The hidden manna - It was a constant tradition of the Jews that the ark of the covenant, the tables of stone, Aaron's rod, the holy anointing oil, and the pot of manna, were hidden by King Josiah when Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans; and that these shall all be restored in the days of the Messiah. This manna was hidden, but Christ promises to give it to him that is conqueror. Jesus is the ark, the oil, the rod, the testimony, and the manna. He who is partaker of his grace has all those things in their spiritual meaning and perfection.
And will give him a white stone -
His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa.
Nunc quoque sic lata est sententia tristis.
"A custom was of old, and still remains,
Which life or death by suffrages ordains:
White stones and black within an urn are cast,
The first absolve, but fate is in the last."
It is to this custom that Plautus refers in his Poenulus, act. v., scen. 2, ver. 80, in the interview between Agorastocles, and his unknown uncle Hanno.
Agorastocles. - Et tu edepol, quisquis es. Et si quid opus est, quaeso, die atque impera, Popularitatis caussa.
Han. - Habeo gratiam. Verum ego hic hospitium habeo: Antidamae filium Quaero; commonstra, si novisti, Agorastoclem. Ecquem adolescentem tu hic novisti Agorastoclem?
Agor. - Siquidem tu Antidamarchi quaeris adoptatitium, Ego sum ipsus, quem tu quaeris.
Han. - Hem! quid ego audio?
Agor. - Antidamae gnatum me esse.
Han. - si ita est, tesseram Conferre si vis hospitalem, eccam adtuli.
Agor. - Agedum huc ostende; est par probe: nam habeo domi.
Han. - O mi hospes, salve multum! nam mihi tuus pater, Pater tuus ergo, hospes Antidamas fuit. Haec mihi hospitalis tessera cum illo fuit.
Agor. - Ergo hic apud me hospitium tibi praebebitur. Nam haud repudio hospitium, neque Carthaginem: Inde sum oriundus.
Han. - Di dent tibi omnes quae velis.
Hanno. - Hail, my countryman!
Agorastocles. - I hail thee also, in the name of Pollux, whosoever thou art. And if thou have need of any thing, speak, I beseech thee; and thou shalt obtain what thou askest, for civility's sake.
Hanno - I thank thee, but I have a lodging here; I seek the son of Antidamas. Tell me if thou knowest Agorastocles. Dost thou know in this place the young Agorastocles?
Agorastocles - If thou seek the adopted son of Antidamarchus, I am the person whom thou seekest.
Hanno - Ha! What do I hear?
Agorastocles - Thou hearest that I am the son of Antidamas.
Hanno - If it be so, compare, if thou pleasest, the hospitable tessera; here it is, I have brought it with me.
Agorastocles - Come then, reach it hither: it is the exact counterpart; I have the other at home.
Hanno - O my friend, I am very glad to see thee, for thy father was my friend; therefore Antidamas thy father was my guest. I divided this hospitable tessera with him.
Agorastocles - Therefore, a lodging shall be provided for thee with me; I reverence hospitality, and I love Carthage, where I was born.
Hanno - May all the gods grant thee whatsoever thou wishest!
The tessera taken in this sense, seems to have been a kind of tally; and the two parts were compared together to ascertain the truth. Now it is very probable that St. John may allude to this; for on this mode of interpretation every part of the verse is consistent.
But what does this mean in the language of Christ?
For a farther account of the tessera of the ancients, as well as for engravings of several, see Graevii Thesaur.; Pitisci Lexic.; and Poleni Supplement; and the authors to whom these writers refer.
The Epistle to the Church at Thyatira
He that hath an ear - notes on Revelation 2:7.
To him that overcometh - notes on Revelation 2:7.
