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Bible Search
"Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock" - Revelation 3:14-22
Rightly Dividing the Word
“Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock”
Rev. 3:14-22
 
Tonight I want us to take a look at one of the most familiar verses in the New Testament.  It is very often quoted by preachers at invitation time in an appeal to see folks saved.  But the context into which it is placed makes it incumbent upon us to look deeper for its meaning. 
 
The verse is Revelation 3:20
 
The verse is a part of one of the letters that was written, actually transcribed, by the Apostle John while exiled on the Isle of Patmos as a political prisoner. 
 
There are seven of these letters recorded for us in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation.  They were actually letters written to real people in real cities and towns scattered across ancient Asia Minor, which is modern Turkey. At the time they received these letters, they have been in existence for about 30 years. 
 
The letter before us tonight, received by the church in Laodicea is the last church on the postal route.  And to me, it is the saddest of them all because they have the distinction of being the only church to which Christ says nothing good about anybody. His words are a message of condemnation only. 
Every other church has either only commendation or a mixture of commendation and judgment, but with Laodicea there is nothing redemptive or worthy of approval.
And it is to this church that the Lord offers the invitation we read a moment ago.  Now to understand the invitation, we need to hear the letter, so let’s listen to what the Lord says to the church of Laodicea. 
 
Revelation 3:14-22
 
One of the interesting things about these letters is that they form a composite of the history of the church.  In the first letter, we see a picture of the early church as it begins to wane in its commitments and love for the Lord. And without goigninto all the details of each of them, suffice it to say we find characteristics in each of those churches of a particular time in the history of the church. 
 
So each of those letters has a personal, direct, historical message for its original hearers, at the same time it speaks to any church in any age as the Lord commends those things worthy of approval and deals with the things tha need attention, and the speak to us individually as churches and Christians in our own particular need. 
 
Now in regard to the church at Laodicea, we find here a picture of the church in the last days of the church age, just before Jesus returns again. If you were to ask me to provide you with a description of the average church in the 21st century, I think it would be safe to point you to Revelation 3:14-22 because in many ways, is characterized by the things Jesus said to the church of Laodicea.
 
Now just by way of introduction, what we read hear is basically all we have about the church of Laodicea in the New Testament. 
 
There are some references made to the people of Laodicea in the book of Colossians, and there is reference made to a letter that had been written to the Laodiceans. In fact, some people believe that the letter to the Ephesians is this letter and that it was passed around to various churches, but we can’t be certain about that. 
 
But we do know that the Spirit of God has preserved for us this letter in the book of the Revelation that is addressed to the church of the Laodiceans. 
 
From history, we also know some things about the city of Laodicea itself.  For instance, we know it was a great city of commerce. It was strategically placed and because of that, it was a banking and an exchange center. It was a very wealthy city with an abundance of the world's gold. In fact, in A.D. 17 when the city was destroyed, so rich and so prosperous were these people that they refused any outside help whatsoever. They rebuilt the city with their own resources.  So, it was a a very wealthy and prosperous place.
 
It was also know for its fine clothing.  In this particular area they raised a particular breed of sheep that had a very beautiful black wool, and from that black wool they made magnificent clothing.  The people of Laodicea were very interested in clothing. One writer said about them that they were very interested in the adornment of the body.
 
So as a fashion center and a finance center, when you went Laodicea you would expect to see people who were very up-to-date in the latest styles and the latest fashions. 
 
 
They were also known as a medical center. A medical school was there and in that school they had devised a kind of eye treatment which was used to cure many different kinds of eye ailments.
 
So, people would come to Laodicea from many places to purchase that eye salve to cure their eye diseases.  So to this kind of place - a place that was very prosperous, a place that was very fashionable, very interested in human health, the Lord Jesus Christ writes a letter to His church.
 
As the Lord always does He begins this letter with a description about Himself. That is true of all the letters and if you take the time to study them, you will discover the Lord does not introduce Himself in a
general way, but in very specific ways. Notice how the Lord introduces Himself. 
 
  1.  The Introduction of Jesus
 
verse 14
 
"These things says the Amen."  The word, amen, means "so be it" or "truly" or "this is true."  When you say “amen” to the preacher, it is an audible affirmation to what is being done and said.
 
And here, the identifies Himself as
 
  •  “the Amen”
 
That is very Jewish is thought.  It goes back to Isaiah 65;16 where the Lord God says that he is the God of truth or the God of the Amen.  Jesus is saying, "I am the truth." 
 
