“Knock, Knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Jesus!”
“Jesus who?”
“Jesus who you haven’t let in yet!

The very old joke depends on the tension between the last and next to last line. So the reason Jesus is outside knocking is that door hasn’t been opened yet (Rev. 3:20). To put it another way, while the door remains closed Jesus can only go on knocking. This is literally what the words mean in the original language (ἕστηκα – Perfect Tense). It means something like Jesus has been standing at the door, with the result that he is still standing outside waiting for a response, that hasn’t come yet! What is the reason he stands outside of the door to what is called his church in Laodicea? Why is he somehow on the outside trying to gain entry? After all this is Christ, the risen Lord, the Son of God, right? And yet he cannot gain entrance into the fellowship, or the heart allegiance of his people in Laodicea.

The Individual

Interestingly enough, the focus of Jesus knocking seems to be the individuals of the church, because the promise is that anyone (‎ἐάν τις) who is willing to open the door, he will come in and makes his presence known in deep fellowship (Rev. 3:20b). The failure in the church as a corporate fellowship of believers (see below) can often be traced to the personal failure of its members in their devotion to God. And by the same token, it’s powerlessness and failure can only be rectified by response of the disciples individually and personally to Jesus desire to gain entry into their hearts for the sake of deeper and more personal fellowship with them.

The metaphor of Jesus desiring to gain entrance to sit and eat with those who will open the door to his knocking, is a telling metaphor. It means at the very least he is seeking to gain the very closest of friendships at the very level of the heart and daily lives of his people, to gain a strong connection in their lives and affections. Furthermore, he intends that this fellowship is to be no fleeting, passing thing, but something permanent, habitual and ongoing. Jesus desire no fleeting contact, such a a morning worship service, but an enduring closeness and intimacy in terms experiencing a daily relationship with his disciples.

The Introduction

Who is this that is knocking at the Door? The speaker introduces himself. In Revelation 2 and 3 the letters to the church all begin with an introduction of the one who is speaking. John is writing what is essentially a circular letter to seven churches in the Asia Minor area, now modern Turkey. In each section of the letter addressed to each of the seven churches, John writes essentially a personal message to the angel/messenger/pastor of each church, intended to be relayed to the membership. In order to establish authority for the message Jesus recites his credentials. These credentials establish that the message is coming from the risen Christ (Rev. 1:18), the one who shares a place with God in eternity, as the First and Last (Rev. 1:17). He also rules with God, having taken possession of the keys to death and hell (Rev. 1:18b).

What John saw in his vision was something he called the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). This is not a series of revelations, as much as they are a series of visions reflecting a single overall revelation of Jesus Christ, as the sovereign Son of God, already reigning with God in heaven, but poised to bring that reign to earth (cf. Rev. 19). In the opening of the book, in chapter one, John describes Jesus partly as he saw him now in the vision and partly as he knew him from his days as a disciple. But Jesus is now the risen and exalted king. The description is mixed, with what John saw in the vision and how Jesus describes himself in the conversation with John forming the content of the early vision of Jesus, who walks among his churches and people.

In this introduction some of the classical and most recognizable epithets given to Christ are found. Jesus is “the faithful and true witness” (accurate representative of God), the “firstborn from the dead” (the first of resurrection humanity) (cf. 1 Cor. 15:23), and “ruler of the of the kings of the earth” (what Paul calls Lord in Philippians 2:11, and what is meant by the phrases king of kings and Lord of lords, meaning the supreme and ultimate sovereign, whose authority is over all other rulers and powers in heaven, earth and under the earth) (Rev. 1:5a). This is the risen Jesus, obviously, but he is also the Jesus who has freed us from our sins by his blood – he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) (Rev. 1:5b). Jesus is also the one who is coming, appearing or returning one day, as he promised, in the clouds of heaven, so that every eye on earth will see him, realizing that the one they pierced is Messiah and Savior (Rev. 1:7; cf. Zech. 12:10). Jesus is the one whose trumpet like voice arrested John’s attention to initiate the vision and conversation that would produce the letter (Rev. 1:9-11). When John turn to see who was speaking, he saw a figure, like a human being (son of man) walking among seven lamp-stands (Rev. 1:12). He was robed in a long garment with a golden sash around his chest, his hair and head were dazzling white, his eyes lit up with fire, his feet like highly polished bronze, and his voice like the loud thunder of waves crashing on a beach (Rev. 1:12-15). He was holding in his hand seven stars, and out of his mouth came a double edged sword, surrounded by a brilliantly shining face, like the sun in glorious light (Rev. 1:16).

