The Last Invitation
September 22nd, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE LAST INVITATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-22-63 10:50 a.m.
After these many, many years of preaching through the Bible and now for two and half years preaching through the Revelation, we are coming to the concluding sermon. There shall be two more sermons delivered. And after 17 years and eight months of preaching through the Bible, we shall come to the last sermon.
This coming Sunday, next Sunday the sermon will be on the words of this prophecy; Revelation 22:18-19. Then the following Sunday, the third Sunday from now, the first Sunday in October, the nineteenth anniversary of the under-shepherdship of this pastor, I shall bring the last message. After 17 years eight months preaching through the Bible, I shall bring the last message on the last promise and prayer in the Book, "He which testifieth these things saith: Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." That Sunday is promotion day. It ought to be one of the great high days of our lives.
I have been thinking about and preparing that message for I don’t know how long for a year or more. God bless it as it is delivered, the first Sunday in October, the nineteenth anniversary of the pastor and the conclusion of 17 years and eight months of preaching through the Bible.
The sermon today is a message from one of the most meaningful and beautiful of all of the texts in the Word of God. You could entitle it God’s Last Invitation. You could entitle it "The Heavenward and Earthward Cry of Come."
The visions of the Revelation close at the fifth verse of the twenty-second chapter. Beginning at the sixth verse, John by the Holy Spirit writes an epilogue, a final concluding passage not only to the Revelation but in the providence of God to the entire canon of Holy Scriptures.
The verses of this epilogue are like the final movement of a great concerto in which the instruments of the orchestra all join in one vast flood of triumph. So in the voices in this epilogue they are all heard alternately. Sometimes it will be the voice of the seer who is speaking, the Apostle John. Sometimes it will be the voice of the angel. Sometimes it will be a deeper voice from the throne, the Lord Christ speaking Himself. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which one is speaking. They so blend one into the other. It is thus with this text,
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
The first come is the answering cry to the tremendously significant, and meaningful, and triumphant message of our Lord who announced in the twelfth verse above, "Behold, I come quickly." And the first voices that are heard, the voice of the Spirit, the voice of the bride of Christ, and the voice of him that heareth – each individual member of the congregation that has listened to the prophecy of this Word – the first voices that are heard are those that reply to the sublime announcement of our Lord, "Behold, I come quickly."
And they say, "Come, Lord, come." Then the Lord’s voice is heard again remembering the lost and the thirsty of this weary world. His invitation is to him that is athirst to come. "And whosoever will, let him come and let him take the water of life freely."
So we shall speak of the text in that beautiful manner. The first, the reply of the Spirit, and of the church, and of the individual hearer who believes, "Come, Lord, come." Then we shall speak of the pathos in the voice of our blessed Lord as He encourages the thirsty and the willing to come and to drink of the water of life freely. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come." When the Lord announces: "Behold, I come quickly," the Spirit of Jesus, the vice-regent of our Lord in the earth answers with a, with a deep-seated longing, "Come, Lord. Come."
Our Savior said it was expedient that He go away. But if He went away, He would leave as His vice-regent in this earth, the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete which should teach us in the way of truth and wisdom, being our Comforter, our Guide and our Keeper. But all through the years of this dispensation how the rejection, and the violence, and the wickedness of this world hath grieved, and provoked, and quenched the Holy Spirit of God!
The 40 years wandering in the wilderness when they provoked the Spirit of God are as nothing compared with the centuries and the generations of these 1,900 years that have known no other thing than the rejection of Christ and the grieving and the provoking of the Holy Spirit. And when the Lord announces, "Behold, I come quickly," an aggrieved and an agonizing Spirit replies, "Come, Lord. Come, blessed Jesus."
It is the desire, and the longing, and the assignment of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Lord Jesus. The last time this ugly world ever saw our Master was when He was raised between the earth and the sky on a cross. And they saw Him die in shame between two felons.
The longing and the desire of the Holy Spirit of God is to exalt the Lord Jesus, to reveal Him in His beauty, and in His holiness, and in His glory in splendor and in triumph. And when the Lord announces, "Behold, I come quickly," the Spirit replies, "Come, Lord, come."
"And the bride, say Come." The Spirit and the bride, the bride of Christ, "Come, Lord, come quickly." The bride of Christ, His Church through all of these ages and these centuries and now these two millenniums has been in prayer, waiting for her coming Lord. However the different groups may interpret the manner of His coming, the true church of Christ is ever moved by the prayer of appeal, "Thy kingdom come. Yea, come, Lord Jesus."
