The Lord Jesus glorified in heaven - God and Man in one Person – once made the solemn statement that He “opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:8). We could follow throughout the entire Bible this line of thought that God opens and closes, but in this article we will only consider the seven opened things that we find in Matthew’s Gospel1. We will conclude with something that was not opened: A door that remained closed.
(1) Treasures Opened for the Lord
“When they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (2:11). This passage refers to the Magi2 who were attracted by the renown of God’s King, the Messiah born as King (2:1), and who had come from afar to adore according to the limited knowledge they had (cf. Daniel 9:24–27). In contrast to those “wise men,” the scribes and other Jewish leaders were living nearby and knew exactly what was written in God’s Word concerning the King who would come (Micah 5:2 and other Scriptures), but they had no interest for the King of kings. Isn’t it wonderful to note that the first thing opened in this Gospel was to honor the Lord Jesus? Thus the Magi gave an answer to the Lord’s greatness, as being God’s King, Priest, and Prophet, which was expressed in the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They acknowledged His royal and divine glory (gold) and presented a portion that was for God alone (the frankincense was entirely for God, Leviticus 2:2; 6:15). The myrrh designated the path of Christ’s sufferings (cf. Mark 15:23; John 19:39), in order to reach the glory. This last point the Lord Himself explained and it is confirmed by many passages of Scripture (cf. Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:11).
(2) The Heavens Opened for the Lord
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (3:16). One could almost write a book on this passage: The heavens are opened for a Man on earth, the very first time in the Bible! The Holy Spirit identifies with this Man––who is at the same time God’s eternal Son––and the Father’s voice was heard saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17). What blessed mysteries are revealed, but also what a perfect Model is placed before the eye of faith: Let us worship Him! After His accomplished work on the cross, His death, burial, and resurrection, the Lord Jesus ascended into the heavens and was received by God and given the place of honor (Hebrews 2:9; 5:10). In other words, the Object for the heavens on earth was now Himself received into the heavens. There He has become the supreme Object for His people on earth, as we see demonstrated in Steven, the first martyr of the Church (Acts 7:56). Christ’s present position is the basis for the free access Christians have. Christ glorified is the reason for the rapture: A heavenly people, now on earth, will be taken away from this earth and brought into heaven (John 14:1–3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:51–54), where the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place (Revelation 19:7–10). After those wonderful events, the heavens will be opened in judgment (Revelation 19:11–21); those who rejected God’s offer of grace will not have another chance! The fourth occasion of opened heavens will be during the millennial reign of peace. This was indicated by many prophets, but confirmed by the Lord to Nathanael (John 1:50–51). As the Son of man He will be the Centre of the whole universe and the Link between heaven and earth. Angels will ascend from and descend upon Him, a continuous public display of blessing, a flow of prayer and response into heaven, and a stream of blessing from heaven (Revelation 21:9–22:5). Spiritually and morally this is true for the Church today, and previewed in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:12–15).
(3) The Lord Opens His Mouth
“Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:2–3). The Lord knew that His testimony would be rejected, in spite of the fact that God had honored Him (3:16–17). Thus, He instructs His disciples to show an appropriate attitude before God, seeking to promote His interests among a people that would refuse Him and in a world that would crucify Him. Let us therefore pay attention to the words coming out of the mouth of the true King, who is also our Teacher (11:29). In Matthew 13 the Lord presents eight parables in connection with the kingdom of heaven, as entrusted to man’s hands after the Messiah’s rejection by the leaders. Nevertheless, He continues to work “behind the scenes.” He confirms that His way to present things was in agreement with what the prophet had predicted in the Old Testament: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world” (13:35; cf. Isaiah 42:9).
(4) Things Opened:
The Lord’s Promise for His Disciples “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (7:7–8). A disciple is not only to listen; he must also act to put the teaching into practice (John 13:17; James 1:22). For this purpose, he must be really exercised, as demonstrated in the necessity to ask, to seek, and to knock (note the progression in intensity). The Lord promises obedient disciples that they can count on the help of the Master, on “an open door” (cf. Revelation 3:8).
