Tuesday, 8 September 2020
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7
The Lord has spoken forth the words of the first of seven letters to seven churches. He has complimented, noted deficiency, warned, and acknowledged proper doctrine. With the main body of the letter complete, he now provides His final words to the Ephesians, beginning with, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” This same phrase will be repeated in all seven letters to the churches.
The first three will be placed before the promises, while the final four will come after the promises. It is a phrase not found in John’s gospel, but it is found in both Matthew 11:15 and Mark 4:9.
It is a way of calling to attention something of the highest importance. To “hear” in Scripture means more than just sound entering into the ears. It signifies heeding what is conveyed. Both attention and obedience are to be applied to what is heard. The book of Deuteronomy repeatedly says, “Hear O Israel.” In this, Moses is calling Israel to hear and to attend to what is said.
Jesus’ words here carry the same weight. “Heed what you have heard, be attentive to it, and be obedient in your attention.” But more, Jesus isn’t just asking them to respond to what has been said, but what He will now say as He completes His words, next stating, “what the Spirit says.”
The meaning of these words is debated. Is it that referred to earlier when John said in verse 1:10, “I was in the Spirit”? Or, is this word of Jesus attributed to the direct influence of the Holy Spirit reminding John of what he heard, as is indicated in John 14? –
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:25, 26
Or, is this to be considered the Spirit working through Christ, as is indicated in John 3? –
“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” John 3:34
The final option seems most likely, because Jesus directly says, “what the Spirit says.” This isn’t just a call to remember what was heard in order to write it down. Rather, this is what the Spirit, who is the member of the Godhead who inspires Scripture, was speaking through Christ. There is One God displayed in three members of the Godhead. Each works in accord with the other to reveal His intentions, purposes, and word. In this case, it is what the Spirit says, “to the churches.”
This statement could be taken in one of two ways: 1) Everything said to all the churches, or 2) everything said to each church. In other words, the first option is that the Spirit is conveying one message to all the churches combined – every person in every church should heed everything that is said in all seven letters. Or, He is conveying a message to Ephesus, one to Thyatira, one to Sardis, and so on. Each church is to pay heed to what is said to it.
The answer is that all people (He who hears) are to listen to everything that is said to all the churches. There are seven letters to individual churches, but the message to each church is to be heard by all people. The repetition to each church is to call to attention its own issues, but all people in all churches are to know what the status of all churches is. Thus, they can fully know what is pleasing, what is displeasing, and what the promises of overcoming are.
With that understood, Jesus next conveys the good news for the overcomer. He says, “To him who overcomes…” It is a phrase found in all seven letters. Vincent’s Word Studies notes that “The verb is used absolutely without any object expressed.” In other words, it is a present participle that conveys the thought of “To the one overcoming.” When one overcomes, he has overcome. It is a finished action.
The question is, “How does one overcome?” The answer is found elsewhere in John’s letters. The following insert will explain who it is that “overcomes.”
The words of this evaluation are based on 1 John 5:5 (cited below), and which are taken in connection with John’s other words of that epistle. Look at how John weaves thoughts together in the book of 1 John in order to ensure that all ends are secure –
“…whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” (5:4)
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (5:1)
“He who believes the Jesus is the Son of God” overcomes the world. (5:5)
“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” (4:2)
“…every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (4:3).
In this, John is obviously equating “Christ” with “Son of God.” The Christ is God incarnate (come in the flesh) – where the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). John is revealing that which is true and that which is false. This calls out for proper understanding because to believe otherwise is the spirit of the Antichrist.
There are those who claim that Jesus is the Christ, but they do not believe He is God incarnate. Thus, verse 5:1 does not apply to them. There are those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but they do not accept that He is then fully God. Thus, verse 5:5 does not apply to them. In other words, there are sons of God recorded in both testaments – such as in Genesis 6 and Job 1. These are referring to human beings, not the divine Son of God.
There are also sons of God in the New Testament, such as in Romans 8:14 and elsewhere. These are adopted sons of God, not the Son begotten of God – meaning Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God.
