He that overcometh shall inherit all things

by Phillip Wareham

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Before we go on into this chapter, I am going to ask you to read the whole of Revelation chapter 12, and John's gospel chapter 12:1-3 and then John's gospel chapter 13:1-17.

In Revelation chapter twelve, the church is pictured as woman, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. This beautiful picture teaches us simply that the way to prepare us to reign with Jesus, and the only way we can shine for Jesus, is to be under the feet of our fellow saints. There is no place for pride in God's kingdom. This also is the message to us, plain and simple, in the two passages from John's gospel. In order for us to minister to the Lord, for 'the house to be filled with the odour of the ointment,' (John 12:3) we have to be at the Lord's feet. In order for us to 'wash one another's feet', (John 13:14) we have to be at or under the feet of our brothers and sisters.

'For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospels, the same shall save it.'(Mark 8:35) Herein lies the secret of an overcoming life. Nothing for self. All on the altar. 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' (John 3:30) Jesus himself is the great overcomer and said to his disciples, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' (John 16:33) Jesus also told them how he, living as a man, overcame the world, and how they could in the same way overcome the world, when he said, 'As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me' (John 6:57) The response of many was the same then as it has ever been: 'Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this said, this is a hard saying; who can hear it.' (John 6:60) And,'from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.' (John 6:66) Jesus did not plead with them to stay, nor did he apologise to them and say that, 'I didn't really mean that' or, 'perhaps I was a little too hard, maybe there is an easier way.' Jesus always meant exactly what he said and, no, there is no easier way. He simply turned to the twelve and asked them 'will ye also go away?' (John 6:67) He turns to us today and asks us the same question. Each of us must answer in turn for himself. The woman in Revelation twelve pains to 'bring forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.' (Revelation 12:5) The woman is the church, and the man child is the body of overcomers from within the church. It is they who, like Jesus, have overcome the world, who will be 'caught up to God and to his throne.' (Revelation 12:5)

To each of the seven churches in Asia, Jesus gives promises and rewards to those, in these same churches, who overcome the enemy. To the church at Thyatira in particular we read, 'and he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron.' (Revelation 2:26 - 27) Thus clearly identifying the overcomers with the man child of Revelation twelve. We need to say, now, that God's heart is for all his blood bought saints to be overcomers. And he has made the way possible for it to be so. We have a high priest in heaven, Jesus, who, 'is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.' (Hebrews 7:25) We have unlimited access into his presence. He never sleeps or grows weary of our coming to him. He understands where we are at, for he was 'in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.' (Hebrews 4:15) So then there is an open invitation to each one of us; 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' (Hebrews 4:16) His mercy and grace never run out and is freely available to us, if we come to him in faith and humility. He is able. There is no question about that. Are we willing?

It is not just the strongest, ablest, or boldest among us. On the contrary, it is those saints who know full well their own sinfulness, their own weakness and disabilities, and learn then to lean upon him, to 'live by me.' A child can overcome by simply trusting wholly on Jesus. It is faith that the Lord is looking for, as Jesus said 'when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?' (Luke 18:8) John writes: 'For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.' (1 John 5:4) John is not saying here that all who are born again overcome the world, any more than when he writes that, 'whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,' (1 John 3:9) is he saying that anyone who is born again does not commit sin. None of us can make that claim. No, it is Christ in us who overcomes the world, and, as we learn to live by the faith of the Son of God, then we also overcome the world. The man child who was caught up unto God and to his throne overcame the enemy 'by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.' (Revelation 12:11) We see the enemy coming as the accuser, as the deceiver, and as the persecutor of the saints. When the accuser comes, we trust only in the blood of Jesus Christ to, 'purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.' (Hebrews 9:14) When he comes as the deceiver we know only the Word of God 'is truth',(John 17:17) his spirit shall 'guide us into all truth,' (John 16:13) and we have a testimony according to that truth. And when the enemy comes with hatred and persecution we listen to Jesus when he says: 'fear not them which kill the body,' (Matthew 10:28) and we are encouraged when we read Paul declaring: 'I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.' (Romans 8:18)

It is faith the Lord is looking for, and we shall be rewarded then according to our faithfulness. This is so clear from the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Mathew chapter twenty five. It was not so much the number of talents that were given to each servant that was so important, but rather what they did with what they were given. When, in the parable, the master returned from his travels and saw that the servant who had been given the five talents had gained another five, and likewise the servant with the two talents had gained another two, he commended them both equally saying, 'well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.' (Matthew 25:21 - 23)

