Revelation 3:20 — “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” — is a well-known verse that is often used in evangelistic presentations to urge the hearer to respond to God. While there’s nothing wrong with this interpretation and usage, it doesn’t exactly fit the context. But we’ll deal with that more tomorrow…
The context of course is the 7th of the seven letters that begin the book of Revelation, this one to the church at Laodicia, “…the last and worst of all the seven Asian churches, the reverse of the church of Philadelphia; for, as there was nothing reproved in that, here is nothing commended…” (Matthew Henry)
We’ve written about the earlier verses in this section that inspired the Brian Doerksen song, Light the Fire Again; shown here:
(NIV) Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
There is judgement in verse 16:
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
And also in verse 19:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
And yet then in verse 20, there is the offer of grace, but not only grace, but the intimacy of a shared meal; one of the highest forms of community among friends in an eastern culture:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
And then a promise of greater reward in verse 21:
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
The blog Brandon Devotional gets at the heart of where the dinner with the Lord might take place:
The hospitality of a host towards their guests in the past showed a lot more reverence than it frequently does today. In fact, guests were treated as royalty in accordance with the host’s means. By honoring He who dines with us, and developing a relationship, in faith, with Him, then He is not only invited to our table, but we are invited to His! How much more are the Lord’s means than that of man, and if Christ treats His guests as royalty, the meal He serves to His friends will be immeasurable by anything the world has to offer.
The blogger at Father I Love You finds a parallel between Revelation 3:20 and Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus.
He looked up to Zacchaeus and hurried him to come down as He wanted to stay in his house. This is a reward Jesus gave to Zacchaeus for the effort that was taken. No one in the crowd got this reward. Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed Him. Here is were Zacchaeus opened the door of his heart on hearing Jesus voice.
There is a beautiful commentary on this verse at the blog of the Deaf Church in New Orleans, titled The Curse of Moderate Christianity:
Sometime we argue about whether or not to use Revelation 3:20 when we lead people to Christ. I think it is a beautiful picture of Christ coming again and again to the human heart. He comes, he knocks, he calls for us, and then he waits for our response. Many of you have seen the famous painting by Holman Hunt in which Christ stands at the door of an English cottage. All seems normal until you realize that there is no doorknob on the outside.
The door must be opened from within.
So it is for all of us all the time. Christ comes to us again and again and says, “I want to spend time with you.“ He calls to us. Then he waits for our response.
For those who open the door, Christ comes in and makes himself at home. I find great hope here for every Christian who feels far from the Lord. In a sense this final invitation speaks to all seven of the churches of Revelation 2-3, and thus it speaks to all Christians, everywhere, all the time.
Christ still stands at the door and knocks.
He waits for you to come and open the door.
But one blogger violently disagrees with the idea of using this verse in evangelism. At the blog Daniel’s Place:
It can be seen immediately that there is a problem with applying this verse to the context of salvation and the Gospel call, not the least is which the contexts are different. The biblical context is towards people in the Visible Church as opposed to unbelievers, corporate as opposed to individual, and the call is to return back to their professed faith as opposed to calling unbelievers to repentance and faith. Such a major difference immediately invalidates such an application as committing a case of eisegesis. And pragmatism is no substitute for fidelity to the Word of God. There is no mitigating factor for misquoting the verse even if it somehow works, as if we have the power to convert anyone in the first place.
In fact, dare I say it, but that the application of this verse to evangelism actually demeans Christ. It reduces our sovereign Lord to be the helpless and often rejected beggar always so “meekly” knocking on everyone’s doors, and most of them will reject Him anyway. It dethrones God and elevates Man, as if Man is the center of all things. Such an Arminian methodology compromises the person of Christ and the Godhead, and therefore dishonors the Lord we claim to worship.
Personally, I think to say this “dishonors the Lord” is to miss the Bible’s larger picture of the character of God, and the way in which the Holy Spirit works. (Compare with tomorrow’s post on this same verse.)
Finally, as this verse plays into the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism; the writer at Doctrinal Matters takes the opposite view to the above writer in a post tiled Revelation 3:20 versus Calvinism
Here is how Revelation 3:20 actually reads (Jesus is speaking) – “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him ….”
Here is Calvinism’s version of Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock it down: only the elect will be allowed to hear my voice, and they will do nothing, as I will already have come in to them previously …”
Certainly even the strongest Calvinist would have to admit that the church at Laodicea has free will in this particular matter.