Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Revelation 3:20 - Can We Use It In Evangelism?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me. -Jesus Christ; Revelation 3:20

Some say this verse should never be used to lead someone to the Lord because it was written to a church, not to lost people. Some go so far as to ridicule the ignorance of anyone who would use it in evangelism.

In contrast, many, many Baptist and Christian preachers of the Gospel have preached this verse to not only the saved, but also to the lost. Many a lost soul has been won to the Lord through this passage of Scripture.

It is granted that the verse is primarily written to the church at Laodicea. It is also granted that this verse alone does not present the gospel or the plan of salvation in its totality. (You could even argue that about John 3:16; after all it says nothing about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

The plan of salvation includes our sin and separation from God, God’s holiness, His love, Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, His blood being shed for us, and his literal resurrection from the dead. We are to ask forgiveness for our sins. We are to believe and accept Jesus as our Lord (Boss, Master) and Savior. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10, 13; John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24)

But when the full plan of salvation is presented, Revelation 3:20 is valid to use in explaining the biblical concept of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I and many before me believe Revelation 3:20 is valid to use in evangelism because:

1. We can go too far in saying this verse is not for you. All of the Bible is written as God’s love letter to mankind.

I know you can also go too far the other way; but here I do not think that is the case. For example, Romans is addressed to the saints (Romans 1:7-8). Does anyone argue that because of this the Roman Road verses cannot be used for evangelism? If they so argue, they are wrong.

2. Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20 are valid for a saved person. They are also valid for a lost person.

3. Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20 illustrate Jesus’ attitude toward a lost person and what the person must do to be saved. This can be shown from many Bible passages.

Does a lost person have to do something to be saved? Yes. Jesus wholly accomplished the work of salvation. But a man must respond, must believe, must call on the name of the Lord, must reach out and receive the gift of God. (John 1:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; etc.) In other words, a man must open the door of his heart and invite Jesus in.

A number of verses reveal that when we are saved Jesus comes to live in our hearts. Other verses refer to the Holy Spirit living within us.
Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Galatians 4:6; 2 Peter 1:19; John 7:38; etc. (also, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit).

4. Revelation 3:20 is given to whoever will take it. Notice Jesus’ use of the word, “anyone.” That includes the saved and the lost, all the world.

5. Just as today, the church at Laodicea would have included unsaved visitors and unsaved members (Jesus even had an unsaved disciple!)*; especially a lukewarm church like Laodicea. Jesus would certainly have known this and included them in His invitation. Just as pastors today include the saved and the lost in the public invitation they give in their church.

If Revelation 3:20 cannot be used for the lost because it was given to a church, then it would be invalid for pastors today to give a salvation invitation in church. After all, if they are in church, they surely must all be saved!

6. It could even be argued that Jesus knocking at the door and us inviting Him in is more valid for a lost person that for a saved person.

A person is welcome to disagree and use their own verses in evangelism. But those who use this verse in evangelism are not doing so out of ignorance.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, October 4, AD 2011.

*  Of course, every member of a Baptist church should be a believer.  The requirements to be a member of a Baptist church are usually two:  You have personally received Christ as your Savior, and you have subsequently been Scripturally baptized (Beleiver's Baptism by Immersion).  But we all know there are those who have made an outward profession of faith without meaning it in their hearts.

Saved By The Sinner's Prayer
The Roman Road of Salvation
Unlimited Atonement, Jesus Died For All
Many more articles in lower right margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).


  1. David,

    Thank you for your thoughtful article, but if I may, I would like to respectfully disagree with your viewpoint.

    One of the interpretive principles we hold dearly is that of the historical interpretation, that is, how would the original recipients of John's epistle have understood what he had written. I would suggest that they would not have thought that this was a salvation verse at all. Salvation isn't the subject of the passage.

    Secondly, the context as well as the grammar argues against your view. John was not writing to this church about salvational issues, but rather about matters of a lack of godly living within this church. This church had essentially barred Christ from His own church. John pictures Him on the outside seeking re-admittance. The door He is knocking on is the door of the church, not the door of one's heart. Sadly, much of today's Church is doing the same thing-evicting the Head of the Church from His position of authority over His Church.

    One of the keys to understanding this verse, as I understand it, is the phrase "I will come in to him." It is important to note that John did not use the preposition eis ("into") but rather the two words pros auton (literally "toward him"). This speaks of motion toward someone, not coming into someone. Had John used "into" instead of "in to," then I think you might have a stronger case for your position.

    For this and several other reasons, I prefer not to use Rev. 3:20 for evangelism. There are far clearer verses in the NT that are available to us.

    Thanks again for your most interesting article.


  2. Gary,
    How dare you disagree with me. And I thought we were friends :-).

    Seriously, this is an example of an issue where Bible-believing folks may just disagree. Glad you stopped by; glad to hear your view.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. It is to individuals that Christ makes the invitation. He does not say, "If any church hear my voice..." but instead says, "If any man hear my voice..." Churches can only get right with God as individuals get right with God.

    1. Every word in the Bible I personally take as the Lord speaking to me. in Proverbs chapter 3 I take every word as speaking directly to me. Revelation 3:20 is speaking to whoever then and now.

  4. If we, as Gentiles, by strict prohibition, limit ourselves to teaching addressed primarily to Israel, we would perhaps be faithful to contextual validity, but in the process, be vacating much principal totally appropriate for our edification. By the same token, Church or not, the truthfulness of Rev 3:20 must extend to All for Salvation brought nigh by repentance, and repentance of the Luke warm church God addressed. Either way, repentance is called for. A key component of both salvation and returning to our first love. Tim Domanski

  5. If we should not use Rev 3:20 for evangelism because it was written to a specific church, then all of Paul’s letters written to churches should be taboo also. Get real!!


What do you think?