JESUS AND HIS CHURCH –  Revelation 2 and 3 – What Jesus promised
© Rosemary Bardsley 2015
Each of the letters has a conclusion consisting of two parts:
 The words ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’. In the first three letters this command is placed first in the conclusion. In the next four it is placed last. This part of Christ’s conclusion informs us of two things:
What Christ has said to the ‘angel of the church in …’ each city is also what the Holy Spirit says to all churches – then and now. Each message is for every church, although given specifically to the stated church.
That every individual person in the church, in all churches everywhere, is to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying through these letters of Christ to these churches. The command is literally ‘The one having ears, hear …’ Christ is addressing the individual … and commanding him ‘Hear!’ It is an urgent command to decisive and deliberate and immediate action, addressed to everyone of us.
 The other part of the conclusions of these letters is a promise directed to ‘he who overcomes’. Literally, the Greek means ‘the one conquering’ – ho nikon – from the verb nikao which means to subdue, to conquer, to vanquish, to overcome. It is used to describe Christ in his victorious death [Revelation 5:5], and in his victory over his enemies [Revelation 17:14]. It is used to refer to the victory of Christians over their enemies ‘by the blood of the Lamb’ [Revelation 11:7; 12:11].
Jesus used this word in John 16:33: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Paul used it in Romans 12:21: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ John used it several times in his first letter, and it is perhaps these references that will help us understand what Jesus means when he says ‘he who overcomes …’ to the seven churches and to us and our churches:
‘I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one’ [2:13,14].
‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them’ (the false prophets and the spirit of the antichrist – see verses 1-3), ‘because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ [4:4].
‘… 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’ [5:4,5].
In each of the seven letters ‘overcomes’ is a present participle. Jesus is not talking about a victory that was a one-off, once-for-all event. This overcoming of which he speaks is on-going. In this it parallels the New Testament perception of ‘believing’ – believing in Jesus is not a one-off action. The promises of salvation are given to those who believe, present tense. In the same way, this overcoming, this conquering, of which Jesus speaks, occurs as a continuum. There are ups and downs, there are highs and lows, there are times of strength and times of weakness, but the net over-all characteristic is that those who have true faith in Jesus Christ are those who also ‘overcome’. That is an irreducible built-in aspect of genuine faith. As John states in the last quote above – ‘everyone born of God overcomes …’ True faith endures. True faith persists despite the difficulties and despite its own weakness. True faith does not permanently give up and give in under pressure. True faith overcomes.
Those who overcome are the people with true faith in Jesus Christ. What they overcome is identified in John’s letter as the evil one, false prophets, the spirit of the antichrist, and the world. From the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 we can generally identify these same opponents, as these opponents are at the back of everything that threatened these seven churches and the church today.
To each of the seven churches Jesus says ‘To him who overcomes …’ He then identifies and describes a benefit that he will give to those who overcome. This does not mean that different believers will get different blessings. What is happening here is that from among the many facets of the complete salvation inherited by all who believe in him, Jesus is reassuring each church by the mention of a specific aspect of salvation that has particular relevance to them and their struggles. All who overcome receive all the blessings. This is stated in Revelation 21:7: ‘He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’
A. THE RIGHT TO EAT FROM THE TREE OF LIFE WHICH IS IN THE PARADISE OF GOD – 2:7
The tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis 2:9. There is nothing said about it, except that it was there. There is no prohibition or restriction applied to it. It is freely available. In Genesis 3:22-24, after we had rejected God and his rule in the actions of our common original ancestor, our access to the tree of life was banned. Severed from God, corrupted by sin, it is no longer permitted nor appropriate nor possible for humans to live for ever or to live with God.
Read Genesis 3:22-24. What does it teach you?
But there is in this sad situation one redeeming fact: the tree of life was not removed. On the other side of the prohibitive barrier it was still there in Genesis 3 as a physical reality, and it is still there today as a spiritual reality. Do you see what forms this barrier? Cherubim with flaming swords. Do you know where else these cherubim form a similar physical and symbolic barrier? In the Tabernacle and the Temple, on the massive curtain that prevented human access into the Most Holy Place [the symbolic presence of God] golden cherubim were embroidered. Do you recall what happened to this curtain with its prohibitive cherubim at the very moment Jesus died? It was ripped in two from top to bottom [Matthew 27:50,51].
