Revelation 3:19b-21

Sermon preached on April 1, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A year ago or so and Joe W. asked me if I would do a Sunday evening service for him at R. Joe was going to be away and I was glad to help sort told him that I would. The first part of the service consisted of the prison choir leading the congregation in song. So after I opened in prayer I invited the choir up front and they started their songs. As soon as they came up front to sing I took my place in the audience. Not long after I did that the corrections officer in the hallway knocked on the door and motioned for me to come talk to him. He looked really upset and he told me that it was because I was sitting in the congregation with the other prisoners. He told me that I didn't know how to conduct a prison service and that I was in danger of losing control of the group. What he was saying was complete nonsense. I have been leading prison services for over 25 years and I have never come anywhere close to losing control of the service. I often sit in the audience when somebody is singing a solo, or when the choir is singing, or when somebody is giving a testimony. But I didn't argue with him. You can never win an argument in that type of situation. If he wanted, he could've stopped the whole service, sent the inmates back to their units, and sent me home. So I wasn't going to argue with him. He told me that I had to stand up in front the whole time even when the choir was singing, and that I had to be central, right among the choir. Now the choir was almost exclusively black. While they were singing they would clap and sway back and forth and really make some beautiful music. I had to go up there and stand with them. Now can you imagine me up there with them while they were singing? They were swaying back and forth and clapping their hands. I don't have any rhythm. I find it hard to clap in time and I can't sway back and forth in time to music at all. I must've stood out like a sore thumb. Did you ever see one of those comedy routines where there's some performers up on the stage dancing in unison and there's one guy who's not supposed to be there and he's trying his best to fit him but he gets everything wrong, he's a second or two late with everything—well that was me up there with this choir. It was like I didn't belong but I had to be there. I felt like I needed an injection that would give me rhythm and make me black so that I could fit in. But that didn't happen. It was horrible.

In our text we have two things like that. Jesus tells the church at Laodicea that if they repent, He will come and dine with them and He will give them the right to sit with Him on His throne.

The problem is that we don't fit there. Our sin has make us unfit for either of those two things. Sin has separated us from God. After they sinned Adam and Eve hid themselves. They instinctively knew that they were not worthy to dwell with God. They used to walk with Him in the cool of the day—but no more. They were driven out of the garden.

That problem persists. Even though Jesus came to bring us back to God, even His presence is profoundly threatening to sinners. In Luke 5:8 we read about Peter's reaction to Jesus. After the great catch of fish, Peter said to Jesus,

"Go away from me, Lord;
I am a sinful man!"

But Jesus did not leave Peter. He came to bring us back to God, to live with Him, to enjoy Him. What an incredible promise Jesus gives us here. He tells us that we will have intimate, joyful fellowship with Him. Not only that, but He tells us that those who overcome will sit on Jesus' throne with Him. Of course we're not just going to sit on the throne with Jesus—we're going to rule with Him. How can that be? I mean, if one has any humility at all he realizes the profound wisdom that we will need to do that. In 1 Corinthians 6 the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that they were going to judge the world, that they were going to sit in judgment on the angels. Wow. Who is sufficient for those things? I don't mean to insult anyone but I think I can safely say that not one of us here has anything near the wisdom of Solomon—and yet Jesus tells us that those who overcome will be given a place with Jesus on His throne. We grapple to understand how that can ever be—that we will have the wisdom to rule and judge with Jesus.

But the wonderful thing is that Jesus will make us fit to rule. Right now we feel like we don't belong in God's presence, let alone with Him on His throne—but the incredible news is that Jesus will change us and fit us for those positions.

What remarkable grace. It's incredible that Jesus gives promises like this to the church at Laodicea. The Christians there had failed in their duty to Jesus. Yet He gives them promises that are absolutely astounding. He tells them that if they repent He will give them things that are so wonderful that our minds struggle to take them in. This morning we're going to look at these two promises and hopefully see more of the glory of our Savior Jesus.

First, Jesus promises those who repent a return to a place of intimate fellowship with Him.

