Overcomers; Revelation 2:26-29
A rhetorical question: What is your spiritual success ceiling? Some people are just satisfied that they are going to go to heaven. It doesn't matter what else God has to say for them or how well they know their Bible as long as their ultimate destiny is not the lake of fire they are happy. That is a s far as they are going to go. Other folks are a little more ambitious. They want to at least have a talking acquaintance with God, so they want to learn how to pray effectively and perhaps learn a few promises about God's faithfulness and what God is going to provide for them. They are usually those basic baby promises that are more "me" oriented than anything else. Then there are a few other folks who at least want to have a passing intimacy with the God who provided their salvation, so they will show up on a regular basis, maybe not only on Sunday but might even show up in the middle of the week. They don't want anybody to think they're too fanatical. Then there are other folks who recognize that there is indeed something that goes far beyond salvation and that God saved us for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." He created us to be witnesses in the angelic conflict. He created us at regeneration that we might have this new remarkable spiritual life to grow to maturity so that when He returns we will be qualified to rule and reign with Him. That is real achievement orientation there if you are oriented to really pressing on to the high ground of spiritual maturity. But there are a lot of folk for whom that doesn't come to their consciousness until later in life. When they are 18, 20, 25 years of age they are more concerned with their career, getting married, finding romance, a little later on having babies and raising kids and making sure that those kids get exposed to all the important areas of life. Of course, that Bible doctrine is the most important area somehow escapes them. That is more important than piano lessons, than football, than everything else. If you get those kids grounded in the Word then that is the most important thing. Everything else somehow seems to take care of itself. It is usually not a matter of either-or, it is a matter of how you structure your life.
But the issue is, how much of a spiritual achiever are you? Are you just one of the nod-to-God crowd that shows up now and then to make sure that God knows you are still around? Or are you a little more dedicated, a little more interested? One day we all come to that point where we realize that this isn't just an academic study, it is not just about learning a few things about God. It is our life, it is our heartbeat. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink; it is everything to us as believers because this is what our eternal destiny is.
This is the subject that we hit in these last couple of verses in Revelation chapter two. Related to the overcomer there is a passage that comes to mind in Luke 14. Luke records more of what Jesus said related to discipleship than the other Gospel writers. In Luke 14:26 He seems to set out some stringent demands that are unfortunately taken by too many people to refer to salvation. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." That would seem to suggest that if you are going to be a disciple it involves something related to works, and that is true. But discipleship isn't salvation, it goes beyond salvation. The word for disciple is MATHETES [maqhthj] which simply means a student or a learner. It is not talking about someone getting saved, it is talking about someone who is willing to go beyond salvation to be a real student of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Luke 14:27 He says, "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Then in verse 28 He shifts the analogy from bearing the cross to counting the cost. ""Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?" The issue here is counting the cost. There is no cost to salvation, as is made clear in Revelation 22:17 referring to taking the water of life without cost—that is salvation. Grace is free. So verse 28 is talking about going beyond salvation to being a real student or disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verses 29 30, "For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'"
Then He shifts to a political analogy in verse 31ff. ""Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."
What Jesus is pointing out here is that there is a cost to advancing in the spiritual life, to being an achiever in the spiritual life. What kind of student are you? Are you the kind of student who is satisfied with a C, or do you want something a little more ambitious and are satisfied with a B? Or, are you the kind of student that is only satisfied with an A or an A+? What kind of student are you? What is your spiritual success ceiling? That is what these overcomer passages at the end of these letters to these seven churches are all about. They are designed to motivate us to recognize that salvation is a free gift but it comes with an incentive clause. It is an incentive to go beyond simple salvation to pursuing spiritual maturity. It is that Jesus Christ has in mind and has called us not simply to salvation but to form a spiritually elite cadre that will go into the Millennial kingdom to rule and reign with Him. What He is calling us to is a level of excellence that goes far beyond what you normally see in a local church.
Revelation 2:26. The challenge for us is to be overcomers. "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations." These are the spiritual elite just mentioned. In Hebrews there is another term for them. They are called "companions of Christ." The Greek word is METOCHOI [metoxoi]. These are the one who will be that cadre of kings and priests who rule and reign with Jesus Christ in the Millennial kingdom. The question we ought to ask is, what makes them different? What makes them overcomers, these METACHOI, different from the rest of the pack? It boils down to one primary thing: volition—day in and day out. It is not a one-shot thing. The first thing that makes them different is their volition. The second thing that makes them different is their priorities. The overcomer believer has a different set of priorities. He recognizes that he is living this life in light of eternity and that shapes how he manages his time. That is why Paul says in Ephesians that we are to redeem the time. We are going to manage our time differently, we are going to decide what we are going to do some days, some nights, in terms of going to Bible class, rather than doing other things that are fine and good and enjoyable but are not going to advance our spiritual life. They are different, too, because they are faithful. That is really the key issue in this: faithfulness. It is not whether you went to seminary or how much of the Bible you know, or how adept you are in theological reasoning. There is possibility that the real winner believers that show up in heaven, the ones who are really victorious, are going to be folks in the pew, not pastors. They are people who are consistently learning the Word and applying it. We will be amazed at who some of these overcomers really are. But what makes them different is not that they have a higher IQ, not that they are smarter, not that they are adept at theological reasoning, but because they are faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." That is the issue: faithful in listening to doctrine, assimilating doctrine; faithful in applying doctrine on a daily basis in their life; faithful in maintaining those priorities.