The death of Jesus Christ has dealt with sin. The barrier that prevents human access to God and therefore to life, has been removed by his death. Because of this the New Testament repeatedly teaches that in Christ those who believe in him have life – eternal life. He, Jesus Christ, is ‘the life’ [John 11:25; 14:6]. He, Jesus Christ, is ‘eternal life’ [1John 5:20]. A right relationship with him means a restored right relationship with God. And a restored right relationship with God means eternal life [John 3:36].
Check these references to the permanent access to God granted to those who believe in Jesus:
This permanent access to God and to life is portrayed symbolically in the ‘fruit trees’ of Ezekiel 47:12 and the ‘tree of life’ mentioned in Revelation 22:2,14.
This permanent reversal of the Genesis 3 prohibition is one aspect of the blessedness of all who believe in Jesus Christ. Hence his promise and his encouragement to the church in Ephesus: ‘To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God’. This salvation blessing is already the possession of all who believe in Christ. Nothing can take it away. This is the grand assurance that Christ gives to his Church. It is guaranteed by his word ‘I will give …’. On that day, when he returns, he will, like the master in the parable of the talents, say to those who overcome: ‘Come and share your master’s happiness’ [Matthew 25:21,23] … come in and eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God.
By this he encourages the Ephesus church to keep on persevering and enduring hardships for his name. By this he encourages them to return to their ‘first love’. By this he encourages them to keep on hating the deeds of the false teachers. Them, in the church in Ephesus at the end of the first century, and us also.
B. HE WHO OVERCOMES WILL NOT BE HURT AT ALL BY THE SECOND DEATH – 2:11
The first death is our physical death. The ‘second death’ is the final judgment [Revelation 20:6,14; 21:8]. It is a terrible thing that we will look at more closely when we study these texts.
It was to rescue us from this final judgment, this second death, that Jesus Christ came and died.
Check out these Scriptures. What words do they use to describe or refer to this ‘second death’ or final judgment from which we are saved by Jesus?
John 3:16, 10:28
John 8:51; 11:25,26
Romans 5:16,18; 8:1
As Paul teaches in Romans 6:8-11 the person who believes in Jesus Christ has been united with Christ’s death. In his death he bore the full judicial penalty for our sin. Having dealt with sin by bearing its judgment, ‘he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him’ [verse 9]. In the same way death [the penalty/judgment on sin] has no mastery over those who by faith are united with him in his death. They ‘will not be hurt at all by the second death’. They are already beyond judgment. They are already beyond the second death. As Jesus said in John 5:24 they ‘have crossed over from death to life’. As Paul says in Romans 5:17 they ‘reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.’
Physical death was threatening the church in Smyrna [2:10]. Just as Jesus introduces himself as the one ‘who died and came to life again’ [2:8], so he also closes off this letter with this grand assurance. He has already encouraged them by promising ‘the crown of life’ to those who are ‘faithful to the point of death’. Now he assures the overcomers, the true believers, that the second death – that eternal separation from God that is a thing most to be feared – cannot hurt them. Because he lives, they will live also [John 14:19; Romans 6:8]. Such is Christ’s promise to all who believe in him.
C. I WILL GIVE SOME OF THE HIDDEN MANNA … ALSO A WHITE STONE … – 2:17
To the believers in the church in Pergamos Jesus chose to draw attention to two aspects of salvation:
C.1 ‘I will give some of the hidden manna …’
In John 6 the Jews raised the question of the ‘manna’ with which God fed the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. In this context Jesus refers to himself as:
‘the true bread from heaven’ [verse 32]
‘the bread of God’ [verse 33]
‘the bread of life’ [verse 35,47]
‘the bread that comes down from heaven’ [verse 50,58]
‘the living bread that came down from heaven’ [verse 51].
Of this living bread of God, which is the incarnate Jesus – God in human flesh – Jesus said:
‘This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’ [verse 51], and ‘ …your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever’ [verse 58].
This is the ‘hidden manna’ – God hidden in human flesh, God dying a human death in order to give us life. God – hidden and incognito, providing for those who believe all that is necessary to fully meet our spiritual needs and permanently sustain us spiritually in this life and beyond. Whoever knows this God, whoever comes to this God by coming to Jesus is never spiritually hungry ever again, and never spiritually thirsty ever again [John 6:35].
