DIVINE INCENTIVES FOR BECOMING AN OVERCOMER
Revelation 2:1-7 (NKJV)
The Loveless Church
1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’
The seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor hold a special place among all the literature of the Word of God. There are many instances when Jesus spoke to individuals and groups, but these letters show Jesus Christ speaking to the very people He died to save.
Most of these letters contain words of Commendation; words of Correction; and words of Challenge. One thing all of these letters have in common is that each one concludes (Concludes) with a precious promise to the overcomers in each church.
The word “overcomer” means “to conquer, or to carry off the victory.” It refers to saved people who remain faithful to Jesus in the face of enemies, temptations and persecution.
Now, there is a sense in which every believer is an overcomer, or a conqueror. Positionally, because of our faith relationship with Jesus, we are conquerors, Rom. 8:37.
Through Jesus and His finished work on the cross, we have overcome sin, Satan, death and hell!
However, there is another sense in which we can become an overcomer. 1 John 5:4 tells us that we as believers will achieve victory over this world and its power.
This seems to be the sense in which the word overcomer is used in Revelation 2 and 3. While every saint of God enjoys absolute victory over death, Hell and Satan, many are not as victorious in their day to day walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Jesus looks at and speaks to these seven churches, He sees believers and non-believers. He sees people who are faithful and people who are not. He sees people who love Him and people who love themselves.
As Jesus speaks to the overcomers in each church, He is exhorting the faithful, “sold out” believers to continue on for the glory of God.
He is also challenging those who are not where they need to be to get where they need to be so that they too can experience the life of an overcomer.
As He concludes each letter, He makes certain promises to the redeemed people in each of these churches. The promises serve as incentives for the faithful to remain faithful. They also serve as incentives for the unfaithful to get faithful. Every promise He makes in these verses belong to the saints of God, all believers throughout the ages!
Let’s examine these seven Divine Incentives For Becoming An Overcomer, and let’s allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts.
May He teach us the How and give us the Hunger and Thirst to become overcomers for the glory of His name!
I. Rev 2:7 THE INCENTIVE OF IMMORTALITY (I)
A. Illustration – The Ephesian church. They were busy for God, but they had fallen out of love (the FIRST LOVE) with Jesus. He calls upon them to remember where they had once been with Jesus and to get back to the place where He was number one in their lives.
B. His promise to the overcomer is this: They will enjoy a glorious eternity in His presence. They have passed rom death unto life. What the first Adam took from them, Jesus has restored to them, Rom. 5:12, 19. The “No Trespassing” sign that was erected in Gen. 3:22-24 will forever be torn down and we will eat of the tree of life in God’s Heaven.
C. Salvation, restoration of fellowship with God, a home in heaven, everlasting life, these are all great incentives for living the best life possible!
II. Rev 2:11 THE INCENTIVE OF INVINCIBILITY
A. Smyrna was a church that was undergoing severe persecution! They were being hounded by their enemies and they are told that some of them will be imprisoned and others will be put to death. Jesus exhorts them to remain faithful to Him unto death and He will reward them!
B. The Overcomers in the church are promised deliverance from the second death. What is the second death? Rev. 20:11-15 tells us all there is to know about it. It is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. These redeemed people might have to give their lives down here, but they need not worry about Hell. They have been delivered from the wrath of God through the blood of Jesus, Rom. 5:9.
C. We may face death one day if the Lord doesn’t return in our life times, but we need not fear that. After all, Jesus has conquered death and removed its sting, 1 Cor. 15:42-57! We will never go to Hell if we are saved by grace! What an incentive to serve Him! Hallelujah! Hell proof and Heaven bound!
III. Rev 2:17 THE INCENTIVE OF INTIMACY (I)
A. The church at Pergamos was also enduring intense persecution. They were even located in the center of satanic activity. A number of their members had been martyred for Jesus’ sake in Pergamos. But, there was sin in the camp! Sin which they tolerated and sin for which they were commanded by Jesus to repent. He calls them to come back to Him before He comes to them in judgment!
B. But, there was a faithful remnant in that church. To them, Jesus makes two precious, “intimacy” promises.
First, He promises to give them the “hidden manna”. Just as the children of Israel were given the mysterious manna from heaven to feed them as they wandered through that wilderness, Jesus would nourish these faithful ones as they fought the battles for Him!
