Q. I’m unclear on a phrase that appears in all the letters in Rev. 2-3 and that is, “He who overcomes” I want to understand this more fully. What do I need to overcome, or is it because I believe and am saved that I already am an over comer?
A. The current focus in some circles on being an over comer has a definite air of works about it. It comes from the fact that the word is mentioned in each of the seven letters of Rev. 2-3 in connection with a promise of blessing. But in each case the over comer is one who successfully either avoids the criticism the Lord has for the particular church or heeds His exhortation to remain faithful. In other words, the over comer in each letter is the one who stays true to the simplicity of the Gospel, that we’re saved by grace through faith, neither adding to nor subtracting from it.
This is confirmed by John in his first letter to the Church, and reinforces the idea that we’re saved because of what we believe, not because of how we behave.
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
In John 16:33 the Lord said that we would face trials in this world but to take heart because He has overcome the world. He wasn’t asking us to do it, but to keep the faith because He already has.