C.2 ‘I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it’
There is nothing in the Bible that gives us any definite idea what is meant by this ‘white stone’. Elsewhere in the Bible, and in Revelation, ‘white’ symbolises cleansing/forgiveness, but refers to white clothing. Elsewhere in the Bible precious stones were attached to the garments of the High Priest to symbolise the twelve tribes of Israel whom he represented in the presence of God [Exodus 28:8-21], but these stones in Revelation 2:17 are not representative, they are given to the individual who overcomes. And perhaps that is the significance of these ‘white stones’: the person who believes in Jesus Christ has, in Christ, the right of access into the presence of God.
This connects with other biblical references to new names:
God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, as part of his covenant with him [Genesis 17:5]. God changed ‘Jacob’ to ‘Israel’ because he had ‘overcome’ [Genesis 32:28]. Jesus changed ‘Simon’ to ‘Peter’ when he acknowledged him as the Christ [Matthew 16:18].
In Hosea 1:4-11 the ‘names’ by which God identified his reprobate and rebellious peoples – ‘not loved’ and ‘not my people’ are reversed. This reversal of names is applied to people of all nations who believe in Jesus Christ in 1Peter 2:10.
In Isaiah 62:2 God speaks of Israel being known by a ‘new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow’ and then in verse 4 says ‘No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called ‘Hephzibah’ (my delight is in her), and your land ‘Beulah’ (married)’.
In Isaiah 65:15 God speaks of giving his servants ‘another name’; this is in direct contrast to the fate of his enemies, which is death.
In Isaiah 56:5 God says:
‘… to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial
and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.’
A new name means a new identity that is  grounded in a new and restored relationship with God, and  brought into reality by God himself. In the case of the ‘new name’ of Revelation 2:17, it is given by Jesus Christ, in and through whom God’s saving, renewing, restoring, justifying work was fully and permanently accomplished. It is ‘written’ on a white stone. If this ‘written’ is meant to parallel the stones on the High Priests garments, it is ‘engraved’ – it is not able to be erased. The new name, the new identity, the new relationship with God, endures forever.
D. I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS … ALSO THE MORNING STAR 2:26-28
To the church in Thyatira an extension is attached - ‘to him who overcomes and does my will to the end’. [The Greek says ‘keeps my works’.] This is not additional to overcoming; rather it is explanatory. Overcoming means perseverance in believing in Jesus – which is the ‘work’ that God requires [John 6:28,29]. Belief in Jesus Christ is for the long haul, for the whole war, not just for a single battle, and not just when the going is easy. In Matthew 24:13 Jesus said ‘he who stands firm to the end will be saved’ or as the KJV has it ‘he that shall endure unto the end …’ This ‘end’ until which true faith endures is not just the ‘end’ in terms of the stopping point. It is the ‘telos’ – the purpose, goal, completion, culmination, consummation towards which the sovereign God is moving both the individual believer and the whole universe. It is the ‘end’ of Satan, sin and suffering – they will be no more. But for the believer, and for God – it is the final and permanent perfect reality.
There is an additional truth embedded deeply in this doing Christ’s will to the end. The Greek word translated ‘does’ is ‘tereo’, which does not mean ‘does’. In the New Testament it sometimes means ‘keep’ understood as ‘obey’, and it sometimes means ‘keep’ in terms of ‘not let go of’ or ‘hold as something precious’ or ‘guard, protect and keep safe’. Usually it is clear from the context which of these meanings is intended. But the reality is that the secondary meaning ‘obey’ is the observable evidence of the primary meaning of ‘holding and guarding it because you consider it so precious and important that you don’t want to ever let go of it’.
Check out these references for examples of the deep central meaning of this word:
There is persistence here, but this persistence issues from the quality of the professed faith in Christ. The question of persistence raises questions about the quality of faith: Is it the ultimate kind of faith that knows that in Christ it has the ultimate treasure and so holds him as exceedingly precious? Or is it a counterfeit faith that considers Christ only one of many possible lords, one that can be discarded and exchanged for another when the going gets tough?
