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The discrepancy between the Lord’s vision of a perfect Church, and the actual condition of the seven churches of Asia, is astonishing. How shall we move from Laodicea to her who is without spot or wrinkle? How do we get from here to there? Or perhaps the true Church is found within the churches of today?

Do the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation imply that if we do not “overcome” we will not receive the rewards to the overcomer, the rewards we ordinarily associate with being a Christian? If such is the case, what does it mean to overcome? And what if we do not overcome? Shall we be given to eat of the Tree of Life in any case?

Table of Contents

Introductory Comments
The Churches on Earth Differ From the Perfect Church
What It Means “To Overcome”
Eating of the Tree of Life


Introductory Comments

The discrepancy between the Lord’s vision of a perfect Church, and the actual condition of the seven churches of Asia, is astonishing. How shall we move from Laodicea to her who is without spot or wrinkle? How do we get from here to there? Or perhaps the true Church is found within the churches of today?

Do the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation imply that if we do not “overcome” we will not receive the rewards to the overcomer, the rewards we ordinarily associate with being a Christian? If such is the case, what does it mean to overcome? And what if we do not overcome? Shall we be given to eat of the Tree of Life in any case?

We have written in other places about our view of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, about the rewards to the overcomer.

As we understand the rewards to the overcomer they are increments of personality. While some of them, such as governing the nations of the earth with a rod of iron, will be fully realized at the coming of the Lord, we believe the rewards (including the rod of iron and the authority and competence to govern) are being developed in us in the present hour.

Perhaps the rewards to the overcomer are steps to the Throne of Christ. We notice that the concluding reward is to sit with Christ in His throne (Revelation 3:21).

Another thought has to do with Paul’s seeking to arrive at the resurrection out from among the dead. Maybe we could view the several rewards to the overcomers as steps toward the first resurrection (Philippians 3:11).

In any case, the rewards to the overcomer set forth in the second and third chapters of Revelation need the serious consideration of Christians during the closing years of the twentieth century.

It appears in our day the call to discipleship that the Lord Jesus gave is being ignored in many instances. The Lord Jesus informed us that the price of discipleship is very high.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26,27—NIV)
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33—NIV)

What do you think about this?

In your opinion, how many American Christians are disciples?

The next question is, “Can a person not be a disciple and still be a Christian.

This leads to: “What is a Christian?”

The Bible defines the term as follows:

And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26—NIV)

According to the Bible, a Christian is a disciple of the Lord. Would you agree with this?

In such be true, a Christian is:

Someone who is willing to forsake his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and his own life, if such is required to do the Lord’s will.

I might add that forsaking our family is not usually required, and there are believers who forsake their family when the Lord is not demanding it. This is a sinful act and judgment surely will follow! The need today in most instances is to reconcile the family members to each other, the parents to the children and children to the parents, and so forth. Yet there are times when we have to leave everyone and everything and follow the Lord.

Someone who carries his personal cross and follows the Lord Jesus at all times, in all place, under every circumstance.

Someone who forsakes all he has in order to gain Christ.

So we see that the demands of discipleship, which scripturally are equivalent to being a Christian, are far, far beyond what is being required of many who attend our churches. In our desire to draw people we are not insisting on the demands of discipleship.

Being a pastor I understand that numerous believers in America are so devastated from the pressures of life they have to be healed emotionally before they can even address the demands of discipleship. Although we spend considerable time and effort working with their emotional needs we must not forget that making people reasonably whole emotionally is not the goal, the goal is to be a true disciple, hence a true Christian.

If my reasoning is sound to this point, we must conclude that there are not as many genuine Christians in the United States of America as one could wish. To believe that the churchgoers, even though they are not willing to pay the price of discipleship, will receive the rewards to the overcomer in any case on the basis of having taken the four steps of salvation, is not a scriptural hope. It is to make the Words of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation of no effect.

If I am hearing correctly from the Lord, there are not enough righteous people in America to overcome the stench of iniquity that is arising from the sins of the nation. The Lord cannot find “ten righteous,” so to speak. From the highest levels of government down to the poorest person there is a turning away from conscience, a willingness to live in the desires of the flesh. We have forsaken God!

The true Christian is the overcomer of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. I do not know how to categorize the remainder of the churchgoers, but I think they are heading toward intense fires—fires that will save them if they are willing and obedient.

