Article by Marshall Segal, staff writer, desiringGod.org
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
The last prayer in the Bible is also one of its shortest — and yet it’s layered with heartache and anticipation, with distress and hope, with agony and joy. Can you imagine the apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23), savoring those three words — “Come, Lord Jesus!” — while he was abandoned among criminals on the island of Patmos? Does the promise that Christ will come again ever feel sweeter than when life on earth feels harsh and unyielding?
It’s almost as if John tries to draw the risen Jesus out of heaven, praying with all his might. The barren, rocky ground beneath his knees was more than a prison; it was a model of the curse, twenty square miles overrun with the consequences of sin. Suffering does this. It opens our eyes wider to all that sin has ruined, just how much pain and havoc it has wrought in the world. And, in a strange way, suffering often awakens us to the promise of his coming.
Weakness and illness make us long all the more for new bodies. Prolonged relational conflict makes us long all the more for peace. Wars and hurricanes and earthquakes make us long all the more for safety. Our remaining sin makes us long all the more for sinlessness. “Come, Lord Jesus!” is the cry of someone who really expects a better world to come — and soon. Suffering only intensifies that longing and anticipation.
Many Prayers in One
The prayer “Come, Lord Jesus!” is really many prayers in one. What will happen when Christ finally returns? The opening verses of Revelation 21 tell us just how many of our prayers will be answered on that day.
Come, Lord Jesus, and dry our tears. Followers of Jesus are not spared sorrow in this life. In fact, following him often means more tears. Jesus himself warned us it would be so: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). But one day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). In that world, we will not have tribulation, or sorrow, or distress, or persecution, or danger. When he returns, we’ll never have another reason to cry.
Come, Lord Jesus, and put an end to our pain. Some long for the end of heartache; others feel the consequences of sin in their bodies. Pain has followed them like a shadow. Revelation 21:4 continues, “. . . neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” Can you imagine someone who has battled chronic pain for decades waking up one morning and feeling no more pain? It will be like a man who has never seen anything clearly finally putting on his first pair of glasses — except the sufferer will feel that sensation in every muscle and nerve. The absence of pain will free his senses to enjoy the world like never before.
Come, Lord Jesus, and put death to death. Jesus came to dethrone death. Hebrews 2:14–15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Every one reading this article was once enslaved to the fear of death. But death lost its sting when the Son of God died. And one day, death itself will die. When the Author of life comes, “death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
Come, Lord Jesus, and rid us of sin. This burden may be more subtle in these verses, but it would not have been subtle in John’s imagination. He writes in verse 3, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” And he knew that God cannot dwell with sin. For God to come and dwell with us, he will have to first eradicate the sin that remains in us — and that’s exactly what he promises to do. The sin that hides in every shadow and behind every corner will be suddenly extinct. He will throw every cause of sin into his fiery furnace (Matthew 13:41). “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
“In the world to come, we will have nothing to fear, nothing to mourn, nothing to endure, nothing to confess.”
Come, Lord Jesus, and make it all new. In other words, anything not included in the prayers above will be made right too. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Nothing here will go untouched. Whatever aspect of life on earth afflicts you most, it will be different. Whatever fears have plagued you, whatever trials have surprised you, whatever clouds have followed you, they all will be transformed — in the twinkling of an eye — and stripped of their threats. In the world to come, we will have nothing to fear, nothing to mourn, nothing to endure, nothing to confess. Can you imagine?
More than a prayer for relief, or safety, or healing, or even sinlessness, though, “Come, Lord Jesus!” is a prayer for him.
His Presence Is Paradise
The burning heart of John’s three-word plea is not for what Jesus does, but for who he is. This is clear throughout the book of Revelation. The world to come is a world to want because Jesus lives there. John’s prayer, after all — “Come, Lord Jesus!” — is a response to Jesus promising three times in the previous verses, “Behold, I am coming soon. . . . Behold, I am coming soon. . . . Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).
“The world to come is a world to want because Jesus lives there.”
While the apostle wasted away in prison, he could see the Bridegroom on the horizon (Revelation 1:12–16). His hair white, like snow. His eyes filled with fire. His feet, like burnished bronze. His face, like the sun shining in full strength. The man he had walked with, talked with, laughed with, and surely cried with, now fully glorified and ready to receive and rescue his bride, the church. The Treasure was no longer hidden in a field, but riding on the clouds.
Even the vision of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21 makes God himself the greatest prize of the world to come: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). Yes, we want a world without grief, without pain, without fear, without death. But better to have a world like ours with God, than to have any other world without him. His presence defines paradise.
Randy Alcorn writes,
Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us. . . . We may imagine we want a thousand different things, but God is the one we really long for. His presence brings satisfaction; his absence brings thirst and longing. Our longing for Heaven is a longing for God. (Heaven, 166, 171)
A Second Coming
While the apostle’s brief prayer may be the most memorable invitation in Revelation 22, it is not the only one. The Bible doesn’t end only with a desperate plea for Christ to return, but also with a warm invitation to the weary, the suffering, the spiritually thirsty.
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)
As John anticipates Christ’s returning, gathering his people and wiping out all his enemies, his last thoughts are not of judgment, but of mercy. He ends not with smoke rising out of torment, but with a free and overflowing fountain held out to all who would come. His words ring with an old and glorious invitation, Isaiah 55:1–2:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
When Jesus comes, we will eat and drink and enjoy without end. Hunger and thirst will become distant memories. If sorrows have robbed you of sleep, if pain has made even normal days hard, if death has taken ones you love, if life has sometimes seemed stacked against you, if you can’t shake a restless ache for more, then come and eat with him. This world may be the only world you’ve known, but a better world is coming — and there’s still room at the table.
Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.