This holding fast to the truth about Jesus, this holding fast to Jesus and his work, even if you are the ‘last man standing’, was expressed by Peter in John 6:60-71, when the large majority Jesus’ ‘disciples’ left him, demonstrating the phoniness of their faith. Jesus said to the twelve: ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ And Peter answered ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ [John 6:68,69; read 60-71]. Peter knew that in Jesus he had the ultimate treasure; for that reason he held fast. For this reason Peter wrote that ‘to you who believe’ Jesus ‘is precious’ [1Peter 2:7]. In the context of the first century church, battered by pressure from false teaching, from persecution and from moral temptation Jesus has just said ‘hold on to what you have until I come’ with the meaning of ‘hold fast’ ‘hold strongly’ [verse 25]. His promise in verses 26 and 27 follow up on the command of verse 25.
D.1 ‘I will give authority over the nations …2:26, 27
As with the other promises there are both present and future aspects to what is promised.
This ‘authority’ given to true believers –
Is ‘over the nations’ – it is worldwide.
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus stated that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached ‘in the whole world as a testimony to all nations’. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus, on the basis of his total authority, commanded his followers to make disciples of ‘all nations’. In addition, in Ephesians 3:10 Paul teaches that God’s purpose is that ‘now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms’ – not just to the nations, but to the various powerful inhabitants of the spiritual realm. This is the ‘authority’ given to those who are true believers. It is effective both in this age, between the first and second coming, and it is effective on the Judgment Day. In 1Corinthians 6:2,3 we read that ‘the saints will judge the world’ and ‘we will judge angels’.
Is described in terms that Psalm 2:8,9 refers to the power of the Christ.
The authority of true believers is described in Revelation 2:27 with words from Psalm 2:8,9, a Messianic Psalm that looks forward to the Day when Jesus Christ will inherit and rule ‘the nations’. The symbolism of these words is conflicting – if the nations are dashed to pieces like pottery there would be nothing left to rule with an iron sceptre. So we need to look beyond the symbolism to the intended meaning.
The word translated ‘rule’ in Revelation 2:27 is poimaino, which means to ‘shepherd’ or to ‘rule as a shepherd’. The ‘iron’ sceptre indicates unbreakable strength and power. What does the Christian individually, and the Church corporately, have that can be depicted by these two concepts of shepherd and strength/power? It is Christ and his gospel – the gospel which is ‘the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile‘ [Romans 1:16].
Also in this quote from Psalm 2 is the impact of this rule and authority: the nations are dashed to pieces. What is it that the Christian and the Church has that causes this dashing to pieces. It is Christ and his Gospel. Jesus said of those who reject him, the capstone or cornerstone:
‘He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed’ [Matthew 21:24].
Paul and Peter quoted Isaiah 8:14 to describe what Jesus is for those who reject him:
‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ [Romans 9:33; 1Peter 2:8].
Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by the Church, and wherever the true Church exists, its impact is judgment. This is taught by Jesus in John 16:8-11 where he spoke of the impact of the work of the indwelling Spirit through the Church as convicting the world of guilt in regards to sin, righteousness and judgment.
Wherever the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by the Church with the result that people acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, there the authority of Satan, the dominion of Satan, the hold of Satan over that nation and his power to deceive that nation is broken. People are delivered from his authority; people are delivered from his deceptions; people are delivered from his accusations.
Check these Scriptures:
Is ‘just as’ Jesus received authority from his Father.
The authority of judgment was given by the Father to the Son. The authority of life and death was given by the Father to the Son [John 5:19-30]. Now Jesus says in Revelation 2:27 ‘I will give authority … just as I have received authority from my Father.’ To his disciples, Jesus said:
‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’ [John 20:21].
‘On this rock’ (the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ) ‘I will build my church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ [Matthew 16:18,19].
Because they bear his name and because they proclaim him every faithful believer is automatically one who stands in judgment upon the whole world. Their affirmation of Christ, their alignment with Christ exposes the unbelief of ‘the nations’. When this affirmation and alignment persists despite all that actively opposes it – the hardships, the pressures to give in, the persecutions, the false teaching – then this condemnation of the unbelief of the world is even more potent.
When the witness of the Church leads the world to repentance and faith, forgiveness and redemption results.
When the witness of the Church is rejected the already existing guilt of the world is exposed and confirmed, and the world’s judgment is rendered inevitable.
