Until Jesus Comes
What does it mean to overcome?
Overcoming is contrary to passivity, to giving up, or to being defeated. It speaks of prevailing or conquering triumphantly over obstacles and difficulties. Therefore, it involves conflict and a fight of faith. Paul compared the Christian with a good soldier who endures hardness (2 Tim. 2:3,4) and an athlete who strives to win in competitive games (2 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 12:1).
As Christians, we are in a spiritual struggle against “the wiles [the strategies and the deceits] of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:11,12). Therefore, we are instructed to “put on the whole armour of God,” to “hold fast,” and to overcome and keep the works of Jesus until the end (Eph. 6:11; Rev. 2:25,26).
Is it possible to live an overcoming life?
Yes, it is. God has made every provision for us to reign in life through Jesus Christ. Consider these scriptures:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
“His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3).
“Nay, in all these things [tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, etc.] we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).
How can I be an overcomer?
The Bible tells us not only how to overcome, but what to overcome:
We overcome the world by being born of God, by keeping His commandments, by exercising faith in Him, and by believing that Jesus is the Son of God. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3–5). To overcome the world is to overcome sin or all that is opposed to keeping the commandments of God. According to 1 John 2:16, the “world” is defined as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”—pleasures, possessions, and position.
Notice the importance of our faith—“this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Unbelief, the opposite of faith, is the reason why many are not overcoming the world. The symptoms of unbelief are fearfulness (Mark 4:40; Rev. 21:8); murmuring (Psa. 106:24,25); disobedience (Psa. 106:24,25); resistance to the truth (John 8:45,46; Heb. 4:2); hypocrisy (Matt. 21:23–27); speaking evil against the truth (Acts 14:2; 19:9); an evil heart and backsliding (Heb. 3:12); discouragement (compare Ex. 14:11–13 with Psa. 106:6–12); hardness of heart (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:25); a defiled conscience (Titus 1:15); and unrest and condemnation (John 3:36; Rom. 11:20; Heb. 3:18,19; 4:6,11).
On the other hand, as long as a believer exercises faith in God, he is teachable (Luke 8:13–15; 1 Thess. 2:13); keeps the commandments of God (Rev. 14:12); serves God without hypocrisy (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 10:22); overcomes the world and insurmountable obstacles (1 John 5:4,5; Matt. 17:20); inherits the promises of God (Gal. 3:22; Heb. 6:12); resists the devil (1 Pet. 5:8,9); is valiant in fighting the “good fight” (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 11:33,34); does not “draw back” when persecuted (Heb. 10:32–39); is “able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16); pleases God (Heb. 11:6); and enters into His rest (Heb. 4:5–11).
We overcome false prophets through having Jesus, the Greater One, abiding in us. “Many false prophets are gone out into the world. . . . Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:1,4). Jesus declared, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27) and “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). Paul testified, “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20); “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
We overcome the man of sin by having our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the man of sin, the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb” (Rev. 13:8). This verse implies that all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life do not worship him. With reference to overcoming the beast, Revelation 14:12 states, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
We overcome the evil that others do to us by our patience, forbearance, and kindness. “Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20,21).
We overcome Satan and his temptations by the blood of Jesus, by the Word of God, and by self–denial. “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony [speaking the Word of God]; and they loved not their lives unto the death [they were ready to die for the Word of God]” (Rev. 12:11). “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14).
Victory over Satan will never result from a casual attitude toward God’s Word. Speaking the powerful Word of God enabled Christ to overcome the temptations of Satan. The Scripture tells us all we need to know for victorious Christian warfare. We must experience God’s Word, know it, study it, live it, speak it, and be willing to die for it.
As a believer, what should I do when I am tempted to sin?
God’s Word tells you how to overcome temptation:
1. Recognize your enemy, the devil. Satan’s seducing spirits tempt you to sin. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked [enticed] David to number Israel” (1 Chr. 21:1). See also Matt. 4:1; John 13:2; 1 Thess. 3:5.
