“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
– Revelation 2:17
Jesus gave the churches in Revelation precious promises… kingdom promises, promises that we may hold fast to just as much as these first century Christian communities. Pergamum, the capitol city of Asia Minor, enjoyed prestige and opportunities that were not afforded many of the other six cities. With a huge acropolis featuring many pagan temples, Pergamum was very much like a “Little Rome” and carried all the cultural opportunities that came with it… and also the curses. It was here, more than many of the other cities, where Christians were more often persecuted by the empire for not attending to emperor worship, or for being “atheists” by not worshipping idols. It was here that the pressure to compromise one’s faith was greatest, for it was easy to lead a very successful life in Pergamum by leading a private Christian life and simply going along with the flow publicly.
The message the Spirit gives to these churches is this though… “To the one who conquers…” who overcomes that temptation to compromise, “I will give some of the hidden manna” (originally found in the Ark of the covenant, in the Holy of Holies), that is food and provision for the journey at hand. “and I will give [them] a white stone, with a new name written on the stone…”. The imagery we need to remember here is that of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness (book of Numbers) and the way God miraculously provided for them every single day, every step of the way, even when they were surrounded by enemies with weapons and technology far greater than their own. Why didn’t those Israelite’s give up and join the Canaanite’s around them? Because God promised them a land of their own where they would draw all nations toward Him. A land where, once they moved in, they could leave their former slave lives behind and start brand new. Like these white stones, the Romans often used as tickets to get into the main events of the day, Jesus is promising the church admittance into the coming Kingdom, and a brand new start where they can leave their former selves and compromises and sins behind and begin again. God promises them a brand new day if they only repent, trust, and obey.
May God be so gracious to us this day as well.