As we will see later, when Christ comes in judgment those who believe in him will be with him. Those the world has rejected, those the world has mocked, those the world has deemed of no account, those the world has killed. And the world, like the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, as it sees the multitude of the redeemed, will know itself to be accused and condemned. It was wrong, and these believers, whom the world despised, whose witness it rejected, were right.
Just as Jesus said that the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South by their right responses in the past, ‘will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it’ [Matthew 12:41,42] so the Church, and the individual Christian, by their genuine faith in Christ, will condemn at the last judgment those from ‘the nations’ who have not bowed in allegiance to Jesus Christ.
D.2 ‘I will also give him the morning star’- 2:28
In Revelation 22:16 Jesus says ‘I am … the bright Morning Star’. Jesus gives himself to those who truly believe in him.
Check these verses:
All the benefits of salvation belong to those who believe in Jesus Christ, because all of these blessings are in him. They are not something separate from Christ, they are Christ himself. As Paul teaches in 1Corinthians 1:30 Christ ‘has become for us wisdom … righteousness, holiness and redemption, and in Ephesians 1:3 – God has blessed us in Christ ‘with every spiritual blessing’. To have Christ is to have the light of life instead of darkness. To have Christ is to have both light and life [John 1:4,9]. To have Christ is to have glory instead of guilt. Christ in us is the ‘hope of glory’ [Colossians 1:27]. We are already ‘the light of the world’ [Matthew 5:14], because we have Jesus Christ the true ‘light of the world’ [John 8:12]. We are already ‘children of light’ and ‘light in the Lord’ [Ephesians 5:8]. But on that day when the final judgment occurs ‘the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ [Matthew 13:43]. When he appears ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ [1John 3:2]. When that day dawns ‘the morning star’ will rise in our hearts [2Peter 2:19]. Then we will perfectly image him. We will be what he created us to be [Genesis 1:26,27; Isaiah 43:7].
But also embedded in this promise is the fact that Jesus Christ is our God, and we are his people. We belong to him, and he belongs to us. He, the Morning Star, gives himself to us as our God, this is the promise of the new covenant: ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people’ [Jeremiah 31:33]; ‘you will be my people, and I will be your God’ [Ezekiel 36:28].
E. … WILL BE DRESSED IN WHITE. I WILL NEVER BLOT OUT HIS NAME … 3:5
To the faithful few in this church Jesus has already promised ‘They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy’ [3:4]. To those in the church who are spiritually sleepy, dying and dead, Jesus has already said ‘Wake up!’ To those who do wake up, he now gives this strong encouragement to conquer, to overcome the lethargy that has trapped them and thus to demonstrate the integrity of their faith.
E.1 ‘he who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white’
The white clothing of those who believe in Jesus Christ is mentioned several times in Revelation [3:4,5,18; 6:11; 7:9,13,14; 19:14]. This white clothing is the result of being ‘washed’ by the blood of the Lamb [1:5; 7:14]. It is available only as a gift from Jesus Christ [3:18]. It is God’s gracious gift, and is yet another way of defining the multi-faceted salvation given to those who truly believe. Here the sin that sullied us has been laid on Christ; and here the perfect righteousness of Christ has been credited to those who believe in him. Only those so clothed have access to Christ’s kingdom [read Matthew 22:11-13].
Check these Scriptures:
John 13:10,11; 15:3
This is the perfection, the purity, the holiness of all whose life is, by faith, hidden in Christ [Colossians 3:3,4]. It is already the possession of believers, and it will be their possession on the day of judgment.
[Note: there is another word also used in Revelation to refer to the clothing of the saints. Its meaning is not ‘white’ [leukos] but ‘bright’ or ‘shining’ [lampros].]
E.2 ‘I will never blot out his name from the book of life …’
Moses, David and Daniel were aware of this ‘book’ [Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1]. The names of genuine believers are in Jesus’ ‘book of life’ [Philippians 4:3]. They are already ‘written in heaven’ [Luke 10:20]. Those whose names are not in this book are those who ‘worship the beast’ [Revelation 13:8]. The names that are in the book have been there ‘from the creation of the world’ [Revelation 17:8]. This parallels Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:4 that those who believe in Christ were chosen ‘in him before the creation of the world’. Here we are deep in the sovereign purpose of God. Here we are in touch with that grand assurance that Paul expressed in Philippians 1:6 – ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’, and in 2Timothy 1:12 – ‘I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day’.
