What Overcomes Must Know.
I. The origin of overcomers.
One year, I was invited to preach at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Singapore Bible College. One day, a student came and asked me. He said, “Dr. Lin, the Bible tells us that after we leave this world, we go to heaven to sing Hallelujah. But if we just sing, doesn't it get boring after a while?” Many people have the idea that we go to heaven just to sing Hallelujah. Yes, the book of Revelation tells us that we will certainly have such an enjoyment. But God did not make us just to sing Hallelujah. If singing is the only reason, then the angels in heaven can certainly sing better than us. There is no need for us to sing! God has His purpose in creating man. He wants us to rule over all that He has created. (Gen. 1:26; Heb. 2:7, 8) In 1948, after Israel was destroyed for almost two thousand years, she was able to become a nation overnight. This is a miracle! You all know that they have this Zionist movement. They thought that to revive Israel in Palestine is impossible. They plan to buy a piece of land somewhere on earth and establish their own country. Jews are loaded with money. It was said that of the eighteen wealthiest people on earth, the top three are all Jews. The reason they planned to purchase a piece of land to establish their own country is because they forgot. What God promised to them is Palestine and not another piece of land. So, once it is time, in one night, God returned Palestine to them. This is proof that God is faithful. What God has promised will for sure be realized. God wants man to rule over all that He has created. One day, it will definitely be realized. Praise the Lord! This that will ‘definitely be realized’ will be separate into four questions and answers. They will be discussed briefly as follows:
A. Man can rule this world?
God created man in order for man to rule. But the facts are exactly opposite! To this day, not only man cannot rule all that God has created, but the longer man rules, the worse this little earth village becomes! Not only the air, water and soil on earth are polluted; even the atmosphere above is also damaged. We all know that at the present time, there is a huge hole without ozone in the atmosphere above the South Pole. There are ultra violet rays in the sun light that cause damage to people. When sunlight passes through the atmosphere, ultra violet rays are filtered out by ozone and only the healthy sunlight reaches us. Otherwise, sunlight can cause cancer in the skin, cataract in the eyes and other diseases. Recently, it is said that the same is also happening over the North Pole! In short, under man's rule, the entire earth is marching towards destruction day by day. So, how do we explain this? Was God ignorant of man's inability to rule when He created man? He certainly knows because He is the all-wise, all-powerful and ever-present God. But in everything He does, there exists His mystery. So, how should we explain the mystery? There is a principle in Bible Interpretation: when there are difficulties in the former revelation, we must try to find the answer in the latter revelation. So, let us try to find the revelation in the New Testament to explain the Old Testament question. Thank God, it is recorded in Hebrews: “For He did not subject to angels the world to come.” (2:5) In this verse, we see two things. First, there is a ‘world to come’. Secondly, the ‘world to come’ is not given to angels to rule. So, who is this ‘world to come’ given to rule? The verses that follow tell us: “What is man, that Thou rememberest him ... And has appointed him over the works of Thy hand.” (2:6-7) So, it is given to man to rule! Then we know that God wanted men to rule over not this present world but the world to come. This world is temporary ruled by angels.
B. Who is ruling this present world?
But the Scriptures explicitly state: “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one!” (I John 5:19) So, how can we say that it is given to angels to rule? On this subject, the Scriptures seem to contradict itself. The facts are actually quite simple. The reason is that there are angels who are chosen and angels who were not chosen. (I Tim. 5:21) The chosen angels have been serving God in His presence all along. (Dan. 7: 10) The angels who were not chosen have been with the devil all together. (Matt. 25:41) Today, the actual powers ruling all the countries are not the kings or presidents that one can see. Rather, they are the invisible demonic princes or archangels behind. How do we know? Please read chapter ten of the book of Daniel. When Daniel humbled himself and set his heart to understand the future events (verse 12), his prayer was answered. An angel was sent to give him the word so that he will understand what will befall Israel in the future. But when that angel reached Daniel's ‘airspace’, the demonic prince behind Persia put up a blockade for twenty-one days. Fortunately, Michael (Mi-who, cha-like, El-God), one of the chief princes (archangel) came suddenly to help and restored his freedom (verse 13). Such a demonic prince is not only in Persia but also in Greece. (Verse 20) At the same time, the Scriptures also tell us that Michael is ‘your (Israel's) prince’. (Verse 21) In this manner, the Scriptures clearly tell us: countries that honor Jehovah as God, there are archangels supporting them behind. Countries that have forgotten God, the demonic princes pull the strings. Since the devil was a murderer from the beginning, no wonder some governments practice genocide with pleasure. Today, there is no trust between countries. There are only lies. This is because the devil is 'the father of lies' (John 8:44). But in the world to come, the Scriptures say it will be given to the overcomers whom God has bestowed crowns of glory and honor. He will make all things in subjection under his feet. (Refer to Heb. 2:7-8.)