As John collapsed in utter overwhelmed awe at the sight of Jesus and the vision, Jesus introduced himself to John as the “first and last” (sharing the eternality of God the Father), the “Living One” (Rev. 1:17b). He had been dead but was now alive forever (the risen Jesus whom John had seen after his death and resurrection, along with the others), and the one who holds the keys of death and hell (Hades), the triumphant, victorious, exalted and sovereign Son of God, reigning from his throne at the right hand of God (Rev. 1:18).

Many of these descriptive introductory ideas will recur in John letter, sometimes overtly and at other times in some subtle allusions. This references and allusions are never so strong than in the opening of each of the letters to the seven churches, where various aspects of the description of Christ resurface, many times with pertinent significance to the church and issues being addressed. Also among these introductions, there are other allusions to later parts of the revelation, particularly those that have to do with the new heaven and earth of chapters 21 and 22.

In the case of the Laodicean church, the Jesus introduces himself as the Amen, True and Faithful Witness and Ruler of God’s Creation (Rev. 1:14). Jesus is the Amen, the final word spoken to ratify the purpose, plan and will of God (Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) (Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus lived in complete obedience to God (John 4:34; 6:38; Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8), died in the will of God to fulfill his purposes for redemption and salvation (Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; Eph. 3:11), and rose from the dead to finally put to rest the matter of sin and death (1 Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:13-15; Heb. 2:9, 14-15), though his triumph over them (Col. 2:15) – he is the Amen of God finally and eternally spoken, to seal up salvation, redemption and restoration once and for all (Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:2, 10). He is the faithful and accurate representative of God, so that he could say that those who see him have seen God, and John could call him the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1, 14, 18; 14:8-14; Heb. 1:1-3). Jesus is Lord of lords and king of kings, who was with God in the beginning and by whom all things were created that have been made (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). He is even now exalted and seated at God’s right hand, where his reign has begun and from where it will finally be fully established on earth (Matt. 25:31; Luke 1:32; 22:69; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:8; 8:1; 12:1; Rev. 3:21; 6:16; 7:9, 10 , 17; 14:14; 22:1, 3). These descriptions come from the opening of the book, when John’s vision begins, and the flaming, burnished figure walks among the lamp-stands, inspecting, challenging and encouraging his church.

For the Laodiceans this meant that this was the same one who was standing patiently at the door, waiting for them to respond. They were behind a closed door on which was knocking the Amen of God, the Faithful and True Witness, the Ruler of all of God’s creation! So why are they treating him with such contempt? Indeed their delay is opening to him is reprehensible when it is viewed in light of who it is they are failing to respond! And so it is equally reprehensible when we delay and hesitate when Jesus is knocking on our hearts door. They were literally keeping the Sovereign Son of God waiting on the doorstep! Are you?

The Indictment

Why is he knocking? What is that they are doing that keeps Jesus in front of a closed door? The answer to both questions is their complacency. Jesus describes their spiritual condition and attitude from where he is standing, in front of a door that is closed to him. He is barred from full involvement in the lives and hearts of his disciples. He is being refused fellowship! He is being denied intimacy with his people. This is seen in the fact that he has not gained entrance, but desires to do so that he and they might enjoy the full depth of the relationship in fellowship and interaction (Rev. 3:20b)!

Jesus’ words paint a very different picture of their spiritual condition from the one they perceive about themselves. They see themselves as rich (‎πλούσιός), with acquired wealth (‎πεπλούτηκα), and without need (οὐδὲν χρείαν ἔχω) (Rev. 3:17). They consider themselves to have enough, everything they need. What they don’t have is close fellowship with Jesus! They think that they have no need of anything in particular, well provided for and in good shape. (How often do we think that about ourselves in connection with our devotional life?) They say of themselves that they have “acquired wealth” with the idea that now they don’t need anything else, because they have all they need, for now and the foreseeable future (‎πεπλούτηκα – perfect tense) (Rev. 3:17). This is a picture of self sufficiency and self confidence of the most arrogant kind, the spiritual kind, that has in reality lost its connection and dependency on God. Whatever their relationship with God at this point, it is not one of dependence, faith and reliance. The implication is that they have lost their sense of their need for God’s provision, and in particular for fellowship with Jesus Christ in a devotional sense. The result is spiritual and devotional lukewarmness. They are not even cold! It would have been better if they were cold, but instead they are merely sickeningly warm (Rev. 3:16). While they congratulated themselves on what they consider to be a high water mark of superior spiritual position, they are in fact about to be spit out of the mouth of God because of the lukewarmness (Rev. 3:15-16). They are not immoral and wicked, but then they are not passionate and fervent for the things of God, either. His presence and intimacy with him are no being deal to these people. They are simply comfortable, with a mildly complacent approach to spiritual things that requires very little effort and no sacrifice!

