Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXIV)

July 20, 2010

Since I did the “word studies” in the last post, I realized that I left out one very important term: “overcomers” (Gk. nikao, which can also be variously rendered as “victors, conquerors or winners”).  I am going to do it now, because I will not have covered all the bases necessary without bringing nikao into play.

This crucial term is used 15 times in Revelation, with the best-known of those in each of the seven letters to the church in Asia Minor (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21[twice]).  Elsewhere in the book, it is found in 5:5; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7; 15:2; 17:14; and 21:7.

In the uses in Revelation 2-3, there is a promise made in each of the mini-letters to the “victors”/ “overcomers,” most of which have to do with something related to the closing chapters of the book, notably the new heavens and earth.  Then, in 21:7, we readers that the “overcomers” will, in fact, inherit everything related to those promises and will do so eternally.

The only other usage in chapters 2-3 is instructive.  It makes it clear that Jesus is the prototypical “conqueror”/“overcomer.”  He won the victory (nakao) in His crucifixion and resurrection, then, after His ascension, sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven (3:21),

That latter usage in 3:21 sets the stage for the similar wording in 5:5, which tells us that Jesus is worthy to open the scroll because He “conquered.”  Relatedly, His blood is the basis for the conquest of the “heaven-dwellers” in 12:11, as well as those martyrs who arrive in heaven in 15:2.  Just before the second coming of Christ, He and “the called and elect and faithful” (17:14) who are with Him will “conquer” the kings of the earth who are loyal to the beast.

There are two other uses which make it seem like the beast is “overcoming” (i.e., winning), but it is only very temporary and—most important to note—permitted by the Lord (11:7; 13:7).  In that sense, it seems fair to refer to these as “ironic” uses.

Before we conclude this brief—but very relevant—study, we must not overlook the clustering of cognate terms in a key passage in another book written by John: “[W]hatever has been born of God conquers (Gk. nikao) the world.  This is the victory (Gk. nike, from which comes the name for the sporting goods manufacturer, Nike) that has conquered (nikao) the world: our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4, HCSB).  This passage may legitimately be viewed as what Walter Kaiser has popularized as “antecedent theology” for the uses of nikao in Revelation.

I am going to leave it there for this study.  However, when I pull the overall conclusions together, it will definitely be necessary to revisit the thoughts above.

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