TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH
BELONG THE PROMISES AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The word "overcome" actually means to gain victory over an adversary, obstacle or condition. You can't be an over comer unless you have had something to overcome.
The conclusion of each of the Lord's messages to the seven churches in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 contains a significant promise that only applies to those that overcome. It is important for us to pay attention to what it is that must be overcome so that we do not miss out on what our Lord promised as a reward.
We need to recognize that rewards are earned by what we do; therefore, the promise "to them that overcome" is not referring to salvation. Salvation is a gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation gets you into the family of God. However, our eternal position and reward is determined by our obedience to follow Him and His word, conforming to His image so that His character and nature are formed in you. To arrive at this level in your Christian experience requires decisions and life changes on your part.
This article is to help you make the right decisions to enable you to be classified as a true over comer. Then you will be qualified to receive the promises and rewards that come from a life of obedience and walking in His pathways.
First let's look at the promises to each of the seven churches. Then we will consider what it was that had to be overcome to obtain those promises. Then we will compare them to see if there is a pattern that shows up to see if the same applies to believers today.
THE PROMISES TO THE CHURCHES OF REVELATION
TO EPHESUS: .....to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God - Revelation 2:7.
TO SMYRNA: .....he that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death - Revelation 2:11.
TO PERGAMOS: ...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it - Revelation 2:17.
TO THYRATIRA: ..And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessel of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star - Revelation 2:26-28.
TO SARDIS: ..........He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels - Revelation 3:5.
TO PHILADELPHIA ...Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name - Revelation 3:12.
TO LAODICEA: ......To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne..... - Revelation 3:21.
Now let's summarize these promises by combining them together to see in total what is promised:
- To eat from the Tree of Life (as was originally offered to Adam and Eve) which is provision to eternal life.
- To not be hurt by the second death which is eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire.
- To eat heavenly food (to have heavenly provision); to receive a white stone (which is an ancient symbol for achievement, victory or pardon), a special name or identification.
- To receive authority and power to rule over nations, to receive the Morning Star (to receive the fullness of Christ, outwardly as well as inwardly, as a Son of God).
- To be clothed in holiness and righteousness (as Adam and Eve originally had until sin entered); not have name blotted out of the Book of Life (which is a possibility due to unbelief, unfaithfulness or disobedience); be
presented before the heavenly tribunal of God as acquitted and recognized.
- To be given a position and a place in the household of God forever; given a new name that identifies one as a member of God's family, one of His sons.
- To rule with Christ as a king and priest bearing His authority from His throne.
These marvelous promises seem to sum up the very things that were taught by Jesus in the gospels and by the apostles in their letters to the churches that compile the New Testament. These define what awaits the obedient, patient and faithful believer who endures to the end by maintaining his faith, service and conforms to the image of Christ to the end of his life or the end of the age when He returns.
Salvation brings us a new life. These promises to the seven churches are incentives for believers to proceed in this new life to full maturity:
Ephesians 4:13 - Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ -.
Now it's time to get to the hard part; what is it that the churches were required to overcome. What do they need to have victory over in order to qualify for the rewards. Each of the seven churches had specific deficiencies, problems or circumstances that they had to deal with in order to achieve the status of an over comer and receive the promises. Let's look at what the Lord identified as an obstacle in each one.
THE PROBLEMS IN THE CHURCHES
(As you read about the problems these churches, had consider them as being representative of churches throughout history and even today.)
IN EPHESUS: These people were very religious and zealous in their religious works; they got so caught up in human endeavor and a sense of duty that they failed to realize that their love for their religious works replaced their love for the Lord himself. They lost their intimacy with Christ. If they did not repent of their religiosity they were going to loose their position in Christ as a church - their candlestick (their light) would be removed.
IN SMYRNA: This is clearly representative of the persecuted church whose believers are imprisoned, tried and suffer tribulation for a period and even death at the hands of the enemy and his wicked servants. These believers do not appear to have any deficiencies but they are having to endure and overcome affliction by the enemy.
IN PERGAMOS: This church was located in the same vicinity that was a stronghold of Satan - occult/pagan worship. As a result they also suffered strong opposition from occult and doctrines of Balaam designed to compromise and thus neutralize the saints. These influences of the enemy had to be repented of and dealt with by the believers here or the Lord would deal with them.
