Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

The Last Page of the Bible

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Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

The Last Page of the Bible

The Rev. Charles Hoffacker

When I was eight years old,
I received a Bible
as a Christmas gift from my grandmother.

When this book was shut,
it appeared formidable:
a cover of black cloth,
HOLY BIBLE stamped in gold on the spine,
a blood red ribbon of color
around three sides of the volume
from the top of the pages
to their unbound side
to their bottom.

Once it was opened,
this book still appeared formidable.
The text of the Authorized Version of 1611,
known also as the King James translation,
was displayed on the pages in double columns.
Oddly, several full-page photographs
were interspersed with this ancient text
depicting scenes from the Holy Land
such as the Jordan River.
These were not color photos,
nor were they black and white,
but something else:
sepia pictures
that accented the antiquity
of these sacred sites.

At one point in my childhood,
I noticed something obvious about this Bible:
it had a last page.
Appropriately enough,
this page was devoted to the concluding verses
of the last book of the Bible,
the Revelation to John.
This led me to wonder:
Did the fact of a final page
mean that the Holy Spirit
had fallen silent?
Having spoken through the human authors of Scripture
throughout the entirety of this formidable book,
had the Holy Spirit then said farewell to us, to me,
and withdrawn from the world
into a dignified retirement?

Never underestimate the ability of a child
to come up with theological concerns
that are vivid,
and in the last analysis,
worth of serious consideration.

This particular concern of mine
did not endure, however.
Somehow it was quietly dissolved
by what I knew, intuitively perhaps,
of the Spirit’s work in creation, through the Church,
and in my life.

But my childhood concern
reappears in a different form
whenever anybody treats the action of the Spirit
as confined to a single sphere,
be it the Bible, the sacraments,
or a particular religious tradition.
This implies that elsewhere
than this single sphere
the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,
is somehow silent, unemployed,
or even absent.

As a witness
against so discouraging a conclusion,
let me bring forward the final page of the Bible.
We heard verses from it
in today’s reading from Revelation.

A look at this passage and what precedes it
discloses something notable.
In one sense,
the Revelation to John ends earlier
than the end of this passage:
not at verse twenty-one of the final chapter,
but at verse five.

For listen to that fifth verse:
it brings a symphony of images
to a splendid crescendo
regarding the citizens of the new Jerusalem:
“And there will be no more night;
they need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light,
and they will reign forever and ever.”

What more, my friends,
can possibly be said after this?
Here we have the glorious conclusion
to end all conclusions.
Yet the book continues on
for sixteen more verses
which serve as an appendix.

Several biblical books have such appendices.
They recall what happens
when somebody visits you
and the two of you engage
in a long and deep conversation.
The conversation concludes,
and your friend gets up to go,
but stops at your door
and still more words are exchanged.
Then the two of you walk outside to his car,
still talking,
and silence falls only
once he closes his car door and drives off.
Several books of the Bible end like that,
Revelation among them.

So the form of this biblical book
demonstrates how sometimes
what appears to be the end
is not the end.
The content
of today’s passage from Revelation
makes the same point.

For rather than serving as a conclusion,
today’s passage repeats an invitation.
The Spirit says, “Come.”
The Bride says, “Come.”
Everybody who hears is to say, “Come.”
And where are they to come?
Where are they to come?
To the fountain!
Where we can drink to our hearts’ delight
of the water of life,
precious water available to us without price!

The last page of the Bible is not conclusion,
it is invitation.
It does not mark an end,
but a beginning.
This last page is not preoccupied with the past;
it announces the future,
a future where the water of life
is offered to everyone who wants it.

This fountain of living water
recalls a story from John’s Gospel,
the encounter between Jesus
and a woman from the Samaritan town of Sychar.   1
They run into one another at a well outside the town.
In the course of conversation,
Jesus tells her
that whoever drinks of the water from this well
will be thirsty again,
but those who drink
of the water he will give them
will never be thirsty.
That water will become in them
a spring of water
gushing up to eternal life.

This is the same water
that the last page of the Bible
invites us to drink.
This is the enduring gift of Christ
that those final verses announce
in a conclusion
which is no conclusion at all,
but forever a fresh start.

The sacramental expression of this gift
is Holy Baptism
and the new life it inaugurates for us.
The Spirit
and Christ’s Bride the Church
welcome each of us,
not only to the event of our baptism,
but to the living out of our baptismal life
which answers our thirst for God.
The Bible ends with an invitation to the font,
and to living out the life that starts there,
a life whose energy is the Holy Spirit.

But that’s not all!

Remember what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman.
He doesn’t simply promise her water,
wonderful though that is.
He says that the water he gives
will become in those who receive it
a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Jesus makes the same declaration at Jerusalem
later in John’s Gospel.  2
He does so during the festival of Booths,
which commemorates the gift of water
during Israel’s wilderness wanderings.
On the culminating day of this festival,
he identifies himself as living water.
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,”
he calls out,
“and let the one who believes in me drink.
As scripture has said,
‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow
rivers of living water.'”

It’s more than a matter
of having water to drink.
The one who receives the water of life
becomes a source for that water,
for plenty of it,
rivers of living water.

The sacramental expression of this
is the Holy Eucharist,
the feast we celebrate today
as the community of the baptized.

The Eucharist does more
than sustain those who faithfully participate.
Each one of us becomes a wellspring of life,
life that flows through the Trinity to us,
and through us to others.
We are not only refreshed and enlivened,
but through us
others are enlivened and refreshed.
This water is not stagnant, but alive;
it keeps flowing, keeps circulating,
watering lives and relationships
and communities,
making them green and supple,
bringing a new world into blossom,
which is the commonwealth of God.

The last page of the Bible
is not a conclusion but an invitation.
We are invited
to keep returning to the water of life,
to be refreshed
by how we are grounded in God.
But this living water
flows through us as well
for the benefit of others.
We come to the Eucharist
not only to receive,
but to be made able to give.
In Baptism we receive the life
that makes us who we are.
In the Eucharist
we are made ready
to give away that life.

If this sounds like the story of Jesus himself
beginning with his baptism,
continuing on
through his death and resurrection
to his ascension and promise of Pentecost,
then recognize
that how Jesus lives on earth now
is through us.
His identity and his offering of himself
find their powerful echo in our lives.

The Holy Spirit is not silent,
nor retired, nor absent.
The Spirit remains forever active.
Doing what, you ask?
Turning each of us into another Christ,
God’s beloved child offering life
for the life of the world.

The Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins
exults in this wonder.
He tells us of how
“Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limb, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features” of our faces. 3

Come to the altar today, my friends.
Drink deeply of the water of life.
Then go forth from here,
out into a thirsty world
to serve others
as fountains of living water.


1.  John 4:5-42.

2.  John 7:37-38.

3.  “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”

Copyright 2013, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.