Do you notice there’s just one "Come? The Spirit and the bride say, Come" – not two – and the Spirit says come and the bride says come – but one. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." They are identified in that longing. And if the church is filled with the Holy Spirit and if the Holy Spirit speaks to His church they have a common prayer: "Come, blessed Lord Jesus." The Church cries in the Spirit and the Spirit prays and cries in the church, "Come, Lord. Come blessed Jesus."
The church, the true church is espoused to the Lord but the marriage is not yet. It is not until the nineteenth chapter of the coming of our Lord that the wedding supper of the Lamb is celebrated. And the Church looks up to her espoused Husband waiting for that final and consummating and conjugal day when she shall belong to her Lord and the Lord shall possess His own. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come."
"And let him that heareth say, Come." At the great and sublime announcement, "Behold, I come quickly," let every individual member of the congregation, let every member of the house of faith when they hear the word that is read and the revelation that is delivered, let him say in his heart, "Yes, Lord, come, blessed Jesus."
That is the token and the sign of a born-again Christian, a true child of the Lord. No unsaved man, no worldling longs for the return of the Savior. To him, the day of the return of the Lord is a day of foreboding. It is a day of judgment. It is a day of perdition and damnation. It is the loss. It is the day of loss and of terror.
That’s why the unsaved man says, "Where is the promise of His coming? Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were" [2 Peter 3:4]. For to him the coming of the Lord is a dreadful thing. And he pushes it out of his life, and out of his mind, and out of every prospect of the future but not so a true child of God.
When the Lord announces, "Behold, I come quickly," and when we read of those blessed appearances in the Bible, the true child of God says, "Lord, by revelation, I am taught that Thou shalt come. Amen. It is blessed and it is holiness and happiness to my soul. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." That’s the sign of a true, and a devout, and a God-fearing Christian. Let him that heareth," each individual faith member of the household of faith, let him answer, "Come, Lord, yea, come."
Then in the midst of the answering cry of the Spirit, and of the bride, and of the individual member the Lord speaks. Do you see the difference in those two "comes?" "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come." Then it turns: "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely."
So there are two different "comes" in the invitation. One, the Spirit and the bride and the individual hearer, "Come, blessed Lord, let him say Come." Then the message of our Lord to the sinner, to the unbeliever who is not prepared for that great and triumphant day, "Let him come."
It is as though the Lord remembers you, especially you. It is as though the Spirit took up the pen and before the last, final benediction is written, before the canon is closed, before the last prophet and apostle has spoken, it is as though the Holy Spirit picked up the pen and says, "Make one last appeal to the lost that they might be saved, that they might come."
Come. Let him that is athirst come. And let him whosoever he would, whosoever would desire, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Come. To him that is athirst, come. To him that desires, come. To him that just will, come.
That word "come" is the favorite word of the Lord God in this Holy Book. In the fate of the terrible judgment of the flood and the storm of heaven of wind and rain, the Lord commanded Noah to build an ark. And when it was built, He said to Noah, "Come, Noah, you and your family into the ark of safety. Come" [Genesis 6:18].
The great law-giver Moses, when he stood in the midst of the camp when the people were in idolatry, and orgy, and in sin; Moses standing in the camp said, "Let him who is on the Lord’s side, let him come. Let him come and stand by me" [Exodus 32:26].
It is the message of the gospel of the Old Testament in Isaiah. Isaiah 1:18: "Come now come now saith the Lord, and let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Come now saith the Lord." Or in Isaiah 55 the first verse again: "Ho, ho, ho, ho everyone that thirsteth come, come ye, buy without money and without price."
That was a constant word of invitation on the lips of our blessed Lord: "And passing by, he saw the brothers fishing, and he said, Come, follow Me, I will make you fishers of men" [Mark 1:17]. And the Lord said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not. Of such is the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 19:14].
And the Lord said to the rich young ruler with the world in his heart, loving the wrong world, "Get rid of it. Get rid of it and come follow Me" [Matthew 19:21]. And the Lord said to Zacchaeus: "This day Zacchaeus, you up there, this day salvation comes to thy house. Come, make haste and come down" [Luke 19:5].
And our Lord says to those weary and heavy-laden, "Come unto Me. Come unto Me. I will give you rest" [Matthew 11:28]. And the Lord says in the great parable of His gospel message out in the highways, "And in the highways go and compel them, constrain them to come. Come in" [Luke 14:23].