Now some will say that this is teaching 'elitism' to say that only those saints who overcome will be caught up and not the entire church. Well, firstly, I'm not sure what the word elitism really means. It seems to infer some sort of unfairness, or favouritism to a select few. God is always fair and just and impartial and loves each of his saints dearly, but that does not mean that he does not choose his servants for different responsibilities in his kingdom. As we saw in an earlier chapter, David reigned approximately four thousand years ago. Do we not read a list of David's top thirty mighty men, and over them three, and over those three, the chief three, and over the chief three yet another? (2 Samuel 23:8-38) And when our Lord was walking on this earth, did he not choose twelve to be with him, and of those twelve, did he not choose three, Peter, James and John, to be always closest to him? Secondly what we are seeing here is simply what Jesus taught his disciples, and what his servants, by the Holy Spirit, taught the church. It is what Paul taught the church at Corinth when he exhorted them to take heed how they build upon the foundation of Christ. How and what they build will be tested by fire. If they build by faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, their work shall endure, and they shall be rewarded. But 'If any man's work shall be burned he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.' (1 Corinthians 3:15)

As we said before, it is God's great desire that all of his people would overcome the enemy. It is also God's great desire that all men be saved, 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' (John 3:16) But God knows that, 'men loved darkness rather than light,' (John 3:19) and therefore Jesus said: 'for many are called but few are chosen.' (Matthew 22:14) And of those who are chosen, how many are faithful? We read towards the end of Revelation that only those who are faithful will be with him in the final judgment: 'and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful' (Revelation 17:14) And Paul taught his son in the faith, Timothy that if we are not willing to suffer, then the Lord cannot trust us to reign. 'If we suffer we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us' (2 Timothy 2:12) The message, then, that Jesus and his early apostles taught, is plain and simple: only those saints who are faithful with what God has entrusted to them, and are willing to suffer for his name's sake, will the Lord entrust to rule in his kingdom. And it is only the bride of Christ that shall reign with Christ.

This is why, then, Paul so strongly and passionately urges the saints at Philippi, and testifies to them saying 'I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.' (Philippians 3:8) The life of Christ is given to us as a gift at new birth, but this intimacy with Christ, this position as a co-ruler, Paul says is a prize to be won. He goes on to say 'that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.' (Philippians 3:10 - 11) Now what is Paul talking about here, 'Attaining unto the resurrection of the dead'? Salvation is not of works, and whether Paul likes it or not, he along with everyone else will be resurrected on the last day. No, Paul is talking here about the first resurrection which we read about in Revelation chapter twenty. This is the resurrection of all those saints who have overcome the enemy in their generation and are now asleep in Jesus. These are the ones who shall 'prevent' (or go before) the overcoming saints living at that time, who will be caught up to meet them with the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) Therefore we read, 'And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years but the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.' (Revelation 20:4-6) This is why Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to, 'run, that they may obtain,' (1 Corinthians 9:24) and knew that even he could 'be a castaway.' (1 Corinthians 9:27) In other words that Paul himself could miss out on this prize of the first resurrection, of reigning with Christ as part of his bride for a thousand years.

So now we understand better when the Lord Jesus says to, 'Watch therefore,' (Matthew 25:13) and, 'Be ye ready also,' (Luke 12:40) and 'ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord.' (Luke 12:36) Why be watchful? Why get ready? Why be in a state of waiting if all believers are caught up? It just doesn't make any sense. No, a thousand times no! It is his disciples that Jesus is talking to when he says: 'Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.' (Matthew 24:40 - 41) It is not that one is a believer and the other is not. They are both believers, and Jesus says 'watch therefore; for you know not what hour your Lord doth come.' (Matthew 24:42) Non believers are not watching in any case. It is an admonition to his disciples to watch.

In the Old Testament, Enoch is a good example of one who is ready to be caught up. We read of him in Genesis simply as one who 'walked with God.' (Genesis 5:24) In Hebrews chapter eleven, he is mentioned in the 'roll call of faith.' 'By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him.' (Hebrews 11:5 - 6) Another one mentioned in this chapter is Abraham. The stark contrast between the life of Abraham and that of his nephew, Lot, illustrates perfectly the difference between a believer living by faith and one living by sight. One who overcomes the world, and one who is overcome by the world. One who will be in the bride of Christ to rule with Christ, and one who will have to wait 'until the thousand years are finished' to be resurrected, who will be 'saved so as by fire.' That there are saints here during both the first and second three and a half year periods is clear from scripture. In Revelation chapter six, which is in the first three and a half year period, we read the message given to the saints in heaven waiting for their resurrection bodies that they, 'should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled.' (Revelation 6:11) And in Revelation chapter thirteen, which is in the second three and a half years, we read 'and it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.' (Revelation 13:7) To say that these are only those who have come to Christ during that time is to draw a very long bow indeed. No. Not only will all the church go through the first three and a half year period, but those saints who were not watching, who were not ready, shall have to endure the tremendous suffering and persecution of the antichrist in the last three and a half years before the Lord's return. As we read in Revelation chapter twelve, 'And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.' (Revelation 12:13) When the overcoming saints are caught up to heaven (the rapture) at the end of the first three and a half years, the Devil, or Satan, has no longer any access into heaven and is cast down to the earth, and he will then hate and persecute the saints who are left behind. That will be a time of great travail for the church that is left. As we read in Isaiah, 'Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.' (Isaiah 66:7) Thus the great urging of the Holy Spirit and the warning from Jesus to watch and pray, to get ready lest we be like Lot who only escaped by the 'skin of his teeth,' and have to endure the reign of the beast.

