Agonizomai: Rev 2:7 - Ephesus the Steadfast Church<br>The Way and Reward of Overcomers

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rev 2:7 - Ephesus the Steadfast Church
The Way and Reward of Overcomers

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Rev 2:7 He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

It sounds very much like we had better overcome by dint of our own effort or we will lose our salvation. Actually, it sounds even more like we had better overcome if we want salvation in the first place. The language is pretty clear. But sound hermeneutics says that Bible cannot contradict itself. And since there are numerous places in the Bible that speak of the eternal security of the believer we must not take this verse alone - but rather inquire as to what conquering means, and what it entails.

Well, here the Greek "nikao" speaks of the believer being steadfast in faith until the end. And it is true that only those who are steadfast until the end will be saved. But is this steadfastness their own? Are they able to boast that they withstood when others fell away? Or is something or someone else at work here? Take a look at the following verse:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." {Re 12:10-11}
The blood of the lamb is the freely given soul-cleansing, guilt removing life of Christ, imparted to His people. So they overcome not by dint of something they have "of themselves," but by something they were given freely. They overcome not by their own lives, but by the life of Christ in them. This life is communicated by the Holy Spirit to every true believer and He never leaves nor forsakes His Own.

But note also that they overcame by "the word of their testimony". What can this mean? It simply means that they declared what Christ had done in them. They declared what Christ had done for them - not what they were doing for Christ. And they did so (especially in the historical context of the Revelation of John) by holding steadfastly to their faith regardless of the external threats, tribulations and persecution that were stirred up by the enemy.

And so we hopefully see that those who conquer are those who God purposed and empowered to conquer. Some who seem strong may eventually prove to be not the real deal. Others who are weak may endure through their weakness. Because the certainty of salvation is received only through faith in what God has already done and imparted to His people, it requires that believers keep pressing onward and upward in Biblical hope of the sure and certain resurrection from the dead. The fruit of the indwelling spirit must be evident, and be increasing for assurance to be known.

So, all of our effort achieves nothing when we think it is in our power that we do it. But when we abide in the knowledge that God is at work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure because of the life of Christ given and actually imparted to us - then our eyes are always upon God and never upon ourselves. True religion does not deny personality, but it calls for the focus of every person to be upward and outward.

But if only those who conquer are granted to eat of the tree of life, how can they have the overcoming life in the first place? If the life depends on the evidence of the victory of faith - then where does the power to attain that victory come from? Well, the Tree of Life is, of course, Jesus - the second Person of the godhead. Life is in Him and is imparted to those who are His. He is at one and the same time the One who justifies the ungodly, the One who, by the Spirit, sanctifies those who are chosen and called - and the One Who glorifies them with Him forever. As life is in Him and, because He is eternal, then eternal life is also in Him. He is the tree in which we abide and from which we eat forever. We are the fruit of His branches, nurtured and eternally sustained by His eternal life.


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