The Training of the Overcomer
IV. Holding fast is not really difficult
There is a familiar saying, “ It is no doubt difficult to start an enterprise but to hold on successfully is no easy matter either!” So, ‘holding fast’ is not that simple. Some people establish a business though all kinds of difficulties but so often because they were not wise in holding on successfully, it soon folded. To have children is not easy but to raise them up into useful vessels is even more difficult from ‘not easy’.
The things in the world are like this, well, isn’t spiritual things like this also? To hold fast oneself in Christ is often more difficult than accepting Jesus. The Scriptures tell us that after the Israelites left Egypt, they told Moses, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Ex. 24:3) But subsequently in the wilderness they put the Lord to test ten times (Num. 14:22) The meaning of test is not believing in God and to see if God is reliable or not! Disobedience to God’s word led to the fall of the kingdom. If this can happen to a kingdom, it can certainly happen to an individual! Was not Solomon most blessed by God and the wisest man? Yet in his latter years, he could not hold fast, forgot the abundant grace and great love of God. He forsook God!
In studying church history, it is quite common to see when some churches started; they were pure in their doctrine and serious with God. They honored God in everything they did. They prospered the gospel and built up the Lord’s work. But as things happen and situations change, they gradually drifted from the Scriptures and rebelled against the way. They grew away from God. These are largely due to the inability of the brothers and sisters in the church in holding fast. In the beginning, they loved one another and lived for God. Soon, they forgot their God and even abandoned their faith. Holding fast is really not easy! Even so said, but for the overcomer that trust the Lord who began and will complete our faith will as long as there is God’s presence, bring all things to fruition. Praise the Lord.
The following is a brief discussion on the reason, content and goal of holding fast. May the Spirit of God lead us into truth so that we can be overcomers, Amen.
A. The reason for holding fast
The Lord said, “I am coming quickly, hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11) This verse tells us why we are to hold fast. Then it tells us what we are to hold. Finally it tells us that is the purpose for holding fast.
1. The Lord is coming quickly.
There are no other reasons for holding fast but the Lord is coming quickly. What has that to do with holding fast? It is because the Scriptures tell us that in the last days, that is, before the return of Christ, “ … Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (II Pete 3:4) Today, there are many people and even some who are called believers would say like this: “The coming of Jesus, His Second Coming, who knows? Look at the universe and everything in it, nothing has changed. There is no such thing as Jesus is coming again!” When these mocking words from the mouth of unbelievers, they can be excused because their spiritual eyes have been blinded by the god of this world. But when they come from believers, it is really sad! This proves that they do not know God and have no faith in God’s word. We Christians often say that we believe in Jesus. But really what we believe in are just in accepting Jesus so that our sins can be forgiven and after we die, we can go to heaven! If this heaven and the heavens above are too small for Him to dwell in, and He accomplished so great a salvation for us, is that all He is going to give us? May God have mercy on our unbelief! We all know that if we do not eat right everyday, our body will become weak. In the same way, if we receive so little from the Lord, how can our spiritual life grow? How can we accomplish what the Lord expects from us?
The return of Christ was promised over and over again in the Scriptures. The prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament foretold this repeatedly. In Revelation 22, the Lord seriously declared ‘I am coming quickly’. The first time He said, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of prophecy of this book.” (Verse 7) the word ‘behold’ is an exclamation word and calls for the reader’s attention. The words that follow: ‘I am coming quickly’ pertains to eternity. No one should ignore them! Overcomers, since Jesus made this promise personally and He is the faithful Lord, so whatever He promised will happen for sure. This is because He “is not yes and no but is yes.” (II Cor. 1:19)
“I am coming quickly” is not only a promise but is also the Lord’s prophecy. “Blessed are those who heeds the words of prophecy of this book.” The word ‘blessed’ here is the same word used in Matthew chapter 5. The meaning of the word ‘blessed’ is ‘no longer under the control of fate’. It is true that the people in this world are controlled by fate such as: “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Heb 9:27) This is men’s fate! However, we who are in Christ today are no longer controlled by this fate. It is because the Scriptures tell us that the death of the body is not really death but sleep. When we face the judgment seat in the future, we are not going to be judged for our sins because Christ was judged in our place. This is called ‘blessed’! Thank God. We who take heed of the prophecies and pay attention to His quick return are blessed. Not only we are no longer under the control of fate; on the contrary, the Scriptures tell us that “When we see Him, we shall be like Him!” Praise the Lord!
