When we come to the seven churches of the Revelation, our theological “sacred cow” will inevitably affect our interpretation. This is critical in regard to our identification of the “overcomer.” We will either see the “overcomer” through the lens of a Christ-centered theology, or we will view the “overcomer” in the light of a Christian-centered focus. Let’s not lose sight of the divinely inspired and Spirit-revealed theme of the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:1, 8). If we never deviate from this theme, we will do well! We need to look at the overcomers from a Christ-centered perspective, and not fall into the trap of becoming Christian-centered. The question that must be asked is, do we identify the “one who is an overcomer” based on his position in Christ, or based on his/her performance? One approach obviously fits with the central theme of the book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” while the other does not. The phrase, “him who overcomes” is repeated at the end of each message. In the Greek language, to nikonti is a present, active, participle, of the verb nikao (“to be a victor, to gain a victory,” Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament), in the dative case of advantage. It is used as a substantive, which acts as a noun, thus “to the one whose advantage it is to be an overcomer.”

All of this becomes too technical for most of us, so let’s look at how the word is used prior to the Revelation:
1. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Obviously, the victory of Christ applies to all believers.
2. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). The term could be translated “super–conquerors,” and is obviously used of all believers.
3. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). The context is victory over death and certain resurrection.
4. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). This obviously refers to our position in Christ by faith.
5. “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?” (1 John 5:4–5). Here, we have the only passage in the Bible that clearly defines who the overcomer is. Now we can move on to the message to the seven churches.

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