The warning is stunning. “I am about to spit you out of my mouth, because you are neither cold nor hot” (Rev. 3:16). It sickens the heart of Jesus to see such weakness and complacency. Do you want to know how Jesus sees you, how you really are in the sign of God? Be careful what you wish for? You are not just poor, without spiritual currency in the sight of God, but pitiful, wretched, blind and naked, he told the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:17). And if things are to get better you have got to respond to the knocking door (Rev. 3:20)! You need currency with God, gold that has been tried in the fire, that is tested and real, devotion and passion born of sacrifice (Rev. 3:18). New clothing that is white and clean, unspotted by the world’s system, to cover up your spiritual nakedness in the sight of God, and you need eye drops to help you see clearly again what is important to God and to your future relationship with him (Rev. 3:18).

Jesus is standing at the door and knocking, it is implied, because of the luke warmness and complacency of the church ad Laodicea. Indictment of their complacency, by describing it to them. Their perception of their spiritual position and vitality is complete wrong… but not because they are wicked, but because they are unconcerned and lukewarm

The Invitation

What is the big deal? God won’t accept the current situation. he will spit them out. they are just before rejection. The invitation is to get serious with God (ζήλευε) (Rev. 3:19). The way forward is change and respond to the warning with earnestness/passion/serious commitment and repentance. The way this works is simply to recognize that Jesus is at the door appealing to be let in. His desire is to take up the central position in their lives personally and so change the complacency in the church! Luke warmness in the church is changed when individuals open the door to deeper fellowship and greater intimacy with Jesus. Get serious and repent is literally what Jesus tells them.

Jesus has been standing at the door knocking for a long time, with the result that he is still there. He hasn’t given up knocking. The picture is of a longstanding situation, where the lack of response has left Jesus standing for a prolonged period, seeking to gain access and fellowship! What if we knew that Jesus was seeking fellowship with us and we have been keeping him waiting or needlessly delaying our of spiritual complacency?

The Insight

Jesus give them insight as to what their future could be if they respond. First, he offers intimacy with God. He wants to establish long term, ongoing fellowship with his disciples. This is a picture of the personal devotional of the saints of God. This is personal. The impact of it will affect the spiritual power of the church, but it is nevertheless at the first, an appeal to a personal fellowship and interaction with him (cf. Rev. 3:20b). The opportunity for a personal change and to change the church as a whole is literally knocking at their door! But this is not to be a momentary experience but an ongoing fellowship and interaction. The invitation to intimacy is a new state of being, not a momentary visit with Jesus (‎δειπνήσω μετʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς μετʼ ἐμοῦ) (Rev. 3:20). He wants to coming and dine with them and he wants them to dine with him. In this culture it is the sign of the deepest of relationships and social commitments to another person, to eat with them.

But that isn’t the end! Jesus speaks of the future beyond the immediate benefit of the renewed fellowship and interaction. His ultimate intention is to share his “seat” with them at the throne of God (‎καθίσαι μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ μου) (Rev. 3:21). By opening the door now, they are positioned for Jesus not only to share his fellowship with them, but his throne as well! Their opening the door is also the first step to them becoming over-comers, by implication (Rev. 3:21a). Because Jesus has overcome, his desire is for them to be over-comers too. And it all starts with a knock at the door!

Conclusion

We are all about the future glory, the throne, sharing it with Christ. But what about the present glory, the glory of fellowship and intimacy that he desires. We withhold that from him, while expecting him to grant us the rest. We may be deceived about that!

We don’t seem to desire the intimacy as much as he does. We are prepared to live without it, treat it with complacency or even contempt. We desire victory and to overcome in the struggles of life. But at the same time we keep Jesus standing at the door, on the outside of our lives, knocking and bereft of fellowship and intimacy with his saints. Shame on us!

“Knock, Knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Jesus!”
“Jesus who?”
“Jesus who you haven’t let in yet!


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