15.1.3. Who is the Overcomer

Each letter closes with one or more promises for “he who overcomes.” The question arises, “Who is the overcomer?”

The question that needs resolving involves a proper identification of this overcomer. Does he belong to a special class of Christians composed of those who are spiritual and not carnal? Or is he part of a special group of Christians who are set apart for eventual martyrdom? Or is “overcomer” simply another name for those who are genuinely regenerate believers?1

A survey of the rewards promised for the overcomer in each church shows that they correlate with the general benefits of salvation offered to all believers (Rev. Rev. 2:7+, Rev. 2:11+, Rev. 2:17+, Rev. 2:26-27+; Rev. 3:5+, Rev. 3:12+, Rev. 3:21+). These promises describe the rewards for true believers within the larger body of each church, composed of both true and professing Christians.

Almost all the references to overcoming mention a promise for all believers, promises that accompany salvation. . . . It would seem strange to think of only some believers eating of the tree of life, or not being hurt by the second death, or not being clothed in white garments. [emphasis added]2

As to the definition of overcomer, it can best be understood in light of what John says elsewhere:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1Jn 1Jn. 5:4-5) [emphasis added]

The overcomers in each church do so, not by their actions—rather their actions are an indication of their identification with the Overcomer, Jesus Christ (John John 16:33; 1Jn. 1Jn. 4:4). John indicates that those who overcome do so by way of their relationship with God:

I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. (1Jn 1Jn. 2:13) [emphasis added]

Those who overcome do so by trusting in Christ and His sacrifice, remaining unwavering in their faith, even when faced with death (Rev. Rev. 12:11+). They inherit all things because of their position in Christ as sons of God (Rev. Rev. 21:7+).

Promises to the Overcomer
Ephesus To eat from the tree of life (Rev. Rev. 2:7+).
Smyrna Not be hurt by the second death (Rev. Rev. 2:11+).
Pergamos Hidden manna to eat, a white stone with a new name written (Rev. Rev. 2:17+).
Thyatira Power over the nations, the morning star (Rev. Rev. 2:26-28+).
Sardis Clothed in white garments, name not blotted out from the Book of Life, name confessed before the Father and angels (Rev. Rev. 3:5-6+).
Philadelphia Made a pillar in the temple of God, name of God, New Jerusalem, and Jesus’ new name written upon (Rev. Rev. 3:12+).
Laodicea Sit with Jesus on His throne (Rev. Rev. 3:21+).


1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 151.

2 Mal Couch, “Soteriology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 164-165.