Let's turn over to Revelation for our text. Go to Revelation 2, and begin with verse 7. It says this, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
Now, let's think about this together for a little while. As we begin to introduce this thought which is contained especially in the last portion of this seventh verse of chapter 2, "him that overcometh," let's think a little about the seven churches and the letters to the seven churches of Asia. All of these letters are designed a great deal alike.
You might say, "Well, but there's a lot of difference in the churches." And that's true, a lot of difference in the description, or in what is said about the churches themselves. And yet, the design of the letters is basically of a general pattern about the same! A little bit more to one and a little bit less to another, but the general pattern is similar.
In the first place, on every letter, you first find the address, or the salutation. And this is common, even in our letters today, isn't it?
Then second in each letter, after the address or greeting, you always find the mention of one or more of the marvelous attributes of the speaker. Now, who is the speaker? Well, the real speaker here is Jesus Christ! That's the reason we can say, "the marvelous attributes of the speaker." The real speaker here in Revelation is Jesus! ! Oh, I know John wrote it down. Jesus revealed it to him and he wrote it down, but it's really Jesus speaking.
Because all of this is a group of visions and prophetic scenes that Jesus has shown and revealed to John, the beloved disciple. So, first comes the address or salutation in each one of these letters. Then second comes the mention of one or more of the attributes of Christ, the speaker.
If you go back and look in chapter 1, you'll find that most all of these attributes are mentioned or listed in one chapter, in John's vision of the Lord Jesus on Patmos. If you go back and read chapter 1, you'll find that is true. So, these various attributes that are mentioned piecemeal through the letters to the churches are spoken of together there in chapter 1.
Now thirdly in each of these letters, each letter mentions that He, that is the Lord, knows all about the works of the ones addressed. And we need to keep that in mind ourselves, don't we? As a church, and as individuals, we need to keep this in mind, that He knows all about us and about our work! He knows when we do our best and when we do only half our best. He knows when we do what we should and when we only do half what we should. He knows all about it! And he doesn't have to ask anybody. He already knows. He is omniscient.
Now, not only does the Lord know about the works of the ones addressed, but we find fourthly in every one of these letters, that each letter contains a summary of the works of the church, describing what they are and what they are doing. Now, let's just keep in mind, too that He knows what we are and what we are doing right here and now! He knows about it. He either condemns or praises according to what they are and what they are doing.
Fifth, in each one of these letters we find He always refers to His Second Coming. Showing how His Second Coming will appear to that particular church to whom He's addressing that particular letter. To some, it will be a great judgment, of course, the coming of the Lord. But to others, it will be a great triumph and a great relief. A fantastic victory, the coming of the Lord, when He comes in power and great glory.
The sixth part of each letter is an admonition to hear. Listen to the book. Hear what it says. Listen to the Lord. How does He speak to us now? It's through His Word! Through the preaching and the reading and the studying of His Word. That's the way He speaks to us. He doesn't give us some special, new revelation; that's where all these weird cults come from. They pretend they've got some new revelation.
Many of the cults claim that they've got some new, revelation from God. They went off somewhere and did without food for forty days and forty nights and God gave them a great vision. And that's the way it all started. And you can look at the mess they've produced and tell that's the way it all started. It didn't start from anything they got from God, it started from something they got from hunger pangs, or gas pains, or something. Because you can tell a tree by the fruit it produces — whatever it produces, that is where it came from.
The seventh part of each letter is a final promise to the one who overcomes.
The promise to Ephesus is, "to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." That's the promise to Ephesus. We read that to you in the beginning of our discussion in chapter 2, verse 7b.
We want to study for a little while about this seventh part. The reward that's promised to the faithful. In the first place, we find that the reward is given at Christ's coming. He's not going to give us our final reward now. We shouldn't even want Him to, because our influence is not finished yet, is it? Our reward would be diminished if He gave us our reward now! Because it would have to be based on the results of our faithfulness to this point only.
But the final reward is given to us at His coming. The reward is the last thing. It's not the first, it's not the middle, it's not just nearly to the end, but it is at the end. This is true, even of the unsaved, their reward is going to be right at the last as well.
Revelation 22:12 says this: "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
Salvation, remember, is never a reward. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace! For all who are awakened and drawn by God's power, He gives them faith to repent and receive His Son. So, don't ever get confused and start trying to list salvation or going to heaven as our reward. It's not. Our salvation from hell is a free gift; it's by grace alone! It's not something we work for, it's not something we earned, but a free gift, purchased by the blood on Calvary!
You may ask why is the Christian's reward given at the end of the age? Why not in this life or why not immediately at one's death? Well, that's not what the Bible says it's going to be. It says that the reward is coming to us when Jesus comes, doesn't it? A man's influence, of course, doesn't die when he does!
When a man dies, his influence doesn't die immediately. In fact, it may go on for three or four or five generations, or even more in some cases. So that there has to be a time for this influence to work its way out, for this man to get his full reward, whether it be good or whether it be evil.
