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REVELATION 3:20

Brother Beebe: Will you favor me with your views on Rev. iii. 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 will sup with him and he with me.” I heard a Missionary Baptist use this for a text; he said God was knocking at the heart of sinners, and waiting for them to open to him. But I do not so understand the subject; yet I am somewhat perplexed on the subject, and hope to hear from you on the subject.

E. R. KUYKENDALL

Reply: This appeal was made, according to the vision of John, not to unconverted or unregenerated sinners, nor is there any appeal of the kind made to them in the Scriptures; but it was directed to the Angel of the Church of the Laodiceans, when she was represented as being in a lukewarm state, neither cold nor hot, and as an evidence of God’s special love and faithfulness to her, this message of rebuke and exhortation was sent. The language is very appropriate to a Church in a lukewarm state, but totally inapplicable to those who neither possess nor profess the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ungodly are not charged with lukewarmness, or inactivity; but they are compared to the troubled sea which cannot rest, which continually casts up mire and dirt. They are “Cursed children, which cannot cease to Sin.” And their feet are swift to shed blood, and misery and destruction are in all their ways, and the way of peace they have not known. But the Church, as represented in this Laodicean state, presents a condition somewhat like that described in the Songs, v. 2-3. Drowsy and stupid and inactive, and when aroused by the voice of her beloved, knocking at the door, she says, “I sleep: but my heart awaketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” How can such language as this apply to the ungodly? Are they the Lord’s undefiled, his sister, his love, and his dove? He discriminates, and says, “There are three score queens, and four score concubines; my dove, my undefiled is but one: she is the only one of her mother she is the choice one of her that bare her the daughters saw her, and blessed her yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.” Songs vi. 8-9. The spouse of Christ, in the Songs, and the Church addressed in our text, are the same; and, in both instances, represented as being in an inactive and sluggish condition. Hence, the same figurative language substantially is applied in both cases. In our text, the Beloved saith, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice,” etc.; showing that it is with his voice that he knocks, or gives the signal. The church responding to the call, confesses her drowsy condition: “I sleep, but my heart waketh.” But sleepy and stupid as she feels, she at once recognizes the knocking, it is not the signal of a stranger, a robber or an enemy. “It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh: I have heard that voice before, it is a familiar sound, I know it well: for it is the voice of my beloved;” and his language awakes my heart. He stands not at the door of graceless sinner’s hearts, but at the door of his Church; he calls not to aliens or strangers, but to his sister, his spouse, his love, his dove, his undefiled. This call is not to woo and win her to be his spouse, but he calls her because she is his spouse, the relationship is already complete. The voice that knocketh at the door of the slumbering Church is the same voice which once shook the earth, but now once more shaketh not the earth only, but also heaven; it is the voice of the Lord God, which Adam and Eve heard in the garden, in the cool of the day; the voice which said to Abraham, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad;” which divided the sea and made bare the channels of the deep, which caused the mountains to skip like rams, and the hills like lambs. This voice said unto Isaiah, “Cry, all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man, as the flower of grass.” The same of which the spouse sang, “The voice of my beloved; behold he cometh, skipping upon the mountains, leaping upon the hills.” This is the voice which the dead shall hear, “and they that hear shall live.” “My sheep” saith Jesus, “hear my voice; I know them and they follow me, and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. But a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” This voice is heard by the church in admonition, as well as in comfort, and when he speaks in solemn admonition to the saints, as in our text, as also in the context, Songs v.2, and Heb. xii. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we refuse him that speaketh from heaven; whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven; and this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Heb. xii. 25-27. This voice came out of the cloud at the transfiguration on the mount, and from heaven at the baptism of Christ in Jordan saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” And whenever the church or spouse of Christ falls into a state requiring rebuke or admonition, this voice of her beloved knocketh at the door, saying, “Rise up my sister, my love, my dove, my fair one, and come away.” If any man hear my voice. The dead have no ability to hear - until that ability is given them. Christ has power to quicken and make the dead hear and live; even as he made the dead Lazarus hear and obey when he called him from the sepulchre; but Lazarus had no power to hear until Christ displayed his quickening power to raise the dead. Then if any man hears the voice, it is an evidence that Christ has given him life. But to hear in the sense of our text implies obedience; as Moses said, “A prophet like unto me shall the Lord raise up unto you, and him shall ye hear in all things.” Jesus said, “He that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, is like to the man who built his house upon a rock.” God’s people show that they hear when they obey. So in the figure of our text, if any man hear the admonition of Christ, he is represented as rising like the spouse to open to her beloved. And, he that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches. To open the door implies the removing of that which obstructs the passage. The beloved, in this figure, is outside the door, and knocking. The bride is within and slumbering. Some thing seems to obstruct the entrance. The Lord said to Israel, “Your sins have separated between thee and me.” So the church, in her luke-warm state, was neither cold nor hot, and the spouse in the song was neither fully awake, nor entirely asleep. She says, “I sleep, but my heart waketh;” and like one roused by a knocking at the door; sufficiently aroused to recognize the voice of her husband, but not sufficiently awake to fully appreciate his return, in her sluggish hesitancy, she mutters, “I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on; I have washed my feet, and prepared for a comfortable nap; how shall I defile them.” Or, as described in our context, she has become so unconscious of her true condition that she begins to dream that she is rich and increased in goods, and has need of nothing. When the eyes of God’s children are anointed with eye-salve, they feel their need of Christ, and are poor, and naked, and miserable, until they can find him whom their soul loveth; nor can they truly feel rich without that treasure which he alone can impart to them. The opening of the door, in the figure, seems to imply reformation, laying aside their idols, rising from their vain dreams, and becoming actively and heartily engaged in the order and ordinances of the house of God; observing all things whatsoever Christ has commanded them; and in this they have communion with him; they are brought thus into the banqueting house, and his banner over them is love. He sups with them,and they with him. He spreads their table with his bounties, in the presence of their enemies; he anoints their head, and their cup runs over. He says to her, “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.”

Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1861

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 502 - 506