What does it mean to overcome?

As Jesus completed His letter to the Church of Ephesus, He promised two blessings if they overcame the forces that would compel them to deny His name:

a. They would eat from the Tree of Life:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God

b. The second death would not hurt them:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death (Rev 2: 7 & 11)

Nikaō is the Greek word used for overcome in the text. Its usage indicates that it means to:

  • overcome an enemy in a battle and win – Luke 11: 22
  • Overcome in tribulation –  Jn 16: 33
  • believe God’s word – Rom 3: 4
  • overcome evil with good – Rom 12: 21
  • Overcome the wicked one –  1 Jn 2: 3, 4
  • Overcome the world system – 1 Jn 4: 4; 1 Jn 5: 4 & 5

Nikaō comes from the Greek word nikē, which is used once in the KJV of the bible.  Nikē carries the meaning of overcoming the world system by faith:

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory (nikē),that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 John 5 : 4)

Historical context of the persecution of Christians

In order to fully understand Jesus’ message about overcoming, we need to briefly explore the historical context of the persecution of Christians during the time of the Book of Revelation.  Apostle John lived during the time of the Roman Empire which exercised great opposition against the church beginning from the time of Emperor Nero.

Christians were asked to deny the faith, offer incense to gods, worship the image of the Emperor and to revile the Lord. Those who refused would be tortured.

Apostle Paul explored the nature of the persecution against Christians by this beast of  Daniel 7: 7-8 & 8: 8-12:

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Heb 11:35-40)

Miller (1980) confirmed the nature of the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. He added that under Emperor Nero, for example, they were wrapped in combustible material and set on fire to form torches in the Emperor’s gardens and other public locations.  

Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna  about AD 155 for refusing to blaspheme the name of the Lord. He was the apprentice of Apostle John.

The Lord therefore offered His two valuable and indestructible rewards to those believers who would choose to die for His name rather than temporarily prolong earthly existence on earth:

  • they would  eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God
  • He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death

The Lord asked me to remind us about the saints who are persecuted unto death in antagonistic nations today. They will indeed receive those two precious rewards. Let us also remain faithful. We have not suffered in this manner for the sake of the gospel, so we must outstrip them in faithfulness in order to inherit the everlasting existence promised to all who overcome.

Reference

Miller Andrew (1980) Miller’s Church History USA: Bible Truth Publishers

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