The word in verse 26 for the overcomer is NIKAO [nikao]. It is a present active participle and as a participle with an article it function s like a noun. The basic meaning is a victor, someone who is victorious in the games. It refers to someone who is a conqueror, someone who is militarily victorious, or someone who has overcome various obstacles. So we will translate it "winners": "He who is a winner." As we have seen in the past this is a special elite class. These are the believers who advance, the real disciples, those who press forward in the spiritual life. We have to recognize that all believers have certain things in common.
1) All believers in the church age are going to get Raptured—total Rapture, not a partial Rapture.
2) All believers in the church age are going to get resurrection bodies.
3) All believers are going to have perfect happiness, though we have to recognize that the non-overcomer in the spiritual life is going to experience shame at the judgment seat of Christ—1 John 2:28.
4) All believers have eternal life and spend eternity in heaven.
But there are differences among believers in the Millennial kingdom and on into eternity. So we need to contrast those who are victorious believers and those who are failures in the spiritual life.
1) The victorious believer receives rewards at the judgment seat of Christ: rewards, privileges and blessings, 1 Corinthians 3:12ff.
2) The victorious believer is praised personally by the Lord Jesus Christ. We have this from several parables in the New Testament where the faithful servant is praised: Well done, good and faithful servant."
3) Victorious believers have different levels of privilege and authority in the Millennial kingdom. There will be different capacities for happiness, different grades of authority, different levels of responsibility. Cf. 2:7, 11. The victorious believer is going to be given the hidden manna which relates to a special intimacy with the Lord. He is given a white stone with his name written on it, and that is a picture of special access to God. The new name indicates a new recognition related to spiritual advance and spiritual achievement. Then we see in verse 26 that they are given authority over the nations, they will rule over the nations, and they are going to be given the morning star. There is some question as to just what that "morning star" relates to but it seems to be an overt sign that they are individuals in authority with responsibilities to rule. It is a visible indication that this person is a person who has authority over the nations and the kingdom.
4) The victorious believer is at the wedding supper following the marriage of the Bride (the church) to the Lord Jesus Christ. So the victorious believer is invited to the wedding feast, and he is present there when the church consummates its union with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is described in Matthew 25:1-3; Revelation 19:6-8.
5) The victorious believers participate with the Lord Jesus Christ in His final defeat of Satan. They return with Him in that mighty army that returns with the Lord Jesus Christ described in Revelation 19:9ff.
6) Victorious believers will then rule in the Millennial kingdom with Jesus Christ as kings and priests, Revelation 20:6.
All of this is to motivate us and stimulate us to press on to spiritual maturity. That is what the real doctrine of perseverance is. It is not the Calvinistic distortion that the true believer will persevere in good works necessarily. The true doctrine of Scripture is that if you persevere as a believer and endure in the spiritual life then there are special rewards, blessings and privileges for you which will be distributed at the judgment seat of Christ as you reach that level of being a METOCHOI or companion for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of the things the Scriptures say that believers lose of they are a failure
1) Failure believers fail to put doctrine first. They fail to count the cost, they fail to apply the Word, and they fail to grow spiritually. They constantly get distracted by all the things that come up in life, things that are fine and well and good, but they keep us from making doctrine our priority.
2) Failure believers are often wonderful people. They may be very successful in this life. They may advance in terms of their temporal responsibilities but often at the expense of learning doctrine and advancing in their spiritual life.
3) Failure believers become distracted by the details of life.
4) Those who are failure believers will experience shame at the judgment seat of Christ, according to 1 John 2:28, and they won't hear the Lord say, Well done, good and faithful servant.
5) There will be a loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. They may end up entering heaven with nothing, but they will be saved. 1 Corinthians 3:15; Revelation 2:11.
6) They will enter but will not inherit the kingdom. Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:10.
7) Their rewards will be destroyed in the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8.
Revelation 5:10, "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." This is just training, folks, basic boot camp to get us ready for that opportunity to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. And how well you grasp that today is your understanding of your eternal destiny.
