For several weeks over the summer, Melody and I had the opportunity to "cat-sit" two cats for a friend of ours. I love cats. Melody, however, is not nearly so affectionate toward the frolicking felines. And frolicking these two cats were. Usually in the middle of the night. Melody and I would be fast asleep, only to be jolted awake by the scurry of two cats playfully chasing each other directly into our bedroom. This flurry of activity was often followed by a loud thump, coming from something which the cats had inadvertently knocked over in the middle of their antics. "Get those cats out of here!" my wife would exclaim, clearly frustrated by their raucous nocturnal rowdiness. So, I would get up, usher the cats out of our room, and then shut our door. "There. Now maybe we can finally get some shut eye," I would think to myself. But it never took long. Minutes after I would shut our bedroom door to bar the cats from entering, a paw would appear, reaching through the crack between the floor and the door. And then I'd hear, "Meow. Meow." I couldn't help myself. I would always melt with delight. "Ah. How cute," came my reflexive response. Melody was not so amused.
In our reading for today from Revelation 21, we catch a glimpse into the new Jerusalem, that is, the new creation which God will usher in on the Last Day. In John's description of this cosmic metropolis, I find this to be especially notable: "On no day will Jerusalem's gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there" (verse 25). Like I would shut our bedroom door at night to keep out the cats, ancient cities would often shut their gates at night to keep out nefarious invaders. For example, when the city of Jericho learns that the Israelites are drawing near to attack, the book of Joshua notes, "Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in" (Joshua 6:1). Ancient cities closed their gates. The new Jerusalem will not.
Why is this? Because unlike the municipalities of antiquity, the new Jerusalem will have no foes of which to be afraid. For all of the city's enemies will have been conquered, even as John says: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (verse 8). Thus, Jesus opens the city's doors.
Jesus is in the business of opening doors. As Jesus himself says, "Knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). Paul, after a mission tour through Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe rejoices that God "had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27). He later prays "that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains" (Colossians 4:3). Christ's desire is to open doors for his followers. Even at the beginning of Revelation, Jesus exclaims to the church at Philadelphia, "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut (Revelation 3:8).
There's an old, oft-repeated, and tired Christian cliché: "Whenever God closes one door, he always opens a window." The premise of this statement is that God will make a way, even when things don't turn out how you might expect or want them to. As much as I appreciate the general sentiment, I'm not so sure that the specific imagery is accurate. For when it comes to this specific image of a door, Scripture portrays God as one who opens doors rather than closing them. If we run up against a roadblock, before we blame God for slamming a door in our face, perhaps we should ask ourselves if the door was ever open in the first place. Or perhaps we should ask ourselves if it was our own sinfulness that closed a door rather than God. In fact, the only time that God is portrayed as closing a door is in Luke 13:23-28 when someone asks Jesus:
"Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'
But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth."
The door out of hell, it seems, will be locked up tight by Christ so that the gates of the new Jerusalem can be left open, free from the fear of God's enemies.
So today, rather than bemoaning the "closed doors" in your life, why don't you thank God for the ones he has opened for you? For they are many. He has opened the door to his knowledge through the pages of Scripture. He has opened the door to forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ. And he has opened the gates of his new Jerusalem so that we may come in. I can't wait to walk through.