Getting Saved vs. Overcoming | Part 1
Let us begin by turning to Revelation 21. And it reads:
Revelation 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
From these two verses we see that there are two kinds of people. Overcomers and non-overcomers. Overcomers inherit everything, and non-overcomers die the second death.
That’s cut and dry. But how do we overcome? Does saying a prayer accepting Jesus into your heart make you an overcomer? Does simply saying I believe in Jesus guarantee that you will overcome? How about baptism? If your sins are washed away at the waters of baptism and you get saved are you guaranteed a spot in heaven? What makes you an overcomer?
Well, I can tell you this, there are no free tickets to heaven. Sincere believers can and do lose their faith. I’ve seen it happen. And in this study we are going to find out that:
"All overcomers are saved people, but not all saved people will overcome."
That’s why we are warned all throughout the Bible not to fall away and lose our salvation. Jesus gave many examples of this as we will soon see. Just because you got saved back in let’s say 1995, it doesn’t mean your salvation is locked in regardless of what you do with it later on. There is always still a chance you can turn your back on God and apostatize. You can still throw it all away if you’re not careful.
You may overcome many things throughout your life. In fact, believing in Jesus is a big step towards overcoming. But the fight isn’t over until the day you die. You have to continually endure trials, tribulations, and remain faithful to God until the end. We have not officially overcome until this life is over.
There is no such thing as “once saved always saved”.
This is a popular but extremely dangerous teaching. It teaches people that once you become a believer, no matter what you do afterwards cannot cause you to lose your spot in heaven. That doesn’t even make sense. It is a false hope that leads to complacency, and worse yet sometimes rebellion.
"The danger of the once saved always saved teaching is that it leads believers into complacency by giving them a false hope."
There are numerous passages in the Bible where I could go to prove this. And we’ll touch on a number of those, but our study today will primarily focus on Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Because in these two chapters Jesus gives seven sermons to seven different churches, and guess what? Do we even find the word “saved” in these sermons? No, we don’t. Isn’t that strange. Guess what word we do find though?
You got it. In all seven varying sermons Jesus had one main message – OVERCOME.
He used the word ‘overcome’ 8 times and ‘saved’ 0 times.
But when I visit various churches today, you’d think it was the other way around. You’d think that the word ‘saved’ was used 8 times and ‘overcome’ 0 times.
This is a tragic failure. The church has failed to follow the model and message Jesus wants the church to know. If you are in church, you’re supposed to be already saved from your sins. It is not the job of the church to teach sermon after sermon on getting ‘saved’. That’s the job for an evangelist looking for new converts. The churches job is to train, equip, and encourage already ‘saved’ believers to overcome.
"When you believe and are saved, you’ve only taken the first step. Now you must demonstrate that faith and overcome."
In fact, these seven sermons by Jesus that we’re going to read are what inspired me about ten years ago to name our ministry Christian Overcomers. I thought, hey, if this is the main message Jesus has for the church, then it had better be our main message too!
So today, we’re going to read through each one of those short sermons.
JESUS'S SEVEN SERMONSRevelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Revelation 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Repent, and do the first works- I can hear it right now. “Oh, but Jesus. We are saved by grace. Didn’t you read John 3:16 where you said for ‘whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And what about Ephesians 2:8-9 where the Apostle Paul says, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.’ And what about when Paul said, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom. 11:29). Why are you threatening to take away this churches candlestick?
“Jesus, are you teaching works based salvation here?”
No. And there is no contradiction between what Jesus is teaching here with these verses or any other verses in the Bible. The Bible does not contradict itself. When it seems like it does, it is simply because of our lack of understanding. We’re just not putting things together right.
Let me put it like this. You can’t get saved by your own works but you can lose your salvation by no effort.
"You can’t get saved by your own effort, but you can lose your salvation by no effort."
In other words, no amount of good works we do before we are saved, or even after we are saved, can buy us a ticket to heaven. But bad works, rebellion, and apostasy can secure us a place in hell even after we are saved.
