Are You Ready to Say, “Come, Lord Jesus”?
A sermon on Revelation 22:10-21 by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 8/28/2005
Do you believe that Jesus will return to this earth? Three times in this last chapter of the Bible, Jesus says explicitly: “I am coming soon!” He also says: The time is near!
Are you ready for Jesus to return? Can you say with joy, “Come, Lord Jesus”?
Today’s text – and the texts we read during the service – should give you pause before you reply, “Yes!” There are certainly words of great joy, such as those found in verse 14:
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life!
The tree of life! As we saw last week, the tree of life was in the Garden of Eden, the original temple of God. God blocked access to this tree after Adam and Eve sinned, after they chose to believe Satan’s fundamental lie: that God did not have their interest at heart, that God was not good. No man since has had access to this tree. Yet now, this tree is in the midst of the New Jerusalem (22:2). Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. So the tree represents eternal life, eternal healing, eternal joy! Thus, when you eat of this tree, whatever hurt you have suffered, whatever pain you have borne, is now healed:
All these wounds are healed, never to reopen again!
But there is much more than this. “I am coming soon” He is there! As we pointed out last week, the New Jerusalem is a temple, a cube like the holy of holies, indicating the presence of God. Jesus Himself will be the light, shining His glory through us. We will see Him face to face. He will be our delight.
So, yes, these are words of great joy. But I said these texts should not only give you hope and joy, but also give you pause. Why? Look at verse 4 again. Who is blessed? “Blessed are those who wash their robes.” Consider what Jesus is not saying:
Instead, verse 18 says
If anyone adds to words of the prophecy of this book, God will add to him the plagues described in it
This chapter and book contain words of great joy. But this chapter and book also contain words of great severity. This chapter and book promise endless delight for God’s people. But this chapter and book promise endless suffering for God’s enemies.
Given such sobering words: Are you ready for Jesus to return?
By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can be: Pray that God would use this opening up of His Word to make you ready for His return.
Today we complete our study of the Book of Revelation, as we look at the last twelve verses of the entire Bible. When we began this journey on February 6 (sermon), we identified three major themes in the book:
We find these same themes here at the close of the book. So these themes will serve as today’s outline. Ask yourself throughout: “Am I ready for Jesus’ return?”
Many other passages in Revelation have emphasized that God is King. He does what He pleases. No one can disrupt His plans. He uses even the evil acts of evil men and evil spirits to accomplish His purposes.
His sovereignty thus extends to every act – even to those acts which are yet future. That is the emphasis of this passage. Look at verse 10:
Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near
How does He know the time is near? Here in Revelation (and, indeed, in several other passages of Scripture), we learn that certain events must precede the end:
He can know that the time is near only if He is ultimately in control of all future acts.
In the past, God has said that the time is not yet near. Consider the last chapter of Daniel. Daniel has seen a series of vision that has confused him:
I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, "O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?" 9 He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:8-9
The time was not yet near. So seal up these words. But to John, He says, “Now the time is near! Unlike Daniel, don’t seal up these words. The major events required to bring about these final events – the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection – have taken place. This is the time of the end.”
Thus, He knows the future. He knows what His enemies will do. He controls even them.
Verse 13 underlines this. Using words we saw in 1:8 and 21:6, Jesus says:
I am the Alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end
Now, who spoke those words in chapters 1 and 21? In the first chapter, John is explicit: The Lord God, God the Father. In chapter 21 he says the speaker is the One “seated on the throne”; once again, this is God the Father. But who is speaking in 22:13? Who says, “I am coming soon”? Jesus! Indeed, the Greek puts a strong emphasis on the word “I”: “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. So God the Father is the Alpha and Omega; Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Thus Jesus is God. He was not created by God, for He is the Alpha, existing in the beginning, like God the Father. His existence never comes to an end, for He is the Omega. He is in control of all things in between. He is indeed God.
Thus Jesus Himself is sovereign. Jesus Himself controls all history. Jesus controls all His enemies.
And He says He is coming soon. Do you know that? Are you ready?
Look at the second half of verse 16:
I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star
These words echo Isaiah and Jeremiah. Let’s look at Isaiah 11. Remember that Jesse is the father of David:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. . . . 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples- of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. Isaiah 11:1, 9, 10
Here God gives a promise concerning a coming King. He will bring righteousness to the earth, so that the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
Now, when did God speak that promise to Isaiah? More than 2500 years ago. Thus, Jesus says through John: “You know that prophecy from thousands of years ago? That promise that a descendant of David will rule? I am Alpha and Omega. I am root of David, of Jesse.l I am the fulfillment of that promise.”
So once again we are reminded of what God said to Habakkuk:
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end- it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3
Jesus Himself is the greatest fulfillment of God’s promises. So look to Him, and know that God is faithful.
