The Great Invitation (Revelation 22:16-20)
“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.”
The ministry of Jesus could almost be summed up by the words, “Come to me.” Matthew 11:28-30. John 7:37-38.
Many have called this passage “The Great Invitation.” Why? Coming to Jesus is not a simple matter. Coming to Jesus means adopting a hard way of life (Luke 14:25-33). Coming to Jesus means leaving sin. After her accusers left, the woman caught in adultery heard the Lord tell her she could go her way, but she could sin no more (John 8:11). In coming to Jesus, this woman needed to give up her sinful lifestyle.
The invitation is not just a call to live differently.
- It is a call from our Creator.
- It is a call to life.
- It is a call to forgiveness.
- It is a great invitation because of—
- Its Sender.
- Its Recipients.
- Its Benefits.
The Invitation is Great Because of Its Sender
We must understand that this invitation comes from an awesome God. Isaiah 6:1-5. Isaiah trembled when he saw the holiness of God. The seraphim called to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Because he is holy, God stands as the supreme example of moral perfection. In my prayers, both public and private, I often say something to the effect: “God, you stand above all that we are or could ever hope to be.” I repeat that phrase often because it is true and because I—and the rest of us—need to remember that truth.
The One who sends this invitation created the universe. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). That boggles my mind. The Creator of man cares enough about me to send me a personal invitation to come to him. I’ve met a few famous folks—Chuck Yeager, Joe Manchin, Mitch McConnell, Dan Quayle, and Mitt Romney just to name a few. But, meeting those folks can never compare to knowing God and being called into fellowship with them. Those folks don’t know who Justin Imel is. God does know who I am, and he wants a relationship with me!
God needed to make some preparations to extend this invitation. You ladies know how this works: you will not allow just anyone to see your house. If you invite someone over for dinner, you clean and make all the other necessary arrangements. God did the same thing. For this invitation to be extended, Jesus had to leave heaven. Philippians 2:5-8. This passage speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself. In emptying himself, Jesus left heaven with all its glory and splendor. He gave up his right to divine attributes—being free from weariness, for example. You see, Jesus had to leave heaven. In heaven, there is—
- No Gethsemane.
- No cross.
- No sin.
- No death.
Jesus had to experience Gethsemane. He had to experience Calvary. He had to die on a cross. He had to experience my sin. He had to die.
For us to be in a right relationship with God, he had to take my sin on himself. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Jesus became our vicarious sacrifice, i.e., he took our place. We should have died, but he died instead. “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.”
God made these preparations because he loves me. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God did not have to give his Son to redeem man. God could have allowed us to go to hell, but God loves us so much that he could not stand to see that happen. Please understand God truly and deeply loves you. In fact, he gave his only Son to redeem you from your sin.
This Invitation is Great Because of Its Recipients
God presents this invitation to sinful man—that’s the beauty of it all. God is a holy Being. Man is sinful, and because of his sin man stands alienated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). But, God still calls man into fellowship with him. You and I do not deserve the salvation God so freely offers. You and I deserve hell. Ephesians 2:4-7. The word “grace” sums up the Gospel of Christ. God gives us salvation, not because of our worthiness, but because of his grace.
God gives us salvation by grace, for we can obtain salvation in no other way.
Man has a serious sin problem. All men have sinned. 1 Kings 8:46. Romans 3:10, 23.
Because man sins, he stands condemned, without any hope. When we lived in sin, we “were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). This is a horrible situation—being without hope and without Christ. When man is in sin, he stands condemned to an eternal hell—no hope, no future, no salvation.
Our sin deeply affects God. Our sin hurts him. He created man to have fellowship with him. When man sins against God and severs that fellowship, God’s heart bleeds with grief. Genesis 6:5-7. God did not believe he had made a mistake in creating man. But he was greatly hurt by man’s contempt for his commands.
If you are not living obediently, God grieves over you. God wants to have fellowship with you. God loves you. God wants to save you. But, that decision is up to you. God has completed his role. Now, you must act upon what God has done.
Sin is horrible. It does not give what it offers, but sin deceives (Hebrews 3:13). Sin is so horrible that God’s very Son had to die to redeem us. Sin held us in its power until Jesus came and loosed that power. When one truly considers sin, he cannot help but be amazed that God wants to redeem us.
The Invitation is Great Because of Its Benefits
In this invitation, God offers us freedom from our burden from sin through his abundant forgiveness. Micah 7:18-19. Isaiah 1:18. Revelation 21:14. Psalm 32:1-2. This psalm was probably written after David committed adultery with Bathsheba. David had gone as far down as anyone could possibly go. But God still forgave. And David knew the blessing of forgiveness. God could not give us a greater blessing than forgiving us of our sins.
One evening I had the pleasure of baptizing a friend into Christ. He later confessed to me that he had trouble going to sleep that night. He said he just kept thinking of everything being wiped clean, made whole. What a wonderful feeling that is! Regardless of what we have done, God can and will forgive.
Not only do we have the wonderful blessing of forgiveness, but we also have the assurance of salvation. “We will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Paul doesn’t declare that we might be with the Lord or we hope to be with the Lord or there is a chance we might be with the Lord—We will be with the Lord. What a wonderful assurance we have in Christ! “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). There is no need to worry about sickness or death. Those things will no longer exist—we have the absolute assurance of our salvation through the blood of Jesus.
We deserve hell. We deserve eternal torment, eternal separation from God. We do not deserve to gaze upon our Savior’s face, but we deserve to gaze upon Satan’s face and live with him eternally. Luke 16:19-26. The rich man lived wonderfully in this life. He had everything he could possibly imagine. But, he neglected God; he left God out of his life. And as a result, he went to Torment. The torment was so great that he begged Abraham to have Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger and comfort him in the flames of Torment.
That torment is what you and I deserve, but God extends to us an invitation to forsake all of that. That’s why we can call this invitation the “Great Invitation.” Instead of sharing in the torment of the rich man, we can share in the comfort of Lazarus. Things may not be great in this life, but, if we accept the Lord’s invitation, we will be comforted in the next. If we accept this invitation, we will never need to fear hell. If we are faithful to God, it is impossible for us to go to hell or experience torment when this life is over. One man said, “That which makes hell so full of horror, is, that it is below all hopes; and that which makes heaven so full of splendor, is, that it is above all fears. The one is a night without the return of day; the other is a day free from the approach of night.”
I want you to leave here this morning understanding something. If your heart is not right before God, you are damned to eternal torment. You have no hope. You are lost. You have no bright future. But God loves you (John 3:16).
Won’t you accept the “Great Invitation?”
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.