Fundamental to the structure and theme of Revelation is the call to “conquer” or “overcome” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21(twice); 5:5; 6:2 (twice); 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7). The need to “conquer” is present due to the spiritual war between good and evil. “This military metaphor assumes that the faithful in each congregation are engaged in a struggle to remain faithful” (Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things, 57). Those who faithfully persevere may enter the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:7).
As Richard Bauckham points out, “The visions that intervene between the seven messages to the churches and the final vision of the New Jerusalem are to enable the readers to move from one to the other, to understand what conquering involves” (Theology of Revelation, 88). The saints win the victory by faithful endurance in following the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4). But what does “faithful endurance” look like? What is involved in persevering in faithfulness to God?
Searching the messages to the seven churches for what is involved in conquering, one finds: deeds (works, toil), endurance, intolerance of false teaching and evil (Rev. 2:2-3); suffering, being slandering on account of Christ, faithfulness until death (Rev. 2:9, 10); holding fast Christ’s name, not denying the faith; being faithful witnesses, and repentance (Rev. 2:13, 16); deeds, love, faith, service, perseverance, and not holding to Satanic teaching (Rev. 2:19, 24-25); purity (Rev. 3:4); deeds, obedience, not denying Christ’s name, and perseverance (Rev. 3:8, 10, 11). The most prominent threat to faithful endurance in Revelation is an accommodation to culture.
The “conquer” terminology in Revelation is not just used for those on God’s side. The beast is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (Rev. 11:7; 13:7). It is important to note that this does not mean that “you win some and you lose some.” The “conquering” of God’s people “is described both as the beast’s victory over them and as their victory over the beast. In this way, John poses the question: who are the real victors?” (Bauckham, Theology, 90).
If one is viewing life from an earthly perspective, it looks like the beast wins. However, this same event (the martyrdom of God’s people) is considered to be “victory” from the heavenly perspective. Only by means of a vision from heaven (Rev. 7:9-14; 15:2-3) or a voice from heaven (11:12; 14:2) can those who die because of their faith in Christ be recognized as “conquerors.”
Christians triumph over evil by faithful witness to the truth of God. Maintaining this witness and resisting evil, even to death, allows one to participate in the power of the victory Christ (Rev. 12:11).