In II Corinthians 1 the Bible says that all the promises of God are amen in Jesus Christ. This means, not only does Jesus teach the truth and not only does He declare the truth and not only does He explain the truth, but Jesus in and of Himself is truth. He is the embodiment of truth. 
 
That means that everything else must be tested by the standard of Jesus Christ. Does it line up with Christ?  Does it compare favorable with Him?  Does it conflict with Him and His teachings?  Does He say “Amen” to it? 
 
Secondly Jesus says about Himself that He is
 
  • “the faithful and true witness”
 
In other words, when He made His entrance into the world He did not dilute or distort or contradict the truth of God.  He lived in absolute agreement with God’s Word, and as such He was faithful and true.
 
Verse 14 also identifies Him as
 
  • “the beginning of the creation of God”
 
Now don’t misunderstand that. He isn’t saying he was the first thing God created. He is saying He is the source of creation. Think in terms of origin or source. Jesus is simply saying, "I am the initiator of creation."
 
That is in perfect agreement with John says in John 1:3 where it says, "All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made." 
It perfectly connects with Colossians 1:15 when it says, "All things were made by Him and by Him all things consist." (or cohere or stick together) 
Jesus Christ is the origin of creation. When you look back to the original creation, there you find the fingerprints of Christ. Every expression of beauty in this world of ours gives evidence of the touch of Lord.
 
And He is absolutely in control of creation. Not a speck of dust moves apart from the permission of the Lord Jesus Christ. He upholds all things by the word of His power. 
 
And one of these days the Lord Jesus is going to speak the Word and when He does this creation is coming apart. The Bible says that heaven and earth will pass away and when Jesus gives the word, that is exactly what's going to take place.
 
So, we begin this magnificent letter with a beautiful introduction of our Lord Jesus Christ. And you will notice, after introducing Himself, Jesus immediately moves to the business at hand. 
 
  1. The Complaint of Jesus
 
Jesus begins with a word of complaint.  There is not one word that is positive in this letter. There is not one word of congratulation that Jesus gives to these people. And specifically, he complains about 
 
  • their spiritual indifference
 
verses 15-16
 
He is talking about the spiritual temperature of the members of the church and the atmosphere that is created and demonstrated when they are together.  When the Lord Jesus put His hands on the spiritual forehead of these people it was not hot.
 They were not in a spiritual fever. Neither was it cold. They were not spiritually frozen.  They were somewhere in between.  They were neither hot nor cold. They were tepid. Is this not an amazing characteristic of a church of people that have been saved from hell? 
 
Here is a church that names the name of Jesus Christ, yet there was no emotion, no excitement, no enthusiasm about the Lord. When Jesus looks at them they are not exactly cold, they aren't dead, but they aren't on fire, not boiling for the Lord Jesus.  They are just somewhere in between, somewhere in the middle. That is a terrible, terrible condition to be in.
 
I heard about a little fellow who came home from Sunday School and he wanted to quote his Bible verse to his mother. The verse was where Jesus said, "Many are called and few are chosen." But the little fellow got it mixed up and said, "Many are cold and a few are frozen."
 
That would be funny if it weren’t so true because unfortunately, that is an accurate rendering of a lot of congregations in our world and maybe hits a little closer to home than we’d like to admit.
 
So why does the Lord choose this particular phrase to describe the church at Laodicea?
 
The city of Laodicea had two sister cities, Hieropolis and Colossae. Hieropolis was known for its hot springs, famous for their healing properties. People went there because they were good for you and helped you rehabilitate and be restored. 
 
And in Colossae, there were cold waters. There was a cold perennial stream, which made it the earliest settlement in the area; and the water was refreshing, clear.
 
But Laodicea didn’t have a good water supply. The nearby rivers were too dirty or were inadequate to meet the needs.  So the Laodiceans developed an amazing system of aqua ducts to provide water.  It was built underground to protect it from enemy attack.
 
 The water was stored in overhead tanks and then gravity would cause it to flow through this massive distribution system.  Now all ofo that sounds good, 
But historians tell us one of the problems with the system was the calcium deposits that came from that water. Some archeologists have suggested that the pipes came from as much as five miles away and  as they went, they both deposited and accumulated these massive amounts of calcium. 
 
