Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (2) Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
The Lord Jesus rebukes the church in Sardis because their deeds are unfinished in the sight of God. This clearly means that certain deeds are expected from those who hope for eternal life. It is not the “free ride” that some have been led to believe. Our deeds—what we have accomplished for the Lord—can be found “unfinished in the sight of God.” What is the consequence of this?
(3) Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
The consequence is that we will not be ready when He returns. Why should any born-again believer not be concerned about this?
(4) Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. (5) The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. (6) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The one whose deeds are in fact found to be finished and who are ready for His coming are those who are “victorious.” They have not soiled their clothes, and their names will never be blotted out from the book of life. This strongly implies that they will be some whose names will in fact be blotted out. Can this refer to those who have “soiled their clothes” by disobedience and sin?
Let us examine from other New Testament Scriptures what it means “to be victorious” or in Greek “nikaō.”
nikaō (nik-ah’-o) in Greek νικάω
It means to subdue (literally or figuratively): conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.
There are a total of 28 occurrences of “nikaō” found in the KJV.
Out of these 28 occurrences, 23 are found in 1 John and Revelation, both of which are authored by the apostle John.
Let’s examine how John uses “nikaō” in his writings.
1 John 2:13 I writeG1125 unto you,G5213 fathers,G3962 becauseG3754 ye have knownG1097 himG3588 that is fromG575 the beginning.G746 I writeG1125 unto you,G5213 young men,G3495 becauseG3754 ye have overcomeG3528 theG3588 wicked one.G4190 I writeG1125 unto you,G5213 little children,G3813 becauseG3754 ye have knownG1097 theG3588 Father.G3962
1 John 2:14 I have writtenG1125 unto you,G5213 fathers,G3962 becauseG3754 ye have knownG1097 himG3588 that is fromG575 the beginning.G746 I have writtenG1125 unto you,G5213 young men,G3495 becauseG3754 ye areG2075 strong,G2478 andG2532 theG3588 wordG3056 of GodG2316 abidethG3306 inG1722 you,G5213 andG2532 ye have overcomeG3528 theG3588 wicked one.G4190
1 John 4:4 YeG5210 areG2075 ofG1537 God,G2316 little children,G5040 andG2532 have overcomeG3528 them:G846 becauseG3754 greaterG3187 isG2076 heG3588 that is inG1722 you,G5213 thanG2228 heG3588 that is inG1722 theG3588 world.G2889
1 John 5:4 ForG3754 whatsoeverG3956 is bornG1080 ofG1537 GodG2316 overcomethG3528 theG3588 world:G2889 andG2532 thisG3778 isG2076 theG3588 victoryG3529 that overcomethG3528 theG3588 world,G2889 even ourG2257 faith.G4102
1 John 5:5 WhoG5101 isG2076 he that overcomethG3528 theG3588 world,G2889 butG1508 he that believethG4100 thatG3754 JesusG2424 isG2076 theG3588 SonG5207 of God?G2316
In 1 John the usage of “nikaō” is primarily in the sense of overcoming the world and the evil one.
1 John 2:16 For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.
Those who are “victorious” overcome the love of the world and the temptations of the evil one in this life. Now we can have better understanding of what John wrote subsequently in Revelation—when he quoted Jesus commending those who are “victorious.”
Revelation 2:7 He that hathG2192 an ear,G3775 let him hearG191 whatG5101 theG3588 SpiritG4151 saithG3004 unto theG3588 churches;G1577 To himG846 that overcomethG3528 will I giveG1325 to eatG5315 ofG1537 theG3588 treeG3586 of life,G2222 whichG3739 isG2076 inG1722 the midstG3319 of theG3588 paradiseG3857 of God.G2316
Revelation 2:11 He that hathG2192 an ear,G3775 let him hearG191 whatG5101 theG3588 SpiritG4151 saithG3004 unto theG3588 churches;G1577 He that overcomethG3528 shall notG3364 be hurtG91 ofG1537 theG3588 secondG1208 death.G2288
Revelation 2:17 He that hathG2192 an ear,G3775 let him hearG191 whatG5101 theG3588 SpiritG4151 saithG3004 unto theG3588 churches;G1577 To himG846 that overcomethG3528 will I giveG1325 to eatG5315 ofG575 theG3588 hiddenG2928 (G3588) manna,G3131 andG2532 will giveG1325 himG846 a whiteG3022 stone,G5586 andG2532 inG1909 theG3588 stoneG5586 a newG2537 nameG3686 written,G1125 whichG3739 no manG3762 knowethG1097 savingG1508 he that receivethG2983 it.
Revelation 2:26 AndG2532 he that overcometh,G3528 andG2532 keepethG5083 myG3450 worksG2041 untoG891 the end,G5056 to himG846 will I giveG1325 powerG1849 overG1909 theG3588 nations:G1484
They who are victorious will keep, hold fast to, and fulfill the Lord’s works until the end. They will be given authority over the nations in the Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh,G3528 the sameG3778 shall be clothedG4016 inG1722 whiteG3022 raiment;G2440 andG2532 I will notG3364 blot outG1813 hisG848 nameG3686 outG1537 of theG3588 bookG976 of life,G2222 butG2532 I will confessG1843 hisG848 nameG3686 beforeG1799 myG3450 Father,G3962 andG2532 beforeG1799 hisG848 angels.G32
Revelation 3:12 HimG846 that overcomethG3528 will I makeG4160 a pillarG4769 inG1722 theG3588 templeG3485 of myG3450 God,G2316 andG2532 he shall goG1831 noG3364 moreG2089 out:G1854 andG2532 I will writeG1125 uponG1909 himG846 theG3588 nameG3686 of myG3450 God,G2316 andG2532 theG3588 nameG3686 of theG3588 cityG4172 of myG3450 God,G2316 which is newG2537 Jerusalem,G2419 whichG3739 cometh downG2597 out ofG1537 heavenG3772 fromG575 myG3450 God:G2316 andG2532 I will write upon him myG3450 newG2537 name.G3686
Jesus says to the angel of the church in Laodicea:
Revelation 3:21 To himG846 that overcomethG3528 will I grantG1325 to sitG2523 withG3326 meG1700 inG1722 myG3450 throne,G2362 even asG5613 I alsoG2504 overcame,G3528 andG2532 am set downG2523 withG3326 myG3450 FatherG3962 inG1722 hisG848 throne.G2362
They who are victorious (who “overcome”) will sit with the Lord on his throne. They will be given authority to rule with Christ in His kingdom.
Revelation 3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. (8) I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (9) I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. (10) Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. (11) I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (12) The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (13) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
(14) “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. (15) I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! (16) So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (17) You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (18) 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. (19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (21) To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (22) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Those who are “victorious” overcome the love of the world and the temptations of the evil one. They who are victorious will keep, hold fast to, and fulfill the Lord’s works until the end by obeying his commands in Scripture. They will be given authority over the nations in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. A crown—promised to those in the church of Philadelphia to those who hold on to what they have (Revelation 3:11)—is a symbol of kingly authority.
Sadly, there will also be many whose deeds will be found unfinished in the sight of God. They will suffer loss in some way. Is it possible that this might have to do with names being blotted out from the book of life?