Read Revelation 22:12–20.
The Bible ends with the prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus.” It is a prayer that is echoed in many of our Advent hymns, such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”
Christians have prayed it from the earliest days; it is the oldest Christian prayer we know (not counting the Lord’s Prayer). We know this because Paul quotes the original Aramaic version, Maranatha, meaning “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). For Paul to expect his Greek-speaking readers in Corinth to recognize this Aramaic phrase, it must have had a key place in early Christian worship.
In Revelation 22:20, it is a response to Jesus’ promise to come. In verse 12 and again in verse 20, Jesus himself says, “I am coming soon.” This promise runs through the whole Book of Revelation (see 2:5, 16; 3:11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20), promising judgment for some and blessing for others, until at last it evokes an answer: “Come!”
We hear that answer first in verse 17. It is the prayer of “the Spirit and the bride.” By “the Spirit,” what is probably meant is the Spirit speaking through Christian prophets in worship. The bride is the church as she joins this prayer of the Spirit.
We can picture the bride waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive. She is adorned and ready for him (see 19:7–8). The bride is not the church as such, but the church as she should be, expectant and prepared for the Lord’s coming. She is the church that prays, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
We must imagine the Book of Revelation being read aloud in Christian worship. When the reader read the next sentence, “Let everyone who hears say, ‘Come!’” (22:17, NRSV), the whole congregation would join in the prayer, shouting, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Their heartfelt prayer identifies them as the bride of the Lamb.
But in the second half of verse 17, the use of the word “come” shifts. Now it is the hearers, “everyone who is thirsty,” who are invited to “come” and receive from God “the water of life” (NRSV). The water of life belongs in the new creation (21:6) and the New Jerusalem (22:1). But it is available already in the present to those who are awaiting the coming of Jesus.
It is as though he comes to us already, ahead of his final coming, and gives us a foretaste of the new creation. For that is what salvation is. We wait for him because we have met him already.
Richard Bauckham is senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and the author of many books, including Who Is God? and Theology of the Book of Revelation.
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