousand years. They echo across the centuries, inviting each new generation to participate in God’s great plan for saving man.

They read: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

The passage contains heaven’s favorite word—come—three times. The Father said, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18–19). The Son said, “Come to Me, all you who labor” (Matthew 11:28–30). The Spirit here says come to the fountain of eternal refreshment.

Heaven’s King invites us to be His guest—not for a visit or meal, but to live with Him forever. If we plan a banquet, birthday party, or Independence Day celebration, we must decide four things:

  1. A list of potential guests
  2. Who is to receive invitations
  3. Who is coming
  4. What it will cost

Revelation 22:17 has these four entities.

The Spirit’s invitation list is long

What a big word “whoever” is! Years ago, a well-known evangelist was to hold a crusade in Chicago. He requested the mayor to send him a list of citizens needing spiritual guidance or salvation. The mayor mailed him a phone book—containing the name of every resident.

The Spirit’s list is like that. All are invited, for everyone needs to come (Romans 3:23; Matthew 7:8; John 3:16; 7:37)—big sinners, bad sinners, fair sinners, teen sinners, old sinners, aggravated sinners, aggravating sinners. Every face of every race in every place needs grace.

More personally, your name is on the list. You and I are in “whoever.” No one should ever say, “Church is not for me. I didn’t come from a family that went to Sunday school. Christianity is for ‘good people’ who have lived righteous lives. I have not always been good. I’ve made mistakes.”

Church is for everybody. When Jesus came, “church people” rejected Him and “sinners” heard Him gladly (Matthew 9:10–11; 11:19; 21:31–32). Jesus never turns anyone away (John 6:37). You will be welcomed. You have an invitation. Come on!

The Spirit addresses invitations to those likely to accept

Invitations are sent to the thirsty. The Lord offers water to those whose hearts are thirsty for forgiveness (John 4:14; 6:35); whose minds are thirsty for truth (John 8:32); and whose souls are thirsty for Him (Psalm 42:1; 107:9).1

Self-satisfied people are uninterested in invitations to church. With no thirst, they want no water. On the other hand, many have not found life satisfying. They feel like an actor on a stage, playing a banquet scene, pretending with gusto to drink from a wooden cup painted gold. It looks believable to the audience, but there is nothing in the cup. It provides no refreshment.

Man is more than a body (Genesis 2:7). Fame, riches, success, and pleasure cannot feed the soul. Queen Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603)—the Virgin Queen, one of history’s great rulers—said, “I wish I had been born a milkmaid,” as she watched a girl, poor as a church mouse, from a palace window. The carefree girl merrily sang as she carried two heavy buckets of milk yoked across her shoulders. In contrast, the queen was burdened with the conspiracies of Spain. She had money, fame, and power, but she would have traded places with a servant.

This world’s allurements promise satisfaction but do not deliver. Some think that if they had money or popularity, life would be complete. Do not imagine rich people are satisfied or that famous people are not thirsty for something more (read Ecclesiastes). Hollywood is filled with beautiful, rich, famous, pleasure-mad people—who often feud, sexually harass, divorce, become addicted, and commit suicide.

True joy from physical pursuits is a mirage. How many have . . .

  • looked for satisfaction in drugs only to find them the ruin of their finances, career, and relationships? (Romans 3:13–17).
  • sought joy in alcohol only to discover that it was Satan’s trap to destroy hope, home, and health? (Proverbs 20:1).
  • indulged in sex for happiness, only to get more guilt than pleasure, an unwanted pregnancy, a disease, or a lowered opinion of self-worth? (Proverbs 6:24–7:27).
  • drunk deeply of the pool of selfish sin only to come away with a bad taste in their mouth? (Numbers 32:23; Galatians 6:7).

A new Christian said, “I never knew what happiness was till I found Christ. I thought I did. I warmed my hands by the fire of sin, but it was painted fire.” Nothing can satisfy the heart but God. It is a triangle that can only be filled by Father, Son, and Spirit. Augustine said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, O God, and our heart is restless till we find our rest in Thee.” God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

What about you? If your soul has a gnawing discontent, if you are tired of the world’s lies, if you want hope beyond this life, then the Spirit invites you to come. Jesus said those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

God lets us drink deeply of the water of life. An emaciated child was treated for malnutrition. After his system could take it, a nurse brought him a tall glass of milk. He took it with sparkling eyes, but drank only a little. Hesitatingly, he asked, “Miss, how deep can I drink?” In his large, poor family, he was used to sharing one glass among many children. Each drank just so much, so all got some. The nurse smiled and said, “Son, drink deep! Drink it all. Drink till you are full.”

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The Spirit’s invitation requires a response. The person who desires salvation must “come” and “take.” Salvation is offered to all; God loves all; Jesus paid for the sins of all (Titus 2:11; 3:4; 1 Timothy 2:6); but all will not be saved (Matthew 7:13). If we refuse to come, we will still be lost.

A river of blessings flows past our door, but it benefits us only if we fill a pitcher and drink. A gift is only an offer until received. In 1829, George Wilson was sentenced to be hanged in Pennsylvania for murder. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon. Wilson refused, saying that he deserved to die. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decreed that a pardon was of no value unless accepted. So George Wilson was executed.

Jesus has issued pardons for all, sealed in His blood, but they benefit sinners only when accepted (John 3:5, 16, 36; 14:6; Acts 2:38; 4:12). What’s in it for you? Look at some of the benefits of salvation:

  • Every sin forgiven (Acts 2:38).
  • Name written in God’s Book of Life (Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3).
  • Adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15)—a child of the King (1 John 3:1–2), a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
  • A new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • A new start (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
  • Needs provided (Matthew 6:25–34).
  • Peace with God (Philippians 4:6–7).
  • Spirit-indwelled (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • Filled with hope (Titus 2:13).
  • Jesus’ presence in life (Hebrews 13:5).
  • A mansion in death (John 14:1–3).
  • Eternal life (John 6:47; 10:28).

These are just the beginning (Ephesians 1:3). A lot to gain—a lot to lose!

the cost is free

An amazing offer usually comes with a hook. How much is this water worth? Priceless (1 Peter 1:4). How much does it cost you? Nothing (Isaiah 55:1). Salvation is a gift because Jesus paid the entire bill on the cross (Romans 3:23–26; 1 John 2:2). He paid a high price for it to be free.

In doing so, Jesus removed all barriers to salvation. “Let” (in “let him take the water of life”) means to remove a hindrance. If you want to be a Christian, the path is clear.

  • Whoever is thirsty may drink the water of life (John 4:14).
  • Whoever is hungry may eat the bread of life (John 6:35).
  • Whoever is weary may come to Jesus for rest (Matthew 11:28).
  • Whoever desires salvation may seek and find (John 10:27).
  • Whoever is in need may ask and receive (Matthew 7:8).

Don’t say, “I will come later.” The time to seek salvation is while we have thirst, time, and mental acuity on our side. Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

God very much cares about where we spend eternity (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), but He guarantees no tomorrow (James 4:14; Luke 12:20). Will we abuse God’s mercy and grieve God’s Spirit? (Ephesians 4:30). We might turn down many invitations, but how can we refuse God’s? (Hebrews 12:25).

Consider carefully the words of the classic hymn:

Just as I am—without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Endnote:

1 Adapted from MacArthur commentary on Revelation.

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