************ Sermon on Overcomers in Revelation ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 26, 2020

Revelation 2:7,11,17, 26-27; 3:5,12,21
"Overcomers (3)"

We know what overcomers are. Overcomers are winners, victors, champions.

We know what overcomers have overcome. Overcomers have overcome Satan, death, the judgment of the Law, the sinful world, and false teachers.

We know the characteristics of overcomers. Overcomers have faith, they have love, they have obedience.

Today we look at what John says in Revelation about the reward God promises to overcomers.

I God's Promise to the Overcomers of Ephesus
A God's first promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Ephesus:
(Rev 2:7) To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

What is this promise to overcomers? To understand it, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden. There were two trees in the middle of the Garden: one of them was the Tree of Life -- those who eat from this tree live forever so the tree is a symbol for eternal life.

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil, God drove them out of the Garden. Remember why? Sinful man must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever in his sinful condition.

God's promise to overcomers -- God's promise to those who continue in the faith, in love, in obedience -- is that they will live forever by eating from the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God.

B Eden was the original paradise. We aren't told much about the Garden. We are told it was planted by God. A place for man. With all kinds of trees and a river that watered the Garden.

The future paradise is even greater. Towards the end of the Revelation, John has a vision of this future paradise (Rev 22:1-2). Like the Garden of Eden, it has a river. This river goes right down the main street of the New Jerusalem. Flowing in the river is the water of life. Growing along its banks: the Tree of Life. This Tree is always bearing fruit. Always giving sustenance. Always giving life. Life that never ends. Life eternal.

That's the promise of God to overcomers. Life eternal. Life eternal with God. A return to the glory -- and then some -- of the original paradise.

II God's Promise to the Overcomers of Smyrna
A God's second promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Smyrna:
(Rev 2:11) He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

The Spirit speaks of a second death. So what is the first death? The first death is physical death. That moment when we take our last breath and our soul separates from our body. The first death happened because of man's disobedience in the Garden. God said,
(Gen 2:17) but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.
That's exactly what happened. Though man did not die immediately, man's experience was decay, illness, struggle, pain, shame, and hurt when he ate from the forbidden fruit. Even overcomers experience this first death. We all know that someday we will die -- unless the Lord Jesus comes first.

The second death is worse, far worse. It is spiritual and eternal. It is described for us at the end of Revelation as a lake of fire and a lake of burning sulfur; the devil, and those who love the devil, are thrown into this lake (Rev 20:10; 21:8). Or, to put it another way, those who hate Jesus and the Gospel are thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.

B God's promise to overcomers is that "the second death has no power over them" (Rev 20:6). Why? Because they have been raised with Christ (cf Rev 20:6). Those who are raised with Christ may experience the first death but they will never experience the second death. Instead, they are raised in the first resurrection and reign with Christ (cf Rev 20:4-6). They are safe from the second death -- though they also deserve it and have earned it. They are safe in Christ and in the grace of Christ.

That's the promise of God to overcomers. Safe from the second death faced by Satan and unbelievers.

III God's Promise to the Overcomers of Pergamum
A God's third promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Pergamum:
(Rev 2:17) 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.

You all remember what manna is. It is the bread God provided for Israel in the wilderness. Every morning they got up and there was the manna on the ground. They picked it up and ate it that day. The next morning there was the manna again. Every morning except for the Sabbath. You might also remember that a golden jar of manna was kept in the Ark of the Covenant to remind the people of how God fed them in the wilderness.

So, what is the "hidden" manna? The hidden manna is what the manna itself was pointing to -- that is, Jesus Himself. Jesus talked about Himself as "the bread of life" (Jn 6:35,48). And, in a clear reference to manna, Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6:51).

Jesus' promise to overcomers is "some of the hidden manna." That is, Jesus is promising Himself. A relationship with Himself. The riches and fullness of life with Jesus. A promise we see in the Lord's Supper.

