Revelation 3:20 is used by those who teach that we are to “ask Jesus into your heart.” But is this a proper use of this passage?
Firstly, the idea of “asking Jesus into your heart” is unbiblical. WHAT!?!?! Yes, that is correct. Show me once in Scripture where this idea is found; you can’t. It most likely started with the idea of “coming forward” for an “altar call,” itself an unbiblical idea.
What does the Bible say? The most succinct passage describing how one achieves salvation is Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Is there anywhere in this passage which says you need to “invite/ask Jesus into your heart”? And is an altar call needed? The answer to both these questions is, “no.” To be saved, we repent and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who paid for our sins on the cross and was raised from the dead proving the atonement was accepted by God.
So what is Revelation 3:20 about? To understand we must read it in context. It is part of Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea, as transcribed by John. Jesus was addressing that particular church and chastising them for their lukewarm faith and their building up of wealth. He was challenging them to acquire spiritual wealth: “buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” The idea was that rather than relying on the world for their wealth, they were to come for him for “real” wealth which saves.
Jesus continued: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 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 is saying he wants to rebuke and discipline the lukewarm believers, and he invites them to open their door to fellowship with him so he can accomplish this counsel.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this: “To those who hear the words of rebuke, Christ extends an invitation to dine with him. This figure represents Christ standing at the door to the hearts of the members of the congregation at Laodicea. Christ will come and have fellowship with all those who hear his voice of rebuke and thus prove themselves as Christ’s friends by zeal and repentance.”
Some commentators claim that this passage is addressing only unbelievers in that particular assembly, but that is reading into the passage.
I think Henry M. Morris says it pretty good in his The Revelation Record: “Here the Lord uses a different figure, but to the same purpose. His rebuke and chastening are like a knock at one’s door. If that person hears His knock and also hears His voice - both through his experience of chastisement and through Christ’s written Word - then he ought to respond, though Christ does not compel him to do so. He does not force the door. The occupant must open the door. That is, he must repent of his pride and his self-sufficiency, his human wisdom, and his cowardly neutrality. Then - but not until then - will he know the real joy of true fellowship wit his Lord. Clearly, this exhortation is directed to compromising worldly believers in the church at Laodicea, and in all other such churches, of which there are multitudes today. It is not a gospel verse addressed to the unsaved, though it is so used widely today. ... It was addressed only to compromising, lukewarm Christians in compromising, lukewarm churches, and it is they whom Christ is seeking to draw back to himself.”
Proper exegesis demonstrates that Revelation 3:20 is not about anyone “asking Jesus into their heart" for salvation. It is about lukewarm Christians harkening to Jesus rebuke and chastisement for their compromising and worldly faith.
It is time for Christians to quit using this passage out of context.