Who are the overcomers (conquerors) in Revelation Chapter 3?
In a previous post, we looked at the overcomers (conquerors) in chapter 2.
The differences in reward for the overcomers relate to the challenges they face. So, we will continue to look at each assembly/church in order. Since many of the conditions of these seven Churches continue down to the present day, the lessons are potentially applicable to us all.1
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Rev. 3:5)
This Church has a “reputation of being alive.” (Rev. 3:1) Yet, there is a failure to carry through with the spiritual blessing that they evidently have acquired. (Rev. 3:3) This Church must be seen as a revival in comparison to Thyatira where, although there were “good works”, they allowed the corrupting influence of “Jezebel.” Yet, there seems to be a failure in Sardis to proclaim a clear gospel free of errors described in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.
As a consequence, the overcomer here received the promise from the Lord that He “will never blot his name out of the book of life.” There is also the promise of acceptance represented by the “white garments.” This stands in opposition to any inadequate doctrine in Sardis which might have raised doubt about the sanctification of a believer. So, the message to Sardis includes the warning “I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (v. 2)
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (Rev. 3:12)
The description of Philadelphia also seems to represent a revival relative to the earlier Churches because it is described in a way that is largely free of negative characteristics. It receives the most positive of all the messages. Yet, there is one very significant warning: “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” (v. 11) What is it that they have to hold onto that is so critical?
I believe the answer is in verse 8: “you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” There are two things to notice here. First, the “word” is distinct and special in comparison to “words” or “commandments.” We see this in John 14:15–24 where the Lord Jesus speaks of “my words”, “my commandments”, and “my word.” The emphasis is on the word as a whole taken personally to edify one’s own soul. This is in contrast to creeds or teachings which may have an important purpose in themselves, as in a case of a word of encouragement. But, “my word” would refer to all of what the Spirit would make good to us from whatever portion of the written word we study. All is to be recognized as “breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16) and profitable. All of the Word is for us even though it may not be to us. Context and the nature of the passage must be respected. (2 Tim. 2:14–16)
Second, the Philadelphian has also “not denied my Name” and has kept the “word of my patience (KJV).” Thus, the first challenge is to uphold all of Christ’s glory. For example, is He practically “Lord and Master?” Is He honored as the “Head of the Church?” (Col. 1:18) Secondly, are we in fellowship with Him as He waits patiently to receive the Church to Himself as His bride? These all connect with the commendation given to the overcomer/conqueror.
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:21)
This is the final stage of spiritual decline which began with Pergamos and developed in Thyatira. The recovery of Sardis and Philadelphia only served to deepen the responsibility of the final and fatal departure from “first love.” It is profoundly sad to read “I will spit you out.” (Rev. 3:16b) This reminds us of the warning to Ephesus, “I will … remove your lampstand.” (Rev. 2:5) This could be an individual Church or a wider fellowship or even the entire Christian testimony. In the last case, this is the final end to the Church that began so gloriously on Pentecost. (Acts 2:41, etc.) The Laodicean Church[a][b] in the pride of supposed riches (v. 17) has established herself as a great world religion in the very place where her Lord was crucified and had created for herself a “throne” (1 Cor. 4:8) where Satan’s throne is. (Rev. 2:13)
If it is the general Christian testimony that has failed, the conquerors, those who overcome—those who reject this corrupt system—are given another throne. That throne is the Lord’s throne which He will occupy during His reign over the earth. His saints will be granted to sit with him on that throne. (Rev. 5:10; 20:4) The grandeur of that throne is emphasized by the words to the overcomer that it is comparable to the Lord’s own overcoming and being granted the right to sit as the Son of Man on the Father’s throne. (Jn. 17:5) Perhaps we also see a picture of this in the twenty-four elders who sit around the one central divine throne. (Rev. 4:4)