Who Are the Overcomers (Conquerors) in Revelation Chapter 2?
Just as the Assemblies/Churches in Revelations 2 and 3 are in a prophetic sequence so too are the overcomers. Each new description adds to the blessings of the previous overcomers according to the particular situation they are enduring. For example, the reward of the overcomer in Ephesus, the first Church, is appropriate for every believer. So, all overcomers begin with that blessing, but additional blessings are added according to their particular trial. We will look at each assembly/church in order. Since many of the conditions of these seven Churches continue to the present day, the lessons are potentially applicable to us all.1
To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7b)
In many ways, the Church at Ephesus was an ideal Church. The messenger2 identified only one outstanding problem: “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” or, as the KJV has it, “first love.” As simple as this may sound it is a fatal lack, a failure from which all other failures may derive. We must realize this is not just a loss of enthusiasm for the gospel or what might be a felt affection for Christ. The Lord associates love with keeping His commandments. (Jn. 14:15) So, true faithfulness to the revealed Word of God is what is entailed in this love. This is emphasized by the warning that the Lord would remove their “lampstand” [i.e., testimony] unless they repented. (v. 5)
It is sad, even shocking, that even while the apostles were still active evil teachers were coming into the Church. (Acts 20:28–31) Some would corrupt the gospel with legal/Judaistic practices (Acts 15:1; Gal. 1:6, etc.), some would deny the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Tim. 2:17), the apostle John warned against deniers of the Person of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1, etc.), and Jude gives a long list of warnings in his epistle.
What is remarkable about the blessing for the overcomer in Ephesus is its general character. The “tree of life” is a symbol of Christ as the Source and Sustainer of Eternal Life. So, the blessing refers to all that Christ is to the believer. Thus, the overcomer here is a true disciple, one who has eternal life. This suggests that as we proceed through the Churches that the overcomers are all believers. Of course, this does not mean that every believer in the subsequent Churches is an overcomer. This is consistent with the fact that the warning to Ephesus is the removal of the light of testimony. Ephesus is the baseline for all Church testimony.
The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. (Rev. 2:11b)
The remarkable feature of the Church at Smyrna is that nothing negative is mentioned. This is the Church under intense persecution. The danger for them is to become discouraged under the onslaught of the enemy. So, they are encouraged by the simple promise that whatever may be their lot in this life—to live or die—the life they have in Christ is absolutely secure.
To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Rev. 2:17b)
The condition at Pergamos is almost the opposite of that of Smyrna. Here is a Church that when free from the pressure of persecution it settles down in the world. (Rev. 2:13) It accommodates itself with its programs. It has become political.
Consequently, the overcomer is one who resists the pressure to follow along with the worldly principles permeating the mass of professed believers. Unlike the Church at Smyrna, there is a definite question whether the mass of professed believers are true or not. The parable of the Lord in Matthew 13:33 relates to this tendency of evil doctrine to permeate and ruin the Church’s teaching.
So, here the “white stone” of divine approval is offered in contrast to the advantages which social, financial, and political alliances with the world would provide. The “hidden manna” is that manna that was “hidden” in the arc for transport into the promised land. The significance is that as Christians we are now spiritually in the promised land. As the apostle Paul writes we are “raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1) and seated in “heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). So, in contrast to worldly advantage the overcomer finds his resource in the knowledge of heavenly things. Eternal blessings in Christ are his food. Thus, the overcomer can be a faithful witness of God’s present grace to sinners and the judgment to come.
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (Rev. 2:26–28)
This Church represents a further decline that began with Pergamos. The striking feature is the allowance of Jezebel, “who calls herself a prophetess”. (v. 20) In spite of the many good works recognized by the Lord, the judgment proclaimed is severe. (v. 22–23) It must be remembered how sexual immorality is used in messages by the Old Testament prophets to condemn idolatry and political alliances (Judges 2:17, Ezekiel 16:31–33, Hosea 1:2). These are essentially spiritual infidelity. The reference to “great tribulation” (v. 22) strongly suggests a connection to “Babylon the great” of Revelation 17 and 18. This connection is also consistent with the blessing to the overcomer.
It is singularly significant that the blessing to the overcomer has a strong political sense. So, the overcomer is promised that the actual time to reign is with the Lord when He rules the “nations” with “a rod of iron.” The mention of the “morning star” also identifies an event prior to the coming of the Lord in judgment. (Compare 2 Pet. 1:19 with Mal. 4:1–2 and Rev. 19:11–21)
In the next post, we will consider the overcomers in Revelation chapter 3.
2. The word “angel” (Gk. aggelos, Strongs 32) is “a messenger; especially an ‘angel’”. Thus, could refer to one such as a pastor, teacher, prophet, etc. which brings the message to the Church.