We who profess the name of Jesus Christ are not God’s pets. Although He loves us dearly, His Word is His Word. It shall never change, not by grace, mercy, or any other means. We are going to sow what we are reaping.

The rewards we normally associate with being a Christians, such as eating of the tree of life, wearing the crown of life, ruling with Christ, are scripturally designated for the overcomer, the victorious saint who has followed Christ through to complete victory over love for the world spirit, the passions and appetites of the flesh, and self-will and personal ambition.

There are some today who would state just because we have made a profession of belief in Christ we are an overcomer and will receive the rewards to the overcomers. They are not reading carefully the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. They are adding to and subtracting from the only book of the Bible that pronounces a curse on those who change its message.

We are in trouble in America, there is no question about that. We need to turn again to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to help us be true disciples. Only then will we be able to save ourselves, our families, our friends, and possibly our nation.

Unless a significant number of American Christians humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways, and seek the Lord with all their might, the future of the United States indeed is bleak!

The Churches on Earth Differ From the Perfect Church

There is quite a difference between Jesus’ vision of His Church and the condition of the seven churches of Asia.

As to Jesus’ vision of His Church:

To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:26,27)

A radiant church.
Without stain.
Without wrinkle.
Without any other blemish.
Holy and blameless.
There is to be a perfect Church!

But will it be perfect by imputation (ascribed righteousness and holiness) or by transformation (actual righteousness and holiness)?

The Bible states that Jesus is our sanctification.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (I Corinthians 1:30)

Theologians may ask, “since the Lord Jesus Himself is our perfection, what further need have we of perfection? The Church is already perfect by identification with Him.”

Such is the current teaching. But this is not what the Bible teaches. Ephesians states the Bride will be made holy “by the washing with water through the word,” not by identification with Christ.

Paul sums up the process of sanctification as follows:

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1—NASB)

No one could possibly read into the above verse that we are sanctified by identification with Christ alone. It is apparent that we, in light of the promise of God that He would receive us if we came out of the world, are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting our own holiness.

Listen to the Apostle Paul:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; To be made new in the attitude of your minds; And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24—NIV)

Paul goes on to say that those who live in the lusts of their flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Notice the expression above: “Created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Given the context in which this expression is found, plus the very sense of the expression itself, we know Paul is not speaking of imputed righteousness or imputed holiness. He is referring to actual righteousness and holiness of person and behavior.

Too long in America have we Christians stressed imputed righteousness. Our nation is perishing as a result of this overemphasis on one aspect of the program of salvation. The very reason God has furnished the sinner with access to imputed righteousness is to get him started on the path that leads to the new creature of righteous behavior. When no new righteous creation is being brought forth, the purpose for imputed righteousness is being aborted.

Of course we cannot purify ourselves by our own will power. We must be cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the program of our personal sanctification.

The idea is that each member of the seven churches of Asia, if he or she would receive the rewards assigned to the members of the Body of Christ, must overcome through Christ the sins and blemishes the Lord names in connection with these churches.

It is as simple and straightforward as this.

Compare the prophesied Church:

Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession? (Song of Solomon 6:10)

With the churches found on the earth:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:15-18)

Can you see the difference between the true Bride of the Lamb and the members of the seven golden lampstands, the churches of Asia?

This means the churches of Asia are not the true Church of Christ. The true church is being formed within the churches. The true church is composed of the overcomers.

The overcomers are never addressed as a group, only as individuals.

We are not a member of the true Church, the Body of Christ, by virtue of attending an assembly of Christians, even of fervent Christians. We are not true members of the Body of Christ, and we will not receive the rewards ordinarily associated with being a Christian, except as we overcome the problems Christ has found in the churches.

What It Means “To Overcome”

It is not true, as is commonly taught, that every person is an overcomer on the basis of “making a decision for Christ.” If this were the case, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation would be irrelevant, having no significance whatever. The text would not make any sense! It is no wonder these chapters are not expounded more often.

The simple fact is, there were many forms of sin and rebellion in the seven churches of Asia. If we overcome these we will receive the rewards to the overcomer. If we do not overcome these we will not receive the rewards to the overcomer.

What were the prevailing sins in the Church of Ephesus, for example?

First, they had forsaken their first love. When they started with the Lord they loved to pray, to read their Bible, to gather with fervent believers. Their whole life was taken up with the joy of His Presence. They loved to talk about the Lord and tell about the things He had done for them.

