By Joe Southerland
The Greek word, nikao only appears 24 times in the Bible. Of those few uses, the apostle John selected the emphatic and powerful word nikao twenty one times to weave a biblical golden thread linking the centrality of Christ with the dramatic struggles during the most pivotal end times events.
Nikao means to literally or figuratively conquer, prevail, get the victory or overcome. In the KJV Bible, the most common translation of the word is “overcome.” The Greek verb nikao, from the root noun nike (victory) appears only once in the New Testament, but we shall include that use and all the uses of nikao in this study of our Divine Master’s Word.
Please join me as we trace the word nikao and see how the Holy Spirit worked through the apostle John to use this word to provide a rich and powerful Biblical story line describing Christ’s sovereignty, glory and ultimate victory. Get ready, this is gloriously powerful stuff!
Jesus Overcomes the World
The very first time the apostle John uses nikao in John 16:33, he lays out the awesome power the Holy Spirit intends John to convey with this word. In this passage John records Jesus’ last night he spent with His apostles before he was crucified:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome [nikao] the world.”
John lets us know up front clearly who would overcome the world, Jesus Christ our Savior.
But what does overcome the world mean? We already broke down overcome/nikeo, but what about the word world? The word world here is the Greek word kosmos. It appears 152 times in the KJV New Testament, and conveys a range of meanings. So what is the context here?
Why is Jesus saying he conquered/ prevailed/got the victory/overcame the world? Isn’t He in charge of the world? Well, not exactly, at least at this point.
The study of the word world/kosmos readily reveals that our current fallen world is under the temporary control of the prince of the world, Satan (John 12:31; 14:30-31;Ephesians 2:3). He is the dark prince of this world whose temptation of Eve resulted in the fall of mankind through Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Since that time all men are made in the image of Adam, and are born with a sinful nature and under a death sentence due to that sin. Since that time, it is the Lord God’s will that this fallen world be under Satan’s influence.
In John 16:33 when Jesus emphatically declares “Ego nikao kosmos” – “I have overcome the world,” He is not just comforting his apostles. He is proclaiming he will overcome mankind’s death sentence through his crucifixion and resurrection.
Here Christ announces he is beginning the process of taking the Believers onto himself. Along these lines Paul declares Christ’s victory [nikos] in 1 Corinthians 2:54, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory [nikos].”
Through Christ, Believers Overcome the World
The next time the apostle John uses the term overcome/nikao is in 1 John, where it appears five times. In 1 John 2:13 he tells believers they have already overcome the wicked one, but in these two verses John does not convey how that is accomplished.
However, later in this letter he states it is only through faith in Jesus that believers are born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Only then are Believers able to overcome the spirit of antichrist in this world.
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome [nikao] them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:3-4).
So Christians can overcome the spirit of antichrist that is currently prevailing over the fallen world. However, notice the Apostle John tells us it is specifically the indwelling of the Holy Spirit sealed in believers which works to overcome Satan’s world. We do not and cannot overcome the world by our own efforts.
To make sure we understand this critical point, John provides further clarity later in this chapter.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh [nikao] the world: and this is the victory [nike] that overcometh [nikao] the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh [nikao] the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
The source of our victory is Jesus. Only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, do Believers become overcomers of Satan’s world of death through the blood Jesus shed on His victorious cross. Beyond our faith, no other action we accomplish can improve or impact the fact Jesus Christ is the one who has made us overcomers.
Because Christ alone has overcome the world, and His children through faith automatically become overcomers. Paul put it this way:
“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory [nikos] through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:57).
Being an overcomer in this Age of Grace is our glorious and blessed gift from Jesus Christ.
Christ’s Promises to the Overcomers
The next seven uses of nikao are in Revelation chapters two and three, where John presents the glorified Christ’s statements to His Seven Churches in Asia Minor. These promises were made nearly 2,000 years ago to he who overcomes [nikao] and they will be claimed by all raptured Church Age believers. They include the followings seven magnificent and astonishing promises to those who put their faith, trust and hope in Jesus Christ. Upon Christ’s return, believers will:
· Eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
· They will not be hurt of the second death.
· Eat of the hidden manna, and receive a new name.
· Have power over the nations, and receive the morning star.
· They will be clothed in white raiment, not have their names blotted out of the Book of Life, and have their names confessed before God the Father, and his angels.
· They will be made pillars in God’s temple, stay with Him forever, being sealed with His name and temple, and sit with Christ on His throne.
Amen! Amen! Amen! At the Rapture of His Bride what awesome, humbling and undeserved honors our Lord has in store for those who love him. Again, Amen!
The Lion of Judah Begins Reclaiming the Earth
After the Rapture of the Church, we next find nikao in Revelation 5:5 which is the second time John uses nikao to relate the actions of Jesus. Here, Jesus the Son, raises up from His position at the right hand of God the Father, where he has interceded as priest for us for 2,000 years, and majestically and dramatically takes the seven sealed scroll.
He alone is worthy to claim this scroll which is the title deed of the earth, so he can begin the judgment against Satan and his demonic minions, and the Christ deniers on earth.
“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed [nikao] to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”
The Antichrist Overcomes the World
John also uses nikao on three occasions during the Tribulation Period to convey the unparalleled evil the Antichrist unleashes upon the earth. To commence the Seventieth Week of Daniel, we see the Antichrist’s rise in Revelation 6:2, “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering [nikao], and to conquer [nikao].”
In Revelation 11:,7 nikao is then used to describe the Beast’s actions against God’s Two Witnesses:
“And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
Finally John uses nikao in relation to the Antichrist in Revelation 13:7, to lay out the extent of the Antichrist’s evil reign:
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
The Tribulations Saints Overcome the Antichrist
In the midst of the 70th Week of Daniel, the Apostle John uses two occurrences of nikao to help portray the fate of the tribulation believers. In this time of unequaled evil, the Antichrist will pursue and kill as many believers as possible, but through their faith in Jesus Christ the tribulation overcomers will have the final victory.
“And they overcame [nikao] him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” Revelation 12:11. “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory [nikao] over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name…” Revelation 15:2.
The Lamb Overcomes the World
John next uses the powerful word nikao to finalize Jesus’ Second Coming as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who is now portrayed as a Lamb, completes his victory over the Antichrist’s armies amassed against him at Armageddon.
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome [nikao] them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14.)
Christ’s Final Promise to Overcomers
John’s final use of nikao, Revelation 21:7, records Christ providing believers the following beautiful words of comfort:
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
Here Christ uses the word nikao to draw us back to John 16:33 and 1 John 5:5. Where we learned that Christ is the one who overcame, and those of us who believe in him, through him will too be made overcomers.
Christ Is Our Only Hope to Overcome!
God’s Spirit directed the Apostle John to use the word nikao to present Christ as the sovereign Lord over all creation, who overcomes sin, saves his flock, and defeats the evil forces of this world.
The victory/nike is Christ’s alone. He alone overcame the world! And soon, very soon He shall return and in the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Until that day, for our part, we need to humble ourselves and believe that fact, and then fall down on our face and too cry out, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”