And the result was the water that flowed became dirty and tepid and defiled. It wasn’t hot enough to relax or restore. It wasn’t cool enough to quench. It was foul, and it made people nauseous.  And that’s what our Lord’s saying about this church: “You make Me sick.”
 
Why is this such a serious condition?  Why is the Lord so upset with the church that is lukewarm?  What is it that would cause the Lord to say, “I wish you were either cold enough to seek the heat or hot enough to set the world on fire, but you are neither!   And you make me sick”?
 
 
 
Maybe it’s because that kind of condition in a church, more than any other, misrepresents Him. When you read the Gospels and study the life of the Lord Jesus you will discover that He was a man on fire.  It was said of him, "The zeal of thine host hath eaten me up." He was a man that had a flame burning in his soul. 
 
When you read about the disciples of the Lord you will find that they were fervent in spirit.  They literally set their world on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
And when Jesus confronts this condition of lukewarmness in the church at Laodicea, He says, "You are lukewarmness is a sickening condition.”
 
In fact, the word which is translated “spew” or “vomit” is the Greek word from which we get our word, emetic. Emetic is something that empties the stomach.  I don't want to shake you up or cause any of you to get sick, but if you really want to know what Jesus was saying about it - "You make me sick enough to throw up!”
 
They've heard it all and become ho-hum about it.  They believe right, they talk right, they come in out of the building and yet they are spiritually indifferent. 
 
He also complains about their
 
  • spiritual ignorance
 
notice what they thought about themselves in
 
verse 17a
 
 
 
That was their opinion of themselves. If you had gone to the church of Laodicea you would have seen a well positioned church - a prosperous people.  They would look so good.  On Sunday they wanted the preacher to tell them how sweet they were and how good they looked and never, ever deal with their sins.  Never deal with anything that was controversial nor unpopular.
 
Now think about what the Lord is saying.  He has just told them their lukewarm condition makes Himsick enough to throw up.  Here they sit lukewarm, indifferent, unconcerned about the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet they said, “We have need of nothing.”
 
That is an incredible situation.  Do you mean to tell me that people can get so indifferent in the things of the Lord that they would say to the Lord, "We don't need anything"?  Can that really happen? 
 
It did here in Laodicea!  If you walked into that church and said they needed a revival they would been offended.  If you said they needed to get on fire for Jesus Christ they would be upset.  They say, "We don't need anything, we have got it made." They were spiritually ignorant of the reality of their situation. 
 
I've got news for you:  a church never gets to the place where it has need of nothing.  You never do arrive. It doesn’t happen with churches and it doesn’t happen with individual Christians. May we never get to the place as a church and may you and I never get to the place as followers of Christ where we believe we have arrived and have need of nothing; where the Lord would have to this complaint against us: “You don’t realize just how needy, indifferent and ignorant you really are.” 
Jesus said, "Here's what you really are.
 
Verse 17b
 
“Not only are you sickening hypocrites, but you are deceived!  You say one thing while you are really another and don’t even realize how serious is your condition.”
 
People who have rejected Christ and His authority and truthfulness are in no condition to assess anything of a spiritual nature.  They cannot know reality.
 
Now as I said, Laodicea was a wealthy city.  They were famous for their banking and riches, and proud of it.  And that opinion had carried over into the church in their spiritual assessment of themselves. 
 
They say, “I’m rich. I have become wealthy. I have need of nothing.”  And that is the worst state a person can be in. It would be better to be an atheist. It would be better to be completely ignorant of the church and the gospel.
 
Anything would be better than this. This is the
ultimate in separation from God.  And yet this characterizes entire denominations across the world today. This characterizes so-called Christian universities and seminaries.  They think they’re rich materially, they think they’re rich in spiritual knowledge, and they don’t have enough spiritual sense to know their own condition. 
 
They think they are spiritually rich, when they’re bankrupt.  They think they’re beautiful, when they’re wretched.  They think of themselves as being the envy of others when they are to be pitied.
They believe they see everything clearly, when they see nothing as it really is. They think they are beautiful clothed, yet run around naked. 
 
And Jesus says, “You may brag about your bank account, and parade around in your black wool.  You may have the healthiest eyes in town and see a lot of things. 
 
But spiritually, you are miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked, and you are to be most pitied. You have no riches with God, you wear no robes of righteousness, you see no spiritual reality, and you  don’t even know it.
 