Will I give to eat of the hidden manna - The true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul. The idea is, that the souls of those who “overcame,” or who gained the victory in their conflict with sin, and in the persecutions and trials of the world, would be permitted to partake of that spiritual food which is laid up for the people of God, and by which they will be nourished forever. The Hebrews were supported by manna in the desert Exodus 16:32-34; it is called “angels‘ food” Psalm 78:25, and “corn of heaven” Psalm 78:24; and it would seem to have been emblematical of that spiritual food by which the people of God are to be fed from heaven, in their journey through this world. By the word “hidden,” there would seem to be an allusion to what was laid up in the pot before the ark of the testimony, and the blessing which is promised here is that they would be nourished as if they were sustained by that manna thus laid up before the ark: by food from the immediate presence of God. The language thus explained would mean that they who overcome will be nourished through this life as if by that “hidden manna”; that is, that they will be supplied all along through the “wilderness of this world” by that food from the immediate presence of God which their souls require.
As the parallel places in the epistles to the churches, however, refer rather to the heavenly world, and to the rewards which they who are victors shall have there, it seems probable that this has immediate reference to that world also, and that the meaning is, that, as the most holy place was a type of heaven, they will be admitted into the immediate presence of God, and nourished forever by the food of heaven - what the angels have; what the soul will need to sustain it there. Even in this world their souls may be nourished with this “hidden manna”; in heaven it will be their constant food forever.
And will give him a white stone - There has been a great variety of opinion in regard to the meaning of this expression, and almost no two expositors agree. Illustrations of its meaning have been sought from Grecian, Hebrew, and Roman customs, but none of these have removed all difficulty from the expression. The general sense of the language seems plain, even though the allusion on which it is founded is obscure, or even unknown. It is, that the Saviour would give him who overcame a token of his favor which would have some word or name inscribed on it, and which would be of use to him alone, or intelligible to him only: that is, some secret token which would make him sure of the favor of his Redeemer, and which would be unknown to other people. The idea here would find a correspondence in the evidences of his favor granted to the soul of the Christian himself; in the pledge of heaven thus made to him, and which he would understand, but which no one else would understand,
The things, then, which we are to look for in the explanation of the emblem are two - what would thus be a token of his favor, and what would explain the fact that it would be intelligible to no one else. The question is, whether there is any known thing pertaining to ancient customs which would convey those ideas. The word rendered “stone” - ψῆφον psēphon- means, properly, a small stone, as worn smooth by water - a gravel-stone, a pebble; then any polished stone, the stone of a gem, or ring (Robinson‘s Lexicon). Such a stone was used among the Greeks for various purposes, and the word came to have a signification corresponding to these uses. The following uses are enumerated by Dr. Robinson, Lexicon: the “stones,” or “counters” for reckoning; “dice,” “lots,” used in a kind of magic; a vote, spoken of the black and white stones or pebbles anciently used in voting - that is, the white for approval, and the black for condemning.
In regard to the use of the word here, some have supposed that the reference is to a custom of the Roman emperors, who, in the games and spectacles which they gave to the people in imitation of the Greeks, are said to have thrown among the populace dice or tokens inscribed with the words, “Frumentum, vestes,” etc.; that is, “Corn, clothing,” etc.; and whosoever obtained one of these received from the emperor whatever was marked upon it. Others suppose that allusion is made to the mode of casting lots, in which sometimes dice or tokens were used with names inscribed on them, and the lot fell to him whose name first came out. The “white stone” was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity; and it is a remarkable circumstance that, among the Greeks, persons of distinguished virtue were said to receive a ψῆφον psēphon“stone,” from the gods, that is, as an approving testimonial of their virtue.