One must take the words of John on a much more global scale to fully understand what he is referring to. Without doing so, a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness might appear to pass the test of one who overcomes the world. But such is not the case. Through evaluating the entire scope of what John is referring to, we find that such heretics do not pass muster, and have not overcome the world. As John asks, “Who is he who overcomes the world…?”
It is the person who will meet the qualifications he will state in a moment, but that person must meet the other qualifications which are directly tied to those words as well. John says that it is “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” This is the person who overcomes. But he only does so if he believes that the Son of God (Jesus) is the Christ. And further, he only does so if he confesses that Jesus Christ has also come in the flesh.
If he does so, he is of God and has both been born of God and has overcome the world. If he does not confess the deity of Christ (having come in the flesh), he “is not of God.” In proper theology, one plus one will always equal two. However, sometimes the equation is built upon other such simple equations. When each is properly realized, the truth of the situation is confirmed. This is why it is so important to have a larger understanding of what John is conveying when talking with people from aberrant cults.
Also, in his words, John uses present participles, each prefixed with an article when speaking of the one who overcomes. More literally, he says, “Who now is the one overcoming.” The response is, “…the one believing.” As noted, one can believe in a “Christ” who is not the Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:4, for example). It is the one believing in the proper Christ, who is the Son of God – fully Man and yet fully God. In his belief, he is overcoming the world. For those who believe in the wrong “Christ,” they are not overcoming anything. They are still in their sins, and they belong to this world.
It is to the person who trusts in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the God/Man, that overcomes. To one in that category, Jesus says, “I will give to eat from the tree of life.” The Lord promises that what was lost, at the very beginning when man fell, will be restored to the one who overcomes –
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.” Genesis 3:22, 23
Man disobeyed God, and he was condemned to die. But more, access to the source of eternal life was taken from him. Jesus says that this will now be accessible once again to the one who overcomes. As he is “overcoming” as noted above, it means that once he qualifies, it is a done deal. It will not be taken from him. It is a note of eternal security, just as promised elsewhere in the epistles. According to Paul in Ephesians 1:13, 14, when one believes, he is given a deposit as a guarantee of this. Jesus now confirms that. What was lost is now restored.
But the eternal life that is granted is not simply in the state and place we now are – as if we must endure an eternity of this planet with its pains and troubles. Rather, Jesus finishes by saying that the tree of life is that “which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
It is the heavenly promise. Not only the life that Adam possessed, but life in a paradisical state just as he possessed it. This will be realized for all who overcome. It is a promise, it is a guarantee, and it is granted the moment that someone receives Jesus Christ – the God/Man – according to the gospel. That final, glorious state will be actualized by God in His timing. But until then, the one who overcomes possesses the surety of the promise by God, who cannot lie.
Life application: To “overcome” is a concept mentioned 11 times in the book of Revelation. One who overcomes is the victorious believer in the Person of Jesus Christ. There is symmetry to the Bible that can’t be mistaken – something is lost, something is regained; something goes, something returns. It all fits so incredibly well that it’s hard to imagine people not saying, “I’d better check this out a little more.”
God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden so that he could worship and serve his Creator for all eternity. God had already supplied everything necessary for the man. All Adam had to do was to direct his attention upward towards God and bask in the glory he beheld. Instead, he exercised his free-will in disobedience to what God had offered. His life would, from that point on, be directed toward the ground – a hard master.
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
But God did a great and marvelous thing in another garden when His own Son pleaded that the cup of His Father’s wrath be taken from Him. However, the Son followed His Father’s will and thus prevailed over the devil’s work.
The Tree of Life, a representation of Jesus Christ, now stands available to all who will partake. Eternal fellowship, worship and praise, glorying in the Creator – all these are available to those who overcome. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Glory to God in the highest in the name of Jesus! Hallelujah and Amen.
O God! Where Adam disobeyed and lost His right to live in Your presence, Jesus prevailed and regained that right. Now, through faith in Him and His wondrous work, man can again be reconciled to You. Please direct our eyes, our minds, and our thoughts to the wondrous work which was accomplished for the fallen children of men – the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.