What a statement from the Lord Jesus to a church.  The complaint of Jesus.  Then notice,
 
  1. The Counsel of Jesus
 
Everything that church was physically and materially they lacked spiritually.  So, the Lord Jesus gives them counsel that they might restore spiritual realities in their midst. 
verse 18
 
He offers them a restoration of
 
  • spiritual value
 
 - "...buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich."  He wants them to understand what true riches are, what really matters in life.
 
 
 
 
He offers them a restoration of
 
  • spiritual virtue
 
"and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed."  He offers them some spiritual covering, the righteousness of Christ.  They needed to be clothed with spiritual clothes.
 
He offers them a restoration of 
 
  • spiritual vision
 
"and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou may see." 
 
It’s possible to have 20/20 with your physical eyes and be blind as a bat with your spiritual eyes. It is only when the Lord applies His divine eye salve and enabled you to see spiritually exactly where you stand with Him that you really see things clearly and correctly. 
 
In verse 19, He offers them
 
  • spiritual repentance
 
Now verse 19 deserves a little time.
 
Verse 19
 
The first think I want you to notice is that Jesus says what he says to this church out of love for them.  Every time the Lord has a word of complaint, every time there is a word of judgment from our Lord Jesus, it is spoken from a heart of love.  Jesus is saying to you, "Your condition is spiritually nauseating. 
You are indifferent.  You are unconcerned.  You are lukewarm. That's disgusting to me."  But he also says to them, "I want you to know I love you. And those I love I rebuke and chasten."  Notice the spiritual order. God's way of dealing with the Christian who gets sin and spiritual indifference in his life is always this way.
 
He starts off first with a rebuke.  Here you are as a Christian and you get out of the will of God. God says, "the first move I'll make is to rebuke you."  God has many different ways of doing this. God has some unusual ways of bringing rebuke to the heart of His people. 
 
Sometimes God does it through the preaching of his word. Sometimes God uses a preacher. The preacher stands and preaches the Word of God and it’s as if he’s been reading your mail. It's as if he knows just exactly what's going on in your life. It is so vivid, so to the point of your situation, it's like that man had attached your name to his message that day.  That is the Holy Spirit using the rebuke of the Word of God to deal with you.  God, in love, is being good to you.  He's rebuking you with His Word.
 
Or He may use a circumstance.  Maybe a child gets sick and as you stand over the bed of that sick one and you see the fever and the suffering and discomfort of the little child, in that moment, the Spirit of God speaks a word of rebuke to you.  He’s trying to get your attention.  He’s trying to wake you up. 
 
God quite often brings a word of rebuke to us in an attempt to awaken us to our spiritual condition and it is always motivated by His love. 
 
Then he says, "I not only love you and rebuke you, I will chasten."  If you don't heed the rebuke, then the Lord says you don't leave me any other choice but to chasten you.   Let me explain.  Over at my house let's say that my children are younger than they are now and they are out playing in the yard.  They get in a fuss and one of them acts ugly.  I go to the door and I say, "That's not nice, you shouldn't act that way.  Don't do that anymore now.  You be sweet."  I go on back in the house and in a little while I hear the bickering going on again. Sure enough the little one has acted ugly again.  I go out there and say, "I told you not to do that anymore."  I go back in house.  In a little while, sure enough, acting up again.  I go out and I say, "I rebuked you and I warned you, now I'm going to take you in the house and chasten you."
 
If you have had the rebuke of the Lord and you have refused to repent and refused to get right with God and refused to forsake that relationship in your life that displeases Jesus, you have been unwilling to let go of that secret sin you think nobody knows about.  God says, "I will rebuke."  But if you keep on God will chasten you.  He'll whip you.  When God whips you, He knows where to make it hurt.
 
In I Corinthians 11 the Lord talked about some folks living in sin in the church of Corinth.  He said, "For this cause many are sick and many sleep."  I fully believe there are some Christians who went to heaven ahead of time because they got sin in their lives and wouldn't get it out.  God rebuked them, God dealt with them and they wouldn't pay any attention. 
 
God said, "You are no longer going to insult my name and my church and my family. I'll just bring you up here early."
Some folks will go to your funeral and they will never know why you died such an untimely death.
 
Then notice, He says, “Be zealous and repent.”  In other words, don’t hesitate.  Zealous means to come to a boil.  Turn up the heat.  Be quick about it and repent. 
 