Yet now we see also the great patience, wisdom and mercies of the Lord toward those saints left behind. They now know they have been left behind, and their only recourse is to flee into the wilderness, but here the Lord says 'she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.' (Revelation 12:14) In that time those who do not take the mark of the beast cannot buy or sell, and those who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be killed. Many of those saints then shall be killed, but also, 'Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.' (Revelation 14:12) In their great trial many of these saints turn to keep the commandments of God by faith, refuse to take the mark of the beast, refuse to worship the image of the beast, and are killed. They will be part of the first resurrection: 'and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their forehead, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.' (Revelation 20:4) They will be part of the bride of Christ. The Lord has given them a second chance to overcome, and they have taken it. But what suffering they will have to endure.

The story of Samson in the book of Judges beautifully illustrates this thought. He was a child of promise and grew up a Nasserite, his long hair being a symbol of his separation unto God. As such he had great power to defeat the enemies of Israel. But he became proud and careless and the lusts of his flesh led him into a carnal relationship with an ungodly woman. He forgot that the source of his strength was from God. After his hair was cut he 'wist (knew) not that the Lord was departed from him.' (Judges 16:20) He thought he could go out and fight the Philistines as before, but was captured, his eyes were put out, and he was bound with chains and became an object of mocking and ridicule. It was in this sad state that he turned to the Lord with all his heart, cried out for the Lord to again be his strength, and at the end achieved a great victory for the Lord. But it had cost him much pain and suffering and finally his life. It would have been better for him to have retained his separation from the world and continued to walk with God. It would be better for you, dear saint of God, and I, to continue to abide in him, and so be ready when he comes.

Now, a question for those who still think that all saints will be caught up when he comes; that all will be his kings and priests; that all his saints shall reign with him. The question is simply this: who will the saints be reigning over? You might say: the angels. And, yes, it is certainly true that the saints 'shall judge angels.' (1 Corinthians 6:3) But is that all? Well, the answer is found in Revelation chapter twenty one, where we are given a glimpse into the new heaven and earth. We see the holy city, New Jerusalem, and 'the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.' (Revelation 21:23) Then John continues to tell us that he saw, 'the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.' (Revelation 21:24) Who are 'the nations of them which are saved'? They are the millions of old and new testament saints whose names were found 'written in the book of life,' (Revelation 20:15) but had not, by faith, overcome the world. Who are 'the kings of the earth'? They are those saints who have been willing to forsake all to follow Christ. They have been trained by the Holy Spirit in the school of Christ to rule with Christ in his thousand year kingdom on this earth, and who are now ruling with Christ on the new earth in the everlasting kingdom.

Now you might be one who says 'I don't really want to be a king. I don't really want to rule over other people and boss them around. I am quite content to occupy a back seat in the congregation.' Well, there are a few things to say about that frame of mind. Firstly, it is the desire of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for you and I to be co-rulers with our Lord Jesus Christ in his kingdom. Remember, it is the bride of Christ who shall reign with Christ. Secondly, remember it is not so much the measure of talents or gifts that we have that is so important, but rather what we do with what we have. 'The gifts and the calling (are) of God.' (Romans 11:29) That's his business. What I do with what he has given me is my business. 'Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' (1 Corinthians 10:31) And, if you and I are faithful over the few things, then the Lord can entrust to us the bigger things in his kingdom. Thirdly, it is only as I learn to come under the authority of Christ can he then entrust me to exercise authority on his behalf. It is not for self, nor from self. It is for the glory of God and for the benefit and blessing of those who then are brought under the authority of Christ. Fourthly, it is never a question of bossing people around. As we have seen, God's kings have learnt to be at the feet of their fellow saints to serve them. It is nothing of personal ego, but rather the Father's good will and pleasure to reward his saints. And what do they do with the crowns God has given them? They 'cast their crowns before the throne saying, thou art worthy to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.' (Revelation 4:10 - 11) So then we need to search our hearts, if this is not our longing and desire. Are you truly born again, or born from above? Can you see the kingdom of God? Or can you only see things with your natural eyes and understand things with your natural mind? If you are not sure, then make sure, and without delay. The Lord will receive you just as you are, a foolish lost sinner, (as we all were) and cleanse you in his precious blood, and come to live in you by his Holy Spirit.

If you are sure that you are a child of God, that you have been born of the Spirit, then return to the Lord with all your heart, stop laying up for yourself treasures upon earth and make him your treasure, 'for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' (Matthew 6:21)