Revelation 2:26, "To him who overcomes and does my will [keeps my works] to the end…" What is the relationship of those two phrases, overcoming and keeping my works? The ascensive KAI [kai] should be translated, "He who overcomes, even keeps my works." So overcoming is defined as "keeping my works." The verb for keeping is the present active participle of TEREO [thrhw] which means to keep, to guard, preserve or maintain a certain course of action. So the passage reads, "He who keeps my works." What are those works? This is the word ERGON [e)rgon] means production. It can mean production of human good, divine good, sin; it is defined by the context. In the context here the works are maintaining spiritual growth, walking by means of the Holy Spirit, using all of the spiritual dynamics that God has given us for growing and maturing in the Christian life. "… until the end." That word "until" is ACHRI [a)xri] which means something to a certain point, and the end point there is the word TELOS [teloj] meaning a point of time marking the end of time, the final goal, the consummation of a process. So it is the idea of he who keeps "my works" until the end of his life. That is perseverance.
Then we have the promise: "I will give authority over the nations." The word "authority" is EXOUSIA [e)cousia] and it indicates authority or control over something or someone. It is the potential to command, to control or to govern. In this case it is governing responsibility over the nations. There will be a hierarchy of governments in the Millennial kingdom and the focus is the nations. These are the Gentile nations, not Israel. Israel is ruled by a different system.
In Revelation 2:27 we come to an interesting concept. This is a quote from a familiar passage, Psalm 2. "'He [Messiah] will rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' – just as I have received authority from my Father." In the context of Psalm 2 the "them" relates to the Gentile nations who are in rebellion, and this is a scene at the end of the Tribulation period. All the nations gather together and conspire against God and they are shaking their fists at God. They want to prevent the return of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom. Of course, Jesus Christ will return and will defeat them at the battle of Armageddon and establish His kingdom. All unbelievers will be taken off the earth so that only mortal believers survive. Those mortal believers still have sin natures. They are going to marry one another and are going to have children with sin natures, just like us. They are going to be living in perfect environment with a perfect government. But one of the things that makes that government perfect is that it is going to be a government that is not afraid to express its authority. The way to control sin natures is to be tough. The word that is used there is, "He will rule them with a rod of iron." The word for rule is POIMAINO [poimainw], the same word which is used for being a shepherd, being a pastor. Here is has the idea of ruling or governing—which is part of the responsibility of a pastor, to rule and govern a congregation—as political leadership. The word for rod is the Greek RHABDOS [r(abdoj], referring to a relatively slender piece of wood of varying lengths that indicated a ruler's staff or a sceptre. So He will rule them with a sceptre of iron. This characterizes the reign, an iron rule. It isn't the sweet little Jesus of liberal theology that is going to come along and pat everybody on the back, this is a Jesus who is going to rule these nations with a rule of iron, and they will be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessel. You have to control sin natures. You can't let sin natures run rampant and destroy everybody else's freedom operating on arrogance.
In Psalm 2:8, 9 we read about this rule and Hebrews 1:8, 9 expands on that. Hebrews 1:8, "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom.'" It is a sceptre of righteousness. In Psalm 2 it is a sceptre of iron which is the application of a righteous rule. Verse 9, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." The word "companions" is METOCHOI, meaning those who partake and participate with the Lord Jesus Christ in His rule.
Back to Revelation 2:27, "… dash them to pieces." This is the Greek verb SUNTRIBO [suntribw] meaning to subdue completely or to crush. So this indicates something about the nature of the Millennial kingdom. This is not a tyrannical rule, it will only seem that way to those with sin natures who want to get away with things. That is why there will be a certain number of dissatisfied people who will reject the Messiah and at the end of the Millennial kingdom they will be deceived by Satan and there is a brief revolt, and then God destroys them.
Revelation 2:28, "I will also give him the morning star." This is a somewhat enigmatic reference because there are only a few other places where there is a reference to a star related to the Lord Jesus Christ. One is in Numbers 24:7 where there is a prophecy that a star will come from Jacob and a sceptre shall rise from Israel. This is the first indication of a star related to the Lord Jesus Christ. The next indication is the appearance of the star over the manger in Bethlehem. With reference to that star, there is no star in the heavens, no alignment of planets, nothing astronomical that can point out an individual residence. That is what that star did. It is an expression of the shekinah glory. And that is what this reference is to, it is to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is referred to as then morning star in Revelation 22:16. So the term "morning star" is a title for the Lord Jesus Christ. When we read in Revelation chapter two that the overcomer will rule with Him—v. 26, "I will give power over the nations … and (v. 28) I will give him the morning star." What is the connection? It is based on understanding the conjunction "and." He uses that "and" in the ascensive way that we have seen already. It is explaining or defining the previous statement: "I will give him power over the nations, even the morning star." So the morning star seems to be an emblem or symbol of His authority to rule the nations.
Then the challenge in Revelation 2:29, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." That is a decision we make. It is our volition. It is not a matter of the circumstances in life, it is what you make of your circumstances in life in terms of growing and advancing in your spiritual life. It is a matter of your volition. "He who has an ear" is the one who is ready to listen, the one who is truly positive, the one who really wants to learn doctrine. "Let him hear," is a third person imperative, "to what the Spirit says to the churches."