OVERCOMES denotes one who gains the victory, or is a conqueror (cf. Revelation 5:5 6:2 11:7 12:11 13:7 15:2 17:14 21:7). In John’s theology, the believer in Christ overcomes the evil one and the world under his control because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:3; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4; Revelation 17:14). The believer is a conqueror in fighting the good fight of faith, against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And since the Christian life is a battle, it must be a victory for the present and eternity. Overcomes also implies a continuous steadfast faith, an uncorrupted life, a faithful testimony of Jesus, and a life build on the foundation of sound doctrine; of such is the victorious life. Paul uses a similar image (1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 2:5) but not the same as John’s phrase, except for Romans 12:21.
All readers and hearers should understand the multiple promises to overcomers as different facets that combine to make up one great promise to true and faithful believers.
FIRST (2:7). “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” The tree of life is the symbol of eternal life. The tree is seen in Eden and in the New Jerusalem. It is frequently spoken of by the rabbis as the immortality of the soul and a final state of blessedness. The first man lost immortality and Paradise but the second man from heaven has regained them for the redeemed of the human race.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. In addition, the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14).
The tree of life and the water of life go together, both implying living with God eternally. Paradise was originally used of Eden; then the temporary abode of separate souls in bliss (Luke 23:43); and then “the Paradise of God,” the third heaven, the immediate presence of God (2 Corinthians 12:4).
SECOND (2:11). “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” The punishment of Hell is often called the second death, not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but because death is the most fearful thing of which we have any knowledge, and because there is a striking similarity between death and future punishment. To die the second death is the eternal damnation of soul and body, which are sent from the Great White Throne Judgment throne into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:6, 14; 21:8). The second death is separation from God and His glory. It is not annihilation.
THIRD (2:17). “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
HIDDEN MANNA. Jewish tradition holds that the Ark of the Covenant, the tables of stone, Aaron’s rod, the holy anointing oil, and the pot of manna, were hidden by King Josiah when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians; and that these shall all be restored in the days of the Messiah. As the manna hidden in a jar in the ark was by divine power preserved from corruption (Exodus 16:33; Hebrews 9:4) so will the believer be preserved in a glorified body. Some hold that hidden manna denotes the true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul.
WHITE STONES were known to the ancients as victory stones. Also in ancient times, they meant pardon and the evidence of it. Judges had white and black stones. If a black one was given the criminal, he was condemned; if a white stone, he would be pardoned. Conquerors in the public games were also given white stones with their names on them, which entitled them to be supported the rest of their lives at public expense. Perhaps all three things are meant by the white stone to the overcomer. White is the color of righteousness.
A NEW NAME is promised to overcomers. Name represents one’s character and new implies something altogether renewed. To name something in the ancient world showed ownership and every born again believer is owned by God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The overcomer is the person who is taken into an intimate state of friendship with Christ. Therefore, a name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received it in friendship. Thus, a white stone with a new name written on it indicates a new relationship along with new hopes and triumphs.
All conjectures concerning this new name are idle (cf. Revelation 3:12). It is only given to those who had finally overcome and cannot be known to us here, but implies their new relation to God and the Lamb in their triumphant state. Jacob was the first to obtain a new name as an overcomer.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28).
FOURTH (2:26-29). “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.”
Four things promised for overcoming:
1. Authority over the nations
2. Rule over the nations with an iron scepter
3. Crushing all resistance of nations
4. The morning star
The overcomers will share in Christ’s victory over His enemies (Revelation 1:6; 12:5; 19:15). It is not said that the overcomer will have exclusive power over the nations. Some will hold offices of trust under Christ during His personal reign on the earth. Yet, every overcomer will be associated with Him in the glory of His reign (cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 19:17; Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; and 2 Timothy 2:12).
Christ promises the overcomers they will share in what is ordained for Him:
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Psalms 2:7-9).
All nations shall be broken in pieces and come under the rule of Christ (cf. Daniel 2:34-35). The iron scepter indicates rigorous, righteous rule, which is not of a harsh and tyrannical sway, but with power that is firm and invincible.
The Morning Star is one of the titles of Christ (Revelation 22:16). This means that Christ will give the overcomers fellowship with Himself. The overcomer will share in the fulfillment of the prophecy of Balaam:
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth (Numbers 24:17).
FIFTH (3:5). “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
“Dressed in white” denotes the clothes of the redeemed (Revelation 3:4-5, 18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13; 15:6; 19:14). “Like them” refers to the unsoiled clothes of the righteous (3:4). Without the proper garments, no one enters into the kingdom of heaven.
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-13).
Assurance depends upon perseverance. This is not an idle threat by Christ. The psalmist by the Holy Spirit prayed that God would blot out names from the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28). In Revelation 22:18-19, Christ again threatens to take the names of people out of the Book of Life if they take anything away from the words of the book of this prophecy.
A register was kept in ancient cities of their citizens: the names of the dead were of course erased. Those who forsake their first love, become lukewarm, and die spiritually will have their names erased. No one enters into eternal life without their name in this book (Revelation 13:8; 17:8: 20:12, 15: 21:27: 22:19). Christ promises to keep the names in this book of anyone who will obey the commands of Revelation 3:2-3.
Jesus will acknowledge those believers because they acknowledge Him:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32).
I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God (Luke 12:18).
SIXTH (3:12). Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
A pillar is used figuratively of stability and authority, as in Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15. Temple of my God refers to the eternal household of the redeemed (Ephesians 2:19-22) since there shall be “no temple” in the heavenly city (Revelation 21:22). Now eternal security vests to the overcomer: “Never again will he leave it.” He shall be permanent as a part of the eternal, spiritual temple.
When one enters the Church, the spiritual temple below, three names are declared in his baptismal formula. When one enters the kingdom above, three names are again written upon him; the name of God, the name of the heavenly city, and Christ’s heavenly name.
As the name of Yahweh (“Holiness to the LORD”) was on the golden plate on the high priest’s forehead (Exodus 28:36-38); so the saints in their heavenly royal priesthood shall bear His name openly, as consecrated to Him.
SEVENTH (3:21). “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Two thrones are here mentioned.
First, His Father’s throne, upon which He now sits, and has sat since His ascension, after His victory over death, sin, the world; upon this none can sit save God, and the God-man Christ Jesus, for it is the incommunicable prerogative of God alone (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; 13:36; Luke 10:42; Acts 2:34; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1).
Second, the throne, which shall be peculiarly His as the Son of Man and Son of David to be set up over the whole earth at His coming again; in this the victorious saints, shall share (cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Corinthians 6:2). James and John took this hope and promise literally, not metaphorically (Mark 10:40).
Seventeen Promises to the Overcomer
1. The tree of life (2:7)
2. The crown of life (2:10; 3:11)
3. Escape the second death, that is the Lake of Fire (2:11; 20:14)
4. The hidden manna (2:17)
5. A white stone and a new name (2:17)
6. Authority over the nations (2:26-27)
7. Crushing of nations (2:27)
8. The Morning Star (2:28)
9. Walk with Christ in white (3:4-5)
10. Name eternally in the book of life (3:5; 22:18-19)
11. Confession of name before God (3:5)
12. A pillar in God’s temple (3:12)
13. Eternal abiding with God (3:12)
14. God’s name upon him (3:12)
15. Name of the New Jerusalem upon him (3:12)
16. New name of Christ upon him (3:12)
17. Eternal throne and kingdom (3:21; 1:6; 5:10; 11:15; 22:4-5)