In Revelation, one of John’s favorite roles for the believer to embrace is the role of conqueror, often expressed by the English word ‘victor.’ John’s language should shape how we view God, our local churches, and ourselves. Grant R. Osborne notes, “One of the most important messages of the book is the challenge to be a ‘conqueror.’”
Conquerors in Every Church
Jesus describes the role of the conqueror formulaically in his messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3. At the conclusion of each letter, Jesus addresses those who heed his message in the church as the conqueror (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21). In each verse, Jesus promises a personal reward to the conqueror. These uses of the term shape the literary structure of their respective letters and cast an ideological frame for the Revelation as a whole. Jesus calls believers in every church to embrace the role of conqueror by remaining faithful to him despite earthly temptation and opposition.
Jesus’s call for believers in local churches to take up the role of conqueror should shape how we view ourselves and our brothers and sisters in our local churches. Our refusal to compromise doctrinal and moral integrity is an act of conquering the spiritual forces that oppose us.
The Conqueror and Eternal Rewards
What might motivate those taking up the dangerous role of the conqueror to be faithful to Jesus despite opposition and even the threat of death? In the letters to the churches, Rev 15:2, and Rev 21:7, John promises rewards for those who conqueror. In John’s vision of the heavenly throne room in Revelation 15, he sees the souls of those victorious over the beast standing on the sea of glass gathered around the throne to praise God. Language and imagery from Revelation 4-5 and 6:9-11 (the fifth seal) punctuate John’s vision in Revelation 15 and contribute to the narrative framework of the book. Those who conquer the beast and his image (Rev 15:2) do so because the slain Lamb also stands to show that he has been victorious over death and redeemed them (Rev 5:6-10). In Rev 15:2, John portrays how the followers of the conquering Lamb themselves conquer the beast and his image. John writes parallel phrases emphasizing the spatial separation between the conquerors and the demonic forces opposing them—those who conqueror won the victory from the beast and from his image. The conquerors are those who have separated themselves from demonic influence through Jesus’s victory for them. The conqueror is free because of his flight from Satan’s domain.
John’s vision reflects other New Testament passages that portray separation from demonic influence as an act of spiritual victory. James told his readers that if they resisted the devil, the devil would flee from them; if they drew near to God, God would draw near to them (Jas 4:7-8). Peter concluded his first epistle by urging his readers to be sober and alert because the devil was prowling around, seeking to devour them. They needed to resist the devil, firm in the faith, aware that the trials they endured were common to all believers (1 Pet 5:8-9). In the broader discourse of Revelation, apocalyptic imagery tells a story of God’s victory for his people and their victory for him as they endure Satan’s temptations and show Satan to be inferior to God. The reference to the conquerors in Rev 15:2 recalls the repeated reference to the victorious ones in the concluding lines of the letters to the seven churches. Having been presented with the costly role of the conqueror, John’s readers may have been asking, Will victory be worth the sacrifice (sometimes unto death) required to resist Satan and earthly forces? John’s vision of heavenly community and reward reported in Revelation 15 answers in the affirmative.
In Revelation 21, John describes the new creation. John uses apocalyptic imagery to build his narrative to this point. Along the way, he describes his visions and sets out God’s promises of reward to those who remain faithful to God. Throughout Revelation, John frames the promise of reward in relational terms as God comes to dwell with his people in the new creation. In Rev 21:7-8, John contrasts all of humanity, placing them into one of two categories. He uses the term conqueror as the heading for the faithful ones, writing, “The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son” (Rev 21:7, CSB). The one in the role of the conqueror is the one who has remained faithful, participating in the victory of the One on the throne and the Lamb. The human victor referenced in Rev 21:7 has been victorious over Satan and the worldly forces under Satan’s delegated authority. God promises to reward the conqueror in two ways: by (1) giving him a share of rule and dominion over the new creation, and (2) designating him as a son in terms previously ascribed to Solomon, son of David and fulfilled in Jesus (see 2 Sam 7:14).
Wherever you are in your spiritual development, John’s portrayal of the believer in Revelation will encourage you. In Revelation, John esteems those who conquer. John describes the conqueror as an actor who, despite opposition, overcomes the temptation to compromise fidelity to God and is rewarded. The victory and reward derive from standing with the Lamb who was slain and who redeems men from every nation for God. So stand firm, resist the devil, and cling to the Lamb who will return and will establish you as conqueror.
¹ This is the second entry in a series of FTC blog posts noting how John uses a particular grammatical form, the articular substantival participle, for specific words in Revelation that resemble a playwright’s roles in a script.
² νικάω in Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 15:2; and 21:7.
³ Revelation, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 122.
⁴ G.K. Beale comments that John’s language is “a compressed expression for ‘the ones coming off victorious [by separating themselves] from’” (The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 790).
⁵ What is promised to the king in David’s line is generalized to apply also to those who identify with him in faith and obedience” (Buist Fanning, Revelation, ZECNT [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020], 536).