“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 (ESV)
If there is a perennial verse that is used during the invitation portion of the Sunday worship service, Revelation 3:20 is it. I have heard well-meaning preachers, evangelists, and guest revival speakers use this verse in order to emphasize the responsibility of the hearer to respond to the Gospel. “The Bible says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks so that if you will let him in then he will have fellowship with you and you will be saved.” The image is there, but I am not convinced this is an appropriate application in its context.
Revelation 3:14–22 comprises of the Letter to the Laodicean church and concludes the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. John the Apostle writes under the command of the risen Lord (1:19) and addresses this letter to those who claim fellowship in the Laodicean church.
The problem within the Laodicean church is their complacent attitude towards gathering together. Christ rebukes them for being lukewarm (15) and threatens to spit them from his mouth (16). They claim to be rich, prosperous, and lack nothing, but in reality, they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (17). Christ graciously affords them the opportunity to buy gold refined by fire, white garments so they will no longer be naked, and salve to anoint their eyes so that they may see (18). Therefore, the context presented in this section is addressed to a church who claims to be rich and lack nothing and seemingly have their attention focused not upon Christ but their own material goods.
These factors weigh in on how verse 20 should be interpreted. The Lord addresses a specific church, not an individual. He addresses people who have claimed faith in his name, and the image is that Christ is excluded from the Laodicean’s house of worship. As a result, the Lord knocks at their door in order to remind them of who they forgot. As it were, he knocks so that someone will open the door and he might have fellowship. Robert Mounce aptly states:
“In their blind self-sufficiency they had, as it were, excommunicated the risen Lord from their congregation. In an act of unbelievable condescension he requests permission to enter and reestablish fellowship.”
They have forgotten the master of the house because they have been self-focused upon their own lives. The lukewarmness that permeates the Laodicean’s church is only properly filtered when the Savior once more becomes their focus of worship.
For the Christian church, the danger is no different. Many of us in America are rich, prosperous, and lack nothing we need. However, I believe it is always necessary to step back, reexamine our church’s priorities, and view where our money and time are spent. Do we engage our community? Do we selflessly give the Gospel away to others? Do we enable fellow brothers and sisters to walk in a manner worthy of our Lord?
The danger, then, is to lose focus of the Gospel and our purpose as a church. Our fellowship may burst at the seams and food may be overflow while the Lord may stand and knock at our door, requesting entrance.