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Even with the busy work week, I was pondering this week on Revelation 3: 20 and the various libertarian free will, evangelical freewill and incompatibilist freedom interpretations that would arise, often in missions and evangelism contexts.
Revelation 3:20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
Revelation 3:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Old Third Mill.Org
If only Jesus can open my heart in order to save me, why is it that he knocks at the door of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:20)? How can I fit together Calvinism (specifically that God alone causes men to turn their hearts towards him) and this verse?
There are at least a couple ways to answer your question:
First, Revelation 3:20 is part of a letter written to the Christian church in Laodicea. There is no indication that the people who open the door to Jesus are not saved prior to opening the door, or that opening the door is a metaphor for receiving Christ in salvation. Opening the door does not appear to be a metaphor for salvation, but for obedience. Those who open the door are those who hear the warning of this letter and repent of their sin. The implication from the context of the verse is that these people are already saved.
Second, Revelation 3:20 does not say anything about the process of how one comes to be able to open the door, or about who is able to open the door. Rather, it simply explains the result of opening the door. Even if one were to interpret this verse as speaking of salvation (which I believe would be an incorrect interpretation), the verse still would not provide any information as to how that person came to be able to open the door, whether or not he was regenerated and/or had faith prior to opening the door, etc. Thus, one could understand the verse to be speaking about initial salvation and be a consistent Calvinist. The verse does not refute the idea that a person must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit prior to being able to open the door.
Third (for the sake of argument assuming that this verse is about initial salvation), Calvinism does not require that Jesus forcibly open the door. Rather, Calvinism teaches that the Holy Spirit regenerates man and gives him faith, and that man then responds positively to the gospel in repentance. Metaphorically, opening the door to Jesus would seem to be a better illustration of the response of repentance than of regeneration and reception of faith. Once a person is regenerated and given faith, opening the door is the natural Calvinistic response.
Answer by Ra McLaughlin'
To be clear, I was not certain what the views of my documented authors would be on this verse prior to the research. My sources could have stated otherwise and I would have noted such. I have so previously.
By the way, incredibly, according to my very critical adviser, David Pailin of Manchester, causing me along with help from his colleagues to depart, Bruce was his academic adviser.
Bruce stated that 'Christ has no place in the life of the Laodicean Church, and seeks admission; even if the church as a whole pays no heed to his call, those members who do will enjoy mutual fellowship with him'. Bruce (1986: 1605).
Robert H. Mounce
Mounce writes that often, as I alluded to at the beginning, this verse is often used as referring to those outside of the Christian community. Mounce (1990: 128).
It is often pressed in the name of evangelism. Mounce (1990: 128).
However, he reasons in Scriptural context it is 'self-deluded members of the church who are being addressed'. Mounce (1990: 128).
Revelation is documented by many scholars to contain Christ speaking through the Apostle John and letters to seven churches.
Christ then is attempting to re-establish fellowship with this church.
Therefore the context is not salvation for those outside of the Church.
I have come across free will perspectives online which are basically expressed in Mounce's summation as in being an evangelism verse and tool where those who hear Christ knocking have significant libertarian free will to accept the gospel message, or not.
Even with my Reformed, compatibilist leanings, although researched and educated leanings, the research is not convincing for free will orientated evangelism and libertarian views.
Rather, as this is metaphor, the knocking by Christ and therefore God, is divine movement by God upon the individuals that God is seeking.
Based on research I reason that this is directed in context to the Church at Laodicea.
But even if it directed to non-believers at that church in a salvation context, it is not a clear and concise libertarian free will context provide here.
I agree with McLaughlin's view that 'Rather, it simply explains the result of opening the door. Even if one were to interpret this verse as speaking of salvation (which I believe would be an incorrect interpretation), the verse still would not provide any information as to how that person came to be able to open the door, whether or not he was regenerated and/or had faith prior to opening the door, etc. Thus, one could understand the verse to be speaking about initial salvation and be a consistent Calvinist. The verse does not refute the idea that a person must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit prior to being able to open the door.'
Back to the verse:
'If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.'
This is still true to a compatibilistic, soft-deterministic view, although not a hard-deterministic/deterministic view void of any significant human freewill, where God would simply by compulsion force and coerce salvation and belief.
With God and Christ taking the initiative and regenerating; preaching, Scripture and gospel related input is used in the process so that at some point, one is saved, as chosen and has belief.
I can acknowledge certainly this may not always be immediately. God regenerating whom he wills (Ephesians 1-2) does not necessarily mean a process does not take place over an extended time in some cases before a person is actually considered 'born again' (John 3), and regenerated (Titus 3: 5).
I reason God and Christ could knock multiple times with multiple events before one believed within a compatibilistic salvation context.
This would be limited human free will and not libertarian free will. It cannot be stated with certainty exactly how much time irresistible grace via the Holy Spirit shall take, only that it will occur is this realm and lifetime.
This is certainly pragmatically true as there would be a multitude of stories where a person heard the gospel and yet did not publicly acknowledge the Lord until years later.
Was he or she saved earlier or later?
I am a non-adult example of this finding interest in the Christian message at four years old on and even believing Christ was likely God at five to six, but still fearing God in the sense of questionable faith and not seeking the Bible and related. I did not call myself a Christian publicly and in a significant understanding until twelve years old.
I am not certain exactly when I was regenerated and saved, but I know Biblically, theologically and philosophically, I have been.
Even though I do not think salvation is the context of Revelation 3: 20.
BRUCE, F.F. (1986) ‘Revelation’, in F.F. Bruce (gen.ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Marshall Pickering/ Zondervan.
MCLAUGHLIN, R.A. (2014), 'Knock, Knock', Third Millennium Ministries, Fern Park, Florida, Third Millennium Ministries.
MOUNCE, ROBERT H. (1990) The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.