To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
In our post concerning the letter to Pergamum, I gave you the “short version” of the three images found in this blessing. Now, let’s examine these a little more carefully to see what is going on…
In the original post I said that this should be understood as servants of the Lord who will have a seat at His banquet table in the Kingdom, and that is certainly the bottom line. However, this image has very deep roots in Jewish tradition and I know that some of you will be interested in the side trip, so here, at no extra charge, is our side trip:
Manna first appears in Scripture in Exodus 16 when the people in the desert cry out for food and God sends them “bread from heaven”. This bread from heaven falls like dew, looks like frost and tastes like honey, and when the people first saw it they said “manna” which means “what is it?” The name stuck. Then, in Ex. 16:32-35 the people are told to collect some of the manna as a remembrance of God’s miraculous provision:
Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”
So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”
As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
The jar of manna remained with the Ark of the Covenant for quite a long time. Being with the Ark, it was “before the Lord” because that was where His presence was said to be on the earth in the Most Holy Place. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Jeremiah removed the jar of manna and the Ark so they would not be captured by the invading Babylonians, and hid them in a cave near Mount Nebo; the account comes from 2 Maccabees 2:4-8:
These same records also tell us that Jeremiah, acting under divine guidance, commanded the Tent of the Lord’s Presence and the Covenant Box to follow him to the mountain where Moses had looked down on the land which God had promised our people. When Jeremiah got to the mountain, he found a huge cave and there he hid the Tent of the Lord’s Presence, the Covenant Box, and the altar of incense. Then he sealed up the entrance.
Some of Jeremiah’s friends tried to follow him and mark the way, but they could not find the cave. When Jeremiah learned what they had done, he reprimanded them, saying,
No one must know about this place until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. At that time he will reveal where these things are hidden, and the dazzling light of his presence will be seen in the cloud, as it was in the time of Moses and on the occasion when Solomon prayed that the Temple might be dedicated in holy splendor.
This is how the manna came to be the “hidden manna”. Notice when the manna and the rest of the contents, will be found again; it will be “when God gathers his people together again” at a future date. The manna is also discussed in various apocalyptic Jewish texts in reference to the Messianic Banquet, which is said to take place at the consummation of the Kingdom of God. As a symbol, the Messianic Banquet communicates the joy, abundance and fellowship of the kingdom at a great feast presided over by the Messiah. In Scripture, the main text on this subject is Isaiah 25:6-8:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
It is well worth noting that this symbolic feast takes place when the Kingdom of God comes into fullness, and when there is no more death, sadness and disgrace. Later, the author of 2 Baruch, who wrote at about the same time as John wrote Revelation, tells of the great feast where the menu will include such delicacies as wine in abundance, Leviathon, ( a huge sea beast) and land behemoths (symbolizing the enemies of God) and…. You guessed it: Manna. (See 2 Baruch 29:3-8)
In the New Testament, similar images can be found in Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13; and Revelation 19:6-9. In addition, the Lord’s Supper is a foreshadowing of such a Banquet when understood in light of Jesus’ comment in Luke 22:16:
For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God
Thus, I have concluded that the “hidden manna” in Revelation 2:17 is a reference to the recipient’s having a seat at the table at the consummation of the Kingdom of God at the second coming of Christ.
The White Stone with the Secret Name
I gave you my reasons for my conclusion about the white stone in the original post; the white stone represents complete and total acquittal for any and all guilt deriving from sin. That is simple enough and requires no further explanation. As for the secret names, that is a little more involved.
The Greek word John used in 2:17 is kainos. If we search, we will find that John uses it several times in Revelation: There is a “new song” in 5:9 and 14:3, there are “new names” in 2:17 and 3:12, there is the “new Jerusalem” in 3:12 and 21:2, a “new heaven and new earth” in 21:1 and the consummation of the Kingdom of God in which Jesus makes “everything new” in 21:5. Therefore when Jesus says that “overcomers” will receive “new names”; they are being offered places in the coming redemption and transformation of all creation. Yet, we still have the issue of the new names being known only to “him who receives it”.
In the ancient world, giving a name is a sign of power and authority. This is true in Greek myth as well as in Scripture; for instance, recall the story in Genesis 2:19-20 when God gave Adam the right to name all of the animals as an act of dominion over them (cf. Gen. 1:26). Now consider the events described in Luke 8:26-39: Jesus comes upon a man who is possessed by a “Legion” of demons. They cry out to Jesus, “What do you want with me Jesus, son of the Most High God?” As you can see, they knew Jesus’ real name: “Son of God” and to the ancient mind, this might indicate that they had power over Him. Now, recall Jesus’ reply: “What is your name?” Jesus was not about to let them have the upper hand, and when they answered, He drove them out of region.
The Christians in Pergamum were suffering under the power of their oppressors, but in promising them new names known to no one else, He is promising them freedom from those who have persecuted them. Thus, the white stone of acquittal combined with freedom from oppression is a very nice aspect of the wedding feast of the Lamb in a transformed world.
Well dear reader, there you have it; I hope this has been helpful to you so that you can see another example of how to figure these symbols out. I also hope that in the future, you will understand it when I say things like “for the sake of brevity” and then just tell you meaning of something.
In our next post, let’s take a look at the letter to Sardis; see you then!