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From Victims to Victors

(The Revelation of Overcoming)

Rev. 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12 & 21

Sermon

by

Timothy C. Glover

for

Pastoral Internship, FE 540

Rev. Bruce Hoppe, Field Supervisor

Nov. 13, 1994


From Victims to Victors

(The Revelation of Overcoming)

Rev. 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12 & 21

I.          Introduction

            A.        Review

            Revelation is the last book in the Bible and deals with the subject of things yet to come - future things.  Jesus Christ reveals these things to the apostle John for the present benefit and future hope of all generations.  All shall be fulfilled as God unfolds his plan for the redemption of man from eternity past to eternity future.  His "kingdom shall come" as we are instructed to request in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:10.

 

            Over the past several weeks we have been privileged to hear a series of messages from Pastor Hoppe about the seven churches in Revelation.  We have heard the words of Jesus Christ directed toward them in praise, rebuke, counsel and warning regarding their attitudes and actions.  There seemed to be some common problems and yet each church was individually considered in its successes and failures in ministry.  The letters were written to each church as a whole and yet it is individual people in the church who must hear it.  We have heard much about what we are to overcome and what happens for failure, but Pastor has left the best for last and is graciously allowing me to preach it.

            B.        Illustration

            The book of Revelation can be quite confusing with its futuristic language and its many symbols.  Since it talks of things yet to come it is hard to pinpoint exact meanings, and it can sometimes appear to be quite jumbled up.  Our understanding must come from the rest of Scripture since we have no future experience.  I am reminded about the story of the circuit rider preacher who interpreted the parable of the Good Samaritan:

The Circuit Rider

from:  "A Treasury of Readings and Poems"

by:  The Peoples Baptist Church, Centerville, Iowa

            C.        Application

                        This man's example of Scriptural interpretation is humorous in its misunderstanding and misapplication, but I hope that as a result of being here today you will see a single, over-riding truth emerge from the seven letters of Jesus Christ to the seven churches.  Today's theme is the positive promise from Jesus Christ at the end of each of these letters, "to him who overcomes".  It is about success in overcoming; what it is, how you get it and what it does for you.  The answer to each of these three questions is the same and we will revisit them in a little while.  But just as it is individuals in the church who must hear if they have ears (that cuts out a lot of excuses), it is individuals who must overcome, and it is individuals who will reap reward for overcoming.


 

II.        Word Study

            Since our theme is overcoming, let us take a closer look at the word.  The Greek word for "overcome" is nikao and it is used 28 times in the N.T.  It means to conquer, overpower, prevail, triumph and be victorious.  More than half (17) of the usage of this word is found in the Book of Revelation alone, perhaps implying that victory is in some sense future.  But nikao in John's writings elsewhere is synonymous with saving faith in Christ which we have now.

(1 John 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.) 

Overcomers are not a special group of Christians distinguished by their spirituality and power from other genuine Christians who lack these qualities.  The incentive to overcome is an eternal one and the overcomer is none other than the one who keeps on holding fast by faith.  This is a general designation for what is expected of all true believers, and the promises for overcoming belong to all true believers.

            None of the seven uses of "overcomes" in these seven letters refers specifically to what we are to overcome, but victory over the problems that Christ condemns is implied.  Their thought is not that of victory finally achieved at the end of life, but rather the picture of a believer who from the beginning of his faith in Christ to the end of life stands victorious because he keeps on overcoming what the enemy has to offer.  The overcomer is promised full and final enjoyment of something of which he has already tasted.  This victory will be achieved in the new heaven and earth

(Revelation 21:7-8 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.")  

The victory is future prophetic but Christ has won the victory already with his blood

 

(Revelation 12:11  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death..)

and it is already present as we have seen in:

 

(1 John 5:4-5  for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.) 

We have it now but not yet.  In fact, we haven't seen anything yet in comparison to what glory Christ shall yet reveal.  But what we have now in Christ is stupendous. 

III.       "To Him Who Overcomes"

            What is the reward that overcomers will receive?  Let's take a quick look at the appropriate verses in the letters to the seven churches.

            A.        Ephesus

Revelation 2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

            B.        Smyrna

Revelation 2:10-11

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

            C.        Pergamum

Revelation 2:17

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

            D.        Thyatira

Revelation 2:26-28

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' --just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.


 

            E.        Sardis

Revelation 3:5 

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

            F.         Philadelphia

Revelation 3:12

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

            G.        Laodicea

Revelation 3:21

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

            What a list!  This all sounds pretty good doesn't it?  If you are a follower of Christ what more could you ask for?  Jesus gives us everything that belongs to him.  We are co-heirs with Christ

 

(Rom. 8:17-18 Now if we are children, then we are heirs-- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.)

 

.  We are to overcome in order to receive but this is accomplished by faith and not works

 

(Romans 4:5  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.)

