WHAT IS THE REAL MEANING OF REVELATION 3:20?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Revelation 3:20 is often quoted during “Gospel invitations.” Lost people are told that Jesus is knocking on their heart’s door, and they are urged to open the door and let Him come into their hearts and save them. Is that really what Revelation 3:20 is teaching? We will let the Bible be our final authority in that regard, and not promote denominational doctrine as though it were true.
“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). As always, we look at the context so that we can understand a verse, lest we make the verse say something that it does not say. We will read from Revelation 3:
“ And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  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 will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 3:20 has a context, and that verse is written to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, Jewish believers who will endure the future seven-year Tribulation (verse 14). These Laodiceans are “lukewarm,” “neither cold nor hot” (verse 15,16): they are materialistic and their works displease God (verses 17,18). They are “straddling the fence,” so to speak; therefore, the Lord through the Apostle John admonishes these them, “be zealous therefore, and repent [change your thinking!]” (verse 19).
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” is best understood when compared to James 5:8,9 (also written to Jews during the Tribulation): “ Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.  Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” In the context of Revelation 3:20, Jesus Christ’s Second Coming is near, and God is warning these believing Jews to “get their act together” so they can be ready to accept their Messiah-King, and so their deeds and hearts (attitudes) are acceptable to Him (Matthew 23:42-51; Luke 19:12-27; Revelation 22:11-12; et cetera).
Return to the context of Revelation 3:20: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (verse 21). This refers to believing Jews entering their earthly kingdom (which Christ will establish at His Second Coming). How plain! Revelation 3:20 belongs to Israel, not us.
So, Revelation 3:20 has nothing to do with salvation from sins and hell. It has nothing to do with “Jesus knocking at the door of a lost person’s heart” or “asking Jesus into your heart.” Contrariwise, it actually entails judgment!
Dispensational Bible study helps us understand Revelation 3:20 is not even talking to or about us anyway. First, John is its author (Revelation 1:4). John is not writing to us in the Dispensation of Grace; he is an apostle of Israel, writing to Jews in their kingdom program (Galatians 2:9). We need to leave Revelation 3:20 where it is in the Bible, and not rip it out of its context so that it promotes our denominational doctrine.