In 22:16, Jesus calls Himself “the bright morning star.” We’ve seen this phrase before, in the letter to Thyatira (2:28). What does it mean? What do these words have to do with God’s faithfulness?
Peter helps us understand this image:
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19
When you see the morning star, the night is almost over! It is not yet dawn; the darkness persists. But the night is over soon! The time is near!
Just so with the coming of the King. People have walked in darkness for centuries. But Jesus has come! The morning star has dawned! God is light! The night is almost over! Dawn is near!
Now consider the beginning of the 22:16:
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.
To testify about what? About the greatest of God’s promises: “I am coming soon.”
So do you see how the first two themes mesh together? Jesus says, “I am sovereign. I am in control. I have made great promises in the past, and I am making even more promises now. I have sent my angel to testify. I will return. Know that.. Hold on to that. Trust me. Do not doubt.”
Jesus is coming again. Do you know that? Are you ready?
The bulk of today’s passage concerns the breakdown of all humans into two types of people. This theme flows out of the first two. God is sovereign. God keeps His promises. Some will respond to this sovereign God with anger and rebellion. Some will respond with joy. He makes promises to each group. How will you respond?
This passage contrasts three pairs of right and wrong responses to God. The first:
1) God’s people keep His word; God’s enemies put themselves above His word
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19
As is so often case in Revelation, these verses allude to passages in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32. Let’s look at the second: John makes an allusion to OT text.
"Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. 13:1 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. . . .5: but that prophet . . . shall be put to death.” Deuteronomy 12:32-13:3, 5
The Israelites are to kill such a prophet – even though his prophecy came true!
So what is Moses warning against? Idolatry. The danger of idolatry is so great that the Israelites are instructed to take the greatest care in avoiding it. They are never to serve other gods.
You might respond, “That’s not a problem for us. We don’t worship idols in this country!”
On the contrary, we serve numerous idols in this country. For an idol is any person, power, or spirit that you rely on instead of God for satisfaction, security, accomplishment, and honor (see sermon). What idols are prevalent in this country?
Every time you look to these for satisfaction, every time you fail to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, every time you desire and rely on these more than you desire and rely on God, you are an idolater. You are also adding to the word, violating Revelation 22:18.
What sorts of commands are you adding to the word:?
Don’t add to the word of God! He has told you the path to true joy: “In His presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). All these others are dead ends.
What about taking away words from this book? In the context of Deuteronomy 12 and 13, Moses is referring particularly to the prohibition against idolatry. God says explicitly not to worship other gods; any idolater is effectively removing those words from Scripture.
But there are many other tempting ways to emasculate the Word of God. One of the most prevalent within the church in the US is to leave out anything that might be perceived as controversial. People will say, “Oh, we don’t get into the finer points of doctrine here. We just teach the simple Gospel; we wouldn’t want to say anything that might offend anyone!”
But is this the way Paul taught? He tells the Ephesian elders that he taught them the “whole counsel of God”. Indeed, Paul says explicitly that all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We too must be faithful to teach the whole counsel of God, and trust the results to Him.
I said that God’s enemies put themselves above the Word of God. Do you see how adding and taking away from the Word is putting yourself above it? By adding to the Word, you are saying, “I really know how best to achieve true life. There may be some good advice, some good pointers in the Bible, but I have figured out a better way for me to have happiness”: Thus, such a person is putting himself above the Word.
But we also put ourselves above the Word when we take away from it. We say, “This part doesn’t really apply to me,” or, “This part is not particularly important. Election – who could ever understand that? Divorce? My whole congregation would be mad if I preached on divorce! “Self-sacrifice? How will these unbelievers ever want to stay if I preach about self-sacrifice?”
Such statements show that the speaker may well be God’s enemy. There are two types of people. God’s people keep His Word. God’s enemies exalt themselves above God’s Word.
2. God’s people live righteously; God’s enemies live in sin.
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Revelation 22:11
The last part of the verse looks straightforward: “Righteous people, do what is right! Holy people, be holy!”
But the first part looks strange. God commands evildoers to keep doing evil! He commands the filthy to be filthy!
Why does He say that? Doesn’t God want everyone to do right? How can He command evil?
To understand this statement we must see that God is speaking from His perspective, not ours. We see people, and cannot tell whether they belong to God or not. But God knows. To Him, there are only two types of people: Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, and those whose names are not. Revelation 21:27 tells us all whose names are written in the book of life enter the New Jerusalem. Revelation 20:15 tells us that all whose names are not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. The one whose name is not written in the book of life is an evildoer – that is, one irrevocably hardened to God, who will never repent. He must keep doing evil till the end.
But God here speaks particularly to the righteous: “You are righteous: So live like it! You are saved by the blood of the Lamb! You were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world! Your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life! This is what you are – so act that way! Leave the filthy acts to those headed to hell! Unrighteousness belongs to them, not you! So be holy, for I am holy! Be righteous!”