But this divine purpose which no man can frustrate or undo, is worked out in and through our human choices, and thus demands of us the response of genuine faith. So Paul also states: ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’ [Philippians 3:12,14]. And Peter commands us ‘be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure’ [2Peter 1:10].
E.3 ‘… but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels’
This goes hand in hand with not being blotted out of the book of life; it is part of what that means. A similar promise was made by Christ in Matthew 10:32 to those who acknowledge him. About those who acknowledge [sometimes translated ‘confess’] Jesus Christ as God, the Scripture teaches:
‘God lives in him and he in God’ [1John 4:15].
They are saved [Romans 10:9].
Those who acknowledge Jesus Christ while they are in this world are already saved and already belong to God. This salvation and this relationship with God will be acknowledged by Christ in the presence of his Father and the angels on the last day. When their names are called out, Jesus Christ will say ‘Yes. He is mine. Yes. She is mine.’ He, as their High Priest, carries their names on his heart right into the presence of God. [See Exodus 28:29, and Hebrews 4:14-16].
F. I WILL MAKE A PILLAR IN THE HOUSE OF MY GOD … I WILL WRITE ON HIM THE NAME … 3:12
F.1 ‘I will make a pillar in the temple of my God’
The symbol of the ‘pillar’ points to permanence. The symbol of the ‘temple’ points to the presence of God. The conqueror, the believer, will be permanently in God’s presence. [Note that there is no temple in the new heavens and the new earth, because God and the Lamb are there – Revelation 21:22].
Check these Scriptures:
F.2 ‘… I will write on him the name …’
Jesus has already promised to give those who overcome ‘a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.’ Now he promises to write on those who conquer another name which sounds like three names:
The name of my God
The name of the city of my God
My new name.
In Revelation 14:1 we read that the name of the Lamb and of his Father are written on the 144,000 who stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb. In Revelation 22:4 we read that the ‘servants’ of God and of the Lamb have his name on their foreheads. These stand in contrast to those who had the ‘mark of the beast’ on their foreheads, and who suffer the same fate as him whom they followed.
These three names tell us:
This person belongs to God.
This person belongs to the city of God, the New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb.
This person belongs to Jesus, the Lamb; to Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.*
By belief in this name they are saved [John 1:12; 3:18; 20:31; 1John 5:13]. Because of allegiance to this name they are persecuted by the world and pressured by Satan [John 15:21]. But it is also by this name that those who believe in Jesus Christ are protected [John 17:11,12,15] from the world and from the evil one. And by this name they are sealed – safe and secure on the day when Christ comes to judge the earth [Revelation 7:3; 9:4].
*Note: it is not clear from the text if ‘my new name’ refers to a new name that Christ will have beyond the judgment, or to a new name that Christ will give to the overcomers. [The overcomers have already been promised a new name in 2:17, and the blessings promised are not usually repeated so precisely in these letters.] There is clear evidence in the Scripture that on the judgment day Jesus will be recognized as Lord by all, even by those who denied and opposed him. He who was incognito in his incarnation will be seen as he really is. He will be seen to possess by right the ‘name that is above every name’ and at this name ‘every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ [Philippians 2:10,11]. It is possibly this ‘new name’ – the name that is above every name – of which Jesus speaks here when he says ‘I will write on him my new name’.
Such is the security of those who believe in him. No one has any authority or power to eliminate the person whom Jesus Christ, the Almighty Lord, has marked with his name and with the name of God his Father. No one can snatch them out of his hand [John 10:28,29].
G. I WILL GIVE THE RIGHT TO SIT WITH ME ON MY THRONE … 3:21
Jesus in 3:21 promises the conquerors that he will give them the right to sit with him on his throne, just as he conquered and sat down with his Father on his Father’s throne.
[Note: The Greek text has ‘in my throne …in my Father’s throne’. This is the only place where Revelation has this. I have not been able to find any teaching that understands this ‘in’ as anything different from ‘on’ which is John’s usual word. Whether or not this ‘in’ means something different from ‘on’ is not apparent. What we do find when we move on to visions of ‘the throne’ we find that the throne is actually portrayed as something quite extensive, rather than a seat to accommodate a single individual.]
