In the middle of Christ's letter to the Church in Laodicea we
have the words of verse 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 dine with him, and he with Me."
Many have taken these words as an evangelistic text in which
Christ is standing at the door of the sinner. They see Him as pleading
and weeping that the sinner will just open the door so that Christ
may come in and save him. But that misses the point altogether!
In the first place this verse is not addressed to the unbeliever,
it is addressed to the church. And then we must notice that it is
not even so much addressed to the church in general, but specifically
to God's elect within the church. It is important to note that the
verse follows on the heels of verse 19. To whom is Jesus is speaking?
He is speaking to those whom He loves; those whom He rebukes out
of that love; those whom He chastens out of that love; and those
whom He seeks to bring back to Himself.
Jesus says, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door..."
True enough. But who are the ones that hear Jesus' voice? Jesus
tells us in the Gospel of John, "My sheep hear My voice!" Who are
the ones then that hear the voice of Jesus and actually open the
door? They are the elect of God, the sheep of the Good Shepherd,
those whose hearts have been regenerated - those in whom God has created not only
the ability to believe, but the belief itself.
An Old Testament Picture
Far from being an evangelistic text which pictures a weak, powerless,
and weeping Savior, these words are a profound statement of the
communion that exists between Christ and His own, between the Good
Shepherd and His sheep. The words are taken from the Song of Solomon
5:2, where we read, "I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice
of my beloved! He knocks, saying, 'Open for me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one; for my head is covered with dew, my locks
with the drops of the night."
Though the Song of Solomon is a celebration of love between a
husband and wife, it is also a picture of the wedding of God and
His people, the Bride and the Lamb. What do we find, then, in the
fifth chapter of this beautiful love poem?
In verse 1 of chapter 5, we find the consummation of the wedding:
the bridegroom has possessed his bride; the bridegroom and bride
are completed by each other; they are exclusively for each other;
the bridegroom delights in the bride, and the bride delights in
the bridegroom. The bridegroom says of the bride, "she is mine,
and I am hers." The bride says of the bridegroom, "he is
mine, and I am his." And God looks down upon this marriage and
places His benediction upon it: "Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink
deeply, O beloved ones!" God looks down upon this marriage and says,
"Behold, it is very good!"
The marriage has been consummated. God has pronounced His benediction
upon the bridegroom and bride. But then the scene changes. It is
night, and the bridegroom comes to the bride. He knocks on the door
and calls his bride, "Open for me, my sister, my love..."
The bride hesitates. She hears the knocking; she hears the voice;
but she hesitates. "I have taken off my robe; how can I put it on
again? I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?" (v. 3). Finally,
after much hesitancy, she arises to open the door, "My beloved put
his hand by the latch of the door, and my heart yearned for him.
I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock. I opened
for my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and was gone" (3
The bridegroom withdrew because his bride hesitated. He withdrew
from his bride when his bride "stiff-armed" him, as it were. Why
did he withdraw? Why was he gone when she finally opened the door?
Because his bride had become apathetic; she had taken him for granted;
she had broken the harmony between them; she had become indifferent.
Consequently, he withdrew.
Realizing her mistake, she quickly goes out to seek him. "I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer" (3:6). And now as she seeks
him, she is wounded by the watchmen. "The watchmen who went about
the city found me. They struck me, they wounded me; the keepers
of the walls took my veil away from me" (3:7).
Having temporarily lost her bridegroom, having become apathetic,
and now receiving pain due to her indifference, she charges the
daughters of Jerusalem, "If you find my beloved, tell him that I
am lovesick!" (3:8). Do you see what has happened? Out of her apathy,
her love is strengthened. She finally realizes what she is without
him. She realizes that she needs him desperately. She realizes that
her life is found in him.
As the passage continues on, we find that the love of the bridegroom
for his bride is a strong love, a love that cannot be conquered.
She will be his exclusively. He is jealous for her. She belongs to
him, and he will not let her go. As the passage continues, the bridegroom
allows himself to be found, and the book concludes with the beautiful
consummation of their love.
A New Testament Reality
Here is the background of Revelation 3:20. Christ, the great
Bridegroom, has purchased His Bride the Church with His own blood.
But the Church has become apathetic, indifferent; she has taken
her Bridegroom for granted! Now Christ stands at the door of the
church, in which there are many who belong not to the Bridegroom.
He calls His own in the midst of a lukewarm situation. He says, "Have you not yet learned? Even
as you are surrounded by false religion, by pretence, by sham, by
hypocrisy, have you not yet learned the emptiness of any so-called
faith that leaves Me out of the picture?! Have you not yet learned
what you are without Me and how desperately you need Me?! Have you
not yet learned that your life is found in Me, and in Me alone?!
Have you become so apathetic? Have you become so indifferent?!"
These words are the words of Christ to His Bride - to His chosen
- to His elect - to those whom He bought with His own blood.
He loves His Bride with an everlasting love! A love that will not
be conquered! A love that will not be defeated! A love that will
not be denied! These are words of rebuke and, at the same time,
these words speak of love and are meant to bring His own back to
Him! He will dine with His own, and His own will dine with Him.
A Future Promise
And then verse 21, "to him who overcomes I will grant to sit
with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father
on His throne." What an incredible picture! What a beautiful picture!
Those beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ will sit with their Savior
on the throne! It is not coincidental that we read in 3:21 of the
promise of sitting on the throne with Christ, and then read in 4:2
of the throne set in heaven. There is a connection. "To him who
overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne." Read Revelation
4 and 5, and read of your inheritance in Christ!!
Indeed, the most sobering picture is reserved for the last of
the seven letters. But in this letter we hear not only the most
sobering warning, but also the most comforting promise. He who has
an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Rev. Brian Vos is the pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church
in Caledonia, Michigan