This image of standing at the door and knocking is one of the most misapplied passages in all of Scripture. It is usually applied to non-Christians. Jesus is seen as urging them to let Him into their hearts and lives.

But that's wrong. It's not addressed to non-Christians, it's addressed to Christians, to the Christians at Laodicea who need to repent. As G. K. Beale says, (Revelation, p. 308)

"This is an invitation not for the readers to be converted but to renew themselves in a relationship with Christ that has already begun…"

Jesus is urging them to repent. These Christians were all messed up. They had failed to be a witness to the city of Laodicea. Instead they got distracted by worldly riches and stopped living for Jesus and being a witness for Him. Jesus here tells them if they repent, He will come in and eat with them. In our text Jesus probably draws on the Song of Solomon 5:2. It says, (Beale)

"the voice of my beloved,
he knocks on the door.
Open to me, my beloved…"

G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 308)

"The allusion to Cant. 5:2 points to a focus on renewal of a relationship…"

Bartchy says, (DJG 796, quoted from Grant Osborne, (Revelation, p. 213)

"When people were estranged, a meal invitation opened the way to reconciliation."

Thus Jesus is telling them that all that they formerly had—intimate fellowship with Him—they can have again. Osborne continues,

"the promise here is of acceptance, sharing, and blessing, a deep fellowship with the one offering forgiveness and reconciliation with God."

Thus the idea is of forgiveness of sins and intimacy with Jesus. It's about being brought close to God again.

This is an incredible promise. If the Christians in Laodicea repented, Jesus would make His abode with them.

A couple of months ago there was a young guy who attended my Bible Study at the County Jail. He told me that he didn't have anyone who cared for him. He said that his family didn't want anything to do with him. He didn't go into details, but the impression I got from him was that he wasn't blaming his family, he was blaming himself. It is probably that they gave him chance after chance after chance, and he abused them all. Finally, they gave up on him.

Now in the future him family might change their mind. They might take him back. But they might not. Some people will say,

"I'll never forgive you. I never want to see you again."

And they mean it. With some people that's it. The estrangement never ends.

The point of Jesus knocking at the door here is to show us that He is willing to renew His relationship with us. In fact this is greatly emphasized. This is shown by the fact that

the image here is the opposite of what we would expect.

We would expect that the image would be of the person who has sinned, who has left Jesus—that he would be outside knocking at the door, begging Jesus to let him back in. But the image is of Jesus on the outside asking the wayward sinner to open the door to Him. Again, this reminds me of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. The wasteful son was going to go to his father and beg permission to become one of his father's servants. But before he got to that point the father ran to meet him, threw his arms around his son and kissed him. The father had been looking for him and saw him long before he got to his door.

That's what the love of Jesus is like.
What Jesus offers repentant sinners is not a place as a doorkeeper or a lowly slave in His kingdom. What is offered here is closeness, intimacy with Jesus. Grant Osborne, (Revelation, p. 213)

"The imagery of 'dining' stems from the Near Eastern practice of table fellowship. To share a meal in the ancient world was to share a life."

Vern Poythress refers to this fellowship as consisting of, (The Returning King, p. 94)

"glorious riches and healing…"

Robert H. Mounce says that it denotes, (Revelation (NICNT; 114)

"a strong bond of affection and companionship."

What a lesson for us here.

If your repent of your sins Jesus will forgive you.

Never doubt that. There is forgiveness with Jesus. He said,

"Here I am!
I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice
and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him,
and he with me."

Jesus promises a return to intimate fellowship with Himself.

But there is even more. Not only will we be brought near to Jesus and have remarkable and intimate fellowship with Him, see His face, but

we will share in His glorious work of ruling.

In verse 21 Jesus said,

"To him who overcomes,
I will give the right
to sit with me on my throne,
just as I overcame and sat down
with my Father on his throne."

How high Jesus will lift us. Man was created to rule over God's creation. The first Adam was given dominion, rule over God's creation. He was to rule it for God's glory. But Adam sin and was cast out of the paradise of God.