“Oh, but I can’t believe that.”
Well, this quote from the famous Christian theologian John Wesley might help you believe. He eloquently stated that:
Nobody, or body of believers, can ever get so lukewarm that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth. They use reams of paper to argue that if one ever got lost he was never found. John 17:12; that if one falls, he never stood. Rom. 11:16-22 and Heb. 6:4-6; if one was ever “cast forth,” he was never in, and “if one ever withered,” he was never green. John 15:1-6; and that “if any man draws back,” it proves that he never had anything to draw back from. Heb. 10:38,39; that if one ever “falls away into spiritual darkness,” he was never enlightened. Heb 6:4-6; that if you “again get entangled in the pollutions of the world,” it shows that you never escaped. 2 Pet 2:20; that if you “put salvation away” you never had it to put away, and if you make shipwreck of faith, there was no ship of faith there!! In short, they say: If you get it, you can’t lose it; and if you lose it you never had it. May God save us from accepting a doctrine, that must be defended by such fallacious reasoning!”
What John did was quote many of the warning passages in the Bible about falling away from God after becoming a believer. And he did it in such a concise manner that I don’t feel the need to track down all of those verses for you here at this time. I will quote one for now though.
In Matthew 24:12-13 Jesus says to His followers that the “love of many shall wax cold but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
That’s a clear warning that many will fall away. They once had a love for God but now it has grown cold. But those who remain faithful unto the end shall be saved.
There is another word for this – Overcome.
Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:7 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.
Did it say, “He who believes and is saved will get to eat of the tree of life?” No, Jesus says, to he who overcomes. Being saved is only the first step. A step most Christians don’t get passed because they’ve got some preacher telling them every Sunday that salvation is by grace alone but never encourages them to overcome. True, salvation is a free gift by the grace of God. But once He gives you the gift He expects you to do something with it.
JESUS EVALUATES FAITH BY WORKSWhen God told Pharaoh to free the Israelites, He said, “Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Exo. 9:13). In other words, the Israelites freedom from Egypt, i.e. their salvation was conditional. The condition was that God would free them but they in turn must “serve” Him. Is that not what even the New Testament teaches us?
Have you ever read the parable of the talents or the parable of the faithful and wise steward?
In the parable of the talents, God gave one man a talent and he did nothing with it. So, God took it away from him and gave it to the man who had 10 talents, then He commanded his servants to throw the “unprofitable servant” who buried his talent “into outer darkness; where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).
Why? Because he wasted the gift God gave to him.
And then concerning the parable of the wise steward, God commended him for remaining “at work” while waiting for his lord to return. But to the servant who said in “his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:42-51).
You can’t tell me that both of these unfaithful servants were not at one time true believers. These were servants who fell away. They were not like those people in 1 John 2:19 who “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” That’s a totally different scenario. Indeed, there are impostors, tares among the wheat who are among us who have never been true believers. They are there. I don’t deny that. But there are also those among us now, true believers who will fall away into apostasy.
That should instill a little bit of Godly fear in us. Hey if we don’t remain faithful unto the end we won’t make it.
"Jesus gave seven sermons to seven different churches, with one main message - You must overcome."
“Oh, but now you are teaching a grace + works gospel.” Yes and no. No, in the sense that we are all damned sinners and nothing we can do on our own can save us from the judgment of God. Only the price of Jesus’ blood on the cross can do that. But yes, in the sense that once we are saved from our sins we are expected to work or we risk losing everything, even the gift of salvation if we go too far astray and refuse to come back.
“Oh, I got you now! That’s works salvation!” says the saved by grace Pharisees.
No, it is not. It’s called being faithful and remaining true. A false works-based gospel is a gospel that says you don’t need the blood of Jesus to pay the price for your sins, you can do a lot of good things on your own to earn your salvation. In other words, you can work your way out of hell.
That is not what the scriptures say, and that is not what I’m trying to convey.
It’s really a mindset thing. If I work real hard for God after being saved, and I start to get the big head thinking that my works are making me righteous before God and I forget about God’s grace and the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross, then that is dangerous. That would indeed be a works-based gospel, and a false gospel as well.