            What is the reward to him who overcomes?  It is to become like Christ in the sense of owning with him all that he has - and he has it all.  This is seen more vividly by looking at Christ's description of himself at the beginning of each of his seven letters.The rewards for overcoming are closely tied to who Christ is and what he has in both accomplishment and possession.  The reward for overcoming is to become like Christ, and he is the very thing we need in order to overcome.  We already have it, and that is Christ.  He gives us himself now and in the future.  Hold these thoughts as we take a quick look at the seven churches.

IV.       "These Are The Words of Him"

            A.        Ephesus, 2:1-7

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

            Christ figuratively claims authority and calls attention to his movement among the seven churches.  He brings attention to his majestic activity and keeps a watchful eye on them.

                        2,         State of the church (loss of spirituality).

            Loss of love for Christ which dampened spiritual zeal for worship and works of service.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

            Christ gives the right of permanent and abundant spiritual life with him.

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses all spiritual authority shares his authority with us in a "right to life."  This enables us to overcome loss of spiritual life in love and worship and service.  The "tree of life" from which we may eat will bear fruit of spiritual life even in this life.

                        5.         Warning for failure.

            If not, he will remove the lampstand (the church, i.e. statistics)


            B.        Smyrna, 2:8-11

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 2:8 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

 

                        1Cor. 15:45  The forst man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a                         life-giving spirit.

                        Acts 26:23  I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said                       woul happen - that the Christ would suffer and as the first to rise from the                      dead would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.

            Christ is eternal and so neither time nor things within time pose any limitation for him.

                        2.         State of the church (fear of death).

            Threat of poverty, persecution and death.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 2:10-11  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

 

(Ten days:  a complete period of testing as in Dan 1:12, 14.  It is placed here so that death would no longer be feared.)

            Christ gives the crown of eternal life in victory over eternal death.

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses eternal life shares his eternal victory over death with us.  This enables us to overcome any threat of poverty, persecution or death in this life.  When we are tested, his victory will prove victorious in us.  We are assured escape from hell, and that would be enough even without heavenly rewards.


            C.        Pergamum, 2:12-17

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 2:12 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

 

Heb 4:12  For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

            Christ has all judicial authority to pronounce judgment by the word of his mouth.

                        2.         State of the church (advancing immorality).

            Idol worship and sexual immorality.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 2:17  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

                        Rev. 19:12  He has a name written on him that no one knows but he                      himself---his name is the Word of God.

            Christ gives the word of God, the hidden manna of true spiritual understanding which is Christ himself (John 6:48-51) the bread of life, the bread from heaven.  His word enfolds us to himself in a peculiar and precious adoption, a special relationship known only to a man and his Savior to whom he was called.  Only Jesus knows your heart and what it took to get you to your present spiritual capacity.  The stone is the security he gives to his most treasured possession - you.  With it you may enter the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses the word of God, who is the word of God, imparts his word to us in special relationship to himself.  This enables us to overcome sin and idolatry because of who we are in him.  Satan's biggest trick is to deceive us into sin by deceiving us about whom we belong to.  Christ doesn't save paper plates.  All he has is fine china.  Paper plates belong in the garbage heap with Satan and his horde.  Fine china serves the King.

                        5.         Warning for failure.

            If not, he will make war with the sword of his mouth (exercise his judicial authority).


            D.        Thyatira, 2:18-29

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 2:18  "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

 

                        Rev. 1:13-15

            Christ describes himself as the Son of God in keeping with the character of judgment pronounced upon this church that has seriously diverted from the true worship of the Son of God.  His blazing eyes speak of surpassing intelligence to probe the inner man, and the polished bronze of his feet carry the purity of weighty judgment.

                        2.         State of the church (secularization).

            Conformity to the world and its beliefs and practices.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 2:26-28  To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' --just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.

 

            Christ gives position of authority to rule with him in victory over his enemies, to join him in destroying those who oppose him.  He also gives the morning star as the symbol of future royalty and rule with him in the Messianic Kingdom when he returns.  Even in this world we shall "shine like stars" in the universe (Phlp. 2:15).

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses all authority to rule and to judge shares his authority with us.  This enables us to overcome the world by judging its beliefs and practices against his standards.  We are being fitted for joint rulership.  We must be able to judge sin.

                        5.         Warning for failure.

            If not, he will cause great tribulation, sickness and death (punishment).


            E.        Sardis, 3:1-6

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 3:1  "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

 

            Christ, the Lord and High Priest of the church, is armed with all the powers of the life giving Spirit to search the depths of hypocrisy, judging worthlessness of works not done in faith.  This life giving Spirit is the source of spiritual life in the Church to combat deadness of spirit.

                        2.         State of the church (dead religion).

            Dead religion, dead works.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 3:5  He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

                       

                        Rev. 20:6  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first                             resurrection.  The second death has no power over them, but they will be                    priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

            Christ gives us the pure white garment of permanent spiritual priesthood with him.  He will acknowledge those who acknowledge him (Mt. 10:32).