2. Remember that Jesus defeated the devil. Because of Christ’s victory, you do not have to commit sin; it has no power over you. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed [the Word of God] remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:8,9). See also 1 John 2:29; 5:18.
One who is born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God does not practice sin because his heart has been changed by the power of God from sinning to practicing righteousness. “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17,18). Jesus has set you free from the power of sin. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:14).
3. Give no place to the devil (Eph. 4:27). In other words, avoid the things that tempt you. Here are some scriptural guidelines:
• Flee wickedness. “Enter not into the path of the wicked and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall” (Pro. 4:14–16). God’s Word further tells us to flee fornication (1 Cor. 6:18), idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), the love of money (1 Tim. 6:11), and youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). See also Psa. 1:1; Pro. 1:10; 7:5; 16:29.
• Set no wicked thing before your eyes. David said, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psa. 101:2,3).
• Guard your speech (Psa. 39:1). “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” (Eph. 4:29); “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:4).
• Do not be curious about evil things (1 Cor. 10:6). Going near a hornets’ nest is dangerous. “Be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17).
• Keep a good conscience. With reference to warring “a good warfare,” Paul admonished Timothy to hold “faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). To do doubtful things is to be damned because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). See also Acts 24:16.
• Fill your heart and mind with the Word of God and think on pure things. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11). “Ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14). “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Avoid whatever does not measure up to this standard. See also 1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor. 10:4,5.
• Do not be idle. An idle person will fall into many temptations: “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Tim. 5:13). David fell into temptation and sin when he was idle (2 Sam. 11:1–3).
• “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). To avoid the appearance of evil is to avoid the evil itself.
4. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The context of this verse tells you how to resist the devil:
• Humble yourself and God will give you more grace to overcome.
• Submit to the will of God, not to your temptation. Yielding to temptation leads to sin and its miseries, spiritual death, and the lake of fire (1 Tim. 6:9,10; James 1:14,15; Rev. 21:8). Yielding to God and overcoming temptation brings eternal blessing (James 1:12; Rom. 6:13–22).
• Resist the devil. In the name of Jesus, command him to flee. See Matt. 16:23.
5. Trust Jesus to help you; He is greater than the devil. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Without Jesus you can do nothing; depend on Him.
• Jesus is sympathetic. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15,16). See also Heb. 2:18.
• Jesus is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you (Rom. 8:34). When Simon Peter was in the midst of temptation, our Lord said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31,32). See also John 17:15.
What does the Bible say about our living an overcoming life in the midst of tribulation?
God’s grace is sufficient even in the midst of tribulation. Although the Church at Smyrna suffered tribulation, poverty, the reproach and blasphemy of counterfeit believers, and the threat of imprisonment and death, they overcame triumphantly (Rev. 2:8–11). Also, John foresaw those who “came out of great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14) and “had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name” (Rev. 15:2).
God will enable the following people to endure to the end and emerge victorious through tribulation:
Those who maintain their faith by praying without fainting—In the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1–8), Jesus implied that when He comes again, He will find faith on the earth if men will pray always and not faint. He told of the widow who was avenged by the judge because she came continually saying, “Avenge me of mine adversary.” This prayer of submission puts our case in God’s hands, the hands of a just and faithful judge, instead of trying to fight our own battles. In times of persecution, we must cry for justice, not vengeance. Take courage in our Lord’s words, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” The Lord will come suddenly to “recompense tribulation” to those who persecute His Church (Rev. 6:9–17; 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:4–8). Prayer, supplication in particular, is the key to sustaining our faith and overcoming our enemies in the dark days ahead.
Those who hear the Word of God and do it— The end–time will be marked by rains of lawlessness (2 Tim. 3:1–5), floods of persecution (Isa. 59:19; Rev. 12:15,16), and winds of false doctrine and deceitfulness (Eph. 4:14; 2 Thess. 2:9–13). Those who hear and obey the Word will not be defeated. “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24,25).
Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit— In times of persecution, the Holy Spirit will give wisdom “which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:15; Acts 6:10). He will also impart boldness (Acts 4:31), faith (Acts 6:5), comfort (Acts 9:31), joy (Acts 13:50–52; 1 Thess. 1:6), power (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:7), and love (Rom. 5:3–5). The Holy Spirit will also intercede through us in prayer according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26,27). What a comfort in times of trouble!
Those who fear the Lord— In the midst of tribulation, God’s Word assures us that “the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Pro. 14:26). The fear of the Lord is also the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Pro. 1:7; 9:10), a hatred of evil (Pro. 8:13), a treasure to the saints (Pro. 15:16, Isa. 33:6), a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death (Pro. 14:27), and a reverence for Almighty God that we need to serve Him acceptably (Heb. 12:28).
The Bible records many examples of God–fearing men and women who courageously obeyed God in the face of death. Obadiah, who feared the Lord from his youth, hid and fed one hundred prophets of God when they were cut off by Jezebel (1 Kings 18:3,4,12). The Hebrew midwives “feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive” (Ex. 1:17). Peter and the other apostles said to the council, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Believers in heaven who “had gotten the victory over the beast” are marked by the fear of God. Their victory song proclaims, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?” (Rev. 15:2–4).
Truly, God “will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Psa. 145:19). “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psa. 34:7). “It shall be well with them that fear God” (Eccl. 8:12).
Those who put Christ before self and possessions—Jesus linked this truth both with persecution and with His coming in glory to reward every man according to his works: He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:24–27).
In summary, the Bible gives many examples of people who prove that it is possible to live an overcoming life in the midst of tribulation. Unfortunately, Christians today do not even want to hear about the coming persecution of the Church, which indicates little or no cross experience on their part and little resolve to walk with God regardless of the cost.
Why does the New Testament frequently urge us to overcome covetousness in view of the Second Coming?
Overcoming the world and denying self include overcoming the spirit of covetousness, which is selfish desire beyond reason. A person can be covetous for acquiring material possessions, money, luxury, food, power, or any number of things. God’s Word declares, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15,16).
The love of money, is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Here’s a list of some of these evils and the biblical characters who perpetrated them:
• theft, Achan (Josh. 7:21)
• betrayal, Judas (Luke 22:4,5)
• religious racketeering, Gehazi (2 Kings 4:15–27)
• fraud, the Jews robbing their brethren (Neh. 5:6–8)
• pride, the rich Church of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:17)
• bribery and injustice, Samuel’s sons (1 Sam. 8:3)
• idolatry, Demetrius, the silversmith (Acts 19:24–29)
• lying, Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10)
• inconsideration of others, Lot of Abraham (Gen. 13:9–11)
• overreaching, Laban (Gen. 31:7)
• shamelessness, the people in Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 8:10–12)
• hatred, the Pharisees (Luke 16:14)
• forsaking the right way, Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15)
• departing from the faith, Demas (2 Tim. 4:10)
• selfishness, the rich fool (Luke 12:15–21)
• domestic problems, he who is greedy of gain (Pro. 15:27)
• witchcraft, the damsel and her masters (Acts 16:16–19)
Scripture also teaches that a covetous person is an idolater (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5); an enemy of God (Phil. 3:18,19); cursed (2 Pet. 2:14; Psa. 10:3); sorrowful (1 Tim. 6:10); unqualified for the Lord’s service (Phil. 2:20,21; 1 Tim. 3:3; Ex. 18:21); and hell bound (1 Tim. 6:9; 1 Cor. 6:10).
Overcoming the economic implications of the number of the beast (666) will be tremendously difficult because no man will be able to buy or sell. (This includes everything from buying groceries to earning wages.) He will have to take the mark or name of the beast, or the number of his name (666), on his right hand or forehead (Rev. 13:16–18). Living for material possessions will increase the possibility of one’s taking the mark of the beast. Therefore, as Christians, we should learn contentment and “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
Scripture states, “Let your conversation [manner of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5,6). The Lord will never forsake us; therefore, we need not live covetously or fear what man can do to us, not even the man of sin. Glory to God!
