Leaders of the word-faith movement, also known as the prosperity gospel, say they place a high value on scripture. Unfortunately, their unique interpretation of God’s word leads to unbiblical conclusions about God’s design for the Christian life.
A case in point: 3 John 2, which reads: “Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
As prosperity preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen would have you believe, this verse expresses the divine view that every child of God should enjoy financial blessing and perfect health. But is that what the passage really means?
Hardly. In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” means “to go well,” not to become rich. Secondly, John uses a common greeting to address his friend, Gaius, similar to salutations we place in modern-day letters.
As Gordon Fee writes in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, “This combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity. To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians is totally foreign to the text.”
Rev. 4:1 – After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2Immediately I was in the Spirit, and there in heaven a throne was set. One was seated on the throne, 3and the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne (HCSB).
John’s first glimpse into heaven is of an open door. We see in Christ’s letter to the church in Philadelphia that Jesus, “the One who has the key of David,” is authorized as Messiah to open and close doors of ministry. He also has the keys of death and Hades (1:18) and ultimately tosses both into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). In the New Testament, an “open door” is an opportunity for the gospel’s advance (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). As the Head of the church, Jesus determines when and where the gospel will be effective (see Acts 16:6-10). Jesus also describes Himself as “the door” in John 10:9, the One through whom eternal life is granted.
So what is this open door in heaven? First, we need to understand that the door is “standing open,” not suddenly opened as we see in Ezek. 1:1; Matt. 3:16; and Acts 7:56, 10:11. From an earthly perspective heaven must be opened for God’s servants to be granted revelation, but for John, who is taken up into heaven – most likely by a vision rather than physically – the door already is opened and he may gaze upon things that Paul, who only heard them, could not express (2 Cor. 12:4).
The word “door” appears in about 180 verses of scripture and three times in Revelation. In Rev. 3:8, Jesus honors the faithfulness of believers in Philadelphia by placing before them an “open door” of ministry that no one is able to shut. In Rev. 3:20, Jesus stands outside the door of the church at Laodicea and knocks, seeking entrance and fellowship. But in Rev. 4:1, John sees an open door that leads into the throne room of heaven. No one there may close the door. No one desires to do so. While C.S. Lewis once observed that the door to hell is locked from the inside, entrance into heaven is by invitation only and requires belief in the One who is “the door.”
The door in this verse may symbolize the free access granted to those who have trusted in Christ and who, while on earth, were invited to “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Heb. 4:15). Whatever the “open door” may be, it is a door not made with human hands; nor is it a door that human hands may open or close. John crosses the threshold by God’s grace through faith and enters the riches of the Creator’s throne room.
Next: A Unique Voice