Revelation 3:20 records encouraging words from Jesus to His church at Laodicea, urging them to repent. It is sad that many have taken His words and twisted them into a false plan of salvation that Jesus never authorized. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Some have used this passage to teach that all one must do to become a Christian is to believe and pray a prayer to Jesus. They say that “opening the door” is accomplished by prayer. Many say the way we “knock” is by prayer to Jesus, and Jesus will open the door for us to become saved. Following are thoughts to consider regarding the “knocking” and “opening the door:”
- First of all, Jesus was the one knocking, not man, therefore the “knocking” in Revelation 3 does not refer to any man praying. Jesus said, “I stand at the door, and knock…” It is true that in some contexts Jesus commanded men to “knock” (Mt. 7:7; Lk. 11:9), but that is not what is happening in Revelation 3. Also, in those other contexts He was speaking to people who were already children of God (Jews under the Old Covenant), not alien sinners (those who had never become God’s children, Eph. 2:11, 12), and He was teaching them to pray to their Father—not to Jesus (Mt. 7:7-11; cf. 6:6-15; Lk. 11:1-13). The point is that Jesus never taught any child of God (and certainly not alien sinners) to pray to Him, and that is not what He was doing in Revelation 3:20.
- When Jesus said, “I stand at the door, and knock,” He was not literally knocking on a door, so the only way to determine what He meant is to examine the context. He was using symbolic language urging them to listen to Him “knocking” via His words in Revelation, seeking their repentance (3:19). If they would repent, they could be in fellowship with Him (3:20). If they would then remain faithful, they would be greatly rewarded (3:21). Therefore, this was not men pleading with Jesus for salvation, but Jesus pleading with men to repent!
- Jesus was not addressing alien sinners in Revelation 3:20. He was addressing erring members of His church at Laodicea who needed to repent (3:14). Note words from previous verses along with verse 20: “…to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans…As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh…” (3:19-21a).
- The concept of being with Jesus and eating with Jesus (3:20) was symbolic of the fellowship Jesus wanted to have with His disciples, but the church at Laodicea was “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” and needed to repent (3:17-19). Yes, Christians can fall out of favor with God (fall from grace, Gal. 5:4; Rev. 2:10; 3:5; 22:19).
- The term “overcometh” (3:21) is used repeatedly in this immediate context regarding various churches who need to repent and/or remain “faithful unto death”—not alien sinners (Rev. 2:10; cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
- That explains the “knocking,” but there is also nothing in this context implying that “opening the door” occurs via a prayer to Jesus. Opening the door would be accomplished by the Laodicean church repenting—not by alien sinners praying to Jesus (3:15-19).
- Prayer to Jesus is not what Jesus desires. He said that after He returned to Heaven, His followers would ask Him nothing in prayer, but ask the Father in Jesus’ name: “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (Jn. 16:23; cf. Lk. 6:46; Acts 8:22-24; Eph. 5:20; 1 John 1:9; Php. 4:6, 7). Revelation 8 records the prayers of all saints which “ascended up before God” (the Father, 7:17-8:4). Revelation 3:20 is not teaching prayer to Jesus.
- Revelation 3:20 is also not teaching alien sinners to pray at all. Though men often teach “the sinner’s prayer” which is not in the Bible, the Bible teaches that God does not heed the prayers of sinners (Prov. 28:9; Isa. 59:1, 2; Jn. 9:31; 1 Pet. 3:12, etc.). Prayer is not what God commands alien sinners to do for salvation. It is a spiritual blessing for children of God “in Christ” who can rightfully say, “Our Father in Heaven…” (Jn. 3:5; Eph. 1:3; Gal. 3:26, 27; Titus 3:5).
- Prayer did not wash away the sins of Saul or Cornelius. They were simply doing whatever they could think of to try to be forgiven (including fasting by Saul), but that is not what they were commanded to do to be saved (Acts 9:6-19; 10:6, 34, 35, 48; 22:16).
- For alien sinners, the “doorway” “into Christ” is water baptism, not prayer: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27; cf. Rom. 6:3-5; Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:22; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21).
- The New Testament pattern is for forgiveness is baptism before prayer—not prayer before baptism (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:36-42; 8:18-24; 1 Jn. 1:3-9; 2:12, etc.).
- “Hearing the voice” of Jesus (Rev. 3:20) implies listening to what Christ said and obeying Him: “I am the door…I am the good shepherd…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:9, 14, 27; cf. Mt. 7:21-27; Lk. 6:46). If an alien sinner will hear what Jesus said in the Great Commission and obey it, He will become one of the Shepherd’s sheep; but the Shepherd commanded water baptism in the Great Commission, not prayer! (Mt. 28:19, 20; Mk. 16:15, 16; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38-41, 47).
Dear reader, if you “hear the voice” of Jesus in the Bible, you will never hear Him commanding prayer to Him for salvation. You will hear Him commanding every person to be baptized for salvation, unless you choose to “hear the voice” of false teachers who tell you to pray to become a child of God (Jn. 8:47). If you have already been immersed, but it was not for the reason God said (salvation), will you risk your soul by being baptized differently than God said, with the wrong understanding? With love we encourage you to be immersed properly, with the proper understanding of its purpose, like the Ephesians did when they were baptized a second time (cf. Acts 19:1-5; 2:38; 22:16). We will be happy to help in any way we can. It is our desire that both alien sinners and erring members of Christ’s church will listen to Jesus and faithfully follow Him all the way to Heaven (1 Pet. 2:21-23; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).