See Robinson‘s Lexicon, and the authorities there referred to; Wetstein, New Testament, in loco, and Stuart, in leto. Prof. Stuart supposes that the allusion is to the fact that Christians are said to be kings and priests to God, and that as the Jewish high priest had a mitre or turban, on the front of which was a plate of gold inscribed “Holiness to the Lord,” so they who were kings and priests under the Christian dispensation would have that by which they would be known, but that, instead of a plate of gold, they would have a pellucid stone, on which the name of the Saviour would be engraved as a token of his favor. It is possible, in regard to the explanation of this phrase, that there has been too much effort to find all the circumstances alluded to in some ancient custom. Some well-understood fact or custom may have suggested the general thought, and then the filling up may have been applicable to this case alone. It is quite clear, I think, that none of the customs to which it has been supposed there is reference correspond fully with what is stated here, and that though there may have been a general allusion of that kind, yet something of the particularity in the circumstances may be regarded as unique to this alone. In accordance with this view, perhaps the following points will embody all that need be said:
(1) A white stone was regarded as a token of favor, prosperity, or success everywhere - whether considered as a vote, or as given to a victor, etc. As such, it would denote that the Christian to whom it is said to be given would meet with the favor of the Redeemer, and would have a token of his approval.
(2) the name written on this stone would be designed also as a token or pledge of his favor - as a name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received it of friendship. It would be not merely a white stone - emblematic of favor and approval - but it would be so marked as to indicate its origin, with the name of the giver on it. This would appropriately denote, when explained, that the victor Christian would receive a token of the Redeemer‘s favor, as if his name were engraven on a stone, and given to him as a pledge of his friendship; that is, that he would be as certain of his favor as if he had such a stone. In other words, the victor would be assured from the Redeemer, who distributes rewards, that his welfare would be secure.
(3) this would be to him as if he should receive a stone so marked that its letters were invisible to all others, but apparent to him who received it. It is not needful to suppose that in the Olympic games, or in the prizes distributed by Roman emperors, or in any other custom, such a case had actually occurred, but it is conceivable that a name might be so engraved - with characters so small, or in letters so unknown to all others or with marks so unintelligible to others - that no other one into whose hands it might fall would understand it. The meaning then probably is, that to the true Christian - the victor over sin - there is given some pledge of the divine favor which has to him all the effect of assurance, and which others do not perceive or understand. This consists of favors shown directly to the soul - the evidence of pardoned sin; joy in the Holy Spirit; peace with God; clear views of the Saviour; the possession of a spirit which is properly that of Christ, and which is the gift of God to the soul. The true Christian understands this; the world perceives it not. The Christian receives it as a pledge of the divine favor, and as an evidence that he will be saved; to the world, that on which he relies seems to be enthusiasm, fanaticism, or delusion. The Christian bears it about with him as he would a precious stone given to him by his Redeemer, and on which the name of his Redeemer is engraved, as a pledge that he is accepted of God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not understand it, or attaches no value to it.
And in the stone a new name written - A name indicating a new relation, new hopes and triumphs. Probably the name here referred to is the name of the Redeemer, or the name Christian, or some such appellation. It would be some name which he would understand and appreciate, and which would be a pledge of acceptance.
Which no man knoweth, - That is, no one would understand its import, as no one but the Christian estimates the value of that on which he relics as the pledge of his Redeemer‘s love.
The Epistle to the Church at Thyatira
The contents of this epistle Revelation 2:18-29 are as follows:
(1) A reference, as is usual in these epistles, to some attribute of the Saviour which demanded their particular attention, or which was especially appropriate to the nature of the message which he was about to send to them, Revelation 2:18. The attributes which he fixes on here are, that his eyes are like a flame of fire - as if they would pierce and penetrate to the recesses of the heart; and that his feet are like fine brass - perhaps indicative of majesty as he moved among the churches.
(2) astatement, in the usual form, that he was entirely acquainted with the church, and that therefore the judgment which he was about to pronounce was founded on a thorough knowledge of what the church was; and a general commendation of them for their charity, service, faith, and patience, Revelation 2:19.
(3) asevere reproof of the church, notwithstanding, for their tolerating a teacher of dangerous doctrine, whom he calls Jezebel, with the assurance that she and her children should not go unpunished, Revelation 2:20-23.
