In Revelation 3:8, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I have put before you an open door.” What did Jesus intend by these words?
Of the seven churches to whom John wrote letters in Revelation 2 and 3, one of them was the Church of Philadelphia. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea are the others. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia, out of the whole 7, get no criticism. Among the churches, the one in Philadelphia receives the most praise, and Jesus says to them, “Behold, I have put before you an open door, which no one can close” (Revelation 3:8, ESV).
In the introduction of her letter to Philadelphia, the Author claims to be holy, truthful, and possessor of the key of David. Whenever no one else has the key, he opens and shuts (Revelation 3:7). This alludes back to the temporary reign of Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and so serves as an endorsement of the Messiah’s identity (first mentioned in Isaiah 22:22). Thereafter, the Messiah would always be in charge. The Messiah assures the Philadelphia congregation that He is aware of their actions and that He has opened a door for them that no one can close. Jesus gives three reasons for His action: their limited authority, their faithfulness to His word, and their refusal to deny His name. If you want to know which door Jesus was talking about, you won’t find it explained anywhere in the text. But the Bible gives us some clues as to what that open door meant.
To whoever Yahweh chooses, he gives the power to open doors, as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (for example, in Isaiah 22:22 to Eliakim and in Isaiah 45:1 to Cyrus). In Revelation 3:7, Jesus establishes His dominance by identifying Himself as the One who unlocks shut doors. He has the power to provide the church in Philadelphia the blessings He has promised them. This particular entrance may represent an opportunity for unbelievers in Philadelphia to visit the church and recognize God’s love for the Philadelphian Christians (Revelation 3:9). Jesus also says that the people of Philadelphia would be protected from the trial that would soon befall the whole world (Revelation 3:10). Each of these claims raises questions of interpretation, but it is clear that the Philadelphian Christians were rewarded for their faith by gaining unique privileges from the One who had the power to do so.
God also gave opportunities in the New Testament. In Acts 14:27, the churches in Antioch meet to praise God for the salvation He has provided to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. If the Antiochene allusion in Revelation 3:8 is relevant to the context, then the door may have been opened for the preaching of God’s Word at Philadelphia.
Although we cannot state categorically what Jesus meant when He told the church in Philadelphia, “I have set before you an open door,” we can be confident that the One making the statement has the authority to make it, and that the believers in Philadelphia most likely understood the open door before them.
The obvious consequence for the Christians in Philadelphia was to make the most of the opportunity that open door would bring, and we today have to be aware to the stewardships and opportunities that God grants us. If Jesus has opened a door for us, we shouldn’t throw it away. They have been given to us by the One who has the power to do so, and for that we should be grateful. They matter because God has supplied them. Let’s use them to their full potential!