Biblical allusions are indirect references to a particular passage or idea in the Bible. These allusions may be stronger one way or another; that is, something in the Old Testament may help us understand the New Testament or something in the New Testament may help us understand the Old Testament.1
In Song of Solomon 5:2–6:3 there are two major allusions:
In Song 5:2–6 is an allusion to Revelation 3:20
In Song 5:10–16 is an allusions to Revelation 1:12–16
The first allusion is a well known yet often misused passage. In this post we will only cover the first, the second is stated merely for reference at this time. Now, to Revelation 3….
Revelation 3:20 ESV “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.”
“This is an invitation not for the readers to be converted but to renew themselves in a relationship with Christ that has already begun, as is apparent from v.19.” (Beale in NIGTC commentary, p.308)
Revelation 3:19 ESV “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
Furthermore, Beal says,
“The allusion to Cant. 5:2 [I.e. Song 5:2] points a focus on renewal of a relationship, since there the husband knocks on the door of the bedchamber to encourage his wife to continue to express her love to him and let him enter, but she at first hesitates to do so. By analogy, Christ, the husband is doing the same thing with regard to his bride, the church” (Ibid).
There is also cited a possibility that Rev. 3:20 was modeled on the parable of the returning master in Luke 12:36–37 (Beale, p.308).
Luke 12:36–37 ESV “and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”
Beale admits that “the focus of Revelation 3:20 is on the immediate present and conditional coming of Christ rather than his definite, final coming” (Beal, p.308). He says that this “is highlighted by Christ’s initial statement that he presently “stands at the door” and presently is “knocking” (Ibid).
So, when we read Revelation 3:20, we should think of Song of Solomon 5:2–6,
Song 5:2–6 ESV “I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.”I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.”
Song 5:2–6 ESV “I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.”
I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?
My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.
I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.”
And for both, it is about restoring a relationship that was already begun with God. For the first century church at Laodicea, it meant restoring a broken relationship with God through their total (not lukewarm and partial) trust in Jesus Christ. There was a judgment coming in their time as depicted by Jesus in the parable of the returning master. They were to be ready for that time. It was vital their relationship was wholly intact.
Today, we are not facing the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, but we face the need to be ready and prepared to face him at death or in various judgments in the world leading up to his final coming.
The key to applying Revelation 3:20, may be found in v.21 of the chapter,
Revelation 3:21 ESV “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
“Jesus had to overcome, and only so He could reign. His people are saved by His atoning work but not spared from life thereby, and life means, in this fallen world, struggle and trouble. Acceptance into Christ’s army means, not deliverance from battle, but deliverance from defeat. There is a necessity to do battle, to overcome, and only so to reign. The condition of victory is always battle. The modern lust in religion and all of life for a battle-free victory is only escapism of the ugliest sort. Salvation is never deliverance from conflict but the assurance of power and victory in the conflict.” (Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come, p.125–26)
As we bring the two texts together, Song of Solomon 5:2 and Revelation 3:20, we learn from the Song that the bride had some delay in getting to the door. She had put off her garment and even justified to herself why she had done so. He beloved had his hand on the door handle, but being a true gent did not enter so as to see the woman naked. She was unprepared. So, he leaves to return at a later time.2 He would neither judge her nor shame her. He has given her time to get herself ready. Nonetheless, due to her unreadiness, she is distraught. Her soul fails within her. She seeks him, calls him, and is not satisfied until the next scene where she is able to witness to her antagonists who question what is so great about her shepherd-lover. It is then that her thoughts of him become like intimate communion, though he is not physically present.
This is all for now. I wanted to take some time out to record at least this reflection. May it serve our readers well with hope and intimacy in God. The truth is stronger still.
Because our God knows the end from the beginning, we may know that when we read an Old Testament Book, God may intend for us to understand it in light of a New Testament one, and vice versa. He wants us to think like he thinks.
This is a very rough think-through of the text, but I think valuable. Take it as a whole, not all the particulars. Let your heart be encouraged that our Lord is patient with us not wanting any to perish or be found naked.
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