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What Is the Meaning of 'Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock' in Revelation 3?

“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.” – Revelation 3:20

In the book of Revelation Jesus gives messages to seven different churches. Some scholars would say these churches represent seven types of churches you may find or seven types of people you may find in the church today. One of the churches that received one of his strongest messages was the church of Laodicea. In light of this church and the challenges this church had, what is the meaning of 'behold I stand at the door and knock'?

What Does 'Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock' Mean

Are there any Laodicean spaces in your heart where you think you are doing fine, but you have shut Jesus out? Where you are neither hot nor cold so you are not good for anything. If there are then the same invitation extends to you as it did to this church. Behold he stands at the door and knocks. Will you let him in? The difference between experiencing all God’s best and settling for much less and much worse hinges on whether you decide to open the door. We often use this verse to talk to unbelievers but remember he was talking to the church. Let’s make sure we always have the door of our heart open to Jesus so that he is able to do everything he wants to do in our lives.

Why Did Jesus Say 'Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock' to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3?

Jesus didn’t have anything positive to say about this church. Here are the strong words Jesus used to described the church in Laodicea.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” – Rev. 3:15-18

Here are three characteristics of the church at Laodicea:

1. They were lukewarm. This was a church that was neither hot nor cold. Many people believe this lukewarm only means they were straddling the fence between the world and the church. What it really means is that they were good for nothing. They had no value they could offer. Laodicea was situated near two other cities, Hieropolis which was known for its hot springs that were good for healing and Colossae which was known for cold waters which provided refreshment. Because Laodicea was lukewarm the water they produced was not good for healing or refreshment and thus was not good for anything. As one scholar put it, you can drink hot tea or cold tea but warm tea is pretty much useless.

2. They were materialistic. This church was rich in material possessions which created a false sense of God’s blessing. This church is a reminder that you cannot equate the blessing of God to anything material, that is not a representation of spiritual maturity, or an indication God is pleased with your life.

3. They were spiritually poor. The worse part of this church is that they were spiritually bankrupt and they didn’t even realize it. If you would have asked them, they would tell you everything is alright, we are experiencing the blessing of God because look at all we have. Yet amid physical riches, they were lacking in any real spiritual blessings. Sad to say, many in churches today are unaware of their own spiritual lack.

How Does This Tie into Verse 20 ‘Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock’?

Knowing what was happening in Laodicea helps you know the meaning of behold I stand at the door and knock. Let me point your attention to a few thoughts.

Jesus was outside the church.
Isn’t interesting that Jesus has to knock on the door. This means he was not present in the church. Imagine there was a church that carried his name but where Jesus had to knock on the door to get in. They were having church and doing church, but they didn’t include Jesus in their church. They may have used his name in song and worship but that’s where it stopped. If there is an example of church on a superficial level, this is it. Remember this was a church that lauded its “blessings” but what was missing was the blesser. They were a Christian church with no Christ in it leaving Jesus to knock on the door to get in. This is a tragedy

Jesus was outside their hearts.
Jesus was not just outside the church in general, he was outside of the hearts of the individuals. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says this.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

It seems clear that the people of the church did not have Jesus in the center of their hearts. He was on the outside looking in on the church and on the outside looking in on their hearts. They were more interested in serving their material interests and you can’t serve God and money at the same time. They were foolishly leaving eternal riches on the table because they desired temporary ones more. Jesus was knocking at the door of their heart hoping they would let him in so he could change their heart,

Jesus was desiring intimate fellowship with them.
Probably the most important meaning of behold I stand at the door and knock is the heart of Jesus which is to desire intimate fellowship with you and me. This has been God’s heart from the very beginning and it remains his heart to this very day. Jesus was offering the opportunity to come in and dine. This screams of personal intimacy at its highest form. There is something I discovered a while back, you don’t sit at a table and have a meal with someone you just don’t like, because eating together is an intimate fellowship experience. Right before Jesus said he was knocking at the door here is what he said,

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19

What he was saying is I love you and my rebuke is not to harm you but to help you because I want you to repent. The reason I desire repentance is so that I can sit and fellowship with you. If you remain in your sin, then I will continue outside of your church and your heart. However, if you heed my warning and truly let me in then I will come in and fellowship with you. Jesus knew their heart was in the wrong place, but he also knew if they let him in, he would fix it.

I could see it now. Someone hears the knock and opens the door and Jesus sits down and dines with them. Through this process I believe Jesus would begin to point out things that need changing but more importantly he would help you to change them. Jesus is the guest who would see you have dirty dishes and then offer to help clean them up. He didn’t just want to come in to tell them everything that was wrong, he wanted to help them get it right.

Further Reading

What Did Jesus Mean by ‘Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock’?

Photo credit: ©SparrowStock


Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.


This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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