(4) an assurance to all the rest in Thyatira that no other calamity or burden would come upon the church than what was inevitable in delivering it from the dangerous influence of these doctrines, and a solemn charge to them to hold fast all the truth which they had until he should come, Revelation 2:24-25.(5) A promise, as usual, to those who should overcome, or who should be victorious, Revelation 2:26-29. They would have power over the nations; they would be associated with the Redeemer in ruling them; they would have the morning star.
(6) acall, as usual, on all who had ears to hear, to attend to what the Spirit said to the churches.
Thyatira was a city of Asia Minor, on the northern border of Lydia, and commonly reckoned as belonging to Lydia. It was about twenty-seven miles from Sardis; about a day‘s journey from Pergamos, and about the same distance from the seacoast. Its modern name is Ak-hissar, or the white castle. According to Pliny, it was known in earlier times by the name of Pelopia (Hist. Nat. v. 29). Strabo (xiii. p. 928) says that it was a Macedonian colony. The Roman road from Pergames to Sardis passed through it. It was noted for the art of dyeing Acts 16:14, and Luke‘s account in the Acts has been confirmed by the discovery of an inscription in honor of Antonius Claudius Alphenus, which concludes with the words οἱ βαφεῖς hoibafeis- the dyers.
Pliny Fisk, the American missionary, who visited the city, thus describes it: “Thyatira is situated near a small river, a branch of the Caicus, in the center of an extensive plain. At the distance of three or four miles it is almost completely surrounded by mountains. The houses are low; many of them made of mud or earth. Excepting the motsellim‘s palace, there is scarcely a decent house in the place. The streets are narrow and dirty, and everything indicates poverty and degradation. We had a letter of introduction to Economo, the bishop‘s procurator, and a principal man among the Greeks of this town He says the Turks have destroyed all remnants of the ancient church; and even the place where it stood is now unknown. At present there are in the town one thousand houses, for which taxes are paid to the government” (Memoir of P. Fisk; Boston, Mass., 1828).
The following description, by Mr. Schneider, missionary of the American Board, will give a correct view of Thyatira, as it existed in 1848: “From Magnesia we proceeded to Thyatira, the site of one of the Apocalyptic churches, now called Ak-hissar. The population consists of about 700 Mussulman houses, 250 Greek houses, and 50 Armenian houses (circa 1850‘s). The town is located in a plain of considerable size, and is hardly visible on being approached, by reason of the profusion of foliage. The plain itself is bounded on all sides by mountains, and cotton and a kind of reddish root (madder), used for dyeing red, are raised abundantly. I observed that this root is extensively cultivated in all that region, and forms an important article of export to England, where it is used for dyeing purposes. In Acts 16:14 we read of Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira. May not this root be the very article with which her purple was colored, which she was selling at Philippi, when the Lord opened her heart to attend to the things spoken by Paul? It seems to me probable. But, if it was so, this art of coloring appears to have been lost, for I could not find that it is now at all practiced in that place or that region.
“The Christian traveler and missionary naturally looks for something interesting in a place where once existed a true church of Christ. But, alas! how sadly is he disappointed! The place presents an appearance in nothing different from other Turkish towns. Everything wears a Mussulman aspect. The houses, streets, dress, occupation, and language of the inhabitants all indicate a predominating Turkish influence. Christianity exists there in name, but it is the bare name. Its spirit has long since fled. The Greeks, especially, seem to be especially superstitious. I visited their church, and found it full of pictures and other marks of degenerate Christianity. A long string of these images, extending from one side of the church to the other, was suspended so low as to permit the worshipper to approach and kiss them; and so frequently had this adoration been bestowed on them, that all appeared soiled from the frequent contact of the lips. Over the entrance of the church I observed a representation of a grave old man, with a silvery beard, surrounded by angels. Suspecting the object designed to be shadowed forth, I inquired of a lad standing by what that figure meant. He instantly replied, ‹It is God.‘ I observed two similar representations of the Deity in the interior of the church. The churchyard is used as a burying-place; but only those whose friends are able to pay for the privilege of entombing their dead can enjoy it. Candles are lighted at the heads of the graves in the night, and incense is often burned. When the process of decay has proceeded so far as to leave nothing but the bones, these are taken up and thrown into a sealed vault, over which a chapel is suited up, in which mass is said over these relics of the dead for the benefit of their souls! A feeling of abhorrence came over me as I stood in the place where such abominations are committed.
