“Overcoming” the World – an Excerpt from Making All Things New

The following is an excerpt from Making All Things New, by Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon.

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Revelation 1:9 claims that John is a “partner in the tribulation and kingdom.” The ideas of “tribulation” and “kingdom,” though discussed separately in the OT (esp. in Dan. 7), have been surprisingly merged into a unified, ironic concept in Revelation 1:9. Surprisingly, John participates in God’s end-time kingdom by persevering through tribulation (1:6). John’s behavior models Christ’s actions on the cross; he likewise executed his rule in the midst of suffering (1 Cor. 1:18–2:16).

Cover ArtJesus labels his teaching in Matthew’s Gospel as “mysteries of the kingdom.” The latter-day kingdom is surprisingly fulfilled in two stages. The book of Daniel, perhaps more than any other OT book, demonstrates that the latter-day kingdom arrives after persecution and tribulation (e.g., Dan. 7:24–26; 12:1–3). Jesus’s teaching on the kingdom differs in general from the latter-day conception of the kingdom in the OT and Judaism in that the kingdom and those within it coexist with pagan empires and wickedness.

In a very real sense, while John is on Patmos suffering because of his resolved testimony for Christ, he is being “overcome” physically by the world. Physically, the world “overcomes” true believers, particularly John, yet true believers spiritually “overcome” the world. John, while in exile on the island of Patmos and physically enduring “tribulation,” rules and reigns in God’s end-time kingdom, albeit in a spiritual manner. Outwardly, the apostle suffers intense persecution, but spiritually and invisibly he has triumphed over the devil and the world.

This behavior is ultimately modeled after Christ’s conquering and overcoming Satan and the world through his death. Revelation 3:21 states, “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” (NASB; cf. Rev. 5:5–6). Later in Revelation, the beast is portrayed as overcoming the saints physically, but in reality they overcome him spiritually: “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” (11:7 NASB; cf. 13:7). By suffering on Patmos and being “overcome” by the world physically, John the apostle triumphs over the world spiritually, thus modeling a genuine Christlike behavior for the seven churches of Asia Minor.

©2016 by Benjamin L. Gladd and Matthew S. Harmon. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Making All Things New, click here.