“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and will sup with him and him with me” (Revelation 3:20).
That verse, with its promise and visual image, has been a mainstay in my evangelistic presentations for as long as I can remember. But lately, it’s been under attack.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard self-appointed critics insist, “That statement was made to a church! It’s not to be used for evangelism.” “Jesus is not talking about coming into the sinner’s heart; He’s talking about coming into a cold, complacent church!” “You’re taking it out of context to use in soulwinning.” “Careful scholarship would prevent you from misusing this verse.”
A professor of Greek in a well known, conservative seminary calls it scripture twisting to use Revelation 3:20 in evangelism.
And so forth.
–They’re entitled to their opinion. But I am dead certain they are wrong. Undoubtedly, some preachers and professors get their kicks out of taking accepted uses of Scripture and finding everyone wrong but themselves. But we must not cave in to them.
Keep using Revelation 3:20, pastor and teacher and soul-winner. (Please read to the end of this piece.)
–The naysayers are missing the point. The image clearly has the Lord Jesus bringing the blessings of Heaven right up to the front door of the Laodicaens. And that’s the point. (The point is not that the Laodiceans were already Christian and thus to use Jesus’s words in an evangelistic presentation is wrong.)
–The point is just what it appears to be: Jesus Christ wants to bless everyone, saved and unsaved. We all need Him; He is available. (I’m remembering a deacon who used to pray regularly, “Lord, bless everyone who needs Jesus.” I always wanted to interrupt to say, “That’s me! That’s you. That’s all of us! We all need Jesus.”)
Look how eager our Lord is to bless, to bestow Heaven’s favors. He does everything but force His blessings on us. This is the tenderest, sweetest picture of the Lord Jesus making Himself available for a wayward, dormant human race we could ever ask for.
Please notice what follows Revelation 3:20…
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door open in Heaven….” (Revelation 4:1).
Don’t miss that. The door to Heaven is standing open.
Only the door to the human heart (and some of our churches) is closed.
The problem is not with Heaven. God is willing. The problem is us. We are the ones closed to Him.
The consistent teaching of the Lord Jesus is that He is eager to bless, that He wants to “come in and dine with us,” and that the only snag is our rebellious hearts, our stubborn will. We are the problem.
Scripture is consistent on this….
–As Jesus wept over a doomed Jerusalem, He said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate….” (Matthew 23:37). He was willing; they were not.
–A leper ran to Jesus, in violation of Old Testament instructions to avoid people and call out “Unclean! Unclean!” Falling to his knees before Jesus, the man called out, “If you are willing, you can make me clean!” Our Lord, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched (the untouchable!) and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed!” (Mark 1:40ff). Jesus is willing!
–Next chapter. When four men invaded the house where the Lord was teaching and lowered their paralyzed friend into the room through a hole they’d made in the roof, Jesus “saw their faith” (Mark 2:5). Turning to the paralytic, He said, “Son, your sins be forgiven you.” Then He healed him of his paralysis.
Don’t miss this. No one had asked Jesus to forgive the man’s sins. This was early in His ministry and they did not know He was in the forgiving business. So, He brings the subject up and takes the initiative. Look how eager Jesus is to forgive! He does so without even being asked. He is willing.
The enemy wants to convince people God hates to forgive sin, that He might be willing if they struggle enough, suffer enough, and beg enough. Even then, says the enemy, it’s against His nature and He will do it maybe this once, but don’t let it happen again.
Satan is a liar and the father of lies. The Lord delights in receiving sinners and cleansing them of their iniquities.
Jesus is more than willing to forgive.
–Next chapter. When the Pharisees strategically placed a man with a deformity in the synagogue to tempt the Lord to heal him on a Sabbath, Jesus knew full well what they were doing. “He looked around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:5) Even knowing it would cause nothing but more trouble for Himself, Jesus went ahead and healed the man. What a Savior. He is more than willing to bless.
–Or take Luke 12:32. “Fear not, little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
–When Jesus was dying on the cross, even while His executioners were at work, He was forgiving them. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). How truly astounding.
–He is “…not willing that any perish but that all might come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus is not neutral! He is on the side of everyone and wants to bless all who will turn to Him. “(Since) God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
God is for us in every way that matters, friend. And that is the message of Revelation 3:20 and a thousand other texts.
We should not allow a hidebound devotion to our theological presuppositions or our fear of going against some authority to keep us from one of the soundest notes in all of Scripture: The Savior is waiting to enter your heart; Why don’t you let Him come in?
To be sure, miserly souls will pick this apart and insist we are taking Revelation 3:20 out of context. What we’re doing is staying with the larger message here: The Love of Christ for a dying world and His availability.
A word about context. I hear people say “context is king.” Well, when we open God’s word, context matters, to be sure. But the most important thing to ask about a text is not necessarily “what did the writer mean,” for the simple reason that the Holy Spirit often meant a whole lot more than what the human instrument understood as he was writing his scroll.
Take this from the Apostle Peter: “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven–things into which the angels long to look” (I Peter 1:10-12).
Do not ask the “holy men of old” what a scripture meant when they penned it. Their answer may or may not be what the Holy Spirit had in mind.
Think for a moment of the untold numbers of people who have been led to Christ by the imagery and explanation of Revelation 3:20 and give thanks. Here is what Ray Stedman, longtime pastor and Bible expositor, said about this:
Verse 20 is, to my mind, the most moving and powerful explanation in the Bible of how to become a Christian. I have used this passage many times in my own witnessing to non-Christians. I have seen hearts melted and lives changed by this beautiful description of Christ standing outside our lives, patiently knocking at the door of our hearts.
After reading that, I feel like asking the learned Greek professor (at the top of this article) what scriptures he uses to explain the plan of salvation. I would not be surprised if the conversation went the way one did with Dwight L. Moody (going from memory here). On one occasion, a man said to him, “I do not agree with the way you present the plan of salvation.” Moody said, “Then how do you present it?” He said, “I don’t.” Moody said, “I prefer the way I do it to the way you do not do it.”