Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 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. (Revelation 2:17)
A couple of women I know have changed their given names. One suffered sexual abuse, and by changing her name she was cutting painful ties. Another didn’t want to be defined by her name’s meaning, which was “bitter.” Instead she wanted to be known by a name that denotes “grace.”
Our passage comes from the letters of Jesus, as revealed to the aging disciple John. Jesus says to the church at Pergamum that he will give them a white stone with a new name on it, known only to the recipient. Several meanings of this white stone have been put forward, as summarised by Craig Keener in the NIV Application Commentary (pp. 126–27). One is that in the ancient world, people used pebbles for admission to events; in this case, for a messianic banquet. Another is that in some ancient courtrooms, the jurors would cast a white stone for acquittal and black for conviction. (Thus Jesus would be the judge over what the Pergamum Christians were suffering.) Or the white stone could symbolize purity and eternal life, or a new name signifying a new identity.
The symbolic possibilities are rich. Applying the promise to our own lives hearkens to the promises we examined in Isaiah 62. Our new name might be one that we publicize as we embrace our new, redeemed self. Or it might be one that we keep hidden, the name that we hear when we call to the Lord and listen for his affirming words of love.
We are no longer bound to the old way of life. As we live out of our new selves, may we reflect the attributes of the One who created us, who made us for himself.
For reflection: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 9:17).