Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, He overcame death and made it possible for us to become overcomers. As we come to the second chapter of Revelation, read about how you also can become overcomers. In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus Christ is addressing a group of churches.
These were very real churches that existed in some of the leading cities of Asia Minor in the first century. I believe that in the letters that are addressed to these churches, we can see lessons applicable to the churches today and to us as individuals. Look at some of the lessons that will be found in the letters to the churches of Asia Minor. Read Revelation chapter 2, as we will look into some thoughts on this chapter.
In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation there are letters written to seven different churches. I believe it is significant there there are seven churches selected. There were more churches than that in Asia Minor. Through the New Testament we have references to other churches in Asia that are not included here, but could well have been. But I believe that John intentionally chose seven churches and Jesus reveals to us His words to seven churches because the number seven itself is significant. It is used fifty-four times in the book of Revelation. It is a symbol of completeness. I believe that we are seeing here an evidence of Jesus’ attempt to convey to us the idea that these words are for all the churches of all times.
The message was addressed to specific problems that existed in each of these seven churches then, but I believe they are typical of the kinds of problems that are to be found in churches throughout the ages.
Certainly, while these letters were addressed to churches in the first century in one part of the world, the message is clearly for all of us, because at the conclusion of each of these letters, it is said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:17). So, if you have an ear then you are to hear this! Jesus wants you to get the message that is being spoken to these churches for it is also a message being spoken to us today.
As we look at these churches, one thing we notice immediately is that there is no particular ecclesiastical hierarchy indicated in these letters to the churches. They each stand alone. The are autonomous churches. There is no evidence of any kind of organization linking them together. The thing that ties these churches together is submission to the Spirit of God, not some human hierarchy.
The Spirit who regulated each one of them regulated all of them. I believe it is also significant that while there are those today who say we ought to hear the church, that is not what Revelation is saying to us. It is saying, “ Let us hear what the Spirit says to the church.”
The church has no authority to make laws. The church is a body that receives the message of the Spirit of God, a message that has long ago been revealed, and it is our responsibility as a church today to hear the message of the Spirit. If every church on the face of this earth would permit itself to hear what the Spirit says to the churches we would all be doing the same things, we would be speaking the same things, and practicing the same things. Religious division would not exist. We are to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
As we look now at these churches we do not have the time to look at every detail about all that was said to each of them. However, we want to look at certain teachings that seem to be presented as of special importance. I believe these can be seen in certain expressions that are given by the Lord to each one of these seven churches. The first of these is, “I Know.&rdquo Seven times to the seven churches Jesus said, “I know.” “I know your works” (2:2). “I know your tribulations” (2:9). “I know where you dwell” (2:13). Jesus was saying to them, “I know all about you. You are my people. I know you like I know the palm of my hand. I am well aware of your circumstances,” and that should be reassuring to all of us that Jesus knows and Jesus cares. In some cases, as we see these expressions of “I know,” Jesus is saying, “know the things you are doing that you should not be doing.” That may be a bit scary, but He also says, “I know your patience. I know your love. I know your works.” He knows all about us. He understands. He knows our tribulations. He knows about where we are. He said, “I know where you dwell.” “I know where you are.” Jesus knows. He understands.
The second expression that is used to every one of these churches is, “He that overcomes.” There are several things he says about those who overcome. He says, for example, “To him that overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (2:7). “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (2:11). “To him who overcomes I give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (2:17). “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces’—I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star” (2:26–28).
Even if we do not understand for sure what some of these details mean, the basic picture is clear, Jesus is saying to those that overcome, “I shall give My reward. I shall extend My blessings to them that overcome.” Those who overcome are explained to us in Revelation 2:26 as those that keep His words to the end. That is what overcoming means. Those people who keep the commandments of Jesus are overcomers, the ones who have the victory. So we need to give attention to what Jesus teaches and what He commands because those who keep these things to the end are the ones who overcome, and over those, Jesus says, “The second death will have no power.” And we need not be uncertain about what He means here because later on near the end of Revelation, He reveals to us that the second death means the lake of fire and brimstone. In other words, the second death is hell and those who overcome will never experience hell.
Those who overcome will escape the second death which is separation from God. We are all going to experience the first death unless Jesus should come first. We will all experience that separation of body and soul that we think of as death; but those who overcome will not experience that second separation, which is the separation from God Himself.