C. Why is man living in this present world?
As mentioned previously, God wants us to rule the world to come. So what is the reason for us to live in this present world? This is not an easy question to answer. But thank God, there is revelation in the Scriptures. Let us still begin from Genesis.
1. What can we learn from the first Adam?
God's made man with the goal for man to rule over all that He has created. But after Adam was made, God did not hand over everything to him. He only asked him to repair and watch over a little garden. What is the reason? Not only so, in Genesis chapter three, there was Satan who came to tempt Adam and caused him to loose his ruling authority. Why didn’t God stop this event? He can stop Satan. All He needed to say to Satan was: “Not allowed!” Then the evil one cannot do anything. He could also warn Adam to keep watch and don't fall for the trick. But He did not do anything and allowed Adam to be tempted. Consequently one slip resulted in eternal regrets! There is no way of turning back. What is the bottom line for this? At this point, before we continue with the discussion, I hope the reader takes note of the New Testament word ‘tempt’. In the original language, this word has two meanings: ‘test’ and ‘tempt’. So, the same testing event can have two goals. The purpose of the ‘test’ or ‘examination’ is God’s desire towards us to come to know Him deeper and grow more spiritually afterwards. The purpose of a ‘temptation’ is Satan's desire for us to fall into his trap, offend God and our spiritual lives to suffer. So, we who live in the end times should be careful. May God help us not to enter into temptation. (In the Lord's prayer, the original meaning of the word ‘Lead’ is ‘enter’.) Do not be afraid of testing because the Scriptures tell us that when it is “beyond what we are able, ... He will provide the way of escape.” (I Cor. 10: 13 refers to God's testing and not temptation because He does not tempt anyone (James 1: 13)). What a gracious Heavenly Father! Praise the Heavenly Father! So, Adam's failure, on the one hand it can be said that the evil one has won. On the other hand, please allow the author to give a detail discussion in the following section.
2. What can we learn from the last Adam?
Since failure on this side came from the Adam of the Old Testament, can we find the answer from the Adam of the New Testament? The Scriptures have only two Adams: the first Adam and the last Adam. (I Cor. 15:45) Also, in the life of the last Adam, the same events happened as in the first Adam. For example, when Adam was being tempted, God did not prohibit Satan ahead of time nor did He warn Adam before hand. In the same manner, God did not prohibit Satan ahead of time and warn Jesus. Not only so, the gospel of Mark even told us "the Holy Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness (It is God Who wanted Him to go), ... being tempted by Satan". (Mark 1: 12-13) Also, the topic of their testing was identical: both were on ‘eating’. The first Adam ate and ended up with catastrophic failure. The last Adam did not eat and had complete victory. Since the victory was complete, the second and third topics followed immediately. Praise the Lord, He was completely victorious, or in other words, He passed with flying colors. So, the devil could only depart from Him. Since the Scriptures only recorded three temptations on Jesus, the reality is that there were only three for the time being. This is because Luke clarified by saying: “And when the devil has finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time (he will return later)” (Luke 4:13). As a matter of fact, our Lord was tested throughout His life just as Hebrews said, “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) We can see two things in this verse. First, He was tempted or tested in all things but He was without sin. Our Lord actually lived His earthly life in the midst of tests. Once, He said His disciples, “And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials!” (Luke 22:28) Even though He was tested so many times, He did not flunk! (The original meaning of the word ‘sin’ is ‘missing the target’ which is the same as ‘flunk’.) No wonder when He said, “It is finished!’ on the cross. Secondly, the phrase "as we are" most appropriately answered our difficult question. Today, we live in this world not for the purpose to rule and we also do not have the power to rule. Rather, God wants us to be just like Jesus: to be tested and tried. Today, the professionals in our society have to receive specialized training in their field; what about the personnel of the Kingdom who has to rule over all God has created? If they do not receive training and testing, how can they accomplish God's purpose of creating man! This is why after Adam was created; God did not give him everything He made to rule. Adam was green and did not know which way is up. So, if he was allowed to rule, he would certainly be inadequate to succeed but he would be more than capable to mess things up. Therefore, he has to be tested first. Unfortunately, he flunked right away. His failure also damaged his descendants! Our Lord has said, “A disciple is not above his teacher.” (Matt. 10:24) If our Teacher was tested in all things in order to enter into glory, what about us, His disciples? Should we not also receive training and testing?
D. Who will rule the world to come?
Psalm 8 was written because the Holy Spirit moved David to do so. In his youth, David was a shepherd. At night, after the sheep has gone to sleep, he lifted his head and looked at the stars in heaven. They are so bright and pretty. He thought about the struggling multitude of humanity below: how pitiful they are! At the same time, he also remembered God's word. So, he opened his mouth and praised God saying: "What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?" (Verse 4) David used two different words for ‘man’, which cannot be truly appreciated in English. But in the Hebrew language, you will know that these two 'man' are very pitiful!