Fifteen years later they found every excuse not to pray, not to read their Bible. They were too busy to gather with the believers (they had found that the church members were all hypocrites and the Pastor was not perfect). They seldom talked about the Lord. When testimony time came in church they sat like an idol on the bank of a river in India.

They had left their first love, their love for Jesus.

The Lord commended them for their hard work, their perseverance, their refusal to tolerate wicked men, their testing of those who claimed to be apostles, and their endurance of hardships for the name of Jesus without becoming weary.

The believers in Ephesus hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. Scholars vary on what these practices were, some saying the reference is to the elevation of the clergy over the laity; others holding that attempts to reconcile the Christian assemblies to the local community are indicated; yet others see the philosophy of antinomianism, the concept (very much in favor today) that we are saved by what we believe independently of our behavior.

Not a bad track record, but the Lord insists on perfection. In this case they were to overcome their lack of fervent love for Him.

What do we do when we discover from the Word that our face is dirty?

First, and most importantly, we repent. Repentance is not an act of emotion but of will. We read the Word, see the spots and blemishes, and resolve then and there to change. We do not waver between two opinions, we resolve to change!

Then we go to the Lord. “Help me to pray, to read the Word, to gather regularly with the saints, to be renewed and refreshed in the romance that is the Christian discipleship. Rekindle my love for You. Set me on fire.

“Drive these false gods out of my life. Turn me around. Get me back on the firing line. Give me a fresh, burning testimony. Help me, Jesus!”

Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it until you get your first love back. Don’t quit. You are in a struggle for your spiritual life. If you are an American, remember you are in an apostate nation. The demon oppression is heavy. You are going to have to fight with all your might to regain lost ground.

There is no other way to overcome the corruption and death that is warring against the Lord.

You must pray. You must read your Bible if one is available to you. You must gather with the saints if possible. In America you may be too busy to do these things. You are going to have to pray to the Lord to make time for you. You are going to have to mean business with God!

What if we do not overcome? What if we do not fiercely repent and change the way we behave? What if we listen to those around us who tell us “it is not this hard to be a Christian”?

We will lose our crown.

When the Lord says the rewards are to the overcomers the inference is clear: no overcoming, no reward.

Go through these two chapters and make a list of the rewards to the overcomer. The non-overcomer will receive none of these. What will that mean? It means if he is admitted to the Kingdom of God it will be as a naked spirit, saved, like Lot, by the fires of Divine judgment, no inheritance, no crown of glory, no conquering resurrection life, no white robe of the priesthood, no part in the temple of God.

In the case of the believer in Ephesus who does not return to his first love, his first enthusiasm and devotion, it means he is not given to eat of the Tree of Life. Spiritual death continues to abound in his personality. He will not be raised in the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord returns. The door will be shut in his face. He is flirting with outer darkness, and perhaps the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

He believes that Jesus is the Christ. So do the demons. The demons do not willingly obey Christ, He is not their personal Lord. Such also is the case with the faithless, disobedient Christian.

Christ died for the sins of the whole world, according to the Scripture. But to be saved we must obey His Word every day. To not do so is to be a lazy, worthless, servant. To not bear the fruit of moral transformation is to risk being cut from the Vine, being removed from Christ.

Eating of the Tree of Life

We shall use the reward to the Church in Ephesus, the opportunity to eat of the Tree of Life, as an illustration of how we are to approach all of the rewards designated for the victorious saints. The true Church of Jesus Christ attains the glory promised to it by overcoming through Christ the various shortcomings mentioned in the two chapters we are discussing. The rewards are aspects of the promised glory. Apart from them the Church remains spotted and wrinkled.

The Tree of Life always is in the middle of the Paradise of God. The Tree of Life is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other Tree of Life, except for those who are abiding in Him and are an integral part of Him. They will become trees of life as they grow to maturity.

Adam and Eve were intelligent animals formed from the dust of the ground. Had they eaten of the Tree of Life, had they partaken of Christ, they would have received eternal life into their personalities.

Instead they chose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the Law of God. The Law of God revealed their nakedness. They fled from God as Satan knew they would.

Their sin was disobedience to God. Sin brought death—separation from God. The consequence of learning of their nakedness was guilt, a fearful attitude toward God. Then God punished them by driving them from the garden.