Jesus, the new Adam, will truly fulfill what the first Adam failed to do. Jesus, the second Adam, restores paradise and will make a new heaven and a new earth. (2 Peter 3:13) By dying for us He has washed away our sins. He has saved us and made us citizens of heaven. By virtue of His work for us, He has been exalted to the highest place. Philippians 2:9–11 says,

"Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place and gave him
the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

Ephesians 1:21–23 tells us that Jesus has been placed,

"far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."

Christ rules, forever and ever. But what is remarkable is that we will share in this great activity. To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.

There are two things to note here.

First of all, there may be an aspect of this ruling with Christ that occurs right now.

Our text here in verse 21 is best interpreted as referring to the final coming of Jesus. That is when the faithful ones will rule with him and is the ultimate expression of this promise. This is clear from what the souls of the martyrs say in Revelation 6:10,

"How long, Sovereign Lord,
holy and true,
until you judge the inhabitants
of the earth and avenge our blood?"

But it's worthy of note that there may be an aspect of this that relates to the here and now. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: p. 310)

"Those in the church who begin to overcome may even enjoy the inauguration of this promise before death, since it is clear from ch. 1 that believers are already participants in Christ's kingdom (so 1:5–6, 9; see also on 2:26–28)."

Jesus rules right now and we are told that we have already been made 'a kingdom and priests'. God is extending His kingdom through us. If we are 'faithful witnesses' God's kingdom is advanced right now, day by day. In a sense those who overcome are ruling with Christ right now. In 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 the apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians that,

"All things are yours,
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or the world or life or death
or the present or the future—all are yours,
and you are of Christ,
and Christ is of God."

To see this, we only need to go to Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. There they boldly taught about Jesus. The Sanhedrin told them not to speak about Jesus any longer. Peter and John replied, (Acts 4:19–20)

"Judge for yourselves whether
it is right in God's sight
to obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking about
what we have seen and heard."

In a certain sense they were ruling with Christ, right then and there. We see this is what happened right after. (Acts 4:23–31)

"On their release,
Peter and John went back
to their own people and reported
all that the chief priests and elders
had said to them.
When they heard this,
they raised their voices together
in prayer to God.
'Sovereign Lord, they said,
you made the heaven and the earth
and the sea, and everything in them.
You spoke by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.'
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate
met together with the Gentiles
and the people of Israel in this city
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus,
whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Now, Lord, consider their threats
and enable your servants to speak
your word with great boldness.
Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through
the name of your holy servant Jesus.'
After they prayed,
the place where they were meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly."

They were ruling with Christ. Christians, your actions are prayers are important. They are part of the way that God establishes His kingdom. Be bold. Be courageous. You are ruling with Christ right now.

Secondly, this shows us how wonderful glory will be for Christians.

I've mentioned before that the common misconception of heaven is of people sitting around on clouds, listening to harp music and eating grapes. That sounds boring and un-stimulating. Christians, think of it. What will you be doing in glory? You will be ruling, exercising Christ's rule with Him. You are going to share the work of Christ. How exciting glory is going to be. You will be with Jesus, enjoying fellowship with Him. You will be with Jesus, sharing in His work.

Our text sets the stage for Revelation 4 and 5, John's visions of heaven. Grant Osborne tells us that there is

"a three-stage development in the throne theology of the Bible. In the Old Testament it is Yahweh who sits on the throne in majesty and judgment. In the Gospels Jesus as the Son of Man partakes of God's throne, also in majesty and judgment (Matt. 19:28; 25:31-46). The same is true in the Apocalypse. In chapter 4 Yahweh is on His glorious throne, and in chapter 5 Jesus in his redemptive work is enthroned with him. Finally… the victorious saints also share in the throne of glory and judgment."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. What you should understand from our text is that

you don't deserve any of the blessings that are offered here—but they can be yours because of Jesus.

The Christians at Laodicea didn't deserve these promises. They had sinned. They had messed up. They had failed Jesus. Yet some of them repented and are enjoying those blessings right now. The same can be true of you. Repent of your sins. Turn from them. Turn to Jesus and ask Him to save you. He's your hope, your joy, and confidence. He loves sinners. With Him is forgiveness. Go to Him.