Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.
Revelation 3:20 (ISV)
In my experience, the pulpits are fairly quiet on the book of Revelation. For many, it is hard to understand and lacks practical application for us to use in the here and now. I would dispute this, but I understand why many don’t venture into this amazing book.
Revelation is full of imagery and typology, and it passes most of us by. however, there is a good reason for this… we don’t know our Old Testament well enough!
Many of the pictures or images you see in Revelation can be found in the pages of the Old Testament. Most of us are not as familiar with the Ol Testament as we might be, and therefore don’t recognise much of what Revelation is pointing to.
Revelation makes a special promise to those who would study its pages:
How blessed is the one who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy and obey what is written in it, for the time is near!
Revelation 1:3 (ISV)
So if you want to get into this book, i’d suggest you begin with the first three chapters.
The first chapter gives an overview of the book, and in fact gives a clear synopsis in verse 19 of chapter 1:
Therefore, write down what you have seen, what is, and what is going to happen after this.
Revelation 1:19 (ISV)
On the point about Revelation having a practical application, you need look no further than chapter 2 and 3. many people think the New Testament only has 21 epistles (letters from the apostles) but in fact, there are 28. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 shares an additional 7 epistles written by none other than Jesus Himself.
Our verse for today picks up in one of these epistles. You may well be familiar with Revelation 3:20, which imagines Jesus standing outside and knocking on a door – just waiting for someone to let Him in so they might eat together.
It is a famous verse that is often used to describe Jesus’ attitude towards those who have yet to commit to faith in Him. Evangelists tell people that Jesus is standing outside the door of their lives, knocking to come in.
This is a nice image and not incorrect, but that’s not the context of this verse at all.
Who’s behind door number one?
The answer is the church.
It should be astonishing, challenging and humbling to us to realise that Jesus is stood outside of a church, knocking to come in. Surely of all places to find Jesus, inside a church would be one of them? Not so apparently.
In our modern world, we have somehow come to a place where you are no longer guaranteed to find Christ in the local church. Some buildings are labelled as “churches” and yet have little or nothing to do with what the Bible defines a church to be.
Some churches are social clubs; places where people gather to meet and climb the social ladder, caring little for the Word of God or His worship. Other churches bend and adapt to every whim of society, ignoring God’s standards and just going whichever way the prevailing wind takes them.
I don’t mean to be negative. And apologies if I have come across that way. I love the church, and truly believe it to be a sleeping giant. If the church were to awake, unite and stand together, we could change this world for the better. In the Bible’s many references to the end times however, there are prophecies of apostacy and the church not being what Christ intended it to be.
Let’s read Jesus’ epistle in full, and see what we can learn from it.
To the messenger of the church in Laodicea, write: The Amen, the witness who is faithful and true, the originator of God’s creation, says this:
15 ‘I know your actions, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16 Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich. I have become wealthy. I don’t need anything.” Yet you don’t realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore, I advise you to buy from me gold purified in fire so you may be rich, white clothes to wear so your shameful nakedness won’t show, and ointment to put on your eyes so you may see. 19 I correct and discipline those whom I love, so be serious and repent! 20 Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. 21 I will give a place to sit with me on my throne to the one who overcomes, just as I have overcome and have sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 ‘Let everyone listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Revelation 3:14-22 (ISV)
We’ll begin at the end – verse 22 – just to realise that what Jesus is saying specifically to the Laodicean church can also apply to us.
In verse 22, He says “Let everyone listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” Firstly, everyone means everyone. And note the plural of “churches” at the end. This letter isn’t just for Laodicea but for all the churches listed in chapters 2 and 3, but also for all the churches – including the one you and I belong to.
Jesus is fairly scathing of the Laodicean church. And the church itself would have been totally shocked by this. They thought they were doing well, but often our perspective is somewhat different to God’s.
You may well have heard before this idea of being cold or hot, and in this case lukewarm. The challenge here is not to be like the Pharisees who Jesus had the strongest words for during His ministry. Their issue was hypocrisy. They prided themselves on being the religious leaders of the day, putting on a constant show of their “religion”. While they talked the talk, they did not walk the walk.
I believe Jesus is challenging the Laodiceans in a similar way. They claim to represent Christ in His church, and yet clearly their actions have resulted in Jesus being excluded.
Jesus would rather us represent Him truly, than to claim to be followers and act like unbelievers
An alternative view of this lukewarmness could be a mixture of grace and Law. Perhaps they were preaching grace, but restricting and forcing the church to be bound by the Law. It’s another view which you can consider.
Whatever the cause of their lukewarmness however, it had resulted in a church without Christ. That is a place we do not want to be.
I ask you to consider your own church for a moment. How does it compare to the Church at Laodicea? Is Jesus standing outside and knocking to come in?
If this challenges you, then please don’t misunderstand my point today. I am not telling you to leave your church or criticise it. No church is perfect, and if you are looking for one, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
The idea that Jesus is knocking to come in is encouraging in one sense. It means He has not given up on you. It means He still wants to join you and share with you. Leaving your church or criticising the leadership will not help. The best thing to do is open the door and invite Him in.
Reflect also on your own relationship with Christ. While these verses are clearly talking about churches, i think there’s also an application to our own personal journey with Jesus.
Do you need to invite Him in? My meaning is not in a salvation sense, but rather in fellowship. Are you a believer who has lost their way? Have the troubles of life led you to put Jesus outside? Invite Him in today, He’s right outside the door.