This is the great climactic purpose of every worship service, and every gospel sermon, and every true message of the Lord. "Come, ye who have never been saved. Come to Jesus. And ye who have already come, come closer. Draw nigher. Come still closer."
Don’t need to be clever. Don’t need to be oratorical. Don’t need to be profound or theologically. Don’t need to be debative, or forensic, or argumentative. Just a simple text with a simple sermon, "Come, come to the Lord Jesus; come and be saved." Come with us in this pilgrimage to heaven. Come."
"The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. Let him that is athirst come. And anybody who would, let him come." All join and this is no violence to the text. All joined in this invitation to the sinner, to the lost, that he come, come to Jesus.
"The Spirit says, Come." When a preacher stands in a pulpit with an open Bible and raises his hands in appeal, he can always know that there, there, beyond in every heart, there is a wooing of the Holy Spirit encouraging to come. Come to Jesus.
"And the bride says, Come." That’s the great heart, and love, and desire, and prayer of any true church of Jesus, to see lost people come and be saved.
With all of the abuse and criticism of the true church of Jesus, His bride in the earth, would you like to know whether the church really loves a lost city, and a lost world, and a lost sinner? Wouldn’t you like to know whether they do or not, truly and really? Then in any service, any hour let any sinner come down this aisle, take the pastor by the hand and say, "Pastor, I want to be saved. I want to be born again. I want to be a child of God. Men and brethren, pray for me. I want to go to heaven and see the face of God some day."
Just let him come. All over the congregation, there will be hearts lifted up saying, "Bless the name of God. Here is another sinner who has returned, who has turned in repentance and in faith to the saving Lord Jesus."
That’s the true Church of the Lord. It’s in her heart to sing "Rescue the Perishing." That’s the true bride of Christ with her Bible, and her altars, and her prayers, and her tears flowing to the earth and her missionaries and her, and her ministries of concern and help, and her shepherdly care with her songs of praise and gladness with her face lifted up to the glory of God. That is the Church. And the bride, the blessed church of Jesus, invites you to come.
"And let him that heareth say, Come." Have you heard there’s a Savior? Have you heard there’s a God in heaven? Have you heard there’s a way to be reconciled to the Lord God, who judges the earth? Have you heard the repeated, and grand, and glad invitation, "Come. Come to the Lord. Come and be saved?"
When I think of that, "Let him that heareth say, Come," I think of the woman in Samaria who by the well listened to the blessed words of Jesus. Leaving her pitcher, her water pot, she hastened to the city and said, "Come. Come. Come and see. Is not this the Savior of the world, the Messiah of God?"
"Let him that heareth say, Come. Come." Do I speak today in the name of a sainted father or a sainted mother who heard the gospel message and believed and who now is in glory, who repeats the glad refrain and invitation to your heart? "Come, come." Could they say from the ramparts of glory looking down upon us, "What, is it still that John hasn’t been saved? What could it be that Mary has not taken the Lord as her Savior?" They who have heard individually having trusted and believed, they invite you to come to the Lord.
"And let him that is athirst come." Ah, what a simile, what a metaphor, what a figure. How intense. The most agonizing longing known to the human frame is that of thirst; thirst. Every tissue, every atom of the body seems to sympathize with that agonizing cry for water.
All we must do to see the fevered eyes, and the parched lips, and the thick tongue, and the dry broken skin of a pilgrim, of a stranger on the face of a scarred desert and hear him cry for water. Oh, water, water, water! To know the intensity of that desire, it is a picture of the longing of the soul after God. Our Lord said, "Whosoever drinketh of the water of this life shall thirst again."
Pleasures, and wealth, and fame, and riches, and success, and ambition, these things do not feed the soul. As Bobby Burns said,
Pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever.
Or like the Borealis race
That flit ‘ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Vanishing amid the storm.
"Whosoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again, but whosoever drinks of the water I give him, shall never thirst." Oh, that cup of immortality, that fountain of life and of youth! Oh, God, where is it? We drink and are satisfied. Where is it that we find life, and immortality, and happiness, Lord, but in Thee, but in Thee? And in the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and said, "Let him that is athirst come unto Me and drink."
For so many years I have been quoting as a part of comfort and of assurance, the first stanza of saintly Horatius Bonar’s hymn:
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast.
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, worn, and sad.
I found in Him a resting place
And He hath made me glad.
I just love that stanza. It was only in preparing this sermon that I ever noticed the second stanza of that beautiful and precious hymn "I heard the voice of Jesus say."