2. Rewards and Punishments are from the Lord.
Jesus will come quickly. What is He going to do when He comes quickly? “Behold. I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Verse 12) The Scriptures tell us that this world would only get worse by the day (II Tim. 3:13) The world is now awaiting judgment. When judgment comes, what will God do with His children? The book of Hebrews clearly tells us that He came first of all to save us (Heb. 9:28) When two countries are at war, it is normal for one country to evacuate their own citizens back to their own country. In the same way, before the Lord comes to judge this world, He will also save His own children and this is what the Scriptures mentioned as ‘taken’. “Therefore, there shall be two men in the field, one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one will be left.” (Matt. 24:40-41) One day, this event will happen. It may be a gathering of believers and suddenly some of the people disappeared. The possibility of this happening may take place in the next fifteen minutes or tomorrow because the Scriptures tell us: the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matt. 14:44) Overcomers, this is our faith. We believe not only that Jesus is Jesus but should also believe that He is Christ. The reason being that He said to the high priest, “You have said it yourself, nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:64) So, Christ is not only the son of the eternal God, He is also the King who is coming again. Those of us who believes in Him, we believe not only that He saved us to free us from all sin and the power of Satan, we also believe that He is coming quickly to take us into His glory! Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
3. Rewards according to what is done.
Again He said, “Behold. I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me to render to every man according to what he has done.” The meaning in the original is “Behold. I am coming quickly and I have the pay checks for every man according to what he has done.” As to work, our job is not to turn the world into a better place. No one can do that either. But in this world, there are some that should be saved and we hope we can lead them to Jesus. This is the most important work today. Other than this, no matter it is at the office, school, or at home; everything done for the Lord will receive wages from the Lord. Whether you are in school fully concentrated to study or at the office working long hours, the Lord will never forget the labor and toil you put in for Him. So, the Lord tells us here that He is coming quickly and He will give everyone his pay according to what he has done.
The third time the Lord said, “He who testifies to these things said, “Yes I am coming quickly.”” (Verse 20) This is the last time the Lord said in the Scriptures, “I am coming quickly.” Since our Lord said it once, then again and now a third time, if we did not believe in the beginning, we should believe by now! At this last time, the Scriptures tell us that the Lord Jesus not only said it, he also testified saying, “He who testifies to these things said, “Yes I am coming quickly!”” After the Lord said it three times, the Scriptures teach us that we are to pray for this. So, it follows with these words,” Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” This is John’s prayer and it ought to be our prayer also. Every time we pray the Lord prayer with the words, “Hallowed be Thine name, Thy Kingdom come.” (Matt 6:6-9), it is the same as saying, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” So, we not only have to hold fast to the belief that the Lord is coming quickly but also need to hold fast in prayer. Pray that the Lord come quickly.
B. The content of holding fast.
“Hold fast what you have.” So, what is there to hold fast to? We know that in ourselves, we have nothing. All we have is in Christ. So, what we hold fast is none other that all that is in Christ. It is as the Scriptures said, “Brethern, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved. If you hold fast the words which I preached to you, unless you believe in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance which also I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (I Cor. 15:1-5) So, what we are to hold fast in is none other than the gospel.
1. Confession of sin for salvation.
Then, what is the gospel? Perhaps your answer is “The gospel is the good news.” That is right. But what is the content of the good news? The content is what Paul received from Jesus Christ though the Holy Spirit and passed on to us. It is as follows: First, it is Christ who died for our sins. What is the relationship between our sins and His death? We committed sin and He died for us. What is all about? The Scriptures tell us that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23) So, we see that after we commit sin, we still have to receive the pay due to sin. This pay or wage is mentioned at the outcome in the previous verse, verse 22, - death. The Lord Jesus died for our sins and received on our behalf the just pay for our sin so that our lives will not end up with this outcome. Thank God! However, we are still living in this world and it is easy to miss a step now and then (I John 2:1) As long as we hold fast to this principle – confession of sin for forgiveness, no a single sin cannot be forgiven! But we must confess our sins and hand them over to Jesus. He will collect this pay for us. Otherwise, we cannot enjoy His substitute death. It is because the Scriptures tell us,” If we confess our sins, He … forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9) You can see that ‘forgiveness; has the requirement of “if we confess”. Otherwise, we cannot receive it. It is just like the atmosphere on earth, it is full of air but unless we inhale, we cannot enjoy the air. All spiritual abundance exists objectively. Only when we apply them we can subjectively enjoy them. If the Holy Spirit reminds us of sins that we have not confessed before, we need to take care of them immediately. Do not let sin hide in our hearts and be a source of hindrance. Today, because of this, believers and even ministers fall, are defeated, fail and have allowed the devil to take advantage of them. This is what is scary. The verb ‘confess’ is grammatically a continuous action. In summary, confession of sin is the first principle of the gospel that we need to hold fast to.
