Revelation 3:20 Revisited

by Roel Velema

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Revelation 3:20 is often used in evangelism, often along with John 1:12, to urge people to accept Christ as their Savior. Many have come to faith through this verse (me too!). Later I realized that the verse is not addressed to the unsaved, but a church, a body of those who were born again, to redeemed people. Although God can give a straight blow with a crooked stick, and the wind of the Spirit blows wherever He wants, what then is the contextual meaning of the verse for the saved?

The first thing that stands out in the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 is the impending return of the Lord. Jesus writes to the Ephesians: “I will coming to you” (Rev. 2:5). In Pergamum we see more urgency: “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon” (Rev. 2:16). To Thyatira, the Lord emphasizes yet another time of perseverance: “Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Rev. 2:25). He comes nearer when He writes to Sardis: “I will come like a thief” (Rev. 3:3). Time really draws near when He writes to the church of Philadelphia: “I am coming soon” (Rev. 3:11). The finally, in Laodicea He is standing at the door where He knocks. We see the same in Luke 12:35-38:

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!

These slaves had to dress for action and keep their lamps burning, as also see in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). But note the differences. In Luke 12 the master came FROM to the wedding feast, while in Matthew 25 the girls went TOWARDS the wedding hall. Some Bible readers think that Luke 12:35-38 relates to Israel after the marriage of the Lamb has been a fact. It would then be addressed to the believers in the Great Tribulation. When we stick to this line, we see that after the second coming of Christ on earth, two weddings have taken place. Christ has his bride and the Father has restored Israel as his wife. For both weddings there are then festivities and Christ could be on his way from one wedding to another. However, we will see that this is not the thought behind Luke 12:35-38.

Peter also wondered to whom the parable was addressed and asked: “Lord, are you telling this this parable for us for all” (Luke 12:41). The Lord then spoke the parable of the faithful and wise slave, which we also find in Matthew 24:45-51. These parables are parables over the kingdom of the heavens, which point to the rule of heaven over the earth for those who realized their heavenly calling. The church of Jesus Christ has a heavenly calling and Israel has not. Therefore Israel is not in view in Luke 12:35-38.

Regarding the coming from and going to the marriage feast, the Greek text helps us when we look at the Greek word for “marriage”, which is the word “gamos.” In Luke 12:36 the word is plural and usually does not refer to multiple weddings, but to the different parts of the wedding. Now we have the explanation of Revelation 3:20. Hearing his voice, being dressed, keeping the lamps burning, as the wise virgins did. He comes as a thief in the night, possibly in the second or third night watch, that is, the hours before midnight or after midnight. He come back from the marriage hall where all things are made ready. Revelation 3:20 therefore challenges us to expect His second coming daily.

Let’s read on, from Luke 12:39:
But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12: 39-48).

In verse 45 the slave becomes unfaithful and mistreats the other slaves. His lord will let him share in the fate of the faithless ones, like the faithful slaves of Christ will rule during the millennium over His possessions. In verse 47 we read: “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.” Other Bible passages of the same nature are found in Matthew 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25:1-13, 28-30, Luke 19:2-27 and Galatians 5:17-21.

Although we cannot lose our eternal salvation and stay a child of God, we can certainly fail to receive the heavenly millennial birthright as a son. Therefore, put the following text on your pin board or PC in order to be reminded of it every day:

Blessed is the slave who will find his lord so busy when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him over all his possessions “(Luke 12:42-43).

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