The Keeper of the Gate

Christ Stands at the Door and Knocks

This portrait of Christ knocking at our door has always been one of my favorite paintings. Long has it been said that the author deliberately choose to not paint a doorknob on the outside of the door to suggest to us that the only way Christ can enter into our lives is if we let him in from our end.

No doubt, the scene portrayed in this painting comes to us from the following verse in the Book of Revelation:


Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).

The door scene portrayed in this particular painting however, is only one interpretation of this famous verse. This article will suggest a second interpretation.

The Gate of the Celestial Kingdom

Joseph Smith taught us that there is an actual door or gate that will one day stand between us and the celestial kingdom. On one occasion, Joseph Smith was shown this celestial gate in vision. He records:


The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire (D&C 137:1-2).
The Veil of the Tabernacle

In the ancient tabernacle, this door or gate was depicted as a veil. This tabernacle veil separated the Holy Place (or terrestrial area of the tabernacle) from the Holy of Holies (or celestial area of the tabernacle).

I Stand at the Door

With this in mind, let us return to our verse in Revelation Chapter 3 and re-read it as a temple text, beginning a few verses earlier.

In verse 14, the Lord begins by having John write a letter to the Saints living in Laodicea. Unfortunately, this particular group of Saints had already begun to apostatize from the Church. In this letter, the Lord chastised them for relying on their riches more than relying on God:


I Know thy works…[and] thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:15-17).

When read as a temple text, the first thing we notice is a warning from the Lord to rely on him rather than on our money. The Saints in Laodicea failed to do this and are therefore described as “naked” by the Lord (Rev. 3:17). The term nakedness in the scriptures is often associated with guilt and uncleanliness. For example, the prophet Jacob, speaking of the wicked at the judgement bar, said:

Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness (2 Ne. 9:14).

In contrast, Jacob says that the righteous “shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness (2 Ne. 9:14).

It is only through the atonement of Christ that one may progress from their state of spiritual nakedness to being clothed with “the robe of righteousness” (2 Ne. 9:14). In fact, the Hebrew word for atonement literally means “to cover.”[1] Phrased another way, the atonement literally covers us from our sins by clothing us from our nakedness. It is for this reason that the Lord said to the Saints living in Laodicea:


I counsel thee to buy of me…white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see (Rev. 3:18).

In other words, those who are found naked (unclean), must be anointed and clothed (covered by the atonement) before they can approach the door (veil) of the celestial kingdom. In fact, Christ references this door or veil in the upcoming verse:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).

As we mentioned previously, one interpretation of this verse is that Christ knocks at our door and we let him in. However, when read in a temple context, the righteous, after being anointed and clothed, will join with Christ at the veil of the celestial kingdom, and it will be the Father on the celestial side of the veil who hears Christ’s knock. Furthermore, as we learn from the next verse, it will not just be Christ who will receive permission from the Father to enter. Rather, the Father will permit Christ to bring with him the righteous who were anointed and clothed in the previous verses:

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Rev. 3:21).

The symbolism portrayed here further comes to life when we realize that in the ancient Israelite tabernacle, the only piece of furniture in the Holy of Holies (or celestial area of the tabernacle)
The Ark of the Covenant (God's throne) is shown
here behind the Tabernacle's parted veil.
was the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark of the Covenant represented God’s throne, so it is not surprising to hear that those who enter this sacred area of the celestial realm will sit down “with [the] Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).

The Door of the Sheepfold

A similar interpretation can be also made in the famous “door of the sheepfold” verses (see John 10:1-7). In these verses, the Lord speaks of a good shepherd who leads his sheep through the door of a sheepfold for safety. Similar to Revelation chapter 3, we can also interpret the door of the sheepfold as the celestial veil, and the sheepfold itself as the celestial kingdom. These verses begin as follows:


Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).

Here we learn that not everyone is authorized to enter into the sheepfold (celestial kingdom). Those who try to enter by any way other than through Christ are labeled as thieves and robbers. In fact, in the next verse, we learn that there is only one person who is authorized to approach this door or veil:

He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep (John 10:2).


The shepherd in this verse, an obvious reference to Christ, is the only one authorized to approach this door or veil and request permission to enter. At this point, we read:

 To him the porter openeth (John 10:3).

Similar to Revelation 3, the porter in this context would be the
The Door of the Sheepfold
Father who is on the celestial side of the door or veil. Once the Father opens this veil to Christ, our Good Shepherd will then call out his sheep, who will proceed to follow him out of the world and into the safety of the sheepfold:


And the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out [of the world and into the sheepfold] (John 10:4).

That this sheepfold is a reference to the celestial kingdom is made clear by one of Jesus’ next statements:

If any man enter in, he shall be saved (John 10:9).

I Know You Not

As we learned earlier, those who try to enter the celestial kingdom by any means other than through the door or veil will be denied entrance. It is for this reason the Lord said in Luke:

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are (Luke 13:24-25).

The Keeper of the Gate

We also find this scene portrayed in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Jacob stated:

Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. And whoso knocketh, to him will he open (2 Ne. 9:41-42).

As stated by Jacob, it is only through the atonement of Christ that we gain access to this celestial door.

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Notes:


[1] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 497-98.