(Note: The O.T. manna was a clear picture of Jesus – Small, white, round, sweet, satisfying!)
Second, He also promises to give them a white stone. This may refer to several things, but there are two that stand out. In that culture, it was common to decide court cases and other matters using black and white stones. White stone meant acquittal and black stones meant conviction. When the judge decided the case, he would put a white stone in an urn for acquittal or a black stone in an urn for conviction. When the verdict was handed down, the urn was tipped over and the stone inside would roll out! He may be telling these believers that they will not be blackballed in Heaven, but that they have been acquitted of their sins! You see, when Jesus saved me, my urn was filled with black stones. Jesus removed them all and dropped in the white stone of grace! Now, when I stand before the Judge and the urn is tipped over, all that will come out against me is GRACE and I will stand acquitted before the Bar of Glory!
Another thought is this: Often friends would take a stone they called a “tessera”. They would break that stone in half and engrave special phrases, words or nicknames for each other on them. Each would carry the half engraved by the other as a constant reminder of their friendship and mutual love. Jesus may be telling these folks that He will one day give them a stone that has on it a special Name for Him. You see, Jesus means something different to each of us. Such is the intimacy of our relationship!
Often, white stones were given to athletes who were victorious in the games. They were also given as tokens of citizenship. When you had been a faithful and productive citizen in a city they would give you one of these white stones.
C. He is going to nourish me through the wilderness of this world. He is going to give me a stone to signify my acceptance into Heaven; the victory I have in Him; my standing as a citizen of glory; and to reflect the intimacy of my relationship with Him. Friends, that is an incentive to serve the Lord!
IV. Rev 2:26-28 THE INCENTIVE OF INVOLVEMENT (I)
A. The church in Thyatira was an active church. They were busy in the service of the Lord and they were recognized for their works. However, they were roundly condemned for allowing a wicked woman to dominate their worship and work as a church. She lead them down the path of paganism and idolatry and Jesus promised to deal with her and those who followed her. His judgment would be swift and sure!
B. But, even in a hotbed of iniquity like Thyatira, there was still a faithful remnant! The overcomers in this church are promised that they will one day reign with Jesus Christ when He established His kingdom. His promise to them is that they will share His rule one day. This is taught throughout the New Testament – 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4. When He returns, we are coming with Him, Rev. 19:14. What a great promise!
They are also promised the “morning star”. This is the star that appears during the darkest part of the night, signaling all those who see it that morning is coming! Well, Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star, Rev. 22:16. I think this statement is meant to say to them, “It may look dark in the world beloved, but you keep looking to the sky, for I am coming to get you one day!” That is a promise all God’s children, 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52! It may be dark in this old world today, but you can see Him working and you know from His Word that He is returning someday! That thought can brighten the darkest of nights!
C. His children will reign with Him one day, but before that ever happens, He will return to this earth to receive us unto Himself and take us away to be with Him, John 14:1-3. What a glorious incentive to be faithful to Him!
V. Rev 3:5 THE INCENTIVE OF IDENTIFICATION (I)
A. This poor church (the church in Sardis) thought all was well, but Jesus placed His finger on their pulse and pronounce them dead! He challenges them to hold on to the few things they still have going for them. They are to remember how things were and are supposed to be and they are to repent. Otherwise, they will face Him in judgment!
B. But, even in a dead church there are still those with the life of God in their souls! These people are promised that they will be clothed in white robes, which speak of perfect righteousness, Rev. 19:8. It speaks of being clothed in Jesus Christ’s imputed righteousness, Phil. 3:9. They are promised that their names will remain in the book of life.
(Note: There is no danger of names being taken out of the Lamb’s Book of Life, for they were written there before the foundation of the world, Rev. 13:8. What Jesus refers to here is the “book of life”. It contains the names of all those who have ever lived. As men die without Christ, their names are removed from the book of the living. When men stand before God at the Great White Throne, the book of life and the Lamb’s book of life will match perfectly.) Jesus is merely giving them His blessed assurance that they are eternally saved by His grace (GRACE).
Then, He promises to confess their names before God, this may refer to His role as our Intercessor, Heb. 7:25. Or, it may mean that one day, Jesus Himself, will lead us past the pearly gates of glory, through the jasper walls, silent ranks of angels, down the golden street of Heaven, and into the very throne room of God Himself. There He will publicly proclaim us to be one of His Own! Either way, I am glad He knows my name, John 10:3, and that He is not ashamed to admit that I am His, Heb. 11:16.