As we read in Matthew 5, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. And as we read in Matthew 7, it is not those who say, “Lord, Lord”, but those who do the will of God who will enter the kingdom of heaven. As we read in Malachi 3, God will purify and refine His people so they can serve Him effectively. Holiness is not optional for God’s people.
My friends, the Gospel message is proclaimed to all. Whatever you are, whatever you have done, Jesus says, “Come to me!” (Matthew 11:28). “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). If you repent of your sins, if you see and acknowledge Christ Jesus as Savior, as Lord, as treasure, then God will forgive you by the blood of His Son. You will be among God’s people. A broken and contrite heart He will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
But note: He saves you from your sins. You cannot hold on to your sins. If you profess Christ but continue in sin, you are that foolish man of Matthew 7:26-27, who hears Jesus’ words but does not do them. His house was built on the sand. So when the storm came, his house crashed, and great was its fall.
God’s people live righteously; God’s enemies live in sin.
3) God’s people are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; God’s enemies pay the penalty for their sins.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Revelation 22:14=15
Those who are blessed are said to wash their robes: Taken alone, that sounds like they do the washing themselves. They make themselves clean, and thus earn the right to the tree of life. But as always in Revelation, we need to check out the allusions to properly understand the verse. Here, there is a clear allusion to Revelation 7:14:
"These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
They made their robes white not by their own effort, but by the blood of the Lamb! Their effort was an active dependence upon Christ for righteousness – not a righteousness that they earn through good works. They turned to Jesus Christ. They confessed. They repented. They were washed clean by Jesus Himself. Thus there is no more penalty for sin. The righteousness of Christ is given to them.
That’s one group of people. What about the other group? Verse 15 tells us: They do not have the righteousness of Christ. They are lost in their sins. So they are outside. They are not in the new creation. They are in the lake of fire.
Why are they there? Fundamentally because they are trusting in something other than the blood of the Lamb for righteousness. They are said to love and practice falsehood, and this is the ultimate falsehood. For in effect they are claiming, “Jesus is not the only way to God. Jesus is not the only way of salvation.” They reject ultimate truth. They reject their Creator, the only source of truth. So they pay the penalty for their own sins.
There is only one way to righteousness with God: To wash your robes in the blood of Lamb.
Jesus is coming again. Do you know that? Are you ready?
Finally, let’s look at verse 17:
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 desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
Are the Spirit and the Bride saying, “Jesus, come”? Or are they saying, “Sinner, come”? In the second half of the verse, the repentant sinner, the “one who is thirsty” is told to come. I think it is most likely all the commands to come in this verse are directed at the same repentant sinner.
If this is the case, realize what John does here. There are two types of people:
Furthermore, he tells the unrighteous, the evildoers, to keep on doing evil!
Some might hear these statements and conclude, “Then we should just sit back and say, ‘OK, some are damned, and some are saved. God will work it out. I just hope I’m saved.”
Is that how we should respond? No!
In verse 17, God makes an appeal to the unconverted. As we noted above, in verse 11 God is speaking from His perspective. He knows exactly who is in which group.
But this verse is from our perspective. We are the Bride, the church. We are to appeal to the unconverted. We are to plead, “Be reconciled to God!” And we do that knowing that the Spirit Himself pleads right alongside us, and that He will regenerate those whose names are indeed written in the Lamb’s book of life. He will use the occasion of our speaking, sharing, and preaching, and draw those who are God’s people but as yet unconverted to Himself. And having heard, having been made alive by the Spirit, they will gladly and freely choose to repent of their sins and follow Christ.
So the Spirit says, “Come!” And the church says, “Come! Our doors are open! We are not a clique, we are not one ethnic group, we are not one type of person – Come! Open your ears! Hear the Good News! Come! Thirst!”
So I proclaim those words now. Are you hungering for righteousness? Do you know you are spiritually poor? Are you burdened and heavy-laden? Jesus says, “Come to Me!”
God offers you the ultimate joy. And it is all free! There is no cost! You do not need to get your life straight first. You do not need to clean up your act. You do not need to do the seven labors of Hercules. You do not need to check off a list of do’s and don’ts.
You only must come! Drink freely of the water of life, without cost!
Do you believe Jesus is coming back? Do you believe that His return will be sudden and quick?Are you ready?
For some, His return will be the greatest joy imaginable.
For all the rest, His return will be the greatest sorrow imaginable. Are you ready?
This is message of Revelation: Jesus is coming soon! Hold on to Him! Look to Him! Purify yourself by His blood! Know where true joy lies! Be ready! Say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
This sermon was preached at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC on 8/28/05. Greg Beale’s The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans, 1999) was helpful.
Copyright © 2005, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it in written form, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.
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