Jesus emphatically warned, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15); “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24); “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
To fight the good fight of faith and to lay hold of eternal life, one must learn contentment and pursue spiritual things. “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. . . . I give thee charge in the sight of God, . . . that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:8–14). “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Contentment is one key to living an overcoming life, especially in these last days when many are carried away by the spirit of materialism and the love of money (2 Tim. 3:2; 2 Pet. 2:1–3).
Who will be able to overcome the beast and his image?
In the last days, all the world must worship the beast and his image or be killed (Rev. 13:14,15). Who will have power to resist? Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8) and who are obeying the apostolic injunctions, “abstain from pollutions of idols” (Acts 15:20) and “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). They’ll refuse to bow to the beast and his image as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 3). In other words, one must overcome all forms of idolatry now to have power to resist the seduction of the beast and his image.
The Bible forbids making and revering all visible representations of God. The second commandment states, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:4,5). In fact, the Bible contains more references to the second commandment than to any other of the Ten Commandments.
This commandment forbids the worship of the true God with any tangible impression of Him. Aaron took gold from the people and “fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord” (Ex. 32:4,5). Aaron tried to represent the Lord with an outward form on which the people could focus their worship.
More than ever, Christianity is filled with so–called pictures of Christ, symbols of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, crucifixes, icons, and other images. Many people claim that these are not worshiped but are mere representations. This duplicates Aaron’s sin in setting up the golden calf and breaking the second commandment.
The Bible forbids making and revering all visible representations of God for several reasons:
1. They are grossly evil and deceptive.
2. They portray false and destructive impressions of God and, consequently, are a hindrance to approaching Him.
3. They are incompatible with the love of God.
4. They provoke God to anger and to jealousy.
Let’s examine each reason in more detail.
1. Visible representations of God are grossly evil and deceptive .The Bible describes idolatry as:
• the vain imaginations of those who reject God (Rom. 1:21–23)
• a teacher of lies (Isa. 44:19,20; Jer. 10:14,15; Hab. 2:18,19; Rom. 1:23,25)
• blasphemy (Ezek. 20:24–31)
• an abomination to God (Deut. 7:25; Isa. 44:19; Ezek. 8:9,10; 16:36; 1 Pet. 4:3)
• a snare (Deut. 7:25; Psa. 106:36)
• a cursed thing (Deut. 7:26)
• that which is vain and unprofitable (2 Kings 17:15,16; Psa. 115:4–8; Isa. 41:29; 44:9,10; 46:5–7; Jer. 8:19; 10:3–5)
The Bible also links the practice of idolatry with:
• turning to “weak and beggarly elements” and “bondage” (Gal. 4:8,9)
• hating God (Ex. 20:5)
• holding fast to deceit (Isa. 44:20; Jer. 8:5; 1 Cor. 12:2)
• having fellowship with devils (Duet. 32:17; 2 Chr. 11:15; Psa. 106:36,37; 1 Cor. 10:20,21; Rev. 9:20)
• practicing witchcraft and offering human sacrifices (2 Kings 17:16,17; 21:6,7; 2 Chr. 33:6,7; Ezek. 23:37–39)
• spiritual adultery and estrangement from God (Ezek. 6:9; 14:5; 23:37; 44:10)
• self–corruption and defilement (Deut. 4:16–18; Ezek. 20:7; 36:18; Acts 15:20)
• unanswered prayer (Ezek. 20:31)
• polluting God’s name (Isa. 42:8; Ezek. 20:39)
• ignorance and superstition (Acts 17:16,22,23)
• sodomy, atheism, astrology, and other evils (Acts 7:40–43; Rom. 1:21–32)
• rebellion and unbelief (2 Kings 17:14–16)
• forgetting and virtually forsaking God (2 Kings 22:17; Jer. 2:9–13; Psa. 106:19–21)
2. Visible representations of God portray false and destructive impressions of Him and, consequently, are a hindrance to approaching Him.
• “No man hath seen God at anytime” (John 1:18) and “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Therefore, all representations of Him are false. God commanded the children of Israel, “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of an winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth” (Deut. 4:15–18).