Those who overcome will be given the hidden manna. I believe that refers to Jesus Christ Himself because in John 6:35, Jesus speak of Himself as the bread of life, comparing Himself to the manna which was given to the people of Israel as they
wandered in the wilderness. Here, Jesus is saying, “He is the hidden manna.” He is hidden from the world because the world does not accept Him, but He is not hidden for those who do accept Him. Jesus is saying, in essence, “If you partake of me then you will never hunger.”
Jesus also said, “I will give him a white stone.” This is for the overcomers, too, and on the stone is a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. I believe Jesus is saying the same thing He is when He speaks of giving the hidden manna. Giving a white stone is saying in another way, “I am giving you Myself,” because on the stone a new name is written and in the Bible when you have that expression the new name is referring to Jesus.
The expression, “which no one knows but he that receives it,” is to say again that the world does not know Jesus. Jesus said the world does not know Me, but My sheep know My voice. They know Me, and those who overcome the world are the ones who have Jesus in their lives. Then, in I John 5:4–5, John said: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” These are the overcomers, those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who keep His word. Jesus said to those who were His, in John 14 through 16 when He was speaking to His disciples, “I come to you,” Jesus comes to those who are His people with comfort, with strength that they need. He is the one who provides for our well–being.
But Jesus also says that to the one who overcomes, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Revelations 2:26). I would like you to look more carefully at this scripture. Jesus said, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power [authority] over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces’—as I also have received from My Father and I will give him the morning star.”
We have pointed out that those who are God's people rule and reign with Him now. I think one of the most tragic conceptions that has dominated the thinking of modern religion is the idea
that someday Jesus is going to come back to earth and set up a throne over Jerusalem and He is going to reign over the nations here on earth for a thousand years and we are going to be over there reigning with Him. I believe that is just as serious a misconception of what Revelation is talking about as was the Jew’s conception of the Messiah who came the first time.
The Jews, taking the Old Testament prophecies in the same light that many modern religionists take the prophecies of Revelation, assumed that Jesus, when He came the first time, was going to set up a throne in Jerusalem and that He was going to reign literally as a political leader among the nations of the earth and literally drive out the Roman occupation armies from Palestine.
It is the same misunderstanding of the nature of prophecy that has caused many today to make the mistake the Jews made and think Jesus is going to come back to earth and set up some kind of a political empire. This is not the case at all. The fact is Jesus is already reigning in His kingdom, and those prophecies that are dealing with the kingdom are prophecies dealing with God’s church or, ultimately, heaven itself, the eternal kingdom. And in Revelation 1, Jesus is spoken of as the ruler (present tense) of the kings of the earth. Revelation 1:5–6 says, “... To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”
We are a kingdom of kings. We are a royal priesthood. We reign right now. In Romans 5, we read that God’s people are right now involved in a reign here on earth. It is already happening. We share in the reign of Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:17, Paul said, ”For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
We reign now, in life, through Jesus Christ. We share in His reign and I think that is exactly what Jesus was saying in Revelation 2:26–27, when He said to the one who overcomes: “to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter’s vessels shall be broken to pieces’—as I also have received from My Father.” Jesus said,
“I also received (past tense) from My Father.” In other words, “I have already received authority and dominion over the nations and to him that overcomes I shall give the same authority and he shall reign with Me here on this earth.”
You say, “I do not see myself as a king reigning over some country here on earth—where's my kingdom?” Where is it? You are reigning over your own spirit, are you not? What is more important, that you should be able to rule your own spirit or that you should be able to rule over some country? You think about it. In the Old Testament there is a beautiful proverb that ought to put things in better perspective for us. Proverbs 16:32 says: "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
There are too many carnal–minded people who, when they think of reigning and ruling, think of some kind of a political empire and some power over other people. God wants you to have power over your own passions. He wants you to learn to control your life. He wants you to be able to overcome those bad habits and the man who is able to rule his spirit is greater, the scripture says, than he that rules a city. And surely he is greater than one who rules a whole nation. If we have the mind of Christ and if we have any spiritual discernment at all, we ought to be able to see that what Jesus is trying to create is a people for His own possession, a people who are a holy nation, a royal priesthood. He wants a holy people. He does not necessarily want people with political power.
