Derek begins this final talk by looking at the end-time church in the book of Revelation to describe who are overcomers. Jesus spoke to the seven churches in the early chapters, giving promises to everyone who overcomes. God has made it possible to overcome and He expects us to overcome. But we must do our part.
In the previous two talks I have dealt with what I believe to be the two main enemies that confront the Church today. The first is witchcraft, the second is the spirit or the power of antichrist.
Witchcraft I defined as really the universal religion of fallen humanity—the means by which men through all the ages have sought to make contact with Satan’s rebellious kingdom of angels in the heavenlies, worshiping them in some way or other as gods. Antichrist is a different kind of spiritual power that only has relevance where the Gospel of Jesus has first been proclaimed. I pointed out that the word “anti” has two meanings: first of all, “against”; secondly, “in place of.” And the pressure of the spirit of antichrist is against Jesus, the true Messiah, to eliminate Him, but then the second move is to replace Him by a false Messiah. And I suggested to you that spiritual force is very actively at work in the church today. I also tried to give you just a little picture of what I believe the final manifestation of the spirit of antichrist, the antichrist, the beast, will be like.
Now I want to move on from the negative to the positive. This final talk I want to deal with “The Church’s Victory.” I have tried to briefly define the main enemies we face with the purpose of showing how we can obey God and overcome those enemies by the means that He has provided. The first thing I think we need to understand is this: All the promises that close the Bible, all the promises in the book of Revelation, the final revelation of Jesus to His church, all the positive promises are only for those who overcome. There are no promises for the defeated. Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by good.” I believe we have only two options, in the last resort: we either overcome or we are overcome. There is no third ground. And there are no positive promises of God whatever for those who allow themselves to be overcome. In chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation we have a word that Jesus sent to each of seven churches and every final promise to each of those seven churches is to the one who overcomes. There are no promises to the ones who do not overcome. We need to face this very seriously. God has made it possible for us to overcome. He expects us to overcome. That is really summed up in one verse near the end of Revelation in chapter 21 and verse 7:
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
So the overcomer gets everything. And the one who does not overcome gets nothing. It is total, one way or the other. I think one of the great deceptions that the devil foists upon the Christian Church is to somehow convince us that there is some middle ground. I’m not really an overcomer, but I don’t want to accept the fact that I am overcome. I don’t think the New Testament indicates there is any such middle ground.
So we are talking now about overcomers. Every now and then some new group emerges within the church who claim to be the overcomers. In the course of my Christian experience, which has lasted nearly 50 years, I could name two or three different groups. I want to tell you this: If you ever encounter a group who tells you that “If you want to be right you’ve got to join us,” you can be sure of one thing: if you join them, you are wrong. No one has a monopoly on overcoming. It’s not a label, it’s not a doctrine, it’s a life.
Now we are speaking to overcomers, to those who are convinced by faith in Scripture and in Jesus that it is possible to overcome. The first thing we need to understand in dealing with these satanic forces is very important and very basic. It is that Jesus through His death and resurrection has already administered to Satan a total, permanent, final, irreversible defeat. If you don’t understand that, you do not have any basis for victory. Let me say those words again: a total, permanent, final, irrevocable defeat. There is nothing that Satan can do that can ever change that fact. When Jesus died, He said, “It is finished.” And it is finished. Nothing needs ever to be added to what He did and nothing can ever be taken away from what He did. This is stated one place very clearly in Colossians, chapter 2, verses 13 through 15. These are complicated statements and I could spend the rest of this session trying to explain what they mean but I don’t intend to do that. I just want to pinpoint certain statements. Colossians, chapter 2 beginning at verse 13:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [that is, God the Father) has made alive together with Him [Jesus Christ, the Son] having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us [which was contrary to us] and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross, having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Let’s start with the closing verse. The “principalities and powers” referred to there are the same as we saw earlier in Ephesians 6:12. Our wrestling match is against principalities and powers—the various levels and orders of Satan’s kingdom. That is what we are fighting against. But we need to understand that Jesus has already ministered a total public defeat. The word used there is “He has triumphed.” You need to understand what a triumph is. It is part of the culture of the Roman Empire. When a Roman general was particularly successful in war, when he returned to Rome, the senate of Rome voted him a triumph. And in this triumph he was placed in a chariot drawn by a white horse and he was led through the streets of Rome and all the people of Rome lined the streets applauding him and behind him were all the evidences of his victories. The rulers and the commanders that he had defeated were led in chains behind him. Then great numbers of prisoners were led behind him and in some cases even wild animals from the conquered territories, animals maybe that Roman people had not seen. So this is a triumph. It is not winning the victory, it is the celebration of the victory that has already been won. And Paul in this language is saying that by His death and resurrection Jesus was placed in the triumphal chariot and led through the unseen world and behind Him were all the forces of Satan led in chains. That’s the totality of the victory.
Now, to obtain this victory, Jesus did two things for us. I can only touch on them briefly. The first relates to the past. We need to bear in mind that Satan’s great weapon against us is guilt. As long as he can keep us guilty, we are no match for him. But in this victory Jesus dealt with the problem of guilt. First, in regard to the past, He made it possible for us to be forgiven all our previous sins. It says, “Having forgiven you all trespasses.” That little word “all” is very important. We have to believe that every sin we have ever committed, has been forgiven. If we have even one unforgiven sin, it is a lever that Satan can use against us, to frustrate us and to make us ineffective.
The other thing is more complicated but let me just say it briefly: Jesus has abolished the law of Moses as the means to achieve righteousness with God. He has not abolished it as part of the Word of God, or as part of the history of Israel; He has not abolished all the lessons that come to us from the law of Moses; but He has abolished the law of Moses as the requirement for achieving righteousness with God. As long as the law was the requirement, every time we wanted to claim righteousness Satan could stand there and point to some commandment, some ordinance that we had not obeyed and say, “There you are, you have no right to approach.” But when Jesus died on the cross He put an end to the law in that aspect. And the Scripture says it very vividly, “He nailed it to the cross.” So when we go beyond the cross, we are not under the law. Now our righteousness does not depend on keeping commandments, it depends on faith. We are justified, made righteous, by faith.