Overcomer—In Revelation, this refers to a believer who perseveres under severe trials, even unto death. God gives this person a special reward. In 1 John, the same author uses it to refer to someone who overcomes the world by simply believing in Jesus’ Name for eternal life.
“Whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5)?
One Who Overcomes the World
John, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, is the author of 1 John. He uses the term ‘overcomer’ in this book and also in Revelation. He defines how he uses ‘overcomer’ in his epistle, as shown in the verses above. He says the one who ‘overcomes the world’ is “the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Faith–and only faith–accomplishes overcoming the world in 1 John.
• No work is involved.
• No perseverance is involved.
Has Received Eternal Life
In 1 John, John means that the overcomer has received eternal life at a point in time. Colloquially, we say this person will go to heaven when they die. God will never take this eternal life away—as the designation ‘eternal’ demands. And they can’t lose it even if they later stop believing or deny their faith.
This person ‘overcomes’ by believing in Jesus—plus nothing! They ‘overcame the world,’ not because they did anything, but because Jesus ‘overcame the world’ by dying for their sins and rising from the dead. When they believe in Jesus’ Name, Jesus’ victory is credited to their account.
Again, this is how John uses the word ‘overcomer’ in his epistle, 1 John. When he uses it in Revelation, it still has the same basic meaning as ‘overcomer’ or ‘conqueror.’ However, the context tells us more precisely how the author uses the term. And John uses it in a different context in Revelation.
Context determines the meaning of words and phrases.
And in Revelation, John consistently uses this same word translated as ‘overcome’ in a unique way. This happens with other words both in the Bible and in everyday language. For example:
‘Save’ can mean eternal salvation from Hell, as in Acts 16:30-31 when the Philippian jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household will be saved.” Or it can mean to save someone’s life, as in Matthew 14:30 when Jesus’ disciple Peter started sinking in the sea, “And beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord (Jesus), save me!”
In the context in Revelation, John uses ‘overcomer’ to mean someone who perseveres in the faith. And in contrast to how he uses it in 1 John, this perseverance includes good works, and Jesus rewards the ‘overcomer.’ The ‘overcomer’ in Revelation ‘overcomes’ through obedience by applying their faith, which might even involve dying for their faith in Jesus:
“They ‘overcame’ him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Jesus Promises a Reward to Overcomers
In Jesus’ messages to the seven churches, he gives the potential ‘overcomer’ in each church works to do. And if they succeed, He promises them a reward for ‘overcoming’:
• “Repent, and do the works you did at first, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your candlestick from its place” (2:5).
• “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10).
• “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will war against them with the sword of My mouth” (2:16)
• “But hold firmly what you have until I come” (2:25).
• “I have not found your works perfected before God” (3:2).
• “Because you have kept My word of patience” (3:10).
• “Be zealous and repent” (3:19).
There is no work for the ‘overcomer’ in 1 John
That person believes in Jesus’ Name plus nothing, and by that, they ‘overcome’ the world, have eternal life, and go to heaven when they die.
Jesus requires works and a persevering faith for someone to ‘overcome’ in Revelation. And He promises He will reward those who overcome, while He won’t reward those who fail.
Watch the Great News video to find out more about how to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.