1. The first ‘man’.
There are five words in the Old Testament that can be translated into the English word ‘man’. The first word for man used here is ‘enosh’. It is the same word as the name of the son born to Adam's son Seth. This word in particular points to man's weaknesses, sufferings and illnesses. There is this verse in Jeremiah that says: "The heart is more deceitful than all else." (17:0) Right? The following sentence says, “desperately sick.” The verb and has the same root as Enosh. So, when David saw the bright and pretty stars and the moon, he thought about man: so pitiful, weak and sickly. If it gets too hot, people catches a ‘hot’ cold. When it gets too cold, they catch a ‘cold’ cold. Insomnia at night ends up with a headache the next morning. Indiscretion in eating ends up with a stomachache later. We people are so pitiful! It is not only with our bodies, it is even worse with our morality. People's heart is completely corrupt and morality is completely lost. Everything is based on “whether I like it or not and it is not based on reasons.” So, David said, “What is man?” But the wonderful ‘Thou’ does take thought of him!
2. The second ‘man’.
In the second time when the word ‘man’ was used, it was used in “the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?” The word ‘man’ is the same word as the word “Adam’. The words ‘Adam’ and ‘dust’ have the same root. So, whenever the Scriptures use the word Adam, it is no other than to tell us that our origin is dust. It is worthless and stepped on! Even though man is so low and worthless, God would care and take thought of him! Moreover, He would “crown him with glory and majesty!” (8:5) (This is a technical phrase of the Scriptures. The meaning is that he is sent to rule over all that God created.) Thank God! He created us and wants us to rule over all that He has made. Even though many years have passed and everything has deteriorated, He did not forget what He told us through David! Yes, man is not worth much but God has already established the rule to let men "who goes up in the balance and is lighter than breath" (Psalm 62:9) to rule what He has created. Thank the Lord, one day He will “put all things in subjection under His feet. For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to him.” (Heb. 2:8) In other words, God's purpose for creating man is not just for them to rule over this little terrestrial ball, but all that His hand has made! (Heb. 2:7-8) Praise the Lord!
Practically, until now, we still do not have the authority to rule over everything. To the extent even mosquitoes and flies bully us! But we do see one thing and it is Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, because He suffered death, He received the crown of glory and honor. (Heb. 2:9) Since our first ancestor fell, we lost the reigning authority that was ours. Christ incarnated and “through death He might render powerless him who has the power of death” (Heb. 2:14) to repossess the crown of glory and honor. Since nothing ventured, nothing is gained; the Lord Jesus Christ must through death in order to defeat the devil who has the power of death. Also, He delivered those who because of their lifelong fear of death were subjected to slavery. (Heb. 2:15) Praise the Lord. He already has the victory! All that He received is certainly not for Him alone. If it were so, there is no need for Him come to this present world. The reason being that He already has glory and honor. He took the form of man to regain the crown of glory and honor (Heb. 2:9) for us. It is exactly what the following verse says: “for whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory.” (Verse 10) Thank God. It tells us very clearly here that He will be “bringing many sons” into glory.
3. Many sons.
The author is very happy to see these words ‘many sons’. The reason being that Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14) But here it tells us that there are many chosen to be overcomers! In fact, throughout the ages, there were quite a few overcomers who love the Lord. But compared to the total number of believers, they are still few and far in between. Thank the Lord. What He said will surely come to pass. The Scriptures tell us: one day in the future, “there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun because the Lord God shall illumine them and they shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5) Dear brothers and sisters, this is the kingdom of inheritance or the kingdom of manifestation prepared for the overcomers. Praise the Lord!
At this point, some have said, "You often tell us that the purpose of believing in Jesus is not for going to heaven. Now, you are telling us that to believe in Jesus is to reign with Jesus. Isn't that more vain than going to heaven?” Yes, you are correct if we dream this up. It would truly be vanity. It is also mercenary! However, this is the desire of our heavenly Father towards us! The heavenly Father loves us so much that even though we are so pitiful, have nothing good in us and also good for nothing; He still wants us to rule over all His creation. How great is this love and how deep is such grace! Are we so selfish that His will cannot be realized in us? To be honest, to reign with Him is trivial as compared to our inability to fulfill His desire in our lives which is big time trouble! All parents have expectations on their children. If the child cannot fulfill their expectation, the parents will be so hurt and disappointed! In the same way, our heavenly Father's desire is for us to fulfill His purpose of creation. If we cannot accomplish it, how hurt do you think He will be? May God help us everyone. Let us by His grace, accomplish His desire at all cost. Let us continue to move forward without taking a break and fulfill what Christ said, “He who overcomes, I will grant him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Rev. 3:21) Let us chew over each word and be an overcomer. Amen!