2. Old man buried.
Secondly, the gospel is: ‘Christ was buried’ for us. Jesus not only died for us, He was also buried. The gospel of burial has always been buried in the church! Many brothers and sisters do not even know that there is such a gospel. In fact, so many problems have risen in the church today because this truth was not seen. The lack of safety and security in society has its origin in this. The absence of peace at home is also attributable to this. May God enlighten us so that we can see this truth – Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins, He was also buried after death for us. All our old nature inherited from Adam are buried. (Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:11-12) How are we buried?
We can take the example from the forgiveness of sin. Sins are forgiven because we believe. We acknowledge that we cannot renew ourselves by our own efforts but only through the reality in the substitution death of Christ. In the same way, how we believe in the forgiveness of sin should also apply – by faith our old nature is buried together with Christ. Both the forgiveness of sin and the burial of the old nature are facts. Why is it that this burial is easily achieved? We are unwilling to allow it to be buried together with Christ? Our sins are forgiven because we see the ugliness, the degradation, filthiness, shame … of sin. So, we are willing to abandon our sins and hand them over to the Lord. The faithful and righteous Lord not only covered them all with His blood but also removed them all from us. It is difficult for the old man to be buried with Christ because we do not see the degradation, evil … of the old man. So, we are not only unwilling to abandon the old nature, we are still holding close to our chest self love and self pity! So how would we allow it to be crucified and buried with Christ? So, the objective gospel of burial can never take any effect subjectively in our lives! In fact, to apply the grace of being buried together with Christ is a piece of cake for those who have faith. For example, a greedy thought comes to your mind and you don’t know why, it is from the flesh or the old nature. You should immediately believe that this greedy thought is already buried together with Christ. It is very wonderful. Just by this application, you can see the power of buried together with Christ enter into your heart and render the greedy thought powerless. You may also hate a person to the extent that you can’t sleep at night. If you can agree that this thing of hatred for people is already in the casket with Christ, then when you entrust it to the Lord, the grace and power of burial will come upon you. This can be called the second step of grace. Today, most brothers and sisters are still stuck on the first step of grace. May the Lord be gracious to us so that we can hold fast on this second step – to be buried together with Christ.
3. The resurrected life.
Thirdly, “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The first and second of the gospel are negative and only the third is positive. Christ has resurrected! Overcomers, do you know that He has risen? Today, you have also resurrected and can live the resurrected life! How do you say this? Common sense tells us that resurrection comes after death. How can a living person be resurrected? But the Scriptures tell us that there are two kinds of resurrection. One is a spiritual resurrection and the other is the bodily resurrection. When we believe in the Lord and confessed our sins, we receive Jesus. The resurrected life of the Lord Jesus comes into us. His life makes us alive and we have fellowship with God. This is just as the Scriptures say, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:5) Brothers and sisters, I ask you, when you worship God on every Lord’s day, do you feel God’s presence? Can you accept the words preached in the sermon into your hearts? When you pray, do you pour your heart out to God? Such a life would be the proof that you have been resurrected with Christ. Thank God! The gospel is alive and also it had practical use in daily living.
The Scriptures tell us that we are not only alive together with Christ, we are also seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6) This verse refers to our position. Since we are resurrected, even though we live on earth, “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20) We are no longer citizens of the earth. No wonder the Scriptures tell us, “Do not love the world, ... if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15) Beg the Lord to help us so that we do not waste our lives away and belittle ourselves. On the contrary, though His support, we can hold fast our citizenship in heaven and live the life of a heavenly citizen. Then we can glorify God and be of assistance to people.