Likewise, no one has seen the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of His glory. “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). “When he shall appear, . . . we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). See also 2 Cor. 5:16; 1 Tim. 1:17.
Sadly, many religious groups are revering physical representations of God the Holy Spirit, particularly the symbol of the dove. We need to seriously consider Paul’s warning: To change “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four–footed beasts, and creeping things” is to change “the truth of God into a lie” and to worship and serve “the creature more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:23,25). See also Deut. 4:17.
• God has ordained that faith comes by hearing the Word, not by seeing an image (Rom. 10:17). “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). We love and believe in Jesus, though we have not seen Him. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). By faith Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” and “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:26,27). In contrast to the Egyptians who worshiped hideous, visible gods, Moses saw Christ through the eyes of faith.
• To approach God, a person doesn’t need a material object. God has given His Word and Holy Spirit to reveal Christ. By faith, in the name of Jesus, we can go directly to the throne of grace for help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).
• God cannot be likened to man–made images. “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One” (Isa. 40:25). In his message at Mars Hill, Paul said, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29).
God is omnipresent (everywhere present) (Psa. 139:7–10); idols are in one place at a time and must be carried (Isa. 46:5–7; Jer. 10:5).
God is omniscient (all knowing) (Psa. 44:21); idols are “dumb” (Hab. 2:18).
God, the creator of heaven and earth, is omnipotent (all powerful) (Matt. 28:18); idols are lifeless and helpless. “They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help and their shield” (Psa. 115:3–9). “The Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king. . . . The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth” (Jer. 10:10,11).
3. Visible representations of God are incompatible with His love. “What agreement hath the temple of God [the believer] with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:16–18). See also Gen. 35:2,3; Josh. 24:14,23; 1 Sam. 7:3; 1 Kings 18:21; 1 Cor. 10:21.
God wants to show His love to us by being with us, but He cannot dwell where idolatry is present. Therefore, God instructs us not to bring idols into our homes (Deut. 7:26); not to covet the monetary or sentimental value of them, but to destroy them utterly (Ex. 34:13; Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5,25,26; 2 Sam. 5:21); not to partake of the Lord’s supper with a brother who is an idolater (1 Cor. 5:11); to repent and turn from idols to serve the living God (Acts 17:29,30; 1 Thess. 1:9); to keep ourselves from idols (Josh. 23:7); and to testify against idolatry though it may bring persecution (Acts 14:15; 19:26).
4. Visible representations of God provoke Him to anger and jealousy. More than any other sin, the hated sin of idolatry provokes God to anger and jealousy. Old and New Testament writers recorded this truth more than fifty times in the Bible. Israel’s idolatry so provoked the Lord to anger that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them” (Ex. 32:10). Using Israel’s idolatry as an example, Paul warned the Church, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. . . . Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry . . . What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1 Cor. 10:6,7,14,19–22).
The New Testament further admonishes, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9,10). “Idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Moreover, with specific reference to those who “worship the beast and his image,” God’s Word declares, “the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image” (Rev. 14:9–11).
In addition to making visible representations of God, glorying in men is another form of idolatry. God says, “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8). Excessive admiration of persons could lead many to worship the beast. The Scripture commands, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8); “Let no man glory in men” (1 Cor. 3:21); “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44); and “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). Moreover, the Bible says there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:6); “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ” (Matt. 23:9,10).
Rather than worshiping the beast and his image, we should “fear God, and give glory to him; . . . and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7). Resisting all forms of idolatry now will strengthen us to resist worshiping “the beast” and “his image” during the coming days of tribulation. God will give us grace to refuse though threatened with death itself (Dan. 3:18; Rev. 13:14–18; 20:4).
How important is Christian fellowship to living an overcoming life?