Again, a second stanza:
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down [kneel down, bow down] and drink and live."
I came to Jesus and I drank
Of that life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
"Let him that is athirst come, come."
And the most inclusive, and the summation of all of the invitations of God in all of the Word: "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
"And whosoever will," that must include us all, every soul that ever lived, every soul that shall ever live, every soul that now lives. The invitation includes us all. "And whosoever will, let him take the water of love freely."
"Whosoever will." If I elect, God elects. If I will, God wills. The elect are the "whosoever wills." The non-elect are the whosoever won’ts.
"And whosoever will," the condition is not in God. It is not in Christ. The condition lies in me. God says, "Whosoever will." As broad as the race is broad, as time is broad, and life is broad, "Whosoever will." Then the Lord stops. He does not coerce or force. All who enter in do so of their own choice. I must answer, "Yes."
"Whosoever will, let him." Oh, that word "let!" When God says, "let him," where is the power that could deny him. "Let him." "Fiat lux," God said, "Let there be light." And who could deny the light that burst into this darkened world? And when God says "Let him," who could deny the humblest, feeblest most pitiful sinner, coming to the Lord to be saved? Who could interdict? Who could deny? Who could intervene?
Could all of the powers of hell? Could Satan? Could the Devil? Could the angels that look like harpies, so black and dark? Could doubt and fear? Could anything stand between us and God when God says, "Let him come, let him come"?
"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Let him take. Let him take. Oh, what a simple gospel and what a simple message! Let him take. If a man desire Christ, let him take Christ. If a man desire life, let him take life. If a man desire heaven, let him take heaven. If a man desire reconciliation, let him take reconciliation. If a man desire forgiveness, let him take forgiveness. If a man desire Jesus, let him take the blessed Lord Jesus.
"And whosoever will, let him take." Oh, no word about feelings! No word about carrying a load of righteousness, and good works, and commendations with you. Just let him come and let him take.
Isn’t it a marvelous thing that God says? Grace, grace will provide the repentance, and the faith, and the gifts that brings us nigh to God. Just in us there be a willingness to come and to take.
"Let him come and take the water of life freely." Only one condition there; that you just take it freely. Don’t bring a price. Don’t bring a cost. Don’t bring good works and commendations. Don’t bring recommendations. Just come as you are. "Let him that heareth say, Come. Let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
It is God’s good pleasure to give us our salvation. It is a gift of God. It is the Lord’s love and desire to bestow it upon us without money and without price, "In my hand no price could I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling."
Let him take it freely. Let him drink at the fountain of the river of life and live forever. Drink full and deep – yours forever.
I heard one time of a little emaciated, starved boy in a large family taken to a hospital there to be ministered to because of his emaciation and the starvation. And the sweet and beautiful nurse came to the little starved boy with a big glass of milk in her hand. And she gave it to the little starved boy and said to the lad, "Drink. Drink." And with eager hands, the little starved fellow took the glass of milk, raised it to his lips and started to drink and then suddenly stopped. And holding up the glass said, "Nurse, how deep can I drink?"
Oh, what a picture of poverty, and want, and need, and thirst, and starvation, in that person! For you see, every glass of milk that little fellow had ever seen had to be divided with the children of a large family. And each one could only drink just so much, and so much, and so much, and so much. There was not enough and to spare.
The little fellow holding the glass in his hand said, "Nurse, how deep can I drink?" And the nurse replied, "Dear child, drink to the full. Drink to the full." We shall never exhaust the goodness, and the grace, and the mercy of our great Lord God. Come, drink to the full. Be saved forever, and forever, and forever.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. Come. Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Manna from heaven to eat, water of life to drink, come and be saved. Come. Draw nigh to the blessed Lord Jesus. Come, give your heart and trust to Him. Come, look into His blessed face in faith, in expectancy. He will keep every promise that He made.
Come. Join yourself to the household of faith. Come. Be one with us in the pilgrimage from this earth to the glory of a world that is yet to come. Come and make it now. Come. Bow before the Lord, our great high God. Give your life anew to Him. Come. Come.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, in that balcony round, there’s a stairway on either side, both at the front and at the back, there’s time and to spare. Come. Down one of those stairways, here to the front, come. Make it now. Make it now putting your life in the fellowship of the church, accepting Jesus as your Savior. "Here I am, pastor. Here I come."
In the throng and press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle, into the aisle, down to the front, "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to the blessed Lord. Here I am and here I come." Make it this morning. Make it now while we stand and while we sing.