Our reward is like an echo. In a good echo place, an echo just goes on and on and on for a long time. It bounces back and forth, and that's the way a man's influence is. It's like a ripple on a still pond of water. You can drop just one little stone in, and it makes one little ripple, and then it just keeps going and keeps going and keeps going and keeps going. And if it's a very still pond, that little ripple from that one little stone will reach all the way out to the end of that pond, won't it? And that's the way a man's influence is; it goes until it reaches the farthest shore.
God unravels the threads of a man's influence. He waits until the end times for the giving of rewards because what we've done keeps bearing fruit, either good or bad. At the end time, all these threads of influence of the man will be gathered together to set our reward.
Many years ago there was a man named Thomas Paine. He died in 1809. He wrote a very famous book called, The Age of Reason. This Age of Reason, is an atheistic book, which is still influencing men today. And the man died in 1809. So Paine's evil reward is still building up, isn't it? It's still building up, because of the evil influence of his evil writings.
Matthew Henry, on the other side of the coin, was a Christian. He died in 1714. And he spent many, many years of his life here on Earth, writing a commentary on the whole Bible. This commentary is still widely used in all of the English speaking world today. And is even easily available. This very popular commentary on the whole Bible is still influencing countless people today. So his reward is still building up for him, too. His is the good kind of reward, instead of the bad kind, like that of Thomas Paine.
Our rewards are given to us last at the end of the age when Jesus comes, as we've already showed you in Scripture. Our influence for good and bad will only end when Jesus comes to reward His own. Then the clock's going to stop on this influence business. But until He comes, our influence for good and bad will not have been ended.
First John 5:5, has this to say about our text: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Again, there in verse 4, it tells us, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." So, we need to keep these two thoughts in mind as we continue to look at this portion, "to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
There are several different facets of future rewards, like the facets of a jewel. You know how they cut a jewel a certain way, depending partly on the type of jewel it is, and then even within certain different types of diamonds, for example, they will cut it a different way depending on the quality and the character of the diamond itself. But these different facets of future rewards, these various cuts, are like a beautiful gem shining through seven faces. So in these seven letters, we have seven sparkling presentations of rewards that God has in store for His children. I want to quickly look at some of them with you now.
Whatever God has proposed, whatever God has promised, whatever He has offered His children in any age past, God gathers it all up and gives it to us in the age that is yet to come. Think about all the wonderful, glorious, fantastic, incredible promises of God in the past to His children. Just think about them. All those glorious promises are going to be bundled up and given to us in the age to come!
To Ephesus, the key is what we read for our text: Rev. 2:7b, "to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Now what about the tree of life? Because of sin we were shut out from it. We were cut off from the tree of life, when God transplanted it into the paradise of heaven.
God is keeping it for us, this tree of life. He's keeping it for us, and there we shall be vigorous and healthy forever. Never any aches and pains. No more separation from loved ones. A perfect body, forever. That will make life in paradise really worth living! And after a thousand years, we'll just be getting started! At ten thousand years, just a youngster. At a million years, just a youngster. It's fantastic to think about! In fact, time will then be no more!
Another cut on the gem of future reward, to Smyrna, in chapter 2, verse 11. "He that overcometh,". We've already showed you who overcomes, I John 5:5 says: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God," and the other verse which says, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." So, this facet now, "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
Don't forget also, that in verse 10, to him that overcometh, he said: "I will give thee a crown of life," in verse 10. This is another facet of the rewards.
Death is our enemy. There's no need pretending it's not. Death is our enemy. It is an intruder. And death is the fruit of the seed of mischief, the seed of unbelief, the seed of rejection and sin, by our first parents! That's where it came from. But, we're going to have a marvelous gift given to us up there.
We've already been given eternal, spiritual life when we trusted Christ, but up there we'll be given eternal, physical life. Young and vigorous, handsome, beautiful, no aches, no pains, no wearing out the parts; but just fixed up permanently by the one who designed this body to begin with. He created it in the first place.
To Pergamos, Revelation 2:17, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written." If one would make a deep study of this white stone, one could preach several sermons on just that.
But let's think about it just briefly. He's going to give the overcomer a white stone, and in the stone a new name written. This is our new name given us of God. Remember, if you've studied back in the Old Testament, in the rituals and ceremonies and the paraphernalia of the Old Testament, on the breastplate of the high priest, he had the names of the children of Israel, the children of God, written there. And God fed them there with manna from heaven.
Remember, in glory, there'll be no more curse, no more thorns, no more weeds, thistles, briars, and brambles. But only the luscious fruits and beautiful flowers. There won't be any thorns on the roses. There won't be any of the curse left.
God feeds us now with spiritual manna, but in that day, God will feed us with real manna and our names are written on the Lamb's heart. Our great High Priest has our name written on the breastplate over His heart. With our names written on the Lamb's heart, we'll be cared for in a new and wonderful and perfect Earth, with the curse removed from the earth forever.