“The Armenians are far less superstitious. Comparatively only a few pictures are to be seen in their church, and three or four individuals are more or less enlightened, and in an inquiring state of mind. We had a long interview with one of them, the teacher, and left some books with him. I am not without hopes that a little gospel leaven has been deposited here, the effects of which will appear at some future day” (Miss. Herald, Feb. 1848). The engraving in this volume will give a representation of this city as it now exists.
“The children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited: they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.” For forty years they were daily reminded by this miraculous provision, of God's unfailing care and tender love. In the words of the psalmist, God gave them “of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food” (Psalm 78:24, 25)—that is, food provided for them by the angels. Sustained by “the corn of heaven,” they were daily taught that, having God's promise, they were as secure from want as if surrounded by fields of waving grain on the fertile plains of Canaan. PP 297.1
The manna, falling from heaven for the sustenance of Israel, was a type of Him who came from God to give life to the world. Said Jesus, “I am that Bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven.... If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:48-51. And among the promises of blessing to God's people in the future life it is written, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” Revelation 2:17. PP 297.2
After leaving the wilderness of Sin, the Israelites encamped in Rephidim. Here there was no water, and again they distrusted the providence of God. In their blindness and presumption the people came to Moses with the demand, “Give us water that we may drink.” But his patience failed not. “Why chide ye with me?” he said; “wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?” They cried in anger, “Wherefore is this, that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” When they had been so abundantly supplied with food, they remembered with shame their unbelief and murmurings, and promised to trust the Lord in the future; but they soon forgot their promise, and failed at the first trial of their faith. The pillar of cloud that was leading them seemed to veil a fearful mystery. And Moses—who was he? they questioned, and what could be his object in bringing them from Egypt? Suspicion and distrust filled their hearts, and they boldly accused him of designing to kill them and their children by privations and hardships that he might enrich himself with their possessions. In the tumult of rage and indignation they were about to stone him. PP 297.3Read in context »
Before the ransomed throng is the Holy City. Jesus opens wide the pearly gates, and the nations that have kept the truth enter in. There they behold the Paradise of God, the home of Adam in his innocency. Then that voice, richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, is heard, saying: “Your conflict is ended.” “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” GC 646.1
Now is fulfilled the Saviour's prayer for His disciples: “I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” “Faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), Christ presents to the Father the purchase of His blood, declaring: “Here am I, and the children whom Thou hast given Me.” “Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept.” Oh, the wonders of redeeming love! the rapture of that hour when the infinite Father, looking upon the ransomed, shall behold His image, sin's discord banished, its blight removed, and the human once more in harmony with the divine! GC 646.2Read in context »
Let us have an eye single to the glory of God. Let us not allow anything to interpose between us and Him. “If we follow on to know the Lord,” we shall know that “his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” If we are partakers of the divine nature, we shall reflect in life and character the image of our divine Lord. We cannot be indolent in seeking this perfection of character. We cannot yield passively to our surroundings, and think that others will do the work for us. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” We must be workers together with God. Life must become to us a humble, earnest working out of salvation with fear and trembling; and then faith, hope, and love will abide in our hearts, giving us an earnest of the reward that awaits the overcomer. LHU 333.5Read in context »
We are not to voice inconsistency. It is our work to advance the light, to inculcate ideas in the spirit of meekness and dependence upon God. Let us seek to become overcomers, and thus receive the overcomers’ reward. Do all in your power to reflect light, to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, but abstain from speaking irritating and provoking words. Present the truth in its simplicity, for it must be confessed before man as it involves their eternal interest.—Letter 36, 1895. VSS 241.3Read in context »