IN TYRATIRA: This church is diligent in good works and faithfulness; however they are plagued by "Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet". She is a false minister bringing in false doctrines of men and demons into the church seducing saints into believing lies and perverting the truth. Many of these seductive doctrines appeal to lusts of the flesh and human intellect. She, and all such ministers, will be dealt with and rewarded for their doings along with those who have been seduced. This church suffers from loss of discernment showing they are not very mature in the knowledge of the Lord, (Hebrews 5:12-14).
IN SARDIS: This is a church that has not been alert, watchful and aware, thus it has become weak in faith, has no positive impact on their community and is dying out as a church. This is also a defiled church, which indicates they engage in activities that are destructive to their faith; probably as a result of not being alert to negative influences and compromise. All of which are indications of prayerlessness.
IN PHILADELPHIA: This church appears to have an opportunity to minister to a significant Jewish population. They have honored God and been faithful to his word; as a result He has promised to keep them during a period of great hardship that shall come upon the whole world, (tribulation). They must hold fast to their faith and the word till He comes.
IN LAODICEA: This church is deceived as to its true spiritual condition. They are full of the world and its lusts having been deceived by the false materialistic doctrine of success and prosperity. They concluded that their prosperity proves their spirituality, (I Timothy 6:5-6). Contrary to their assertion, this church is spiritually impoverished, blind to the truth, and naked which means lacking in righteousness because of being filled with self-righteousness. They lost their need for Christ and their dependency on Him. This church is then told how to correct its lukewarm condition that makes the Lord want to vomit them out. He will chasten, rebuke and punish them by trials and tests to produce faith and faithfulness as gold that is tried in the fire. Then they are to put on Christ likeness, conforming to His character and nature (his righteousness); and finally they are to deal with their eyes (the coveting lusts) so they may be opened to see truth and righteousness.
Now let's summarize these problems by putting them all together to see in total just what it is that the believers/churches have to overcome.
- Overcome misplaced love and devotion, religiosity.
- Overcome trials, tribulations, afflictions and persecutions.
- Overcome satanic and occultic influences and doctrines.
- Overcome lack of spiritual maturity and discernment as well as recognize and deal with false prophets and ministers that bring in false doctrines.
- Overcome lack of prayer, lack of knowledge of God's Word and lacking spiritual vigilance leading to compromise and defilement with things that are ungodly.
- Overcome world-wide tribulation and hardship.
- Overcome worldliness and selfish indulgence that produces lukewarmness and the spiritual deception of self righteousness.
WOW! What a list! The above problems are typical of what believers have faced throughout history, and even more so today. These problems were forewarned by our Lord Jesus because he knows that they MUST be overcome. Why? These things have the potential of causing loss of faith, faithfulness, rewards, and even attaining the kingdom.
It appears that the message and promise to the last church sums up what has to be overcome - the WORLD, and all that is in it, (worldliness). If this is the case then we should find this same theme expressed elsewhere in scripture: and so it is.
1 John 5:4 & 5 - For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
It appears that being an overcomer begins with our faith in Christ, and maintaining that faith and our faithfulness to Christ. Faithfulness means taking a stand for the righteousness He brings to us and resisting evil and the wicked one, (the one who causes the problems that need to be overcome).
Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him (the wicked one) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Note that this verse implies that the overcomers would rather suffer the loss of all things, including their lives, rather than compromise with the enemy. They are willing to take a stand in the face of opposition and declare their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let's go back and look more deeply at the promise to the last church:
Revelation 3:21 - 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.
Note that Jesus, himself, says, "Even as I also overcame", but what did he overcome? He overcame the world -
John 16:33 - These things have I spoken unto you, that ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Therefore, as Jesus did, so are we to do. Jesus had to endure and overcome the same things listed above that believers in the churches must overcome. In order to get the church of Laodicea to overcome they had to endure trials, testing and rebuke, all of which are the chastening of the Lord.
Hebrews 12:5 to 8, & 11 - ....My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
These tests and trials are meant to produce repentance (change) along with faith and faithfulness; faith as gold tried (tested) in the fire. This church also needed a true experience with the Lord Jesus Christ and allow him to enter into each of them:
Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door an 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.
They had to put on Christ - his righteousness, which requires that they put off the old nature of self or flesh with its lusts. They also had to deal with their eyes so they could see truth and separate themselves from doctrines and traditions of men and demons, false teachings and beliefs that abound in many churches today.
