Revelation ii. 17
The Hidden Manna—A White Stone—and a New Name.
THE promise addressed to the overcomer in Pergamos is blessedly adapted to the heart of the faithful in all times. "To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." (Rev. ii. 17)
The promise is to the individual overcomer, as in each of the other addresses to the seven Churches. Owing to the Church having failed, the question now is one of individual responsibility. In the period to which the epistle to the Church at Pergamos refers, we find three great evils—
Firstly. Dwelling where Satan's throne is. He being "the prince of this world" (John xiv. 30), the Church has thus risen to a place of recognition and ascendency, instead of being poor and contemptible. Secondly. The terrible evil of having in it the seducing doctrine of the false prophet Balaam, who, having failed to curse God's people, then sought to join them in affinity with the world; and----
Thirdly. There are those in the assembly who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes—for here there was the actual teaching, the allowing of evil deeds. With these three dark evils abroad are contrasted these three bright promises to the individual overcomer.
The Lord Jesus speaks of Himself in John vi. as the Bread which came down from Heaven in connection with the manna which was the wilderness food for Israel, openly spread out around the camp, to be gathered fresh every morning. This was for the sustainment of God's earthly people. So He has provided for us now "the living Bread," even the Son of God, Who gives life to our souls; and it is by feeding upon Christ, or living in communion with Him, that we are refreshed and strengthened for the way. His strength becomes our strength. His joy becomes our joy. Whatever He has, we thus appropriate. This is done, of course, only by communion with Christ—feeding upon Him. And as in food for the body, when we eat it, we appropriate it, making it part of ourselves, and from it derive support, so also is it with our souls when we feast on the bread of Heaven. If this be what the manna means, what does the hidden manna signify?
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness, there was a golden pot containing this manna ordered to be kept in the ark, for a memorial when they entered in rest, the land of promise—reminding them of their past journey, and of what they had enjoyed during it, and, above all, of the Lord's faithfulness in supplying their every need. And so, for us, the promise of eating the hidden manna shall be that eternally blessed remembrance of a suffering Christ on earth, as our souls have learned Him in daily communion. Thus, as in John vi., not only do we find the Lord Jesus under the title of the "living Bread," that from which we derive our life, but also He is "the Bread of God," that in which God Himself finds all His delights centred; and so it will be, for we shall have the everlasting enjoyment of fellowship with God in His delight, in a once humbled Christ; ours shall be the same kind of joy, though of course of a different measure.
In addition to eating the hidden manna, is the promise that the overcomer shall receive "a white stone," and in the stone, a new name written, known only to the one who receives it. This doubtless has in it the thought of the ancient custom of giving a vote in favour of any one, by way of a mark of approbation. And so Christ will give this secret mark of approbation on the morning of the resurrection to the one who in the midst of much ruin and opposition, has been faithful to Him, though down here, misunderstood by all around, even by true Christians. And on this white stone shall be inscribed a new name, known only to the One Who gives it and to the receiver. This new name we make for ourselves; each day, as it were, putting some letter or part of a letter into it, in solemn yet blessed connection with our living in daily communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. The new name depends on the different characters of our service, which vary in each saint.
We repeatedly find in the Bible the name significant of the character of the servant, thus Jacob rightly received his name, for he was a supplanter (Gen. xxvii. 36), but he received his new name of Israel after the hollow of his thigh was out of joint, and as a prince, he had power with God and with man, and prevailed. Moses is another who received his name from an incident in his infancy which characterized his whole life after a course of separation; as also the new name of Peter given to Simon son of Jonas (a dove). Mary of Bethany was characterized by this, that she sat at the feet of Jesus (Luke x.; John xi, xil), as well in the valley of the shadow of death as in the supper-room. Paul in his long life of faithful service, in face of many dangers and much opposition; John in his loving devotion, and Peter in his boldness for the blessed Master, whom he once had denied, together with many others, bring to our minds varied characteristics in service, each growing up as precious fruit to Him for whom it is prepared.
And though there are public joys in Heaven, common to all, thousands and thousands of saints joining in the song of praise, as surely there are joys we share in Christ together here. Yet He must have our individual affections as well as our more general ones. As we have learned Christ down here, so shall our souls in the glory privately enjoy this fellowship with Him, with which no stranger shall intermeddle. If we could really enter into the solemn truth that each day of our lives tells according to its results on eternity, how it would lead us, through God's grace, to live watchfully, laying an embargo on every word and action and, above all, specially watching that from which our words and actions spring—our thoughts—that Christ may indeed dwell richly there, our mind being set on things above, not on things on the earth. Blessed as the reward is, when the overcomer receives it, most fully will he prize it, not only for its own value, but also as a token of the love of the Divine Giver. Yet, let not the thought of the reward be our great incentive, but rather the glory of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, in order that we may show forth His praises. Then all will go well with us, until the time when journeyings and conflicts shall be all over, and He shall come and receive us to Himself, according to His promise; and so shall we ever be with the Lord, there to feast in unbroken communion on the hidden manna, when we receive the white stone in which is written the new name. H. W. T.