Getting Saved vs. Overcoming | Part 2
In part 1 we began reading through the 7 sermons Jesus gave to the 7 churches, and we found out that Jesus evaluated each church by its works, not by faith alone and grace alone. Faith alone and grace alone is step #1 to get saved. After that, God expects us to work, to produce good fruits for the kingdom. Those that do will receive many rewards, and those who don’t risk losing everything, even eternal life.
And we talked about how the “once saved always saved” doctrine, in many of its forms, is a dangerous teaching because it can lead to complacency and rebellion. The idea that once you are saved by God’s grace and now there is nothing you can do afterwards to cause you to lose eternal life clashes against Jesus’s teaching throughout the Gospels and right here in Revelation 2 and 3.
We saw that in part 1 and now we’re going to see more of it in Part 2.
JESUS EXPECTS GOOD WORKSRevelation 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Here Jesus mentions the word works twice in one sentence!
It’s becoming obvious as we read through Revelation 2-3 that God keeps a tally of our works. In fact, Jesus is evaluating each churches faith by looking at their works. "Oh, but I thought He didn’t care about our filthy works? We’re saved by grace." Well, He sure seems to be concerned about this church's works. He even praised this church for their last works being more than the first.
Revelation 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Revelation 2:21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Revelation 2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
This woman, whom the Holy Spirit nicknamed Jezebel, was leading God’s servants (True believers) into idolatry. These were not fake servants. These were real servants who God cared about. He didn’t want them to be led astray and He wanted them to know that they were danger of dying a spiritual death, even after they were saved.
But God still offered them a way out. REPENT and forsake your sins. Stop committing idolatry. This was the warning.
Anyone who says repentance isn’t necessary after you get saved is going directly against what Jesus is teaching here.
Notice the method here. God will first punish wayward servants with tribulation, but if that doesn’t get their attention death may be in store for them – Physical and/or Spiritual. That’s what He is saying here.
As it is written:
Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
If you are saved, but your works are evil, or you are living in apostasy, you will get the punishment you deserve. Unless you repent.
"After you are saved by grace, your faith will be evaluated by your works."
Revelation 2:24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
Revelation 2:25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Again, Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry about a thing. You got saved back in 1995 you’re good to go.” No, He said, “hold fast till I come”. That means you have to stay the course. You must continue in the faith. You can’t go back to the ways of the world or let anyone lead you astray.
Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
There it is. Overcoming is not just something that happens when you become a believer. At least in this context it means keeping God’s works unto the end. He that shall endure unto the end is he that will be saved.
Revelation 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Revelation 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.
Revelation 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Repeated again. Overcoming is the message the Holy Spirit wants taught in our churches. Where is it!
Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
You shall know them by their fruits Jesus says in Matthew 7:16. Works are fruits. Fruits are those things you produce. Try harvesting a bunch of apples without planting any apple trees. Won’t happen. Just as you will not produce any fruit simply by saying I believe and I am saved. Impossible.
Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Now when I say this same very thing that Jesus said, one of the “saved by grace alone” Pharisees says I’m teaching a works-based gospel. Look, it's important we do not become complacent. When all you do is talk about the grace of God, and never encourage people to strengthen their faith by studying God’s Word, or encourage them to be watchful, you’re not preparing them with an overcoming mindset and they will likely not be an overcomer.
Jesus warns them to strengthen what they have or risk losing them.
Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
My friends, we’re hearing the same points over and over again. Works, Repentance, Holding Fast, and Overcoming. If these things are worth repeating to each of the seven churches by Jesus, then why aren’t we hearing it today in most churches?
Moreover, the Calvinists who say that you can’t lose your salvation, and that if someone falls away from the faith it’s because they never had it in the first place, then what do they do with this verse?
Jesus is clearly warning them to remember what they have received and heard. And if they are negligent, they may lose what they have. Jesus’ is not spending a bunch of time trying to reassure someone of their salvation here in these sermons. He is encouraging them to stand strong until the end and not waiver.
Revelation 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
“Oh, but we don’t worry about defiled garments. We are all defiled” they say. Before we were born again that may be true. But here, God says a few people in Sardis have not defiled their garments and that they are worthy to walk with Him in white clothing.
Thus after being born again, God must be grading garments on a different scale other than perfection.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
He that overcomes shall inherit eternal life but the non-overcomer by implication appears to be blotted out of the book of life. But what about John 3:16, for whosever believeth shall be saved and gain life eternal. Is there a contradiction here? No. All overcomers are saved people but not all of the saved will overcome.
Revelation 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Good works, keeping God’s Word, and not denying His name are major characteristics of overcomers. Hey, there will be times when we are weak, when we are persecuted. And there will be times when we will be tempted to forsake God and His Word. In order to overcome we need to push through those times like an athlete trying to win a prize!
Don’t give up! Jesus is encouraging us.
Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
This life is all about testing. God is preparing a people to live for the eternity, and we need to be cleansed of many impurities. Challenge is good for us. If we are never challenged, we never grow. Think about that the next time you feel like you’re going through tough times. You just might be going through a purification process. The prophet Daniel talks about this. The angel told him that, “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried” (Dan. 12:10).
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Perseverance is the key! We must hold fast to good works, keep His Word, and maintain our faith or we risk losing our crown. We risk losing it all. Let no man take thy crown!
Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Again, different church, different sermon, but the same message delivered by the Holy Spirit – Overcome.
"Jesus gave seven sermons to seven different churches, with one main message – YOU MUST OVERCOME."
Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
All churches are being graded here according to their works not by their faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus brings you from being a damned wretched sinner to a newborn babe in Christ. In other words, being saved equals being born again. After you are born again, you will be evaluated by your works, you will be evaluated according to your growth.
Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Remember what John Wesley pointed out? If true believers can never fall away like the Calvinists believe, then we don’t have to worry about this verse because we’re never in danger of becoming lukewarm. That’s just so silly. If it wasn’t a real threat Jesus wouldn't waste His time telling us about it.
Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Oh boy, we’ve got a lot of churches like this today. Lukewarm, afraid to stand up for the truth of God’s Word. This is the kind of church that doesn’t like to hear anything controversial. And they think they’ve got it made. A clear path to heaven. I mean they are already saved. Boy do they have another thing coming.
Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Ah, here we have another trait of an overcomer. They are those who repent and are zealous for God. They are not the lukewarm.
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:21 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.
Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
There was a lot said here my friends. Whenever Jesus say’s He that hath an ear, let him hear, it is something very important. Something that we need to stop and see if we truly understand what was said. Let this sink in:
Jesus said that we must overcome as He overcame.
"Believing in Jesus alone doesn't guarantee a spot in heaven, you must now overcome."
What does that mean? Does that mean we are to be completely sinless like He was? We know that is impossible, so what could it be? Generally speaking, it means we must put the Father’s will before our own. And when faced with persecution, tribulation, or trial, that we never forsake Him, even until our dying day.
In other words, we must take up our cross and follow Him. We must be willing to die standing up for the truth. We must not lose or faith or fall into permanent idolatry. This is what it means to overcome. Overcoming doesn’t mean we’ve lived a perfect life. We’re still sinners.
And this is where a lot of the saved by grace Pharisees go wrong. They look at the word too simplistically and are unable to rightly divide it (2 Tim. 2:15). They fear a works-based salvation gospel so much that they blind themselves to commonsense and truth. They view every passage of the Bible through a lens that is antagonistic towards works. They think we’re comparing our works to the perfection of Jesus, when we are not.
In their minds they are keeping the gospel pure. But what they’ve actually done is pervert it.
PICTURE OF SALVATION AND OVERCOMING IN OT
Many of the most profound truths of the Bible are contained within old testament stories. Jesus would say, have you not read what David did etc. And it just so happens that we have an entire picture map going from being saved to overcoming in the Old Testament. I’ll explain more, but first let us see an example where the Apostle Paul teaches types.
1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
1 Corinthians 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
Paul says don’t be ignorant of the fact that passing through the Red Sea was a type of the Christian baptism. He obviously was talking to a group of baptized Christians and is trying to connect the baptized believers minds with the story of Israel leaving Egypt in order to prep them for a warning.
1 Corinthians 10:3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
All of the Israelites drank from the same water source, the rock that Moses struck and water came out of (Num. 20:11). In other words, they were at the beginning all believers in Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
They were all saved from Egypt by putting the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. This being a type of being saved from the bondage of sin by the grace of God and by the blood of Jesus Christ. But being saved wasn’t enough. Many of them displeased God greatly even after initially showing enough faith in God to put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.
1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
There it is! Now these things were our examples. All believers are saved by the blood of the lamb, but not all believers make it to the promised land. Some will fall into idolatry and forsake the faith.
As it is reads:
1 Corinthians 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
1 Corinthians 10:8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
These saved people committed idolatry to the point that God struck them dead. But you say, “This is the Old Testament. Death doesn’t apply to us anymore once we are saved.” My friend, you’re missing the whole point of these passages. Paul’s warning is to saved people who were baptized into Christ but were in danger of falling away. And death, probably spiritual, is the punishment given to those who do not continue steadfastly in the faith.
1 Corinthians 10:9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
1 Corinthians 10:10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
In other words, the whole story of Israel leaving Egypt and marching towards the promised land, and all things in between, are examples or warnings to the saved. They don’t apply to anyone else. Here is the warning that applies to them.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEADIn conclusion. Everything we’ve read and everything I’ve tried to say can really be summed up in James chapter 2. Evidently, he too was dealing with the same kind of “grace only” and “no works” type of people.
Let’s see what he has to say concerning faith and works.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
The ‘saved by grace’ Pharisees say yes, faith can save him and that works have nothing to do with salvation. And if we say faith + works we are unsaved heretics.
James 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
James 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
That’s a strong statement. Simply believing is not enough, for even the demons believe that Jesus is the Christ! I might add, a believer who lives a life of idolatry and rebellion really is no better than a devil! That’s the point James is making.
James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
You see, the saved by faith alone by grace alone fanatics lived all the way back then too! James calls them ‘vain’ men. I agree. Nothing they say makes sense. In order to prove their view, they have to disregard the plain context of scripture and do all kinds of scholastic gymnastics. Worse yet, they’re misleading the church into a life of complacency and laziness. This doctrine has paralyzed the church. The church is deceived into thinking everything is going to be ok regardless of what they do now because Salvation is a free gift they say that cannot be taken away.
So now the church sits back idly while Satan takes over the culture and our politics.
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Justified by works! Surely we can’t hear that. That is unholy. Well, that’s what the scripture says. Let me say it like this, saved by grace but justified by works. What’s the problem with that?
James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
James is pointing out how the two cannot be separated. This goes along beautifully with Jesus’s seven sermons to the seven churches. Our faith is evaluated by our works. And our works determine whether or not we will overcome.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Yes! I do! I see it! I just wish more could.
James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
God bless and be a Christian Overcomer!
Pastor Ben Heath