Wednesday 29 October 2014


Why do believers need to be overcomers? What will happen if they fail to overcome?

"Who wants to be an overcomer?" Almost everyone in a room filled with believers will probably raise their hands. But we cannot be deemed as overcomers unless there is something or somebody to overcome. Mention the fact that we need to overcome trials and tribulations and many will be just as quick to put down their hands.

James tells us that those who are steadfast in the faith amid trials will receive the crown of life.“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test hewill receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Why do you we need to be overcomers in these perilous end times? The reasons are obvious.

Firstly, believers will have to face persecution and deception during the period described as the ‘birth pangs’ or the ‘beginning of the end’ (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Secondly, believers will have to face the wrath of the antichrist in the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24: 15-28).

Letters to the Seven Churches

Let's now explore the theme of overcoming in the Letters to the Seven Churches. The theme of overcoming comes alive in the book of Revelation. Christians have to be overcomers in the last days before they can receive heavenly rewards.

Church at Ephesus: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). What did this church have to overcome? They have lost their first love and, therefore, have to repent.

Church at Smyrna: “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11). What did this church have to overcome? They will have to be steadfast in faith and overcome the tribulation inflicted upon them by the devil, including imprisonment and even death.

Church at Pergamum: “To him who overcomes I will 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” (Revelation 2:17). What did this church have to overcome? They will have to repent for embracing the false teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans.

Church at Thyatira: “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; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:26-28). What did this church have to overcome? They will have to repent for tolerating the false teaching of Jezebel that promotes immorality and idolatry.

                                                                                                                                                  Church at Sardis: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5). What did this church have to overcome? Though they have a semblance of life, in God’s eyes, they are spiritually dead. They would have to awaken from their spiritual slumber and strengthen what remains. 

Church at Philadelphia: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:10-12).

Notice that this is the ONLY church among the seven singled out for commendation and without any negative comments. (The church at Smyrna also did not receive any negative remarks).

So far they have patiently kept God’s word and not denied his name. They merely needed to hold fast to their position so that they will not lose their crown.

The crux of the matter is this: How can we keep the Word if we do not have a firm grasp of it? If we are not diligently feeding on the Word, it is likely that we will come under the deception of the false teachers, who have made inroads into churches such as those at Pergamum and Thyatiraand many modern-day churches.

In this respect, Paul’s warning becomes relevant: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). The implication from this verse is that failure to hold on to sound doctrine might cause believers to lose their salvation. This prospect of eternal damnation is a most horrifying scenario to contemplate.

Church at Laodicea: “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” (Revelation 3:21). This lukewarm church has been seduced by the world’s riches. Spiritually blind—thinking they are rich but, in fact, they are poor in God’s eyes—they will have to repent of their love for worldly things.

If it is not important for believers to be OVERCOMERS, why is this theme on overcoming repeatedly mentioned in each and every letter to the churches in Revelation?

By the way, when was the last time we heard a message over the pulpit that we are to be overcomers and the reasons why we need to overcome?

The Tribulation Saints

Believers will have face persecution and suffering during the Great Tribulation according to the following passages in Revelation.

In Revelation 7, we catch a glimpse of the scene in heaven after the rapture. A great multitude of people from every nation are assembled together after having endured the great tribulation. Clearly, they have not been spared from having to go through the great tribulation.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).

Notice, in the preceding chapter, the saints who cry out to God for deliverance from persecution are told be patient and endure ‘a little longer’ (Revelation 6:10-11).

The fact that believers will have to go through the great tribulation is further reinforced in the later chapters of Revelation. During the Great Tribulation the wrath of the Antichrist is unleashed upon believers. Only those who refuse to worship him or take the mark of the beast are considered overcomers; these will receive God’s reward. Notice that the cowardly are lumped together with the worse of sinners to be condemned.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:7-8).

Now what does the preceding passage in Revelation 21:7-8 tell us about the fate of those who fail to overcome? These are the ones who are lumped together with the worst of sinners. Did they merely lose their reward or, much worse, did they lose their salvation? I think it is not difficult to figure that out.

Jesus’ end time warning to endure

Persecutiondeception and falling away from the faith (apostasy) are some of the important signs of the end times Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24: 9-13).

It is implied by Jesus that if we fail to persevere, if we fall away because of persecution or become victims of deception, we will NOT be saved (Matthew 24:13). A most serious warning indeed. Only overcomers receive the prize.

It isn’t surprising that Jesus sounded the warning in Matthew 24 about standing firm in the faith—that believers have to be overcomers to be saved—reflecting the same overcoming theme in the Letters to the Seven Churches.

Why? This is because it is the same person who walks through Matthew 24 and Revelation. Jesus in Matthew 24 is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah in Revelation 5:5.