(5) The Eyes of the Blind Opened:
“Their eyes were opened” (9:30). Presenting Himself to the Jewish people as being the awaited Messiah, Christ accomplished miracles that people knew He only could do. Thus, the Lord gave several public and irrefutable proofs demonstrating that He was the Messiah according to the Scriptures. The healing of these two blind men was such a miracle by which the Messiah was declared to be authentic; the number two accentuates the aspect of a public testimony, often emphasized in Matthew. In a similar case, toward the end of the Lord’s public ministry, again two blind men were healed, after having asked, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” Then we read: “So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (20:33–34). What a beautiful testimony: on the one hand, to the Lord, who had compassion for these blind men, even after He had been rejected by the people’s leaders! On the other hand, this verse gives a lovely testimony to these blind men who had just been healed: they had only one Object to follow; their eye was “single”3 (see Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34). In other words, the quality of an undivided eye/heart is found in God and this feature is to be displayed in Christ’s disciples. Indeed, these blind men, now healed, only had an “eye” for the Lord! This makes me think of the conversion and healing of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3–20), who then became an effective follower of the Lord (Philippians 3:7–14). What about us? Are we really following the Lord, or is our heart “divided”: a part for this world or for myself and a part for the Lord? Only complete devotedness to the Lord will honor Him and will protect us against evil. What are our priorities?
(6) The Fish’s Mouth Opened
The way the Lord provides help is wonderfully demonstrated in the story of the fish’s mouth that was opened. In Matthew 17:27 we read, “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” In the beginning of Matthew 17 we see the glory of the Lord on the mountain of transfiguration. Thus He gave to the three disciples who were with Him a special assurance and also a foretaste of His forthcoming glory which He was going to reach through sufferings. The disciples could not follow their Master in His expiatory sufferings, but one day they would be identified with Him in His glory! However, during the time of His rejection, the Lord showed special grace towards His disciples, while identifying with them in their needs. He did not yet claim any of His own rights, but He humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5–8), and He is the great Companion disciples have with them, then and now (Matthew. 28:20)! Let us learn to rely on the Lord who is going to provide a testimony for Himself in the time of His rejection.
(7) The Graves Opened - A Testimony to the Value of Christ’s Sacrifice
“The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (27:52). This verse demonstrates the power related to Christ’s work accomplished on the cross. This work is so great and marvelous that in each Gospel it is presented in another way, according to the different character of the Gospels. Matthew demonstrates the greatness of the King, the Lord Jesus. Having died on the cross, He seemed to have failed, but actually He overcame the power of sin, the power of death and of Satan. Therefore, many graves are miraculously opened, having contained the bodies of a number of saints that are raised, thus demonstrating the victory of the Lord, even at the moment of His death on the cross. The text specifies that these saints, having been reintroduced into this life (but going to die later like in Lazarus’ case who had been raised by the Lord) had to wait for Christ’s resurrection before leaving the tomb. This was ordained by God to thus give honor to the One who was going to introduce an entirely new order of things. For He “is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence” (Colossians 1:18). There were also other proofs of the greatness of Christ and His accomplished work, like the rent veil of the temple showing that God was finished with Judaism as a religious system, as well as the earthquake that split the rocks. The epistle to the Hebrews provides many details about this change. However, in the world to come, God is going to reintroduce Judaism, but then it will be according to His thoughts, as He had given to Moses. This future fulfillment of God’s plans for Israel will be on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. How great is He, how great is His work!
One Thing That Was Not Opened
One thing was not opened in Matthew, and we find it in the Lord’s last parable in this Gospel. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you” (25:11–12). The Lord Jesus speaks of two categories of people submitting themselves to Him. On the one hand, there is a group of virgins who took oil in their vessels; they are characterized by reality, and in spite of obvious shortcomings, also by true devotedness. On the other hand, a group exists marked by absence of real love for the Bridegroom, only having a profession of serving the King, but without life or reality, with no oil in their vessels, just having lamps. Both the “wise” and the “foolish” virgins fall asleep, so that for a while no obvious difference is seen, but this difference will soon become evident. With the foolish virgins, although they know the Lord, no personal link exists between them and Him, whereas the wise virgins, in spite of their failures, are recognized and honored by Him.
Notice what solemn event occurs: the door was closed, never to be opened again! Dear reader, the door of grace is still open, but the Lord Jesus may come back today and if you have not yet repented it will be forever too late for you. Then you will remain outside, just like the “foolish virgins.” And like the people in Noah’s days, who had enough time to enter into the ark, but who did not want to go in during the seven days the door remained open. But then God closed the door!
Finally, the expression, “Who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Rev. 3:8). We could follow throughout the Bible this line of thought that God opens and closes. Let us pay attention to Him who knows everything, also our works, who opens and closes and who provides strength to those who realize their weakness!
The title of this article is suggested by Christ’s message sent to Philadelphia. The Lord Jesus, glorified in heaven, said (and we quote part of His message): “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:7-8).
1 Passages in Matthew will be given without specifically referring to this book and are mainly taken from the New King James Version.
2 These were oriental wise men who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship Him. The name “magi” was given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, etc. The prophet Daniel had been made their chief (Daniel 2:48), of course without engaging himself in occult practices.
3 The noun derived from the same root is found in: Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 8:2; 9:11,13; 11:3; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; as adverb (liberally, generously) in James 1:5.