The Expository Files


Hidden Manna
“...a white stone… a new name” 

Revelation 2:17

(Third of Seven in Series)

Ever since the beginning, there have been successes and failures when it comes to how men and women have approached their relationship with God. Not all of the failures failed due to idolatry or atheism. Sometimes it is merely a matter of neglect, or stubbornness, or arrogance. Some have simply not taken the time to prepare for a successful life of true faith. All who fail do so for a reason. Those that succeed likewise do so for a reason. Success or failure do not happen in a vacuum. Neither randomly “just happens.”

The problems are often caused by a lack of dedication or love as some try to simply do as little as possible. Others simply put off needful changes or obligations. Sometimes it is a matter of ego. Some have failed because they have allowed themselves to be deceived by others into believing something false. Some have simply not taken the time to prepare for a successful life of true faith.

Jesus said to the disciples at Pergamum, “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

Hidden Manna
God gave manna to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-15). This was during the Exodus from Egypt. A whole nation of people needed sustenance to survive in a barren wilderness in order to reach Canaan. Only God could have preserved such a great number of people in the desert and wastelands. He did so with a food called manna which would fall from the sky and water from rocks. The word “manna” means “What is it?” which probably refers to the initial reaction of the people when they found it all around one morning. The Old Testament often refers to this event suggesting that it shows how God cares for His people In fact, a pot of it was kept in the ark of the covenant to remind the people of God's care (Exodus 16:33,34; Hebrews 9:4). When the people saw the ark, they would remember the things it contained and what they represented.

The point: the people would not have survived without it. God gave them everything necessary which they could not provide for themselves, but then expected them to trust and obey Him by doing the things they could. Jesus uses this figure to tell us something that is similar.

“Hidden manna” refers to that which sustains and strengthens us as Christians in our faith. By faith disciples can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances. The persecution of the church at Pergamum had been great. One of the members of that body had been executed (Revelation 2:13). But even in the most peaceful of times, there is a danger of becoming complacent and surrendering. People deny the Lord sometimes under threat, but at other times just through neglect.

We need God's manna to sustain us in the wilderness of this world as we journey toward our spiritual promised land. If we supply the faith, God will supply our strength.

Jesus is our “bread of life” (John 6:47-51). Jesus and the things he provides is to the spirit what physical bread is to the body. It fills the emptiness and satisfies deep human longings. It instills confidence and hope. Jesus refers to eating his flesh and drinking his blood - not literally, but figuratively through receiving His word and example into our hearts. Going through the motions won't do it. (John 6:52-58). One must fully receive Jesus.

Some think life can be successful without this part. It can't. Many pampered bodies are home to starving souls. How blessed is one who realizes their soul's need for this bread, for that is necessary to be filled (Matthew 5:6). “Filled” - “Strengthened” - “Hope” - “Purpose” - “Confidence” - “Endurance” are some of the results of receiving this hidden manna (Philippians 4:11-13; Ephesians 3:16; 6:10).

White Stone
White stones were used for several things in the ancient world. With what would have these disciples at Pergamum have associated with a “white stone” as promised them by Jesus if they overcome?

The word means a small pebble, so that helps. In ancient courts, the accused were acquitted or condemned by vote of a jury, council or panel. The voting member would cast a white pebble for “acquittal” or a black pebble for “guilty”. Members of tribunals condemning Christians would have cast “black stones” against them. At Pergamum, evidently black stones had been cast when judging Antipas. He was put to death. But Jesus says, “I will give one who overcomes a “white stone”; that is, He declares such a one as vindicated, pure and guiltless. It does not matter if the world condemns you if the one who has the keys of death sets you free! When facing ridicule or worse, remember that. The Lord will give you vindication and victory if you overcome by faith! (Revelation 1:18; Romans 8:31-34; 38-39; Hebrews 7:25: 10:38-39).

A New Name
The promise of being given “a new name” probably refers to the new status one who has been born of God and has overcome. Lots of things are said to be “new”… there is a “new heavens and earth” where the redeemed sing “a new song” as “new creatures” who are walking in “newness of life”.

Exalted with Christ in eternity will bring wonderful changes. And now, by faith, we glimpse glories to come in our joy and confidence as faithful Christians. We are sustained with manna now, but look forward to the “land flowing with milk and honey” .And it is true that no one can know you but you. Right now, you either know what I am talking about - or you don't. You know Jesus, or you do not. You understand the joys of discipleship, or you do not. No one on this earth knows you but you.

Overcoming by faith means being steadfast, diligent and dedicated. (1 John 5:3,4). It is to those who overcome that Jesus promises access to the tree of life and that the second death will not hurt them. He also promises hidden manna and a white stone. What wonderful hope these things symbolize!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 18.3; March 2011