We must be careful here that we do not so exalt what it means for believers to sit with Christ on his throne that we end up diminishing his rule and his position. The throne is his by right of his essential being and by right of his victory over his enemies by his death. Any ‘right’ that we have to sit with him on his throne is by his invitation and by his gift.
We must also raise the question ‘Does sitting with Christ on his throne mean the same as reigning? Is Christ talking about a shared reign, or is he talking about Christians being beside him, with him, when he reigns? It is one thing to reign with Christ. It is another thing to be beside him rejoicing and glorying in his reign. One thing is certain: we do not have the same power and authority that Christ has, despite what some Christians might think and teach. It is Christ who is the King of kings, not us. It is Christ who destroys his enemies by the word of his mouth. Not us. But, as we will see later, we will be with him when he does so.
It would seem that in this promise Christ is giving an example of this amazing fact: that all that is his by right he shares with those who believe in him as a gift. Everything, the whole universe, is his. The throne is his. But he shares it all with us. And in this particular promise, he gives us the right, he permits us, to sit with him on his throne.
‘Throne’ is a physical symbol of power, rule and honour. Whoever is on a throne is in a position of victory, power and authority. Whoever is on a throne reigns. To understand Christ’s meaning here we need to ask ‘Is there any way that who believe in Christ reign? And is it in the present, or in the age to come? We will face these questions again when we come to Revelation 20:4-6, where believers are described as living and reigning with Christ for a thousand years. But for the moment let us remember that each of the promises made in these seven letters to those who overcome are promises that are already a reality for all who believe, and will be a reality for eternity. They each have both already and not yet aspects.
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John has already stated that Jesus Christ ‘has made us to be a kingdom …’ [1:6] and that he is his readers’ ‘brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom that are ours in Jesus’ [1:9]. These two verses indicate that this ‘kingdom’ is already present. Christians are already ‘a kingdom’. They already reign.
Paul taught that those who receive God’s abundant grace and righteousness in Christ ‘reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ’ [Romans 5:17]. This reigning in life through Christ is the opposite of death reigning over us because of Adam sin [Romans 5:12-17]; it is thus also the opposite of sin reigning. Prior to faith in Christ sin and death reigned – sin and death determined our standing before God and our fate under his judgment. But now sin and death no longer reign. Indeed, we have been set free from their rule and from the condemnation they imposed [Romans 8:1,2,31-34]. This reign began when we believed in Jesus Christ and continues right through this age until he comes.
This freedom is not yet complete; we still wait for our deliverance from the presence of sin and death. To this extent, although we already reign in life, we are still subject to sin’s temptations and to physical suffering and death. We do not look like we are reigning because there is a ‘not yet’ aspect to it. For that ‘not yet’ aspect to become a reality the whole of creation is waiting – for that day when ‘glory … will be revealed in us … for the sons of God to be revealed’ … ‘for the glorious freedom of the children of God’ [Romans 8:18-21]. But the deep spiritual truth is that we are already reigning – already ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ [Romans 8:37].
Paul also teaches that ‘God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ [Ephesians 2:6]. He has already taught that that God has seated Christ ‘at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but in the one to come. And God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church …’ [Ephesians 1:20-22]. The church is seated where Christ is seated, because it is ‘in Christ’, in a position ‘far above’ all other authorities. Note also the words ‘for the church’ … God has placed everything under Christ ‘for the church’. Even the angels, who appear to be far more powerful than us, are by Christ’s authority ‘ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’ [Hebrews 1:14].
This is the amazing privilege of those who ‘conquer’ – of those whose faith endures to the end. This is the amazing privilege of all who have true faith in Jesus Christ – because true faith does endure.
The indwelling Spirit affirms that the believer is already a child of God, and therefore heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:16,17]. To ‘sit on throne’ with Christ is part of that inheritance.
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[Note: That there is a future aspect to the ‘reign’ of the saints is evident in Daniel. In the same chapter in which Daniel saw a vision of ‘the Ancient of Days’ and of ‘one like a son of man’, he was told that ‘the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes, for ever and ever’ [7:18]; that ‘the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favour of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom’ [7:22], and that ‘the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High’ [7:27]. This happens after the destruction of the enemies of the Most High. But it is also clear that it is still ‘the Most High’ who is the King, and that these kingdoms given to the saints are not apart from or opposed to his kingdom. Verse 27 adds ‘His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him’.]