Question: Can you explain what is meant in Revelation 2:17. Who are the “overcomers” and what and how do they “overcome?”
Answer: Each of the Seven Churches in the book of Revelation are given the admonition to “overcome.” Ephesus in 2:7, Smyrna in 2:11, Pergamos in 2:17, Thyatira in 2:26, Sardis in 3:5, Philadelphia in 3:12, and Laodicea in 3:21. Also, the word “overcometh” is also used in Revelation 21:7. Those who “over-come” are in two separate categories. “Overcomers” are those in reference to salvation; as well as those who are “overcomers” by serving the Lord and not the flesh. According to the context, it may be applied to either salvation or service. In some places it is easy to distinguish between the two; and, in some, it is not.
For an example, let us look at Revelation 21:7.
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
“Overcomer” here would be concerning salvation, as only a saved person is a son of God.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” - John 1:12
The word usage of “overcometh” concerning salvation is explained in 1 John 5:4,5.
“For whatsoever is born of God (This is the new birth in John 3:3.) overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (4) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” (5)
It would appear, in speaking about the church at Smyrna where “overcometh” is used in Revelation 2:11; that it also refers to salvation. The reason is, those who overcome will not experience the “second death (Hell).” Notice Verse 11,
“…He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
Now, let us see how “overcometh” is used in reference to rewards and privileges to the saved. In speaking to the church in Thyatira, notice Revelation 2:26,27, where “overcometh” is in reference to works and rewards, not salvation.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end (of their life), to him will I give power over the nations:(26) And he shall rule them with a rod of iron…(27)”
This has reference to Christ’s Kingdom on Earth when He rules this world for a 1,000 years as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Those Christians who have been faithful in their service to the Lord until the end of their life will be rewarded with the privilege of serving their Savior in the Kingdom as He directs.
There are many other rewards, such as the five crowns for various acts of faithfulness.
- A “Crown of Rejoicing:” The soul winner’s crown - 1 Thessalonians 2:19,20; Proverbs 11:30,31.
- A “Crown of Righteousness:” given for looking for Christ’s return - 2 Timothy 4:8
- The “Incorruptible Crown:" for living a separated life - 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
- A “Crown of Life:” for enduring testings, even faithful unto death; sometimes called the Martyr's Crown. - James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.
- A “Crown of Glory:” for being faithful in care of the flock…a Pastor’s Crown)- 1 Peter 5:1-5.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 15:58
How important it is to remain faithful until we meet the Lord face-to-face. In 2 John, Verse 8, we are told
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a FULL reward.”