To The One Who Overcomes
The phrase “to him who overcomes” mentioned seven times in Revelation 2 and 3 is a subject students of the Bible have contemplated. The word ‘overcome’ comes from the Greek word nikao. This is very close to the Christian name Nicholas which can mean ‘victory of the people’ of which the Greek equivalent is Nikolaos. According to Strong’s concordance nikao means to conquer, to overcome, to prevail, to get the victory.
This type of language is the language of battle and war. This is borne out by three verses in later chapters of Revelation which show the connection between overcoming and war.
During the 20th Century there were many wars from the Boer war, two World wars, the Korean war, the Falklands war, the first Gulf war as well as those in Israel. The list goes on and on to which the second Gulf war can be added. The threat of war continues as do several ongoing conflicts.
Wars can take other forms. Some are shows of power like the Field of the Cloth of Gold when in 1520 Henry VIII and the King of France tried to show how wealthy and powerful they were. Many still remember the Cold war when massive amounts of nuclear weapons were held by capitalist regimes and opposing communist regimes. At times there is talk of trade wars where one country aims to gain advantage over another by means of import taxes maybe of 10% 25% or more on goods and services or by legally preventing sale of certain other countries’ goods in their country. In the 1970s there were the “cod wars” when Iceland tried to prevent British trawlers from fishing within certain limits of Iceland which were normally deemed international waters. All this goes to show such a war can be non-violent, a war of the mind rather than war with swords, guns, ammunition and armoured tanks.
Overcoming is described in the Gospel of Luke as when “one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his spoil” (11:22 ESV) This is the language of violence, brute force and robbery not on a national scale but between two individuals.
Jesus is the principal example of an overcomer. Jesus said “these things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Who or what is to be overcome?
Generally Christians speak of overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil. But what do the scriptures say? Jesus clearly spoke of overcoming the former, the world in John 16:33. Peter talking about false prophets says that “they promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:19-21 ESV) This mentions the world and its defilements, or perhaps its contaminants, corruptions or pollutions. It even begins to say how the world is overcome and that it is by the pure, uncontaminated knowledge of Jesus Christ. It also warns that it’s possible to be re-entangled or be overcome by the world once again.
There are other verses that refer to overcoming the world. 1 John 5:4-5 plainly states “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?” But what is this world that can be overcome? The world here comes from the Greek word kosmos meaning world system. In these parts of the world there is a secular, capitalist as well as a democratic system based on elections. The drive is to accumulate a lot of money and material possession or obtain power by winning elections.
1 John 4:4 also speaks of the world, it says “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” He that is in the world is Satan and Satan is the prince of this world. (See John 12:31 EXB) Satan and the world are closely intertwined and are to be overcome and this is of God by acknowledging Jesus Christ as saviour.
1 John 4 has already recorded the close relationship between overcoming the world and the devil. Earlier in this epistle the apostle John wrote “unto…fathers,...young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. …. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:13-14) John goes on to say, “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.” This must be a true genuine belief that Jesus is the son of God. The world and the devil, Satan, can be overcome!
There are two principal ways that individual people can be corrupted in this present evil world. They are power and money. The one who came to Jesus asking, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal (aonian) life?”. He was told to sell all he had and give it to the poor however he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions (Matt.19:16-24). The Greek word translated “great” comes from the Greek word polla meaning many. This one had many possessions and was thought to be rich at that time.
There are several accounts in the Bible about those whom power corrupted or led them to be corrupted. Herod the Great had the new born boys under two years of age slaughtered because of his desire to keep power for himself and his family. Nebuchadnezzar was gloating when he said. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV) He was too much ‘I’. King Saul is another whom it is possible the power of being king of Israel corrupted till the Heavenly Father regretted that He had made Saul to be king for he had ceased being loyal to Him and disobeyed His commands (1 Sam.15:11). Satan’s desire for power and control has had even more consequences. He said “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isa.14:14 ESV) People everywhere are living with the consequences to this day.
How to overcome
Listening seems very important. Seven times in the two chapters of Revelation it implores, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It denotes paying attention and acting upon the instruction (Rev.2:7,11,17,29; Rev.3:6,13,22). Here are four suggestions as to how:
Promises to the overcomer
What happens to these overcomers? There are seven promises;
What does seven represent? It represents perfection and completeness.
Overcoming is mentioned many times in the New Testament and seven times in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. It comes from the Greek word which relates to conquer in the manner of war. In this Gospel age the Christian should overcome the world and the Devil. This present evil world has the dangers of money and power. By faith one discerns it’s possible to overcome the world and the devil and this is because the one has the word of God abiding in them, listening to its message and acting upon it, by loving the world less, believing in Jesus Christ, by works of faith and overcoming evil with good. And the result will be glorious and the promise, as always, sure.