But that’s a totally different thing altogether than what we are reading about here.
Bottom line. Your entry into heaven to partake of the tree of life isn’t sealed by your statement of faith or by your confession alone. While you are still alive on this earth you still have temptations, trials, and tribulations to overcome. Sure, you will fall time and time again, but the key is always getting back up. “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief” (Pro. 24:16). As long as you keep getting back up you haven’t lost your salvation. Simply repent of your sins and get back to work. But if you don’t get back up you don’t overcome. And if you don’t overcome you don’t get eternal life.
Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Oh, man. There is that terrible word again – works.
Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Once saved always saved? Salvation by grace alone? Not of works but of faith? Is that what Jesus said here? Not at all. He clearly said be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. That takes effort on your part! So obviously our salvation is not secure unless we persevere unto the end. What else could this be saying?
Remaining faithful unto death = life.
Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
End of second sermon. Different details, but same message – He that overcomes.
Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
Ah man. He keeps mentioning that darn word – works. The grace Pharisees are not liking this. Now they have to think of a fancy way to explain this as meaning something other than it does. I’m sure they’ve already come up with something.
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
And there is that other word, repent. I dare you to tell Jesus that since you’re saved you don’t ever have to repent. Try it. You might just meet His two-edged sword. That’s like telling your wife that you don’t have to tell her you love her anymore because you already told her the day you got married.
You think that would make her happy?
Believe it or not, there are Christians who tell you that you don’t have to repent. I had one guy ripping into me on my YouTube comments section saying, “Oh yeah, what happens if you forgot to repent of a certain sin, do you go to hell for that one?” He thought he was being real smart. Simple answer. I just tell God I repent of all my sins that I may have committed, even the ones I’m not aware of. Then I ask God to help me not repeat those sins.
If that guy was so smart why didn’t he think of that?
Revelation 2:17 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 hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Notice, these messages to the seven churches are from The Holy Spirit.
And it’s not giving people a crazy unknown tongue, causing them to laugh uncontrollably on the floor and things like that. The Holy Spirit isn’t even telling church members to get saved. That was supposed to have already happened since they are in church. No, the Holy Spirit is giving a clear message here – We must overcome.
But sadly, like I said earlier, this message isn’t preached from the pulpits much anymore. That’s too much work man. So instead we have a counterfeit Holy Spirit giving all kinds of different messages other than the one given here. Hmm. You’d think that after reading seven different sermons given by the Holy Spirit to all seven of these churches, that Pastors today would get the message.
Teach your congregations how to overcome.
After all, virtually the entire message of the Bible is just that. Example after example and illustration after illustration of God’s people putting their faith into action.
Take a look at Hebrews 11.
TRUE FAITH PRODUCES WORKSNowhere in Hebrews 11 does it say overcoming is by faith alone and grace alone and that once you have faith you don’t have to show any evidence of it. Every hero of faith in that chapter was commended for their works by their faith.
Check it out:
- By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.
- By faith Enoch gave a testimony.
- By faith Noah built an ark.
- By faith Abraham sojourned in a strange land.
- By faith Sarah conceived seed.
- By faith Abraham offered up Isaac.
- By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.
- By faith Jacob blessed both sons of Joseph and worshipped.
- By faith Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones.
- By faith Moses’s parents hid him three months.
- By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
- By faith Moses kept the Passover.
- By faith the Israelites passed through the Red sea.
- By faith the Israelites walked around Jericho before the walls fell down.
- By faith Rahab received the spies into her house.
Notice. All the words I italicized above are verbs. Verbs denote ACTION and action is a work. It is something you have to do. You can’t just sit there thinking in your mind, “I believe and I’m saved, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe.” That sounds like some kind of eastern religion to me. I picture a guy sitting cross legged doing yoga in front of a fat Buddha statue doing something like that.
To be continued...
God bless and be a Christian Overcomer!
Pastor Ben Heath