“He That Overcometh Shall Inherit All Things”
Lesson 45 – Revelation 1, 12
Think of symbols the Lord used in his teaching during his earthly ministry. Did you think of salt, wheat and tares, bread, and olive trees? Symbols are useful in teaching because they can help the learner understand and remember by comparing unfamiliar ideas or things to those that are more familiar; they can have different levels of meaning; they can encourage the learner to think more deeply about what is being taught. Symbols are used throughout the scriptures, but especially in the book of Revelation. The Apostle John, author of the book of Revelation, came out of a culture that used symbolism extensively in its language and literature. Readers today often have difficulty with the symbolism in John’s writings. If we interpret the images literally, the book of Revelation can seem strange and confusing. If we remember that many of the images are symbolic and represent people, things, or concepts with which we are already familiar, the book becomes easier to understand.
John was one of the Savior’s original Apostles. He had been banished by the Roman government to Patmos, a small island off the west coast of present-day Turkey, for bearing testimony of Jesus Christ. While there, John was visited by an angel and given a revelation that he recorded in letters to the seven branches of the Church in Asia (Rev. 1:1, 9-11). These letters became the book of Revelation.
The book of Revelation is written primarily in symbolic language. Its theme is that “there will be an eventual triumph on this earth of God over the devil; a permanent victory of good over evil, of the saints over their persecutors, of the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men and of Satan. … The details about the beasts, the wars, the angels, the men, etc., contribute to the development of this theme. By a little study, the theme can be perceived even if the details are not completely identified” (Bible Dictionary, “Revelation of John,” 762).
The three introductory chapters of the book record John’s testimony of the truthfulness of the revelation, John’s instructions from the Lord, and John’s counsel to the seven branches of the Church in Asia. Chapter 4 records John’s vision of heaven, and chapters 5 through 20 record his vision of the triumphant destiny of God’s kingdom. This vision shows the battles against Satan’s kingdom, the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, and the final scenes in the world’s history. After this is a vision of the new heavens and new earth—the world in its celestial state (Rev. 21:1-5). The book of Revelation concludes with the angel’s testimony and additional counsel from the Lord.
Rev. 1:12 The first image, or symbol, John saw in this revelation was seven golden candlesticks.
Rev. 1:20 The candlesticks represented branches of the Church—an appropriate symbol as you can see from 3 Nephi 18:24 and the quotation below.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Candlesticks carry light; they do not create it. Their function is to make it available, not to bring it into being. So by using seven candlesticks to portray the seven churches to whom John is now to give counsel, the Lord is showing that his congregations on earth are to carry his light to the world” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966-73], 3:442).
Rev. 1:13 The Savior was in the midst of the seven candlesticks. Today, the Savior is still in the midst of his Church, guiding inspired priesthood and auxiliary leaders and individual members in their callings and responsibilities. It is important for us to know that he is in the midst of his people.
Rev. 1:16 The Savior was holding seven stars in his right hand when he stood in the midst of the seven candlesticks.
Rev. 1:20 and footnote 20b; see also Rev. 2:1, footnote 1a, and Rev. 3:1, footnote 1a. Throughout the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 1-3, the word angels is changed to servants, making it clear that the stars represent the leaders of the seven branches of the Church. Church leaders are like the stars in that they are constant and give direction to those who look for it.
Rev. 1:16 A sword came out of the Savior’s mouth in this vision, which, according to D&C 6:2, represents the word of the Lord.
Heb. 4:12; Helaman 3:29 The word of the Lord is like a sword in that it is quick, powerful, a sharp divider, and able to pierce.
Rev. 1:18 Another symbol the Lord possessed in this revelation was the keys to hell and death. With these keys, the Savior will deliver all people from physical death, and he will deliver the righteous from spiritual death. See 2 Nephi 9:10-13.
Chapters 2 and 3 contain the words of the Lord to each of the seven branches of the Church in Asia. The Lord reviewed some of the strengths and weaknesses in each branch and warned the Saints to correct their weaknesses.
Just as the Lord commended and corrected the Church members in Asia, he commends and corrects us today. Take a moment to consider what the Lord might commend us for. Then ponder what the Lord has told us to correct.
In his instructions to the branches of the Church in Asia, the Lord also promised great blessings to those who would overcome the trials and temptations of mortality.