C. Let’s see, I am dressed in His righteousness, my name is securely and eternally written in the book of life and He is and will confess my name in Heaven before the presence of the Lord! I say those are some good incentives for being all He has saved me to be!
VI. Rev 3:12 THE INCENTIVE OF ILLUMINATION (I)
A. The church in Philadelphia was a blessed church! They were little in strength, but the Lord was using them to reach the world for Jesus (evangelism). The Lord has no words of complaint for this church. All He has for them is praise.
He has promised them open doors and blessings. He even promised them that their enemies would one day acknowledge the fact that God’s blessings rested upon them.
B. This church was filled with overcomers. They are promised several great blessings.In them, He opens their eyes to the future!
First, they are to be set as pillars in the Lord’s temple in Heaven. In Philadelphia, it was customary to recognize outstanding citizens by placing a pillar in their honor in one of the temples of the gods. On this pillar would be engraved their name, what they had done to receive it and the names of the officials who had bestowed it. It stood a permanent reminded that this person was someone of note in the community. You see, this little church was getting no recognition or respect in that city, but God said “I see what you are doing and I will honor you when you get home!”
Second, the phrase, “Shall go out no more” is important. This is a reference to the fact that Philadelphia was built near an active volcano. When that mountain would begin to rumble, the citizens of the city would be forced to flee. In many ways it was a very unsafe place to live. An earthquake shook the city in 17 B.C. and destroyed many of the temples. The earthquake was so devastating that many of the people refused to move back into town, but remained in the countryside instead. Jesus reminds them that they are headed to a place of safety in Heaven. This world may be changing and there may be dangers on every hand, but those who have the door of Heaven opened to them find a place of eternal safety, peace and rest! He is going to place them in His city and give them permanent stability.
Third, These people would be clearly marked as belonging tot he Lord. They would bear His Name upon them so that no matter where their duties carried throughout the universe,they would instantly be recognized as belonging to God and as a citizen of Heaven.
C. With His promise to securely fix us in Heaven and with His promise to mark us as His Own, we certainly have even more incentive to serve Him faithful until He fulfills those things for us.
VII. 3:21 THE INCENTIVE OF INSPIRATION (I)
A. The church at Laodicea was a self-centered, materialistic congregation. They did felt that they were totally self-sufficient and did not need the Lord. In fact, Jesus is pictured as being outside the church desiring to enter the presence of the family for which He died.
He tells them that their attitude and self-righteous posture makes Him sick at His stomach. He challenges them to seek Him and promises to have intimate fellowship with anyone who will open the door to Him.
B. There are even overcomers in this wicked church. The Lord’s promise to them is that they will join Him in His throne, which is also His Father’s throne. What He is promising them is the most glorious kind of exaltation. Think of it! Today, we are seated with Him in Heaven, spiritually speaking, Eph. 2:6.
When we get there, He will invite His people to join Him in His glory and in His exaltation. We do not deserve that kind of love, forgiveness, mercy and grace, but it is ours through Him by His GRACE!
C. If anything were to serve and an inspiring incentive to serve the Lord, the promises of this verse is it!
Are you an overcomer? Would you like to be one in Christ Jesus?
The first step is that of coming to Him by faith and getting down before Him and asking Him for His help and His grace upon our lives.
I need to do that! How about you? If you want to be all that He has saved you to be, then this moment is open to receive you into His presence at the throne of grace.
Say “YES” to the call of Jesus Christ in your life!
The Bible tells us that we are “more than” conquerors in Christ Jesus! Amen!
Further Studies :
Our focus should be on what message God is giving us through the seven churches in the Book of Revelation :
The MESSAGE of the Seven Churches were :
Summary of the LESSONS we can learn from the instruction God gave each church:
- 1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7): Don’t lose your love for God’s truth or His people.
- 2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11): Remain faithful in the face of tribulation and poverty.
- 3. Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17): Resist Satan’s influence, even to death, if necessary.
- 4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29): Resist false teaching.
- 5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6): Remain zealous and pure in conduct.
- 6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13): Persevere and walk through the doors God opens.
- 7. Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22): Don’t become lukewarm about God’s way of life.