He wants you to learn to control and to rule and reign in your own life, in your own heart, and you can do that through His power. I believe what we are seeing is that we do reign in this life. But if we see the battle of Revelation and we start thinking about one country going to war against some other country, we have missed what Revelation is all about.
If we are so materially–minded and carnally–minded that we can only think in terms of world politics, then we have missed what Jesus came to this world to do. He wants to create a people who are holy and righteous and that is what He is trying to accomplish in this world. When we read of the battles in Revelation we are not seeing prophecies about what is going to happen to Israel and Egypt and Lebanon and Syria or any
other country. Nor are we to watch the newspapers against the background of Revelation to see the significance of the movement of troops into some nation.
That is not what Revelation is talking about. It is talking about something definitely more profound and eternal than that. It is talking about the souls of men. It is talking about the conflict between God and Satan, between goodness and evil. It is talking about the battle for the minds of men. It is talking about the battle where Satan is overcoming so many people, causing them to live lives of slavery to sin. But God wants us to rule our passions, to rule our lives, to have dominion over ourselves. He wants to give us the power to overcome the world and you do not overcome the world by going out with a sword and defeating some great impressive power. You overcome the world by being able to look Satan in the eye and say, “I will not do what you want me to do because Jesus is my Lord.” That is the man who is the overcomer.
Remember, Jesus said when He came out of the grave, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). What was the authority to be used for? Was to to drive out the Romans? Or was it in some future age, two thousand years later, to drive some other country out of some place? That is not what His authority and power in heaven and on earth is for. It is to take men and to make them disciples and so, on the basis of His authority as King of kings and Lord of lords, He says to His people, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” You are going to rule them with a rod of iron. How? By allowing Jesus to control and dominate the lives of the people; by letting Him be the Lord, by letting Him be Master of their lives; by not letting Satan have dominion anymore. so you go and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
These are the overcomers. These are the ones who shall have a part in the tree of life in the paradise of God. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus, “... when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus already
reigns. Hebrews 1:13 says, “But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?&rsquo ” Jesus is reigning while He is sitting on the throne. His sitting on the throne is co–extensive with His reign over His enemies, but so it is with Christians.
Look now and compare that with Ephesians 2:4–6. I want you to see the part the Christian has in all of this. Paul said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace your have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
We sit with Christ in the heavenly places. That is present tense. He has done that for us. He said that we reign with Him here on earth, and so as we sit with Him on the throne, we too share in His reign “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). That all fits with Revelation 5:9–10, where in heaven itself: “... they sang a new song saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals, for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on earth.’ ”
In Ephesians 1:19–23, Paul speaks of what God says about Jesus, “... what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” What this really is saying is that God put all things in subjection under the feet of Jesus and gave Jesus to be head over all things for the benefit of the church because the church is God's kingdom and we are his people. We share with Him in His reign and in His rule today. When we overcome Satan in this life, I do not care if you are in prison. I do not care if you are bound in chains,
you have overcome if you are able to say to Satan, “I will not yield to your temptations.” You have been able to show that Jesus reigns in your life and you share with Him in that reign and dominion over Satan. Sin has no more dominion over you, for you have been bought with a price and you glorify God therefore in your body. I want us to understand that Jesus Christ is providing for us now, in this time, the power to overcome, the power to rule, the power to one day be able to enjoy the presence of Jesus forever.
Finally, Jesus says to the one who overcomes, “I will give him the morning star.” The beautiful part about that is that in Revelation 22:16, He says, “I am ... the Bright and Morning Star.” “I am giving you Myself,” and what greater blessing could we ever want than that. Jesus Himself will come and live in us and reign in us and bless our lives. Let us never think of ourselves as mere slaves and servants and ones who are put down, but let us hold our heads high because Jesus has given to us authority and power and dominion over sin and over Satan so that we can reign, not only now, but forever, and share in the reign of Jesus Christ.
If you are not a Christian, then you are overlooking something that is missing in your life because Jesus wants you to have this power to overcome. So, He says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). That is for you: blessing now, in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life with the Father. If you believe in Jesus, why will you not repent of your sins, confess your faith in Him, be baptized into Christ, and begin a new life with Him?