Christ Outside the Church
“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” (Revelation 3:20).
This has always been one of the most disturbing verses in the Bible to me. It disturbs me for three main reasons.
One, it’s very hard to interpret. Is Jesus addressing lost people or saved people who are imbibing too deeply of the world? Is this an invitation to salvation for the self-deceived in the Church, or an invitation to restored fellowship? I don’t intend to comment further in this blog. Just laying out the difficulty.
Two, in context, these words point to the reality that a local church can become so enamored with the values of this world (primarily pride and prosperity), that it becomes useless in the kingdom of Christ and is completely rejected by Christ. “I will spit you [the Church at Laodicea) out of My mouth” (v. 16).
Three, as if those two realities are not disturbing enough, consider now that the Lord Jesus Christ is outside the church! He’s been locked out, as it were. Excommunicated. An unwelcome and uninvited guest . . . in the church that presumably still calls Him Lord?
The word “outsider” is a typical description of those who are lost without Christ. They are living in sin, rejecting the Lordship of Jesus, severed from God’s saving grace (Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Colossians 4:5). To be “outside” the Kingdom, outside the Church, outside of saving grace, is one of the saddest descriptions in the Bible of our sinful, lost, depraved and helpless condition before a Holy God. Those who die in their sins apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are cast into “the outer darkness, in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
Is the shock of Revelation 3:20 coming into clearer focus?
Jesus Christ, the Lord of Creation and the Lord of the Church, is standing OUTSIDE a church! Requesting ever so politely to gain entrance. This church is genuinely lukewarm. Useless. Unsalty salt.
And that is the condition of a scary number of local churches and entire denominations in North America. If the “pandemic” has exposed anything about the Church of America at large, it has flayed her as a cowering, State-worshiping, comfort-loving, prosperous in the ways of the world, lukewarm people who have kicked Jesus out.
We need look no further for evidence of my proposition than to Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Brother Coates sits in a jail cell. For what crime? For having the audacity to hold a worship assembly above the government-mandated threshold of 15% capacity. His young wife is now left at home with their young children, forced to visit their Dad, a Preacher of Righteousness, behind bars.
And how have other churches and pastors responded?
Well, praise God some have responded with prayers for his release. Prayers that God would give His elect justice speedily (Luke 18:1-8). Love. Support. Admiration. Count me among those. I urge every believer in Christ our Lord to click below and listen to his Feb. 14th sermon, and the podcast with his wife conducted by Founders Ministries. James and Erin Coates, speak for me! I say “Amen” as loudly as I can. O, may God use their witness and biblical fidelity and love for Christ to stir the lukewarm waters of so many churches across our land. Knowing he would be arrested, Pastor Coates chose to preach a sermon to the government from Romans 13:1-4. And his church keeps meeting. Another pastor preached last Sunday. Please, take time to visit these sites and if you are so led, you can give on their church webpage to support his legal defense team. If we do not all hang together here Church, then we will all hang separately. Read the statement on their homepage, too. Even if you do not agree with everything their statement says, surely you can appreciate their bold stance and desire to please Jesus as Lord?
Sadly, many churches and pastors have not responded positively or with prayer, love and support. Instead, they have castigated Brother James for not bowing the knee to the Canadian Crown. And in so doing, they are demonstrating that they and their churches reside in Laodicea.
And nothing could be sadder.
Because in Laodicea, Jesus is locked outside the church.
Imagine churches in America telling persecuted believes in Iran that they should just stop meeting and stop preaching because their government says so. How can so many professing Christians in North America be so blind to the evils now being foisted upon us by Big Brother?
Well, there’s surely no danger of Laodicean churches ever being persecuted or imprisoned. Bow down to the State’s golden image, and all will be well with you . . . at least for now. At least in this life. But I read somewhere that followers of King Jesus are not of this world. Not living for this life. Looking for a better city. Pilgrims passing through. Who fear not death, nor hell, nor the devil, nor disease, nor hardships, nor imprisonment, nor governments.
Why? Because Jesus is Lord. Only. Jesus. Is. Lord.
“For the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
The Church of America had better learn to suffer. We had better prepare for Babylon to arise and make war against the saints. We had better run to Christ for courage to stand. We had better, those of us who cling tenaciously to the inerrant, absolutely authoritative Word of God, remember the chains of our Brother James Coates (Colossians 4:18). For soon enough we shall be chained with him.
O Lord, teach us once again to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”