In God’s love He made their bodies subject to death, so their inner nature could be separated from the dust until such time as their inner nature, followed by their body, would be qualified to regain access to the Tree of Life.

This is why Jesus, the Tree of Life, came to the earth. It is so we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, can keep on receiving eternal life until we are able to have a body that also is filled with eternal life.

Now, how does this work out in practice?

Each day we are challenged to renounce and turn away from some aspect of worldliness, lust, or self-will. If we choose to do so, Christ helps us and gives us to eat of Himself, of the Tree of Life. Our sinful adamic nature dies and in its place is formed resurrection life.

The cherubim and the flaming sword guard the way to the Tree of Life. We cannot eat of Christ except as we are willing to put away our sin, which we do with His assistance.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The gateway to life and the way that leads to life are difficult to find and travel. It is a case of repenting, of turning from our sin as the Holy Spirit guides us.

As we overcome we are given to eat of the Tree of Life. When we do not overcome we are not given to eat of the Tree of Life. We can sit in church until there are colonies on the sun but we will not receive one drop of life if we are not living as an overcomer.

Every Christian is to be a victorious saint. Every Christian is to walk as the Lord Jesus walked, to be righteous as He was righteous; to be holy as He was holy; to be strictly obedient to the Father as He was strictly obedient to the Father. We can accomplish none of this moral transformation in our adamic nature, but only as we look continually to Jesus. He is our Example and our Source of power and wisdom in all circumstances of life.

As we pray and overcome the evil of the day the crown of life begins to be placed on our head, the white voting pebble is given to us signifying we have passed from the ranks of the called and have become one of the chosen, the rod of iron is created in our spirit and soul. Although the rewards are very elementary in the present hour they are of the same essence that one day will be multiplied beyond our present comprehension.

Opportunity to eat of the Tree of Life is the beginning. Placement on the eternal Throne of Christ is the consummation. Increment by increment we attain the glory promised to us by the Father.

To not return to our first love of prayer, Bible reading, and consecration to the Lord’s service is to forfeit our right to the Tree of Life, which is the right to partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ given to us in the spirit realm. Then we do not have the strength to remain in the prison in which we have been placed, to overcome the lusts of Jezebel, or to buy gold tried in the fire.

Victory leads to the next victory. Defeat leads to the next defeat. We are on a path leading upward to the throne or downward to defeat and corruption in the Day of the Lord.

You can eat of the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, today by praying to God for the strength and wisdom to do what He is commanding you right now!


We overcome each day and we receive the rewards to the overcomer each day. When our overcoming attains its fullness our rewards will be revealed in their fullness. Those who are not overcoming each day are not receiving the rewards to the overcomer. So for the conquerors it’s onward and upward to the Throne of Christ and the first resurrection from the dead.

How terrible it would be to go through life as a Christian believer and then find, at the time of our death or when the dead are raised, that we did not participate in the process of change, the process that would have made us coheirs with Jesus Christ of the works of God’s hands. Yet this is what will take place for the majority of believers in the United States of America unless God in His goodness awakens His people to the truth of the Scriptures.

It is not that we need a new revelation. It is that we have not been saying “Amen!” to the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. We have been ignoring them, pretending they are not “practical,” that they have no bearing on the actual course of our discipleship.

The truth is, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are a love letter to the Bride of the Lamb. We can hear the voice of the Bridegroom calling to His beloved to “come away” from the carnality of the churches to skip with Him on the mountains of spices.

Those who have an ear to hear the Spirit will follow Jesus through the tumultuous years, the age of moral horrors that even now is reaching its tentacles toward us. That which would have been cause for hanging a hundred years ago in America is now protected by law or regarded as the ordinary problems of civilization. From sea to bloody sea!

A new age is before us filled with opportunity for glory and opportunity for sin. We will most assuredly reap what we are sowing at this time.

Let us turn once again to the Lord Jesus, renewing our first love. He will feed us with His own body and blood. The body and blood of Jesus Christ are the only true food and the only true drink.

If we will open the door of our personality to Jesus He will enter us and dine with us on His own body and blood. Then we shall live by Him as He lives by the Father. Then we shall walk in eternal, incorruptible resurrection life.

Then we shall rise with the other eagles to surround the carcass, the slain Lamb, when He appears in the heavens.

(“The Necessity For Overcoming”, 4039-1)

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