Notice the quotation marks in the title. I am very dramatically with an emphatic facial expression utilizing my fingers to loudly make air quotations here. It’s important that you see that word ‘want’ and that you think about it deeply. I’m not asking if you’re ready to meet Jesus—ready or not you will meet Him when He peels the heavens back. You will ignore Him no more. I’m not asking if you want to accept Jesus—which I have come to think is a rather misleading phrase. I’m asking—very plainly—if you want, are you longing for, do you desire to see, be with, and enjoy the rich fellowship of Jesus Christ forever and ever?
Here is what John, the author of Revelation, says about that.
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, ESV
The Spirit in-dwelt Bride longs to see the heavenly Groom. That is the constant, ever increasing prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” For all the mystery that the Revelation brings, concerning events and timelines, this much is crystal clear: those who belong to the Spirit in-dwelt Bride of Christ want to meet Jesus in the fullness of His glory. In fact, I would argue, they have already seen His glory in the Scripture by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is why they long to see Him visibly now.
This is probably not a shocking statement, but not everyone feels that way about Jesus. It is a well known fact, I think, that some will not rejoice. What I am saying is this: there are people who do not want to meet Jesus. Earlier in the Revelation, which occurs at the fifth trumpet (9:20) and again at the pouring of the fifth bowl,
The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues because of their pain and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they did not repent of their works.Revelation 16:10-11, CSB, italics added.
The Spirit in-dwelt Bride prays, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And there are others, who are not belonging to the Spirit in-dwelt Bride, who hate that prayer. Here’s the question on my heart for you: Which prayer is echoing in your heart?
Those who hear echo the Spirit and the Bride.
I think the conjunction “And” is vital for you to see. You are not dealing with an out-of-socket joint. This is not a wild rabbit trail that John chases, he is a better preacher than that. This sentence, “And let the one who hears say, ‘Come’” should be taken in full stride with the sentence that precedes it, even more so since both sentences emphasize on that single word, “Come!” Now what is John saying in these two sentences? I think he is saying two things. First, that those who belong the True Bride of Christ and are indwelled with God’s Holy Spirit echo what the Spirit and the Bride says. That is to say that you can not belong to the Spirit in-dwelt Bride and have a contradictory prayer! Secondly, which is more complex, John is saying that echoing that prayer is a result of ‘hearing.’ That is that if you ‘hear’ in the sense that John means it, then you will want to meet Jesus. You will long for his coming. You echo the prayer of the Spirt and the Bride and you say, “Come!”
Now, what does that mean? I think two questions are in front of us now that need to be dealt with in order to provide a full answer. First, what does the Bible mean by the Greek verb we translate as hearing? The best approach here, I think, is to see how God himself uses this idea in passages that are a little more straightforward. And I should tell you, there are a lot you could look at in this scenario! However, for sake of time I have selected two texts that I think are just crystal clear. The first is John 6,
Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it.John 6:60, CSB, italics added.
I don’t want to be guilty of proof texting and so we must see this verse in it’s own context. This comes at the conclusion of a lengthy teaching that spans the most of the breath of John’s sixth chapter, verses 22-71. Jesus had just miraculously fed the five thousand (6:1-15) and, after withdrawing from the crowd, amazingly met the disciples on the sea, three or four miles from the coast, not in a boat but walking on the water towards them! (6:16-21) “The next day” (6:22) Jesus encounters the hungry crowd again, who had likely stolen the boats they were in. Jesus doesn’t waste anytime. He immediately turns up the heat in his teaching, and essentially says they are following Him for the wrong reasons. A rather interesting dialogue, rich with Old Testament allusions, then begins between Jesus and the crowd—and Jesus says some hard things. Things like, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him.” (John 6:44) and “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) Sometimes I say things while preaching, not intentionally but nonetheless, that evokes some ‘shocked’ facial expressions. I think Jesus was getting a whole lot of those facial expressions when he was saying these things.
Well, some of the disciples got together and started complaining because they found Jesus’s teaching offensive. This is what is happening in John 6:60, quoted above, and so you know the English word translated accept can be literally translated as hear—which is how the old King James translates it. Literally it could be, “this teaching is hard. Who can hear it?” You should know that Jesus was no vacillating preacher. He dug His heels in and pressed truth in harder towards his disciples, going as far to reiterate that their actions validate what He has taught.
He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by The Father.”John 6:65, CSB.
This apparently was the final straw for some of these disciples. John says that many of them, after this teaching, turned back and no longer followed Jesus. (John 6:66) Jesus had gone too far for them. I mean what was He doing? Things were going so great, they had such a huge following, a movement has happening—they could almost taste the glory, but not this. No, Jesus had went too far for them. I mean ‘eat his flesh and drink His blood?’ Do we even know this guy anymore? Maybe I am speculating here—but I think the speculation is well funded by the context. The point is that certain people heard physically what Jesus had said and were offended by it, so much so that they terminated their relationship with Him.
Now, here is what really gets me. Jesus, possibly watching these false disciples walk away from eternal life, turns to his chosen 12 and asks the question, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Peter’s answer is absolutely fascinating,
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”John 6:68, CSB.
Same message, but two types of people. One group heard Jesus physically and concluded that He was a lunatic. The other group heard Him and concluded He had the words of eternal life. Furthermore, what one group found to be insensitive and offensive, Simon Peter found to be sufficient ground on which He had come to believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God. What just happened? For me, I believe that Peter experienced a type of hearing that is more spiritual than it is physical. A type of hearing that pierced his ear drum and gripped his heart. Peter heard in a way that awakened saving faith in his heart.
That was a long answer I know. But we need to see what we are dealing with here before I can address the second question: how does this hearing happen?
