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The Overcomer

John 16:33 Overcomer

When God first created the earth and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the world was a perfect place. But the moment Eve sinned, the world became a broken place and has, over time, become more and more broken then ever. Jesus never promised that following Him would make life easy. In fact, He told His disciples that they would have tribulation as long as they were in the world. We definitely see tribulations in our world every day, but thankfully, Jesus is our overcomer.

Jesus never promised that following Him would make life easy. In fact, He told His disciples that they would have tribulation as long as they were in the world.

If we were to define “tribulation, ” it would be “a state of great trouble or suffering. Yes, the Bible talks about the great tribulation that is associated with the rapture of all the Christians from this world, but in this verse, Jesus was telling his disciples to expect trouble – even then in their day. And let’s face it – it’s not any better today. Most of us would agree it is much worse today. If we ever needed an Overcomer to give us hope and peace in the chaos of the times, its’ now!

Today’s Tribulations Need an Overcomer

We only have to turn the news on to hear countless stories of great trouble or suffering. We experience it when the news from the doctor isn’t what we wanted to hear. And we experience it when we lose a job or a loved one. Or we experience it when we don’t get the promotion. We experience it through an unexpected and very expensive car repair. We experience it through divorce. It occurs when there is a miscarriage. From domestic violence to mass shootings, from pandemics to racial issues, tribulations are everywhere we turn. As long as Satan and his demons have free reign in this world, there will be tribulations. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that we can expect weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Yes! We need an overcomer!

But what about the disciples? They all definitely experienced tribulation. While the Bible only tells how two of them died, there are reports from history and legends that tell us what happened to each one of them.

What happened to the disciples? The following disciples were crucified:

  • Peter was martyred in Rome about 66 AD  – crucified, upside down at his request
  • Andrew went to the “land of the man-eaters” (now known as the Soviet Union) where he is claimed to be the first to bring the gospel to that area. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Tureky, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.
  • Philip is said to have preached in North Africa and then Asia Minor where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested. Some accounts indicate he was stoned to death and others indicate he was crucified upside down while still continuing to preach the gospel.
  • Bartholomew preached in India with Thomas, as well as Armenia, Ethiopia, and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of his death, but they all agree that he was martyred by crucifixion, also upside down.

The other martyred disciples:

  • Thomas appears to have been most active east of Syria and traditions have him going as far as east India to spread the gospel. It is claimed that he died there when he was pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.
  • Matthew (the tax collector and author of the Gospel of Matthew) preached in Persia and Ethiopia. Some reports say he was not martyred while others indicate he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.
  • James, the son of Alpheus is believed to have preached in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.
  • Simon the Zealot may have ministered in Persia where he was killed because he refused to sacrifice to the sun god. No documentation could be found regarding how he was killed.

Only One Disciples Died a Natural Death

John is the only one believed to have died a natural death from old age – but they did try to kill him. It is believed that he was the leader of the church in Ephesus and that he took Mary, Jesus’ mother, into his home when Jesus was crucified. When Christians were being persecuted under Domitian rule, he was cast into boiling oil at Rome and survived. He was then exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.

Two identified Disciples after Jesus’ Death

After Jesus death, two additional disciples are identified in the Bible. The disciples chose to replace Judas who had betrayed Jesus. Matthais became the 12 disciple. Then on the Road to Damascus, Jesus Himself confronted Saul, commissioned him and changed his name to Paul. What does history tell us about these two disciples?

  • Matthais took the place of Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. Traditionally, it is believed that he preached in Syria with Andrew and was put to death by burning.
  • Paul, while not a disciple until after Jesus ascended into heaven, was responsible for the writing of many of the New Testament books of the Bible. He was a missionary and traveled to several countries to spread the gospel. Eventually, he was imprisoned and martyred in Rome about 66 AD under Emperor Nero who had him beheaded.

The Overcomer was also a Man of Sorrows

If these disciples who followed Jesus experienced tribulation, why do people today think that the Christian life is rosy and sunshine? While Jesus walked the earth, he did not go through life as a “positive-thinker.” Isaiah 53:3 describes Him as a man of sorrows. If we read the prophecy found Isaiah 52:13-53:12 we can see how much sorrow and suffering the Messiah would endure. He suffered first by leaving the glories of heaven and entering the human race as a man. Then He suffered all the things that humanity suffers, and then finally He suffered the wrath of God as the sin-bearer. Such suffering must have been all the more acute for Him, given His perfect nature. Who of us could ever understand the depths of what His righteous spirit suffered as He lived among fallen humanity?

The Joy Set Before the Overcomer

Even though Jesus suffered greatly, He did not live with depression or go around with a long face. Hebrews 12:2 tell us He could rejoice in His sufferings as He focused on the final outcome. In this verse we find that Jesus is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just before going to the cross, Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Passover together in the upper room. There He washed the disciples feet, Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer, He broke the bread and shared the wine. But then the Bible tells us they sang a hymn of praise. Jesus knew that as they walked out of the upper room and into the garden to pray that he would be arrested and falsely tried. He knew everything He was about to endure and that He would die – and yet He could sing a hymn of praise. Why? Because He would have completed the task He came to earth to do – to bring salvation to us. He would become our overcomer.

The Simple Truth: Live is hard, but we have an Overcomer

The simple truth is that life is hard. There is no such thing as a “name it and claim” theology and anyone who preaches it, is a false teacher. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make life easy. In fact, it can make it harder. In John 15:19 Jesus warns us with the following: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Because we live in a broken world that is ruled by sin and Satan, we can expect that life will be hard. Jesus very clearly informed us in John 16:33 that we would have tribulation in this world.

The Good News: Jesus is our Overcomer

The good news is that Jesus didn’t put the period to the sentence at that point, but follows it with the word, “but.” Yes, we will have tribulation, but Jesus said we should be of good cheer. Why? Because Jesus has overcome the world and because He is our overcomer, we can have hope. Jesus overcame the world when he defeated Satan through His sacrificial death on the cross. Because of the cross, the power of sin has been defeated and eternal life is available to all who believe in Him. Because Jesus is the overcomer, we have the opportunity to accept the gift of eternal life that He offers to every person. We just have to accept it by faith. Then He becomes our overcomer.

Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world. Thankfully, He didn’t put the period there, but follows it with “but.” We will have tribulation, but we should be of good cheer because He overcame the world & because He did, we have hope.

Finding Peace in Tribulations because we have an Overcomer

As a Christian, death does not get the final say. The world does not get the final say. No matter what we face in this life, it is temporary and when we step from this life into eternal life, all that was suffered here will be no more. It isn’t that we won’t have troubles in this life, but that we can have peace in the trouble as we go through them in the strength of God because of what Jesus did to make our eternal life secure. In John 16:20 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” Eternal joy, as we spend eternity in the presence of our Lord and Savior who is our overcomer.

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