Nobody’s Home- Addressing the Misuse of Revelation 3.20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” -Revelation 3.20

I’m sure all of us, at some point, have been sitting in a church service and heard the pastor make a statement like,

And after rising again Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and dine with him.” He wants to come into your heart and life and live with you forever. Take you home to heaven, make you God’s child. The question is are you going to say “Go away Jesus” or are you going to say “Yes, Jesus. I want you to come into my heart and save me.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it. Sounds too good, huh?

I don’t know about you, but whenever I here this verse presented this way, which I did just recently sitting in an evangelistic event, it makes me cringe. I guess there is a lot of me that is turned off simply by the highly Arminian nature of the whole blurb, but even if that were all removed, even if it were just the presentation of Revelation 3.20 in this manner, using it as an evangelistic verse, I would still be highly concerned. Simply put, this is not a verse about salvation, and to use it as such misses the entire context of what Christ is trying to say.

In context what we see is this:

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3.14-22)

The first clue to us that this is not an evangelistic verse is the fact that it occurs in a letter, spoken by Jesus, transcribed by John, to the church at Laodicea. Now, these days when we think of a church we think of a building with people who come to it on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. However, at the time of this writing, the church still held its intended meaning, that being of a collection or assembly of believers in Christ. So this is a letter to the group of believers who live in the city of Laodicea. Thus, and this is enough evidence for most people, if the recipients of the letter are supposed to be believers, then why would Christ be offering them salvation? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

However, that’s not all. Look at the words in verse 15: “I know your works . . . Would that you were either cold or hot!” But, if these people are lost and in need of the “gospel invitation” as many people claim, then how possibly could Jesus ask them to have hot or cold works? Can their works save them or please God in anyway if they are lost (Hebrews 11.6)?

What about verse 19: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” This is an invitation to accept Christ’s discipline. And what do we know about discipline? Hebrews 12.7-8, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” If there is discipline then you know you are a son. But if you are a son, why would you need the gospel, since your sonship is coincident with salvation (Romans 8.14-17, Ephesians 1.3-5, Galatians 4.1-7)?

All taken into account, I think it is clear that this is not an evangelistic verse. Instead, what this is is an invitation to fellowship with Christ. It is clear from Scripture that we are not perfect once saved (Philippians 3.12) but God’s command to us is to continue being conformed into the likeness of Christ throughout our natural lives (Romans 8.29). Therefore, there may be some people who have been saved and yet, for whatever reason, have broken fellowship with their Lord and Savior. Then what Christ wants them to know is that, though they may have slid into living in the old self for a while, Christ will still knock on the door, convicting their heart to repent and recommit themselves to the practice of being crucified daily.  That is the point of Revelation 3.20.

4 Responses to “Nobody’s Home- Addressing the Misuse of Revelation 3.20”

  1. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    All I can say is Amen! That verse is so often misused it isn’t even funny!!

    By the way, off topic….Checking out the new book called Evangelicals Engaging Emergents…edited by your own Bill Henard.

  2. Todd Burus Says:

    When is that book going to be released? It sounds like something I’d want to read.

  3. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    Already on release I believe…order it at CBD maybe?

  4. Todd Burus Says:

    I’m having trouble finding anything, even at the B&H site. Hopefully it’s not too long till it’s out.

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