First off, my name is Willis Fletcher, Jr., and I am an ordained Elder in the Indian Bottom Association of Old Regular Baptists, my home church being Little Martha. Now that the introduction is out of the way, I will do my best, by the help of the good Lord, to explain what Rev. 22:17 is saying. Context is the thing that must rule at all times in regards to biblical exegesis. So, let’s examine the verse that is in question:
Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
There is always something that is necessary in reagrds to who will come, and why they come. Too many want to look at the last sentence that states, “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” and think it means any and all, without exception. That isn’t what is being said in the least. Let’s look at it like this. Whenever you have been somewhere and you have drank enough water to raise the Titanic, you will have no desire for another drink of water, even if someone offers you a cold glass of ice water. In other words, you won’t have a desire for a drink of water unless you are thirsty. That is why this verse isn’t saying that any and all can come and get a drink of that living water, but only those who are “athirst, thirsty, desirious of it”, etc. Before anyone desires to take a drink of that living water, that thirst must be set up by God Almighty.
Now, let’s take a look at another verse:
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Those who thirst and hunger after righteouness are already blessed, as this verse states. God comes to them and shows them their lost condition and their need of Him, and causes a thirst to be set up in their life. This is what is generally called “regeneration by the Spirit”, in that we are quickened(made alive) to hear the words of God. Then it leads us through a trail of repentance, with a Godly sorrow being set up in one’s life, and all the way through to salvation. Those who never thirst for righteousness will never come to take the water of life freely. They have no desire for it, being not one of God’s sheep, elect, roayl preisthood, peculiar people, chosen generation, etc.
So Revealtion 22:17 isn’t making an offer to any and all without exception, but rather, an invitation to those who He chose from before the foundation of this world. He will cause them to become thirsty, to desire Him, to come to Him, etc.