Rev. 2:1-7 To Ephesus: The Lord warned the Ephesians of their need to repent, but he also promised, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.” The tree of life represents the love of God (1 Nephi 11:21-22). This is the most desirable of all blessings.
Rev. 2:8-11 To Smyrna: The Lord warned the Saints in Smyrna that they would suffer tribulation, but he also promised, “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
Alma 12:16, 32; Helaman 14:18 The second death is a spiritual death. The Lord’s promise to the Saints in Smyrna helps us see our tribulations in the proper perspective and realize that the end result is worth whatever trials we may experience in mortality.
Rev. 2:12-17 To Pergamos: The Lord criticized some of the people in Pergamos for following the doctrine of Balaam, an Old Testament prophet who desired earthly honors and rewards more than he desired to follow the Lord’s will. We may have to give up earthly honors and rewards to obey the Lord’s will, but we know that fame and earthly fortune will not save us in Heavenly Father’s kingdom.
To the Saints in Pergamos the Lord promised, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” The word hidden in this context means sacred, or not evident to everyone.
John 6:35, 49-51 The hidden manna could represent Christ as the bread of life that men may eat to receive eternal life.
Rev. 2:18-29 (especially 26-28) To Thyatira: In his words to the Saints in Thyatira, the Lord promised those who overcome the blessings of exaltation and eternal life, when the righteous will rule over heavenly kingdoms.
1 Nephi 11:25; Joseph Smith Translation, Revelation 2:27 The rod of iron with which the righteous will rule over nations is the word of God. Think about how you can use the word of God to rule your own life.
Rev. 2:28 mentions the “morning star”. In Rev. 22:16, we find that the morning star is Jesus. To be given the morning star may include to receive Christ into our lives and to receive the blessings of his Atonement.
Rev. 3:1-6 To Sardis: Blessings the Lord promised to the Saints in Sardis included being clothed in white and having Christ be their advocate before the Father. (See verse 5) Participation in temple ordinances prepares us to be “clothed in white” eternally if we keep our temple covenants.
D&C 128:7; see also Exodus 32:33; Alma 5:58; Bible Dictionary, “Book of Life,” 626-27 The book of life is a record of our works in mortality.
Rev. 21:10, 23-27; Alma 5:58; D&C 88:2 Those whose names are written in the book and are not blotted out because of wickedness will dwell in the holy city of Jerusalem in the presence of the Lord, where his glory shines forth to all; they will have an inheritance at the right hand of God; they will have a celestial reward.
Rev. 3:7-13 To Philadelphia: Because they had “kept [his] word, and … not denied [his] name”, the Lord said he would keep the Saints in Philadelphia from the hour of temptation. Righteous living makes it easier to resist temptation because the Spirit will guide us as we are faithful and obedient.
The Lord promised to those who overcome, “I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God.” (verse 12) To have the name of God and the name of his city written on us means that we become like God and become citizens of his eternal kingdom.
Rev. 3:14-22 To Laodicea: The Lord condemned the Saints in Laodicea who were “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot” (Rev. 15-16). The Lord promised the Laodiceans in Rev. 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne”. Romans 8:16-17 explains that blessings symbolized by the promise of sitting with the Lord on his throne include being recognized as his children and reception of a royal inheritance.
When all these promises are considered together, they describe the eternal destiny of the righteous.
D&C 132:20 is a summary of these promises.
As part of his revelation, John saw a symbolic vision of the War in Heaven and its continuation on earth.
The woman described in Rev. 12:1-2, 5 represents the Church of God. The child she brought forth represents the kingdom of God—the government that will exist on the earth during Jesus Christ’s millennial reign. (See Joseph Smith Translation, Revelation 12:7; see also Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954-56], 1:229.)
Rev. 12:9 The dragon in Rev 12 represents Satan.
Rev 12:3-4, 7-9 The dragon and his followers were cast out—to the earth—in the War in Heaven.
Rev. 12:17 After he was cast out, the dragon made war on those in mortality. Satan continues fighting those who kept their first estate today. (See Rev 12:12.)
President Wilford Woodruff said: “There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. … When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it” (in Deseret Evening News, 17 Oct. 1896, 9; quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 56; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 43).
Rev. 12:11 The Church and kingdom of God will finally overcome Satan through the Atonement of Christ and their testimonies of it.
Those who overcome the temptations and trials of the world will inherit the blessings of eternal life. The Savior’s Atonement provides a way for us to overcome if we repent and are faithful.