OVERCOMERS: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

[Mk 9:17-24]:

Scripture thus indicates that the word "overcome" can refer to an individual who believes - who overcame his unbelief. In the case of Mark 9:17-29 it refers to a man overcoming his unbelief and therefore believing that Jesus can and will heal his son.

[Rev 7:3; 9:4]:

Overcomers are sealed from harm during the tribulation period.

And overcomers are specifically defined as believers:

[1 Jn 5:4-5]:

(v. 4) "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

(v. 5) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

[Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." = an overcomer is defined as one who trusts in Christ as Savior, a believer]

overcomes = "nika" & "nikon" present tense

[Rev 3:5]:

"He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."

Book of life: Records everyone from conception on. This book indicates who is going to heaven - at first - unless they die without ever having trusted alone in Christ alone.

This supports the doctrine of unlimited atonement as taught in 1 Jn 2:2.

Erased: If an individual dies physically without ever having trusted alone in Christ then at that moment of his physical death his name is erased from the Book of Life in heaven.

Other books: These are the books which record every single act of every individual who ever lived - whether good or evil. These books are opened up at the Great White Throne Judgment and an individual is judged by God to see if his life measures up to that of our Lord Jesus Christ. If not and there is no entry in the Book of Life then that individual's destiny is the Lake of Fire.

Lamb's Book of Life: This is the final edition so to speak of the Book of Life. It was written before the foundation of the world and never included any unsaved individuals.

Bob Wilken states, ('The Grace Evangelical Society News', March-April issue, pp1-2):

'''Can a believer lose his salvation or be reased from the Book of Life if he does not overcome (Rev 3:5)? This seems to contradict John 5:24 and Eph 2:8-9 which view everlasting life as a free and secure gift. Or, does it mean that a believer who is truly saved will automatically produce good works and overcome? This seems to contradict Romans 6-7 which views the Christian walk as a struggle and a choice that every believer must make for himself...

The Loss-of-Salvation View

The problem with the loss-of-salvation view is that it clearly contradicts a host of passages. Jesus taught that believers "will never perish" (John 10:28). "shall not come into judgment" (John 5:24). The apostle Paul told the believers at Rome that

"neither death nor life...nor things present nor things to come...shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). To the believers at Ephesus he wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2:8-9). and to the believers at Thessalonica he said that "whether we wake or sleep [i.e., whether we are morally alert or indolent], we should live together with Him" (1 Thess 5:10).

The Overcoming-Equals-Faithful-Obedience View

According to this view all genuine believers overcome the world by living godly lives. One author writes: "John was so confident of the ultimate triumph of faith over sin that he had a special name for the believer: 'the one who overcomes' (1 John 5:5; Rev 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7)." Notice that he equates overcoming with "the ultimate triumph of faith over sin." Based on the context of these remarks, it is clear the author is referring to some ultimate triumph of faith over sin in this life."

According to what has come to be called the Reformed Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, all true believers persevere in a life of godliness. While there may be temporary setbacks and bouts with sin, believers are people who live victorious, holy lives to the end.

People who hold the overcoming- equals- faithful- obedience interpretation interpretation of our verse understand it in light of that doctrine.

There is a major problem with this interpretation. The Bible does not promise that all true believers will live victorious, holy lives. Believers may have more than temporary setbacks and bouts with sin. It is sadly possible for believers to backslide terribly and to remain in that backslidden state until death. Certainly the church at Corinth was hardly a picture of believers experiencing ultimate victory over sin tin their lives (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-3; 11:30; see also Gal 6:1-5; Jas 5:19-20; and 1 John 5:16)!

I'm not saying that eternal security is not true. As already shown above, it is. What I am saying is that there is no guarantee in Scripture that eternally secure people will live overcoming, victorious lives here and now. Believers can fail.

The Overcoming-Equals-Faith View

There is a variation of the view just discussed which recognizes the possibility of failure in the Christian life. The overcoming-equals-faith view suggests that faith - not faithfulness - is the victory. All believers are overcomers the moment they believe. The very act of believing overcomes the world: 'Who is he who overvomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' (! John 5:5)...

The Eternal-Rewards View

[The expression in the Bible of overcoming is also used in another way in other passages - not referring to salvation but to rewards in heaven:

[Rev 2:5, 7b, 10]:

(v. 2:5a) "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works...

(v. 2:7b) To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

(v. 2:10) Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

(v. 2:26) And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I give power over the nations.

(v. 3:11) Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown

(v. 3:21) To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne"]

According to this view, genuine believers are in view and their salvation is not in question. Admittedly, some suggest that since churches sometimes contain unbelievers, then these seven letters may have been addressed to both believers and unbelievers. However, in a biblical sense churches never contain unbelievers. Churches are not buildings or social gatherings. Churches are assemblies of believers. since the Lord was writing to churches, He was writing exclusively to believers.