What was it that the Laodiceans had to overcome - the WORLD. Worldiness filled the Laodicean church which is representative of a large segment of the church in our society today.
WHAT DOES "WORLD" MEAN?
The word translated world in the original language is kosmos which means: arrangement, social system or social order as referring to mankind; humanity as the adornment of the earth. Therefore these Biblical references to the world actually refer to the behavior of humankind throughout its carnal existence regardless of age, time or events. This is why the evangelical church of the past century has used the term "worldliness" to refer to the behavior of the heathen non-believers, and its intrusion into the church. Jesus foresaw this worldliness enter into the church as far back as Laodicea.
1 John 2:15&16 - Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Here we see that all that is in the world, that is, in the social system of humankind is the weakness of carnal flesh and its selfish lusts. These selfish lusts are what the devil entices to get men into the bondage of sin.
James 1:14 & 15 - But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
This is what Jesus overcame, all that is in the world; this is what the seven churches were told to overcome; this is also what we believers today must overcome.
Now that we understand what has to be overcome, it's time to address the issue of: How To Overcome?
Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him (Satan, who deceiveth the whole world) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.
What is required in a person's life to be an overcomer like this? Let's look separately at the three items identified in this verse: First - "by the blood of the Lamb" demonstrates that they had a proper regard for the atoning work of Jesus for them; they took this new spiritual life seriously, devoutly, reverently and followed the leading of the Spirit in obedience.
Second - "The word of their testimony"; tells us that they lived the "Christ-like" life as living epistles and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God; living testimonies; letting His light shine in them and through them.
Third - "They loved not their lives unto death" implies that, One - they died to self-will with its lusts and selfish desires, (Luke 9:23-26). This is required in order to allow the life of Christ (the zoe of God) to live and be seen through them. This is the "life of the vine" referred to in John 15:4-5. And Two - their desire for the Kingdom of God is of more value to them than the kingdom of this world (to domain of man and Satan); so much so that they preferred to die a physical death than to conform to the way of the wicked.
How does a believer get to be like this? Jesus spoke publicly how to overcome the world and all that is in it. It requires that each of us personally change our objective in life. It is most common for everyone to seek those things that are in the world because this is where we are and make our living. But this is not so true to believers in Christ because He has given us another life beyond and greater than this physical one:
Colossians 3:1 & 2 - If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Instead of seeking the temporal things here on earth, our affections, desires and seeking should be focused on things in the kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:33 - But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Instead of seeking this world, its provisions and pleasures, we are to seek as first priority and most importantly THE KINGDOM OF GOD! As we live in obedience to Him, He will provide what material things are needed in this life. Seeking the kingdom (the domain and dominion) of God is so important that Jesus illustrated such in parables.
Matthew 13:44 - ....The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field: the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Matthew 13:45 & 46 - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, an bought it.
Each of the above parables illustrate that the Kingdom of Heaven under God is to be so much desired that when one finds it he is willing to forsake all his earthly possessions in order to obtain it.
If the Kingdom of God is truly our first priority we will be able to overcome all the obstacles, trials, tribulations we experience in this life. We will be able to live faithful and obedient to Christ and His Word no matter what we experience.
The problem is people, even Christians, are preoccupied with this world and its goods - material things. The same things the Laodiceans thought were so important to make them appear to be a prosperous and successful church. That same damming doctrine fills much of the church today? Materialism is being preached as prosperity and success doctrines. The Laodiceans pursuit of self- indulgence neutralized their proper influence on society and made God so sick so as to want to vomit them out.
Luke 12:25 - Jesus warned: Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth -.
Materialism and self indulgence breeds worldliness and is contrary to the Kingdom of God.
"A man may be persuaded of many truths, and yet may hate them, because they interfere with his ambitions, or sinful indulgences. Such a belief will make him uneasy, and the more resolved to oppose the truth and the cause of God; and he may be foolish enough to hope for success." Matthew Henry - (from his Commentary on the Holy Bible)
Change your objective, purpose and goal in this life, seeing and knowing what awaits the faithful in the Kingdom of God, set your desires and pursuits accordingly. Forsake all you have in order to obtain the Kingdom of God so you may have that which is truly valuable and eternal. The only way to overcome this world, the flesh and the enemy is to so desire the things of the Kingdom more than this world. The things of this world are not as important as we are made to think they are.
Revelation 21:7 - He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.