B "I will also give him a white stone ..." Literally, a voting pebble. It was a small, smooth, rounded rock; it was used for voting in court; white for innocent, black for guilty. Overcomers are given a white stone meaning innocent -- even though their conscience accuses them, even though they have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, even though they are inclined toward all evil during their life on earth. Because of Christ they are pronounced innocent, pure, righteous, and holy.

C What does the new name part mean? Even as God gave "Abram" the new name of "Abraham," even as "Simon" was given the new name of "Peter," so God gives a new and fitting name to those who overcome. To be named by someone is a sign that they are over you, that you are under their care and protection. God's promise to overcomers here is to care for and protect them.

IV God's Promise to the Overcomers of Thyatira
A God's fourth promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Thyatira:
(Rev 2:26-28) To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- (27) '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. (28) I will also give him the morning star.
Did you hear that? Overcomers will receive authority over the nations. Christ is going to share His authority with us. We are going to rule with Christ. With Christ, we will strike down evil.

Right now there has been lots of news of governors, civil servants, and police abusing their authority because of the coronavirus. The governor of Michigan, for instance, has made all sorts of unconstitutional rulings. In California we have heard of church leaders being arrested. There is nothing abusive about the authority Christ gives to overcomers. The Greek word actually means "to shepherd." God makes overcomers shepherds who care for those under them.

B To this promise Jesus adds something about "the morning star." In Revelation 22:16 Jesus identifies Himself as "the bright morning star." So what is the promise? Overcomers will be given Christ -- that is, the fullness of life with Christ. All the blessings of the work of Christ will be given to them.

V God's Promise to the Overcomers of Sardis
A God's fifth promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Sardis:
(Rev 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.
Dressed in white. White garments. White means pure, righteous, and holy. It also means victory, glory, and brilliance. Overcomers are covered with the righteousness of Christ and all its glory. That's the promise.

B What comes next is so important: "I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." In John's day, there was a registry of citizens. We know Paul, for instance, was registered as a Roman citizen and had the right to appeal to Caesar. Those guilty of serious crime and traitors would have their name removed. They were outcasts. Jesus is promising overcomers this may happen to you in the world because of your faith but it will never happen in the Kingdom of Heaven. Their place in the Kingdom is forever safe and forever secure because of Christ.

VI God's Promise to the Overcomers of Philadelphia
God's sixth promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Philadelphia:
(Rev 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.

We need to go to the Ancient Greek world to appreciate and understand this. Ancient Greek temples were known for their pillars. Lots and lots of pillars. The stone of the pillar would be overlaid with gold and marble. Very expensive. Rich, important people would pay for a pillar. And their name would be placed upon it to recognize them and honor them. Even today many of those pillars remain standing -- meaning the rich donors are honored for a long, long time.

Something similar will happen with overcomers. God will recognize and honor overcomers. Philadelphia was known for earthquakes that toppled the temples and pillars. But this will not happen with the pillars of God's overcomers. God's overcomers will be given a prominent name and a prominent place that will last forever. God looks after them.

VII God's Promise to the Overcomers of Laodicea
God's seventh promise to overcomers is found at the end of the letter to the church at Laodicea:
(Rev 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.
Laodicea was a weak church, a lukewarm church. But it, too, had overcomers. God's promise to those overcomers is similar to what was promised to the overcomers of Thyatira -- namely, authority and power, sitting with Christ on His throne.

Overcomers, as I said, are marked by faith, love, and obedience. Don't conclude any of this is easy. In the seven churches members left their first love, tolerated false teaching, were pronounced dead by the Lord and lukewarm in the faith. Yet, in everyone of these churches there remained a faithful remnant of overcomers. These overcomers remained in the faith, continued in love, and carried on with their obedience in the midst of churches that were slipping.

Also, don't conclude that overcomers earn the promises we have looked at today. It is not earned, it is given. It is not deserved, it is a gift of grace. Notice the language of the promises: "I will give, I will never blot, I will write ..." Christ does the giving. Christ does the rewarding.

In the midst of a wicked and evil generation, it is Christ who preserves His church and it is Christ who rewards His church. Will He reward you? Are you an overcomer?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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