This is supported by the fact that in none of the seven letters do we find a Gospel appeal...

[Revelation 3:20 is not a Gospel appeal. It is addressed to Christians and is inviting them to have fellowship with Christ. the figure of opening the door is an illustration of the preceding verse. To 'open the door' we must 'be zealous and repent' That is, we must be zealous for good works and repent of our sinful attitudes and actions (cf. 3:15-18).]

...The word faith only occurs twice in these letters (Rev 2:13, 19) and in both cases it is affirming the fact that the readers already have faith, not calling them to believe. Surely if these seven letters were addressed to unbelievers, we would find repeated calls to trust in Christ. Instead, we find none.

There are several lines of evidence from the text of Rev 3:3-5 which support the eternal-rewards interpretation.

[Rev 3:3-5]:

(v. 3) " 'Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.

(v. 4) But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.

(v. 5) He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."

"I will come upon you as a thief" = ]

...Verse 3 is a warning: 'If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know the hour I will come upon you.' Calls to watchfulness in light of the Lord's imminent return as a thief are found in several other places in the NT. Salvation isn't in view in any of those places. Rather, they deal with the prospect of eternal rewards...

[Compare Mt 24:45-51; 25:1-13; and 1 Pet 5:1-11]

...In 1 Thess 5:10, a context dealing with Christ's return 'as a thief in the night' (5:2), Paul wrote '[Christ] died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should love together with Him.' In context 'waking' was used metaphorically to mean walking in the light, being sober, faithful, and loving.

["waking" = "gregoreo" same word translated as "watch" in Rev 3:3 & 1 Thess 5:6]

On the other hand, 'sleeping' meant to walk in the darkness, to be drunk, unfaithful, and unloving (1 Thess 5:4-8). [Compare Eph 5:1-17 esp. v.14] Paul was saying that all believers will be raptured, whether they are morally alert or asleep, when Christ returns for them. The believer who is morally asleep when Christ returns is not overcoming. Yet he will live together with Him as well!..."

"They are worthy" =

[Bob Wilken, cont.]:

"Verse 4 reads, 'You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy." The worthiness here is linked to the fact that these were believers 'who have not defiled their garments.' Clearly Jesus isn't praising them for using Tide on their togs! That is a figurative way of saying that there were a few who had not walked in disobedience. Compare Rev 22:14 and Jas 1:27 and Jude 23.

Walking with Christ in white garments must be seen as a reward. Otherwise Christ is teaching salvation by works here! We know from Jesus' teachings and from the entire Bible that no one but Christ is worthy to be in God's kingdom because of his or her deeds. We are only worthy to enter God's kingdom because we have trusted in the Worthy One. This is compelling proof that the issue here is not salvation, but rewards."

"He shall be clothed in white garments." =

[Bob Wilken, cont.]:

Verse 5 refers again to being clothed in white. The Lord makes it clear that the person in question is an overcomer. While some assume that all Christians will wear these white garments in the kingdom, this verse suggests that only overcoming believers, those who haven't defiled their garments (v. 4), will wear these garments in the kingdom.

This verse suggests that believers will not be clothed identically in the kingdom. Some will wear special white garments. These special garments will signify that the wearer is one who honored Christ until the end of his or her her Christian experience.

Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of what these glorious garments will be like. When Jesus was transfigured before them, 'His face shown like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light' (Matt 17:2). It may well be that the brightness of an overcomer's clothes will be proportional to how Christlike he or she was in this life (cf. 1 Pet 4:13).

"I will confess His Name" =

This is rewards language. Jesus will acknowledge faithful believers before the Father and before His angels. Compare Matt 10:32-33 and Luke 19:11-19. He will say 'Well done, food servant' (Luke 19:17). This is a reward that faithful believers will receive. It is not a condition of entrance into the kingdom...

"I won't blot out his name.." =

[Dr Wilken, cont.]

"Several things should be observed in relation to this expression. First, whatever it means, it can't contradict other Scripture or the clear meaning of the rest of the passage and of other Scripture.

Second, many read it as though it says, 'Her who doesn't overcome I will blot out his name...' It doesn't say that. It is important to note that this verse doesn't say anything about the fate of those who don't overcome. It certainly doesn't say that God will blot the non-overcomer's name out of the Book of Life. The focus here is on the overcomer, not on the non-overcomer.

If I said, 'All fathers are men,' that wouldn't mean that the opposite is true, that all men are fathers. There are men who aren't fathers. In the same way, the corollary to out verse is not true. God will not blot out the name of the non-overcoming believer from the Book of Life!

