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The Open Door

Revelation 3:8 - "Behold, I have set before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little strength, and have kept My Word and have not denied My name."

The biblical promise of an open door which no one can shut sounds almost too good to be true. And yet this is exactly what is promised in Revelation 3:8. Wow! Does this mean God is promising me an open door to that better job or position I've been looking for? Does it mean my practically non-existent love-life is about to open up in answer to my prayers? Does it mean I can claim an entrance into any "closed door" in front of me? Unfortunately, the answer to all these hypothetical questions is simply, No! The promise of an open door in Revelation 3:8 has nothing to do with better jobs or love-lives, etc.

Now it may appear that the questions above contain overstated examples. It is a fact, however, that Revelation 3:8 has been wrongly applied to all kinds of "doors" by well-meaning Christians. This kind of improper application of Bible promises has left some believers bitterly disappointed when the "open doors" they claimed did not materialize. Well then, what is the open door that is promised in Revelation 3:8, and how should this definite promise be applied to growing Christians today?

One of the basic rules of applying any Scripture to ourselves is always to move from the question, "What did it mean then?" to the question, "How do we apply it now?" In other words, we cannot just jump into any promise of the Bible and indiscriminately apply it to any situation facing us today. We must first see from the Bible to whom the promise was originally made and under what exact conditions the promise was given. Then from that historical frame-work we can move to a well-grounded and properly "controlled" application for ourselves today.

The promise of the open door is contained in one of the letters addressed to the seven churches found in the second and third chapters of Revelation. These first century churches were located in the province of Asia (called Asia Minor today) of the Roman Empire. In the seven letters the Lord directly addressed these churches and spoke to them of their spiritual condition. He commended them for their good points and rebuked them for their shortcomings. He gave the promise of the open door to the church of Philadelphia. Although this church was just a small feeble church, they had kept the Lord's Word and they had not denied the Lord's name. They had been obedient to the Word of God in the face of increasing external pressures and persecutions from the pagan Roman world. And they had not been contaminated internally with the watered-down view of the Person and work of Christ such as the early gnostics were propagating. (Such false teaching later developed into the second century heresy known as Gnosticism.) On the basis of their faithfulness, the Lord promised the church of Philadelphia an open door of opportunity to advance God's kingdom.

We don't know all the historical details of how the church of Philadelphia took advantage of its God-given opportunity to witness to the surrounding pagan region. However, we do know that a vigorous Christian testimony continued at Philadelphia when the lights of many other early churches were snuffed out. In fact, the light of the Gospel of Christ continued to shine out from Philadelphia over the furious waves of Roman persecution. In later centuries, when Islam swept across Asia Minor, Philadelphia remained as a Christian island in the midst of a Moslem sea. The fact that the letters to the seven churches are included in the Holy Scriptures is evidence that God intended them to be used by His people beyond the first century. Throughout Church history individual Christians, as well as whole congregations of God's people, have found conviction and strength in this portion of the Word of God. The promise of the open door has challenged many godly believers over the years to take advantage of the definite opportunities the Lord has given them to serve Him. Such claims upon the promise of the open door have certainly been valid and proper applications of Revelation 3:8.

Many students of Scripture are convinced that there is a further aspect to the interpretation of the letters to the seven churches. Each of the seven churches may represent a successive stage of church history as it unfolded, beginning with the "Ephesian Church" of the apostolic days to the "Laodician Church" of the last days. There are many good features about this view and, if true, the promise of the open door is particularly appropriate to the span of church history which began around the end of the 18th century and continues even today. The great revivals and worldwide missionary efforts and other evangelical ministries that began during this period were all part of the blessings of the open door that the Lord gave and continues to give His Church.

In any case, the letters to the seven churches of Revelation certainly have an application to Christian churches today. The spiritual condition of every church is still important to the Lord. His exhortations and encouragements to the seven first century churches are very appropriate and pertinent to 20th century churches. The promise of the open door can be claimed by any Christ-centered and Word-centered church today. Regardless of the numerical size and natural strength or even the amount of spiritual gift within that church, there definitely will be an open door given to that church--a God-given special opportunity to advance the kingdom of God in some way. The open door may be a radio ministry or literature ministry. It may be a city-wide youth ministry or beyond-the-call-of-duty foreign missions ministry. It may be an inner-city ministry or college campus ministry, depending on the location of your church.

If you are part of a feeble struggling church where nothing seems to be happening and there seems to be no spiritual fruit or growth, do not despair. As long as your church is composed of brothers and sisters who love the Lord and His Word, the promise of the open door is as good for you as for the church of Philadelphia. Look for it! Don't let excuses of "barren fields" and "we tried" blind you and keep you from the open door which God has given your church. But remember that the open door "set before you" must be entered. Going through is not automatic and not part of the promise. Perhaps you are the individual in your congregation that God is raising up to lead (not drive!) the others in the fellowship through the door of service that God has opened for your church.

What about the personal application of the open door promise? Is it valid for individual growing Christians to claim this promise today and look for the open doors that God has personally given them? Yes! But remember that it is a door of opportunity to serve the Lord, not a guarantee of a better job or love-life or whatever. The open door is a God-given opportunity for you personally to advance His Kingdom in your early life as a Christian. Yes, if you love the Lord and are trying to be obedient to His Word, God has an open door opportunity for you. This does not necessarily mean that the Lord is calling you to leave the secular world and go into full-time ministry. Furthermore, it does not necessarily mean that your door of opportunity will be an up-front leadership role in an outstandingly successful Christian ministry. Your open door of service may be much more obscure--like plugging along as a faithful and caring Sunday School teacher. (Incidentally, you never know whose Sunday School class the next Billy Graham will come from!) Your door of opportunity right now may be the unglamorous one-on-one campus or office faith-sharing that is open before you. Your open door may be the opportunity to evangelize your neighborhood, starting with your own family.

We could continue to list all kinds of possible open doors that the Lord has set before us individually. But the important truth to realize at this point is that right now there is some definite open door for service before you. Go for it! Now! You do not have to force the door open. Our text says that the door has been opened and no one can shut it. In fact, we limit our ministry when we force open doors of our own choosing. Go for the open door before you, not for some closed door beyond which the grass may look greener. Remember, we are not referring here to doors involving our physical and spiritual needs where the Lord expects us to "knock". (See Matthew 7:7-11 and Luke 11:9-13 and note the context.) These closed doors will be opened in answer to our prayers, and our needs (but not necessary our wants!) will be met in ways that are best for us. But the door of Revelation 3:8 is open already. It is the door of opportunity for serving the King of Kings.

How tragic that some of us will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and have to confess that we did not really believe the promise of the open door. Excuses such as "What door?" and "All the doors were closed!" will not stand the test, and none of us will be able to say we didn't have the strength to enter God's open door of opportunity. Revelation 3:8 indicates that only a little strength is necessary to qualify for the promise of the open door.

Let's not miss the open door that the Lord Himself has set before us as individual growing Christians. The more you get involved in using your natural abilities and spiritual gifts in service for Christ, the more clearly you will see your door of opportunity. Further areas of service will become obvious as you take advantage of the opportunity that is set before you now. No one else can do exactly what you can do in service for our Lord. Your love for the Lord and His Word and the little strength that you have are all that is needed to claim the promise of the open door. Don't miss the opportunity of seeing this promise fulfilled in your life.
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