Aren't these two passages in Revelation 21:7-8 and Matthew 24: 9-13 referring to the dire consequences of not standing firm—that those who fail to overcome might lose their salvation?

Necessity for persevering faith

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the theme of overcoming is being reinforced. Believers need to persevere, endure and remain firm in the faith.

Paul puts it succinctly:
If we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us.
(2 Timothy 2:12)
1 Timothy 6:12

Hebrews highlights the fact that persevering faith is needed to remain saved:

But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Hebrews 10:38-39)

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ 
(Hebrews 3:12-14).

Jude reinforces the truth that persevering faith is needed:
"I wish to remind you, as you all know, that God, when once he had brought the people out from Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Instead of taking possession of the Promised Land after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, God’s chosen people fell.

If we still cannot accept the fact that we will be put to the test and that overcoming trials and tribulations are part and parcel of God’s plan for believers, then we just need to take a look at Jesus’ example. 

Before embarking on His ministry, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After having overcome various temptations, He set out to preach, heal the sick and set the captives free (Matthew 4:1-11).

Servants are not greater than their master. Even so, believers who are His servants cannot be exempted from trials and testings.

The fact that believers will have to experience tribulation is totally consistent with the teachings of the New Testament:

  • Paul exhorts the disciples to continue in the faith, saying that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

  • Paul writes that we “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3).

  • “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Luke 21: 12, 17).

There are probably two groups of believers for whom the theme of overcoming seems  irrelevant:

  • Adherents of hyper-grace because they believe that it all depends on God's grace. Once believers are saved their eternal destiny in heaven is forever assured based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.  * *

  • Adherents of pre-tribulation rapture who expect to be airlifted to safety before the Great Tribulation.

But for the rest of believers, this sober message that we have to be overcomers should have greater relevance.

‘Feel good’ teachings—such as hyper-grace and pre-tribulation rapture—paint a rosy picture for believers and that’s why they are popular. But such false teachings not only create a false sense of security but are totally inconsistent with the fact that believers have to be OVERCOMERS, a theme repeatedly stressed in the above passages in Matthew 24 and Revelation chapters 2, 3, 7, 20 and 21.

To be forewarned is to be prepared: We will have to face trials and tribulations. However, a close walk with the Master, empowering of the Spirit and faith in His promises will enable us to be overcomers. 

  • He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). 

  • And when we stand before our persecutors, we need not meditate beforehand how to answer them for the Spirit will give us the wisdom (Luke 21: 12-15).

  • “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Now what is the opposite of overcoming? It is giving up our faith or apostasy.

One of the reasons, I believe, for the great end time falling away is that believers are not prepared for the worst—they do not expect the magnitude and severity of the trials that will befall them. Neither have they been sufficiently enlightened on the need to be overcomers

Coupled with tribulation, persecution and deception, the result is a perfect recipe for the great end time apostasy (Matthew 24: 9-13, 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Highlighting an end time scenario where many believers fall away on account of tribulation, persecution or deception is highly disturbing. But this is the realistic, biblical view. 

 * *   The camp that overemphasises gracehyper-gracestates (in blue) that:

The truth is you are saved by grace and you are kept by grace. It’s grace from start to finish! Don’t let anyone frighten you into doing dead works, but rest secure in His finished work. Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it.

God has already forgiven all the future sins of believers and, as such, we should put the ‘sin issue’ behind us and banish ‘sin consciousness’ from our lives. So we no longer need to confess our sins. When God looks at us, all He is going to see is Christ’s blood, not our sins whether it is past, present or future. We merely rest in the "imputed righteousness of Christ".


Can believers rest in the security that we will be raptured before the Great Tribulation? Let us re-examine first-hand the passages on rapture.

A popular teaching tells us that Christians will not have to go through the Great Tribulation because they will be raptured first. But is such a 'pre-tribulation rapture' view valid? Is it true to say Christians will be airlifted to safety before the Great Tribulation begins?

Sometimes, we don’t like to admit that trials are an integral part of the Christian experience as much as blessings and victories. However, the process of growing into maturity involves learning to persevere through trials and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith.

Spiritual decline is characteristic of the end times we are now living in. Will believers be affected by this turning away from the faith?

Does “feel good” teaching prepare believers to face trials?


As believers, have we come to a point in our faith walk when we say to ourselves, “Thank you God for taking me as I am,” and then happily go on our way? After all, as some teachers say, believers always enjoy God’s unmerited favour—grace beyond measure—whatever we do or don't do. Does it mean then we don’t need to improve ourselves in areas such as self-discipline and character? Does it mean then that we need not strive for excellence? 

"I am afraid too many today are being lulled into thinking that when things get really bad, we as believers will be suddenly snatched out of it all ("the great snatch," the rapture is sometimes called). This is indeed poor preparation for what is yet to happen—and a serious misreading of the prophetic message."

How it is accelerating and how it relates to the return of Jesus.



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