Once a person has spiritual life, it can never be taken away (cf John 10:28-29; 1 John 5:12).

Third, there is a well-established figure of speech called litotes or understatement. In this figure of speech a positive point is made by denying its opposite. For example, imagine that a loving, committed mother said to her teenage son, 'If you mow the yard today, I won't send you to bed without dinner.' Let's assume that the mother had previously guaranteed him that she would never send him to bed without supper. He would thus know that even if he didn't mow the yard, he would get dinner. His mom was promising him a special meal if he mowed the yard.

So, too, when the Lord says that He won't blot the name of the overcoming believer from the Book of Life, He means that He will give the overcomer a special fullness of life forever.

We know some of what this superlative experience will include: wearing special white garments (Rev 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev 2:17), and receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev 2:17). None of these things is equivalent to eternal salvation. None of these things is required for kingdom entrance. These are all rewards awaiting the overcoming believer.

We don't know all that is in store for the overcoming believer. But from what we are told in the seven letters, we know that it will be something no one will want to miss. William Fuller, who defends this understanding of Rev 3:5, writes, 'A command that everyone keeps is superfluous, and a reward that everyone receives for a virtue that everyone has is nonsense." The eternal-rewards interpretation takes the command seriously, views the reward as a powerful motivation to obedience, and doesn't distort the Gospel!

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ wants every believer to overcome the world by living a faithful Christian life until He returns or until death. He promises special rewards for the Christian who overcomes. Ghose Those rewards include a special fullness of life alluded to in the understatement, 'He who overcomes ... I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.'

Jesus said, 'I came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (John 10:10b). All believers have, and will forever have, life. Only overcoming believers have, and will forever have, life more abundantly. Paul echoed this same theme when he ended his letter to the Galatians with these words: 'And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart' (Gal 6:9)."

[Rev 2:11]:

"He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death"

No Small Problem

by Zane C. Hodges

http://www.faithalone.org/news/y1991/91march1.html

"If someone says to me, "His request presented me with no small problem," I know exactly what he means. The person who made the request of him had presented him a BIG problem!

In the phrase "no small problem" we have a very common figure of speech. Its technical name is "litotes" (pronounced, lie'-tuh-tease'). Litotes occurs when an affirmative idea is expressed by the negation of its opposite. In the sentence we started with, the affirmative idea is that the problem is very large. The phrase "no small problem" negates the opposite idea.

Americans use litotes all the time in ordinary speech without being aware of it.

Some additional examples might be:

"You won't go unrewarded" =

"You'll be repaid"

"That suit is no bargain" =

"It's expensive"

"The quiz wasn't any snap" =

"It was tough"

"He sure isn't Santa Claus" =

"He's a Scrooge"

The reader could probably multiply examples with ease.

One can also make highly generalized statements that involve litotes:

"Retailers are not saints" =

"They'll cheat you"

"Theologians are not given to simple language" =

"They're hard to follow"

"God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love" (Heb 6:10) = "God's character guarantees He will remember"

The secret of understanding any statement involving litotes is found in knowing that the negative idea is not the point. Since most English speakers are familiar with the fact that theologians are famous for complicated and difficult discussions, they also know that the claim that they "are not given to simple language" is a huge understatement!

In the final analysis, that is what litotes really is. A negative statement is made that understates the reality being referred to. To point to an enormous price tag on a suit and to say that the suit is "no bargain" is obviously a major understatement of the actual cost.

The Christian reader who encounters Revelation 2:11 ought to recognize it immediately as an understatement. No Christian can be "hurt by the second death." The many passages that teach eternal security make this clear. So Revelation 2:11 ought to be taken as a litotes.

What is the positive idea which it understates? Fortunately, the context helps us. In verse 10 we read: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." The Smyrnan Christians are challenged to face possible martyrdom with courage and fidelity to God. Their reward for doing so will be a superlative experience of life in the world to come. So to speak, they will be "crowned" with the enjoyment of life "more abundant" (see John 10:10).

In this light, Revelation 2:11 can be seen as truly an understatement. The overcomer (that is, the faithful Christian) will be more than amply repaid for whatever sacrifice he may make for Christ's sake. His experience will be truly wonderful--far, far beyond the reach--the touch--of the second death. That is to say, this conquering Christian is as far above the experience-level of eternal death as it is possible to be.

In a masterly understatement, the Lord Jesus says in effect: "The first death may 'hurt' you briefly, the second not at all!"

Revelation 2:11 is not a veiled threat that the unfaithful believer may forfeit eternal life. On the contrary, it is an effective litotes whose very vagueness stirs our imaginations and our hearts with anticipation. If we understand it like this, we could never say that this text creates "no small problem"! Actually, it is not a problem at all!"