To Thyatira, we find another facet. In Revelation 2:26, where it says this, "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." Then going on to verse 27 and verse 28, "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and I will give him the morning star." Now, who's the morning star? Jesus, the Savior. "He's the bright and morning star," as the song says, "He's the fairest of ten thousands!"
Under David and Solomon, God's children defeated their enemies and ruled over them for quite a long period of time. But in these glorious days, we shall rule forever, and be forever triumphant! It won't be just for a period of time, but forever! A glorious, triumphant, victorious, everlasting kingdom of peace and joy and plenty, is coming one day. And we shall be part of this everlasting kingdom. And if we are faithful in the church, "we shall reign with Him!"
Sardis, in Revelation 3:5, is the fifth facet of the seven. "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." We won't need any of these suits we have now. It won't matter then whether we wore a fifty dollar suit here on Earth, or a five hundred dollar suit. It won't really matter because we'll have the most glorious robe that's ever been fashioned. A robe of PURE white! We'll be clothed in white raiment, a robe made white by the blood of the Lamb!
Here on Earth, men's garments are stained by sin, as is their character. In the life to come, we'll be clothed in the white raiment of the righteousness of Christ. And no raiment could be more glorious than that. We'll be clothed in His own spotless character as well.
God will make us anew, physically in that day. The blind will see again. Imagine when all the blind people that have died in the Lord, can see, their eyes are opened, and they see the blessed Son of God! They've perhaps been blind all their life, now their eyes are opened, and they see the King. That'll be a glorious time, won't it? And, of course, we ourselves will see our glorious Redeemer for the first time also with our glorified eyes, where now we've seen Him only with the eyes of faith.
The lame will be healed. They all will be done like that man in the Bible. He had been lame all his life, lying at the gate of the temple most of the thirty-eight years, I believe. Ever since he was old enough to be there, and he was born lame. And all the lame that died in Christ will be jumping all over that golden street.
The weak will be made strong. What man has lost here, through sin, God will give back to us then, and all will be made perfect in His sight. To say things will be made perfect in His sight, means they will be perfect, and glorious.
The sixth of these seven facets of rewards, to Philadelphia, is given in Revelation 3:12. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." Each of us will have an assignment in the beautiful, new Jerusalem in the government of the Kingdom. We'll have our own place, our assignment to serve. Perhaps those who sing will be singing in the heavenly choir. Perhaps those who preach may have a place to praise the Lord and His name in preaching. And all of us, whatever the case may be, will be busy and vigorous and happy serving the Lord our King in the new Jerusalem.
There won't be any of this business of floating around on a white cloud strumming a little harp. That's silly! That is the view of heaven many people have! But that's not the way it's going to be at all. We'll all be busy and vigorous and happy, serving the Lord in this glorious eternal Kingdom!
And then, facet number seven, to Laodicea in chapter 3, verse 21, he said this: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Now, think about what this really means. It means a lot more than what it sounds like. It means we will be fellow rulers with Jesus Himself. It means that we'll have this highest reward, beyond our power to imagine, to be fellow rulers with Jesus. Can you imagine anything greater than that? Beyond that there is nothing else! That's the pinnacle, the very peak. The mind boggles at the glory and the greatness of it. We can't imagine the glory and honor of being fellow heirs with Christ in His kingdom and to sit with Him in His throne.
Now in conclusion, let's think together for just a few minutes more about the certainty of these glorious rewards. Yes, it's a certainty! It is a coming reality. It's something that's really going to take place, something that is actually going to literally happen. There really is a paradise of God on which our hopes are set and fixed. It's a real place. What did Jesus say to the thief on the cross? "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." There is a crown of life for which our hearts long. There really is a city of God. It actually exists.
God's promises are true and can never fail! These promises God holds in store for us until He comes. These same promises have been part of the faith of the saints through ages past. One could give a lot of biblical examples of the fact that these same promises have been part of the faith of the saints through the ages. One good example would be Moses. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He knew there was something greater in store for Him than to be the Pharaoh of Egypt, didn't he? He knew there was something a lot better than for him to rule over Egypt. And his vision was real. Hebrews 11, verses 24 through 26 speaks of this.
Hebrews 11 also tells us that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth. And this is the thing that's so hard for us; to really conceive and understand and adopt this attitude ourselves. To recognize the fact that we're pilgrims and strangers in this earth. This world is not our home.
As the song says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue." We need to really take that attitude. And if we would, it would change the way we live, and the way we think, and the way we act! But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked for a city which hath foundations and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth. They lifted up their eyes to behold that city!
It tells us in that same chapter that God is not ashamed to be called their God, and has prepared for them (and for us) that city. Let us press toward the mark, as Paul said in Philippians.
Let us all vow to be overcomers! Let us be overcomers in our daily life, in our Christian service and in our giving ourselves and our means for the cause of Christ.
How do we overcome? BY FAITH! I John 5:4 says it all: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, EVEN OUR FAITH."