Reformed Scholars Misquoting Rev. 3:20?

And I’m not just referring to any old scholars, but two of the three big Johnnys, Owen and Edwards.

It has often been criticized that Christian newbies interpret Revelation 3:20 as being God’s calling unbelievers to salvation. But as the interpretation goes–for those who are in the know–this was said to the church in Laodicea which was supposed to be made up of believers, albeit lukewarm, and God is calling them to have fellowship with him.

I just finished reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon(s) titled The Excellency of Christ. In it I read this:

Rev. 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him and he with me.” Christ condescends not only to call you to him, but he comes to you; he comes to your door, and there knocks. He might send an officer and seize you as a rebel and vile malefactor, but instead of that, he comes and knocks at your door, and seeks that you would receive him into your house, as your Friend and Savior. And he not only knocks at your door, but he stands there waiting, while you are backward and unwilling. And not only so, but he makes promises what he will do for you, if you will admit him, what privileges he will admit you to; he will sup with you, and you with him.

This was during the last part where he makes a long plea for the listeners to trust Christ for salvation.

Then I remembered that John Owen wrote about something similar in either The Glory of Christ or the Sin and Temptation trilogy. It was the latter–the Crossway edition.

[He is patient] toward the elect not yet effectually called. He stands waiting at the door of their hearts and knocks for an entrance (Rev. 3:20). He deals with them by all means, and yet stands and waits until “his head is filled with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2), as enduring the cold and inconveniences of the night, that when his morning is come he may have entrance. Oftentimes for a long season he is by them scorned in his person, persecuted in his saints and ways, reviled in his word, while he stands at the door in the word of his patience, with his heart full of love toward their poor rebellious souls.

The idea that God is referring to believers here is widespread enough that I even saw a meme (a photo with text on it) about how Rev. 3:20 shouldn’t be used in this way. The modern interpretation is that he wants his children to have fellowship with him and not ignore him as the lukewarm Laodiceans did. I’ve also read good blogs that explain this and it’s certainly makes sense to me.

The only modern commentary I have is an excellent one by Craig Keener in the NIVAC series. He says the Laodicean Christians have shut Him out of their lives and God is saying that he wants fellowship with them.

What do you think?

Here are some others for reference.

Adam Clarke:

Christ stands – waits long, at the door of the sinner’s heart; he knocks – uses judgments, mercies, reproofs, exhortations, etc., to induce sinners to repent and turn to him; he lifts up his voice – calls loudly by his word, ministers, and Spirit.

Matthew Henry:

[1.] Christ is graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners; he draws near to them in a way of mercy, ready to make them a kind visit…

John Wesley:

I stand at the door, and knock – Even at this instant; while he is speaking this word. If any man open – Willingly receive me. I will sup with him – Refreshing him with my graces and gifts, and delighting myself in what I have given. And he with me – In life everlasting.

Geneva Bible note:

This must be taken after the manner of an allegory; (John 14:23).

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