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses the highest and holiest spiritual priesthood shares his priesthood with us to enable us to overcome the dead works of dead religion.  Christ, the High Priest, imparts spiritual life to the church through his Spirit to his priests, the saints.

                        5.         Warning for failure.

            If not, he will come like a thief in the night.  (The dead will not notice.  They will be left for dead; ignored.)


            F.         Philadelphia, 3:7-13

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 3:7  "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

 

            Christ's holiness is a mandate for obedience.  He is true to his word and to his promises because he is genuine Messiah who can be relied upon.  He controls the entrance to his kingdom.

                        2.         State of the church (temptation to give up).  

            Temptation to give up steadfast service.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer.

Revelation 3:12  Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

 

1Pet. 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,----

 

            Christ gives an eternally enduring place in the Messianic Kingdom and an open recognition to us as the people of God and of himself as Messiah.  This stable relationship to God and absolute assurance of eternal life is verified three times:  written on us is the name of God, the name of God's city, and Christ's own new name - a threefold identity.  Christ's new name is the full revelation of his character promised to us.  We shall be citizens endowed with divine power.

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses the eternal kingdom of God gives us a permanent place in that kingdom.  This enables us to overcome the temptation to defeat in steadfast works of service in this life.

                        Gal 6:9-10


            G.        Laodicea, 3:14-22

                        1.         Attributes of the speaker.

Revelation 3:14  "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

 

            Christ is the Amen or "so be it" of all creation.  His credibility is certain in that all he says will be accomplished.  He is a reliable witness of sincerity and truth to every divine revelation.  He never misrepresents or suppresses his truth.  As Creator, he has supreme authority and power to execute his word, including the warnings and promises to this church that was neither faithful nor true.

                        2.         State of the church (complacency).

            Lukewarm ignorance.

                        3.         Promise to the overcomer

Revelation 3:21  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

1Cor. 6:2  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?

            Christ will share his earthly throne with us in his Messianic Kingdom to participate in ruling the world.  The pattern of comparison is in the same way the Father shares his heavenly throne with Christ.  The Father's relationship to Christ is like Christ's relationship to us. 

                        4.         Summary statement.

            Christ, the One who possesses all ruling authority over all creation with the final word of truth, offers the richness of his counsel to us so we will be able to overcome lukewarm ignorance.  This will enable us to rule with him in decisive intelligence as he shares his throne with us.

                        5.         Warning for failure

            If not, he will spit us out as unfit for rule (reject).  After all, he says he stands at the door and knocks.  He has not even waited for us to call.  All we must do is respond.


V.        Transition

 

            In each of these seven churches, Christ gives himself as the fulfillment of their present need.  He also gives himself as the promise of future reward for taking up the all-sufficiency of what he offers.  He is the source to enable them, and us, to overcome.  Hebrews 12:2-4 tells us:

Hebrews 12:2-4  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

            The truth is that we ourselves cannot overcome.  He must do it for us.  The secret is that he already has and that the rewards are already ours in a future sense.  It is all in place waiting for us.  We are enabled to overcome because he enables us to become like himself who overcame.  We are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:37).  It is a matter of priority and order, not in our own strength, but in his.

VI.       Overcome By Becoming

            The answer to the three questions we asked at the beginning are all the same:

            A.        What does it mean to overcome?

                        Ans.:  It is becoming like Christ.

            B.        How do we overcome?

                        Ans.:  By becoming like Christ.

            C.        What are the results of overcoming?

                        Ans.:  You become like Christ.

                        The beginning, the means, and the end of overcoming are the same  Christ                        is the answer.

            D.        Discussion.

            Philipians 1:6 says, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  In the perfection of his kingdom we shall see this take place - the perfect society.  Not robots but each individual personality following the ways of God - perfect love, perfect harmony, perfect fellowship, perfect worship.

Phil. 2:13
Romans 8:30  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Imagine it, no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev 21:4).  In fact, our overcoming will hasten the coming of Christ as we yield ourselves to the accomplishment of his purposes.

2 Peter 3:11-13  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

And we are commanded to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Prayer and holy living advance the kingdom of God.

VII.     Conclusion

 

            A.        The hard question.

                        But we still struggle with our sin nature in this life.  We are not yet glorified.  How do we handle it?  What do we do?  Christ is complete in us but we are not completely conformed to Christ.  We are still in a process of faith discovery of who we are, who we belong to and what we shall be.

            B.        Abraham, Isaac and Jacob  (the sin problem of deception)

                        Genesis 26-32

            C.        Third and Fourth Generation Sin

                        Numbers 14:18

                        Ezekiel 18:1-3

            D.        The Example of Paul

                        Romans 6-7-8

            E.        Personal Example

            F.         John 16:33; Ps. 34:19

                        NR3 (No reserve, no regret, no retreat)

VIII.    Benediction

 

            Romans 16:25-27

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