Hop back to our text from Revelation for a moment. What does John, the author of the Revelation, say?
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”Revelation 22:17a-b, CSB.
Here is what I think John is saying, and I pray it is clearer after our survey of John 6. The one who ‘hears’ comes to ‘hearing’ by the sovereign power of the Spirit, and that hearing is amplified by the ministry of the Bride. I think that primarily because of the conjunction “and” that links these two sentences together as a unified thought. And, because I find that this a consistent teaching with the rest of the New Testament as well! How did Lydia come to hear in a way that led to a response other than the sovereign Lord who graciously opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying? (Acts 16:14) What do you think Jesus means when he repeatedly attaches the phrase, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen” to the end of His parables? Certainly Jesus is referring to the sovereign illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Paul describes it this way,
But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.2 Corinthians 4:3-6, CSB, italics added.
And what more could I say? For time would fail me to tell you of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jospeh, Moses, David, and all those in whom the sovereign illuminating light of the Holy Spirit has shone! The reason Peter found Jesus’s word to be words of eternal life is the same reason that the Spirit in-dwelt Bride prays in response to the Revelation, “Come!” The Holy Spirit has shone into their hearts and they have found that their every need and desire is met and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They echo Peter in this present by saying, “Lord to whom would we go?” And as they looked forward in faith they say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
But what about the Bride? Yes, the Holy Spirit alone is sovereign to open the eyes and ears of the heart. The church can’t do that. You pastor—I don’t care how clever he is—can’t do that. However, that doesn’t mean that the Spirit doesn’t work through the local church, oh quite the contrary! You see, I am arguing that while the Spirit is the only one who can illuminate the mind, He chooses to amplify and intensify that illumination through the Bride. So, for those of you who think that the church is useless to you, think again! YOU need the local church. And, I can name at least two ways (and there are so many more but we don’t have time) that the church amplifies and intensifies the truth of God in your ears and thereby amplifies and intensifies your affections for Jesus.
1. Preaching, and teaching, the Word of God.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:11, speaking about the gifts of Christ to His church,
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning, with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.Ephesians 4:11-14, CSB.
Notice the italics. Notice all the benefits that come from sitting under the giving, sharing, and clarifying of God’s Word. I’ll say it simply—it is a momentous blessing to sit under solid Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting preaching. It equips you to work and do ministry. It will build you up into the saint God has called you to be. It will prevent you from being duped by bad preaching/teaching. I mean just look at that last line, ‘every wind of human teaching, by human cunning, with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. That means that your feet get so dug into truth that if Joel Olsteen, Kenneth Copeland, or some other wacko walks in, you say ‘Get out.’ By contrast to this, if you wish to forsake your local church which preaches truth in favor of joining a YouTube church that fits your preferences then you miss these God-glorifying benefits.
Hear this. The Spirit working through The Bride, through her ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God, is pleased to intensify and sharpen the ears of your heart to be supplied, strengthened, and sound in what you hear. It’s good for your mind to belong to the local church.
I chose this word because in my mind it encompasses a whole lot of ideas. To me it is the Spirit working through the intercessory prayers of the local church. How many times has a church prayed for the spiritual awakening of a wayward son, daughter, father, or mother and witness God answer that prayer powerfully? God is pleased to preserve your soul through the intercessory prayers of those He has placed around you. I also think of the ministry of presence. Oh, how many times have you been abandoned, or on the bitter end of tragedy to which a faithful brother or sister in your local church became a faithful shoulder, an inspiring and encouraging word, or a guiding light that you so desperately needed. Let me just tell you when tragedy hits you need to remember Chris Hodges ain’t coming to see you—but your local church will. When you go rogue for a season, David Platt ain’t going to be praying for you to wake up from your aimless wandering. But, your local church will. Oh, and should I forget to mention the power of exhortation? Yes as the book of Hebrews prescribes as a potent antidote to wandering hearts,
Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.Hebrews 3:12-13, CSB
Here is the point. Don’t miss it. God has so ordained to bring His children to spiritual life and to keep them by his own sovereign power and grace, which he joyfully employs through the ministry of His Bride. That is profoundly humbling isn’t it? In this I can do it on my own, individualistic, me-oriented, give me what I want or I’ll leave church culture—how potent to our pride and self-centeredness it is to remember that we really do need each other! That’s why I often say, ‘The church doesn’t need you, but God has so designed and ordained your salvation that you need the local church.’
How hearing leads you to echo The Spirit and the Bride.
But what is end of this hearing? Here is the principle I see in this text. Spiritual hearing awakens saving affections. I think that is why John, after this mention about ‘hearing’ turns the tables on the prayer making it a glorious invitation to let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life. It is the ‘hearing’ that awakens the ‘thirst.’ Now here’s the thing—typically thirst would be a bad thing. As in if you are in the middle of the desert with no water under the scorching sun, thirst might kill you. But not here. No, in Revelation 22 thirst is no grave obstacle, but a gracious opening to plunge yourself headfirst into the all-satisfying waters of Christ. I say gracious opening because only the thirsty come to drink. Only the desiring take the water of life.
But surely such water comes with a price. How can John invite the thirsty and desiring to come and take without price? Because what was owed, has been paid in full—by the blood of Christ. What this means is that your only hinderance to experiencing the eternal life of God, is your own desire. You will never drink unless you thirst, and you can’t make yourself thirsty! You see hearing awakens you to the beautiful reality of Jesus, that He is who He says He is. That He is the Holy Eternal Son of God who meets and satisfies every need and desire of your heart. Spiritual hearing awakens you to saving affections. And so, the echo of your heart is no longer a hatred for Jesus, but an all encompassing love as you join the Spirit in-dwelt Bride and say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”