Worship is the place where the church’s confidence in Christ’s defeat of the powers merges most clearly with longing for his coming again. The entire Apocalypse may heard as the voice of Jesus.
Now in the closing lines, the church’s own voice is heard, together with that of the Spirit: “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!” (Rev. 22:17; cf. Isa. 55:1).
The cry of “come!” is threefold. The first utterance is that of the bride, anticipatorily embodied in the worshiping assembly, crying out in expectation of the bridegroom’s coming. The terrors and beauties disclosed in John’s visions serve only to heighten longing for the arrival of that day.
The second utterance is that of the individual worshiper, who is invited to speak with the bride, and indeed as the bride. No one who has heard the Apocalypse and is willing to “keep the words of the prophecy” should be excluded from the feast. To invert Bonhoeffer’s famous saying, we could say that while grace is not cheap it is free—as free as the waters of life, which flows from the throne of God and the Lamb to anyone who is thirsty.
This third member in the triad does not bid the listener to say “come!” but simply to come, to slake one’s thirst at the waters that cannot be bought.
Revelation is a book that draws many sorts of boundaries: between the church and the world, between the holy and the unholy, between the life appropriate to God’s people and the life of Babylon.
The urgent call to holiness of life is reiterated in these closing verses (22:11, 14-15). Yet like the gates of the city, the doors of the church are or should be fundamentally open. All are invited not to “come as they are,” but to come as the bride.
John would have been bemused at the notion that seriousness about witness and seriousness about Christian holiness are somehow in competition. In fact, they demand each other.