Then in verse 20, we come to that verse that is so often misquoted and misused and there we find
 
  1. The Call of Jesus
 
verse 20
 
Understood in its context, this verse is not picturing the Lord standing at the door of a person’s heart seeking entrance in salvation.  It is the Lord at the door of His church seeking entrance in fellowship. 
 
And when properly understood, it is an extremely sad picture.  Here is a picture of the Lord Jesus standing at his own church knocking, seeking an entrance.
 
It is a sad picture of the excluded Christ. Now understand, He was excluded from His own heaven, voluntarily when He came into this world to be our Savior. 
 
Once He got here, He was excluded from his own nation. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. 
 
He was excluded from his own world, reviled and rejected, lifted between heaven and earth on a cross as if fit for neither. 
 
And now, sad as it is, He is excluded from His own church and stands outside, at the door, knocking, seeking entrance. 
 
I wonder how many churches there are tonight and the Lord Jesus is standing, knocking, wanting to get in. Knocking, wanting an entrance. Jesus said if "any man hear my voice and open the door." 
 
It is interesting to note that the invitations become more specific as you move through these letters. To the church of Thyatira the Lord says, "To the rest."  To the church of Sardis he says, "to a few."  Now, to the church of Laodicea he says, "if anyone." 
 
You know how many it takes to let Jesus into a situation?  Just one.  I used to think to have revival the whole church had to get revived. It doesn't.  The Lord Jesus said, "any man." Evangelist Gypsy Smith said, "The way to have a revival is to draw a circle around yourself, get on your knees in that circle and say, O, Lord, send a revival and let it start on the inside of this circle." 
 
You might be the one God would use to set that Sunday School class on fire. You could be that man, that woman, that young person, that could set that business on fire - that could set that school on fire. 
 
"If anyone hears my voice and open the door."  Jesus is a perfect gentleman. He knocks but he does not knock the door down. 
 
The famous painting by Halman Hunt which is in St. Paul's Cathedral depicts the Lord Jesus in this Scripture, standing before the door. He has the light in his hand.
When he first painted that picture and it was at the outset displayed folks came to view and admire his painting.  One of his friends said to him, "Mr. Hunt, your painting is beautiful but you've left something out.  Mr. Hunt, you failed to put a latch on the door."
 
Mr. Hunt said, "No, you don't understand.  The latch is on the inside of the door." The Lord Jesus knocks at your heart's door.  But you've got to open that door.
 
Now, while the primary application here is to the Lord wanting to get into a lukewarm, indifferent church I don’t see anything wrong with expanding principle beyond the scope of this verse. 
 
Because the truth is, any invitation to salvation is an invitation to fellowship with Jesus.  That is exactly what Jesus said in the High Priestly prayer.  He voiced His desire for His brothers and sisters on earth to experience the same kind of fellowship that God and He enjoyed together.   
 
And in that spirit, the Lord Jesus says to us, "I stand at the door and knock." It might be an invitation to a cold, dead, indifferent, ignorant church member who is too full of themselves to realize they need revival, or it might be to a searching sinner who knows there is an emptiness in their heart. 
 
But right now, deep down inside, there is something that tells you that preacher is right.  You need Jesus.  Down inside of you there is a desire that has been created for you to come to Christ and to be forgiven of your sins and to know Jesus in a personal way.  There's a knocking at your heart's door.  But you've got to open that door.
 
Jesus said you open the door and I'll come in and dine with you and you with me. I like the older translations that use the word “”sup”.  “Sup” is just short for supper. And I don’t know about you, but at our house we had breakfast, dinner and supper. 
 
The Greeks did too.  They ate breakfast, which was a fairly substantial meal to fuel them for the day.  They had a noon meal which was kind of eaten on the fly to get them back to work. 
 
And they had supper. Supper was the meal at the end of the day when the activities were over and you could relax and visit and enjoy the food and the fellowship.
The idea of supper was for it to be long and leisurely and sumptuous and enjoyable. 
 
Doo you hear what the Lord is saying?  He is saying, “I want to spend some time with you.  I want us to enjoy one another’s company.  I want to share with you and have you share with me about life and what makes you happy and what you’ve got going on. 
 
We can do that if you’ll just let me in. I’ll stay as long as you like and we’ll spend as much time as you need. I'll be close to you all the way to the throne of God." 
 
All you’ve got to do is open the door. 
 
Let’s pray.
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