4. Awaiting His return.
Fourthly, the Scriptures tell us that we not only have the resurrected living, when Jesus comes again, we also will have the bodily resurrection. The reason being that Christ not only rose from the dead, He also appeared to Cephas and the twelve disciples. (I Cor. 15:5) Thank God. His burial is for the reason that our old nature can be buried together with Him. His resurrection is for us to be raised together with Him and be seated in the heavenly places to live a heavenly lifestyle. His appearance is also for us to await His appearance in the future. It is just as the Scriptures say: “Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him just as He is.” (I John3:2) Overcomers, may God be gracious to us so that we can hold fast the hope of the gospel that the Lord has given to us. In order that one day, when the Lord appears, we would be like Him because we shall se His real self. We know Jesus. We believe in Jesus. We also know that Jesus is with us. But honestly, we have not seen His real self. So, the Scriptures tell us that the Lord Jesus not only died for us in order that we are buried together with Him but also we have resurrected together with Him. Moreover, they tell us that one day, our body will also resurrect and we can see His real self. On top of that, when He appears, we shall be like Him! These are such wonderful and great events. This is the complete and all comprehensive gospel. We have not only received but we also need to hold fast so that no one takes our crown.
Thank God. The content of holding fast is first of all, confession of sin to receive salvation. Secondly, the old man is buried. Thirdly, we live a heavenly living. Fourthly, we wait for the Lord’s appearance in order that we can be like Him. Thanks and praises to the Lord! These are what we have and they are what we need to hold fast to in order that we shall be saved because of this gospel and inherit the Kingdom (I Cor. 15:2) Hallelujah!
C. The goal of holding fast.
“I am coming quickly, hold fast what you have in order that no one take you crown” (Rev. 3:11) The Lord wants us to hold on to what we have so that no one takes our crown. In the Chinese culture, every father wants his son to become a ‘dragon’. What about our Heavenly Father? After we are saved, He has already prepared a crown for us. As to whether we can wear it or not, it all depends on if we can hold on to the end. For example, a college student need to be patient to complete the requirements in courses work and grades set forth by the college in order to graduate. Otherwise, he can be taking classes in college for four years but still do not earn the degree. So the crown prepared for us is also like this. Only the overcomer can wear a crown.
1. Wearing the crown of victory.
There are two words in the New Testament translated as crown. One is the crown of victory and the other is the crown of the King. In the early church, there was a deacon by the name of Stephen. The meaning of ‘Stephen’ is ‘crown of victory’. Such crowns are given to those who compete in the games of exercise. (I Cor. 9:25) This was the wreath given to the champions in the Olympic games. They are called crowns of victory. Another is the crown of the King. These are passed down from the king to the prince and are hereditary. This crown has nothing to do with victory or not. Here, please note that frowns given to us, no matter if it is the crown in this verse, the crown of righteousness, the crown of life or the crown of glory are all crowns of victory. However, they are made of gold (Rev. 14:14) and will never perish. Certainly, the Lord Jesus also wears a crown. In fact, He wears many because He is the King of kings. No wonder the Scriptures say, “upon His head are many crowns” (Rev. 19:12) Praise the Lord! Why did the Lord Jesus also wear many crowns of victory? This explains clearly why He said, “It is finished!” when He was on the cross. “It is finished” does not mean that the work of the gospel is finished because there were only five or six hundred believers at that time and they were all in Palestine. What it meant was that the great work of salvation that God has entrusted Him was finished. So, He is worthy to wear the gold crown of victory.
2. Seated on His throne.
The Lord has prepared this crown of victory that can never perish for us. (I Cor 9:25) Everyone who holds fast to the end through Him can wear this crown. They can also be seated on the same throne with Him. It is because the Scriptures say, “He who overcomes, I will grant to 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) God loves us. He not only saved us, He wants us to hold fast to the end to be an overcomer in order that when He comes, we can wear the crown He prepared for us and sit on His throne to reign with Him. This is what the Scriptures say, “Things which eye has not seen, ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man. God has prepared all that for those who love Him.’ (I Cor 2:9) Overcomers, let us love Him even more!
It is not easy to hold fast! But we sincerely trust that the Lord will accomplish it. Because the Scriptures say, “For I am confidant of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phi. 1:6) Thank God that He has already begun a good work in us. He will perfect it according to His promise in order that we can boast like Paul through the Lord before he left this world. “I have fight the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (II Tim 4:7-8) Amen.
Come! Lord Jesus.