Famous Last Words, Part 4

Post Author: Ali Van Kuiken and Alison VanBuskirk Philip

“Famous Last Words” is a 4-week sermon series exploring the final words of various books of the Bible. In our fourth and final week, we look at the ending of the end of the Bible: the Book of Revelation. Although not always popular with pastors, Revelation tends to be very popular with your average run-of-the-mill Christian or spiritually curious person. Whether it’s the tantalizing promise of a glimpse into the end of the world or the vivid imagery, there is something intriguing about this book. Here we explore the end of Revelation and the promises and warnings found there. You can read previous posts here.

A stream flows down a slight hill and over rocks against a background of green mountains and hills.

Streams of water.

November 20, 2022 (Christ the King Sunday) – Revelation 22:16-21
RCL texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Call to Worship
by Alison VanBuskirk Philip

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”


Jesus is the bright morning star.

Let anyone who sees say, “Come!”


Jesus is the life-giving water.

Let all who are thirsty say, “Come!”


May the grace of God be with us,

quenching our every thirst

and blessing our every story.

We come to receive living water.

We come to soak in God’s blessing.


Hymn Suggestion
Joy to the World (Text by Isaac Watts, tune: Antioch)

Light text commentary with preaching suggestions
by Ali Van Kuiken:

The Book of Revelation elicits strong reactions. Among patients at the psychiatric hospitals where I’ve worked, it inspires awe, fascination, and excitement. It’s many of my patients’ favorite book of the Bible. Among colleagues, there is some puzzlement and aversion, as they find the imagery too strong and popular interpretations troubling. Among congregational parishioners, Revelation is a source of confusion. What, then, should we make of this apocalyptic, vivid book? Is it a prophecy concerning the future? Does it describe the past? What does it have to do with me, today? 

Having grown up in an Evangelical home, I inevitably think of the Left Behind series whenever I think of Revelation; the name Nicolai Carpathia usually comes to mind. I also think of my college Bible professors, a husband and wife teaching team, dressing up as the dragon and using a hand puppet who represented the “whore of Babylon” to bring the images of Revelation to life.

Whatever we make of the specific plagues, seals, and bowls of wrath in Revelation, it is overall clear that it was meant to be a book of encouragement during a time of uncertainty, persecution and danger for Christians. When the empire seems to have the upper hand, the power, and the ability to inflict violence on one’s fledgling church community, one needs a new vision of God and God’s plans for the world to explain what exactly is going on and to maintain hope. Revelation gives such a vision. God is undeniably in control and, in fact, everything that looks chaotic and confusing here on earth is all part of God’s plan. The people of God need not worry. All will come right in the end. Whatever our suffering here on earth, the righteous will be vindicated and will find a place and healing in the new heaven and the new earth.

This is the context of the last words of Revelation, which includes a beautiful invitation to “come.” The Spirit and the bride say “come.” Let the one who is thirsty come. There is a communal invitation here to join in the same petition “come.” There is some ambiguity as to who is to come and who is being invited to come. Are we joining in the cry, “Amen, come Lord Jesus”? Or are we the ones being invited to come? There’s a case to be made for both. “The one who testifies to these things” says, “Surely I am coming soon.” This might be Jesus who is testifying by way of his messenger John, or perhaps it is John, the identified messenger bringing the contents of the book to the churches. The multivalency of scripture allows for several avenues the preacher could follow here. We can join with those desperately calling for Jesus to come again. And we can hear in that message an invitation to join with others to come somewhere new.

Perhaps this invitation is to come to the new, holy city, of which verse 14 writes that those who wash their robes will have the right to enter it by the gates. A place not all are apparently welcome, given the warning in verse 15 about who is not going to be allowed entrance. Such warnings no doubt sound harsh and hateful to our ears, ears which are so often attuned to messages of God’s love and the second chances given to those who have fallen. (Not to mention the judgments we may have about those judging others based on their choices.) Yet how we live our lives and the choices we make are precisely the important point in Revelation. When all hell breaks loose, what does that mean for us? We need to hold on, stay strong, stay the course. We can do so because God is ultimately the one in control. Don’t lose heart. Don’t stray. There are warnings and promises here.

Another warning appears in verses 18-19: not to add or take away from the words of this book lest God add plagues to us or take away our share in the kingdom. And isn’t it not also the case that those who add to the words of the Bible often add a message that becomes a plague to others? And those who take away the message of love and grace, do they not take away the opportunity for others to enter into their share in the kingdom?

What I see in this invitation to “come” is not so much our longing for Jesus to come back and rescue us, or even come and teach us once again. It is an invitation for us to come to Jesus, to that heavenly city where the trees with leaves for the healing of the nations grow. An invitation for us to come to the waters of life. We are not static people, waiting for God to do something for us. We have agency and choice and can choose where to move and where to go. The invitation at the very end of the Bible is for us to continue the story, to move toward God, just as the mothers and fathers of our faith have shown us how to do (or how not to do). And when we move toward God we will find that God is not static either, but has been moving toward us the entire time.

Prayers of the People Petition
written by Alison VanBuskirk Philip

God, you are the Alpha and Omega.

Thank you for being with us in our beginnings and endings and everything in between. 

Thank you that you intend for us to be people of hope, of joy, and of abundance. 

Thank you that you are making all things new. You are forming a new heaven and new earth where all shall be well. You invite us to lay down our troubles and worries by waters that renew and nourish us. 


God, you are the Alpha and Omega.

In our hearts and out of our hearts, may rivers of living water flow.


Abundant One, sometimes we thirst. Enter our parched places of confusion, fear, and scarcity. We name those places now in our hearts. Pause. Let the living water flow in and strengthen us. Let it soothe our troubled minds and weary hearts. Help us trust you to guide us toward endings that are rich with love. Give us rest, and let us lean on you.


God, you are the Alpha and Omega.

In our hearts and out of our hearts, may rivers of living water flow.


Living One, you are the author of our stories. You weave your story through ours. From the moments of Creation, through moments of upheaval and loss, through moments of renewed hope and calling; through all of it, you do not let us go. You are the foundation and the words on the pages. You are the Word who makes sense of our words. You are the one who calls us to come to the water. You are the one who speaks a vision of new life. You are the one to whom we turn with every question and mystery. 


God, you are the Alpha and Omega.

In our hearts and out of our hearts, may rivers of living water flow.



Ali Van Kuiken is a psychiatric hospital chaplain and lives with her husband, daughter, and cat in central New Jersey.

Alison lives and pastors in Westfield, NJ. She is studying family systems theory with the intention of a future bi-vocation in ministry and marriage & family therapy. In her free time, she gardens, plays board games with her family, and studies the Enneagram. 

Image by: Robert Pügner
Used with permission
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