Not only should believers assemble to encourage one another, but they should gather “so much the more” as they see “the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). In these last days of apostasy, God–fearing believers increasingly need to encourage one another (Mal. 3:16). Exhortation helps to edify them and keep them from being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). Scripture gives other important reasons for “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”:
• To bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 15:1–7)
• To provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:24)
• To show Christian love to one another (Col. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8)
• To help spread the gospel (Acts 13:2,3; 14:27)
• To comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11)
• To have power in prayer (Matt. 18:19,20)
• To magnify the Lord together (Psa. 34:3)
• To strengthen one another in the faith (Luke 22:32; Acts 18:23)
• To follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22)
In these last days of apostasy and persecution, like–minded believers may again have to meet in homes as they did in the early church. Let’s look at some New Testament examples:
• The Holy Spirit was first poured out in an “upper room” of a house (Acts 1:13).
• “In every house” the apostles “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
• Peter first met with Gentiles in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:22,27).
• The Lord’s table was served in houses (Acts 2:46; 20:7,8).
• Prayer was made without ceasing in the house of Mary (Acts 12:5,12).
• There was prayer for the sick in houses (Acts 9:33,34,39–41).
• Philip’s four daughters evidently prophesied in their house (Acts 21:8,9).
• Persecution in the synagogue meant meetings in the house of Justus (Acts 18:7,8).
• Saul entered every house and arrested believers. No doubt they were the houses where the church gathered (Acts 8:3).
• The apostles wrote about the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (1 Cor. 16:19); in the house of Nymphas (Col. 4:15); in the house of Philemon (Phile. 1:1,2); and in the house of the elect lady (2 John 1:1,10).
In the early church, the emphasis was on spreading the gospel into all the world (Acts 8:4; 11:19), prayer (Acts 13:3), purity of doctrine (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 1:3), and purity of heart (Acts 2:46), not on church buildings or denominations. The New Testament states that our bodies are the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 6:19,20; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20–22; 1 Pet. 2:5). In fact, church buildings as we know them today did not exist until the third century.
Jesus graciously promises that “if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:19,20). Thus, when we fellowship in His name, the Lord Himself is with us, and He helps us to lead an overcoming life.
What are the consequences of not living an overcoming life?
According to Christ’s message to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three, the consequences of not living an overcoming life is condemnation when Jesus comes on the Day of Judgment.
Sadly, many teach that believers will not come into judgment and that they can never lose their salvation. While Jesus promised eternal reward to overcomers, He also admonished those who left their “first love” (Rev. 2:4,5); who upheld false teachers and false doctrines (Rev. 2:14,15, 20–23); who were not watchful (Rev. 3:3); and who were “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16) to repent and overcome lest they be condemned.
Consider, for example, the Church at Pergamos. They were upholding false doctrine, which Jesus hates. Therefore, He rebuked them, saying, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16). Scripture affirms that this verse refers to condemnation on the last day: “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15).
Also, to the Church at Sardis, Jesus said, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Rev. 3:3). We know that Jesus’ coming to us as a thief can only mean eternal condemnation (Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2–4). See Chapter Sixteen.
What blessings does Jesus promise to overcomers?
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus promised many blessings to overcomers. Most of these are eternal blessings, not temporal or fleeting pleasures.
• “to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (2:7)
• to “not be hurt of the second death” ( 2:11)
• “to eat of the hidden manna” ( 2:17)
• to receive “a white stone, and in the stone a new name written” ( 2:17)
• to receive “power over the nations” ( 2:26)
• to receive “the morning star” ( 2:28)
• to “be clothed in white raiment” (3:5)
• to have our names kept in the book of life (3:5)
• to have Jesus confess our names before the Father, and His angels (3:5)
• to be “a pillar in the temple” of God ( 3:12)
• to have the name of God, the name of the city of God, and a new name written upon us ( 3:12)
• to sit with Jesus in His throne ( 3:21)
• to inherit all things (21:7)
• to be the sons and daughters of God throughout eternity
Thus, the overcomer shall be blessed of God, not condemned.
Worldwide persecution against the Church may lurk just around the corner. The diligent will be prepared for persecution, girding themselves in holy armor. By fellowshiping together, avoiding temptation and covetousness, and resisting idolatry, they will overcome until that glorious day of the Lord’s return.