Revelation 3:7 “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”
If people can’t even get into your building, if the doors are always closed and locked, how could your church be successful? There could be no ministry going on inside without letting people in. But you already sense that Jesus does not mean an “open door” in such a hyper-literal way.
He means more than a metaphorical “open door” to the people in your community, too. We want to be inviting, welcoming, engaged with the people who live around us, whether they are members or not. Their culture, their values, their morals may not be the same as ours, yet. But how is that going to change if we don’t make it possible for them to approach us, or if we aren’t willing take the initiative and approach them? Yet, this is not what Jesus means by an “open door,” either.
By “open door” Jesus means even something more than an opportunity to do mission work. The Apostle Paul uses the words “open door” in his letters to the Corinthians this way. But Jesus has something bigger, and more fundamental, in mind.
The words are an allusion to Isaiah 22. In that chapter God warns an unfaithful manager of the palace treasures who had been skimming money that he is going to remove him from his office. He will give it to a faithful man named Eliakim. Then Eliakim would hold the “key to the house of David.” With it came the power to open or shut access to its treasures.
This, then, is the meaning of the metaphor of the open door: Jesus had opened up to this congregation access to the full treasures of the gospel. Their sins were fully forgiven. Their salvation was free and complete. The door to heaven stood wide open in front of them, opened by Jesus himself by his death and resurrection. No one could shut it against them. Grace was theirs to live in now and forever. Grace was theirs to use, to handle, to share, to proclaim. They had this awesome power at their disposal. They could apply all they wanted to themselves and live in God’s love. They could distribute it to anyone without limits. The door was open and the gospel treasure was theirs.
This great open door was a great gift to that church in challenging times. These churches in Revelation lived under constant spiritual attack. The culture around them embraced a variety of sexual sins. It was materialistic. These sins were making inroads into the churches that neighbored the church in Philadelphia. The Christian faith suffered official government persecution from the Roman Empire. Former brothers and sisters in the faith, at that time people who declined to leave Judaism for Christ, joined in persecuting the Christian congregations. Put it together–an immoral culture, a hostile government, people of other faiths who rejected them–and it sounds eerily similar to the times in which you and I now live.
But they had the open door. The full treasure, the unconditional gospel was their secret weapon not just to survive, but to thrive.
Don’t despise the treasure. Our great temptation may be to yawn at the gospel of full and free forgiveness. We have heard it enough. We are bored with it already. Years ago a man told his pastor that coming to his church was like a man crawling through the desert in desperate search of water. He is just at the edge of death, when he peers over a sand dune, and there is a peaceful oasis with a beautiful pool of water. He gets up and goes tearing down that sand dune, jumps into the water, and in his joy he is splashing around and laughing at the great find he has made.
But all around him are people who have lived at that oasis their entire lives. They look at the man splashing in the pool and they think to themselves, “What? Are you nuts?”
Don’t be the people who take the oasis for granted. Don’t be the people who shrug their shoulders at the open door and full treasures of the gospel Jesus has set before them. Come and have your sins absolved. Come and hear the gospel preached. Come and receive your Savior’s supper for the forgiveness of your sins. Christ has set before us an open door to all the treasures of heaven. It is the one great possession of Christian churches in every age.