“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20)
I’ve heard many sermons in which Revelation 3:20 is quoted with great certainty and joy – usually in the context of Jesus standing outside the door of a person’s life. It’s a wonderful Gospel truth and countless unsaved people have heard Jesus knocking, responded to this eternal message and welcomed Jesus into their lives. Precious though that message is, it is not the context of what Jesus told John to write about in the book of Revelation.
The scripture refers to the people of Laodicea, who had, indeed, been a fellowship founded on the rock of Jesus – a true church of God’s people who had been called out of the Kingdom of darkness to enjoy the Light of God’s truth in fellowship with Him. So, why is Jesus portrayed as being on the outside of this church, knocking on the door and wanting to come in? How come that Jesus had been ushered to the door and locked out in the first place?
The Laodiceans thought they’d got it altogether – surely they, of all people, were in a good place, doing God’s will? They were rich and were in need of nothing – but most sadly, they no longer had need of Jesus. They were confident in their own abilities, their resources and their wealth. Their church was located in a great trading location. Laodicea was known for its fine wool clothing and for the salve which people came from far and wide to buy as ointment for their eyes. They were doing well. The people were rich and well-clothed – they had acquired wealth and did not need a thing!
But God doesn’t look on the outward appearance – He looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He saw the people in the Church of Laodicea as being “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 3:17). God saw the reality and Jesus had been shown the door.
In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus describes the five who were wise as having oil in their lamps, and contrasts them with the five whose lamps were empty of oil, whom He describes as foolish. In the parable there are only two categories – the wise, with oil, and the foolish, without oil. But as I meditated on why Jesus had been locked out of the church at Laodicea, and was now on the outside, waiting for an invitation to come back in, I began to see that there could be another category, an even more terrible one – those who once had oil in their lamps, but were now going through the motions of Christian living, but with their lamps having run out of oil a long time ago.
Jesus begins His analysis of their spiritual life by saying that “He is about to spit them out of His mouth” (Rev 3:16). This is the equivalent of saying that they had locked Him out of His church on earth and unless they welcome Him back in (Rev. 3:20), they will either lose their reward in heaven or be locked out of their place in eternity. When talking to the Pharisees, Jesus put it this way, “what is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15).
I’m more aware than ever before that we are entering the end of the end times and that these are days of severe testing for God’s people. Times in which, Jesus said, believers “will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9). In these days, the god of this world is out to undermine and destroy the true people of God and to rob them of their inheritance. And, it seems, one of his prime tactics is to take people’s eyes off what God actually called them to do and, instead, be happy, in Laodicean style, with their interpretation of Christian living, which more easily fits in with their desires or way of life!
They back off from the road which is rough and steep (the narrow way) and opt for the easy road (the broad way). They cease to fight for the treasure which is won through perseverance and endurance and choose to walk on a downward slope of acceptable popularity which leads to compromise of their calling at every level of belief and witness into the world. Jesus urged the Laodiceans not to depend on their current wealth and success, but to buy from the Lord gold that has been refined by fire – so that they could become truly rich, be clothed in the white attire of righteousness and have their spiritual sight restored.
Many commentators equate this last of the seven letters in Revelation as being a parable for the end-times church, in the season immediately preceding the return of Jesus. With that thought in mind, I am challenged by two questions:
- What are the reasons, in today’s end-time church, which would cause believers who once had it all together, with plenty of oil in their lamps, to discover that their lamps were dry and Jesus had been pushed to the outside of their personal life – or even their church?
- The second question relates to the urging of the Lord to the Laodiceans to go to Him and buy gold that has been refined by fire. I wonder what, in the eyes of the Lord, the gold refined by actually is – the gold which would bring restoration to their relationship with Jesus?
I’d love to hear what you think! For I am strongly sensing that these are two of the most important questions that the Body of Christ needs to ask and answer in these critical days.