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What is an Overcomer?

The Bible sounds a definite call to God’s people to overcome a multitude of things: Satan, sin, the world, the flesh, and the fallen human life. Those who love the Lord Jesus sense a corresponding echo within, calling them to live an overcoming life. In order to live the life of an overcomer and be rewarded as an overcomer by Christ at His second coming (Rev. 22:12), we must first know what the Bible calls an overcomer.

The first qualification of an overcomer is faith. First John 5:5 asks, “Who is he who overcomes the world except him who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Belief in Christ is the initial, most fundamental component of overcoming. In 1 John the apostle John linked overcoming with faith because he was battling false teachings that denied a central point of the faith—the deity of Jesus. Therefore, to overcome the tide of heresy, one must first believe in Christ’s divinity by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. This faith thus becomes the basis, the foundation, of an overcoming life. Nevertheless, simply believing does not guarantee that at the end of our life’s journey we will receive an overcomer’s reward. While all overcomers are believers, not all believers, though they are eternally saved, will be overcomers. Believing is only the initiation into the overcoming life.

Following this initial step of believing is the Lord’s lifelong call to all His believers to live and serve Him faithfully that they may be qualified to receive the overcomer’s reward. Every believer receives eternal life as a gift (Rom. 6:23) through faith, not by works (Eph. 2:8). However, in Revelation 2 and 3 there is a further call to the churches for overcomers with the promise of a reward for faithfulness. This is the same reward promised in 1 Corinthians 3:14 to the believers whose life and work passes through the testing fire at the coming judgment seat of Christ (v. 15, 2 Cor. 5:10). First Corinthians 3:15 tells us a believer can still be saved, yet suffer the loss of this reward. He forever keeps the free gift of God, eternal life (John 10:28), but he may lose the prize Paul spoke of in Philippians 3:14: “I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has called me upward.” This prize is the wedding feast of the Lamb with His overcoming believers (Rev. 19:7, 9), who will rule and reign with Christ in His heavenly kingdom for a thousand years.

Since the call for overcomers in Revelation 2 and 3 is to the churches, it is obviously a call to those who have taken the first step of believing. Such a call from Christ to His believers was necessary because the condition of the church had already degraded by the end of the first century.

The hope of our calling—actually, God’s hope in calling each of us—is that all His believers would also be overcomers, those who love Him supremely and daily choose to live by Him and unto Him. Romans 5:17 promises, “Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” May the Lord gain our loving response to His call for overcomers.

For further reading on this subject, please see footnotes for Revelation 2 and 3 in the New Testament Recovery Version; The Overcomers by Witness Lee; and God’s Overcomers and The Overcoming Life by Watchman Nee, all published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 25, May 2000

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