In his exhortation to the Church at Pergamum in the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John warns that they were dwelling in the place where Satan had his throne (Revelation 2:13), but urges them to overcome.
But then the Apostle makes the odd statement that those who overcome will receive secret manna and a “white pebble” with a new name written on it.
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NASV)
Many of us are familiar with the story of God providing Israel manna in the wilderness and the “hidden manna” may describe the manna put inside the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:33–34).
But what does the white stone refer too?
There are many opinions on this.
Some wonder if it refers to the semi precious stones embedded in the High Priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:12). Others suggest it describes the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written that were whitewashed with lime giving them a white appearance (Deuteronomy 27:2-8).
However, according to Thayers the word “psephos” refers to a small pebble worn smooth by handling. This certainly does describe a tablet large enough to hold the 10 commandments.
I believe we receive a clue of what John is referring to in another passage where “psephos” is found:
10 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. (Acts 26:10 NASV)
At first glance, it is difficult to see where the word “psephos” translated pebble or stone is located in a verse describing how Paul cast his vote against the Christians to persecute them.
You don’t see it until you understand the word “psephos” can also be translated “vote.”
In ancient Rome, stones were used as ballots. Judges used stones when they were handing out the verdict of a person accused of a crime.
When bringing down his decision, a judge would place either a white or black stone in a box. A white stone indicated the judge had acquitted the person of the crime, while a black stone reflected guilt.
Using this analogy, John says believers will receive a white stone because they have overcome and are acquitted of their sins because of the redeeming work of Christ.
They are not guilty.
Then John speaks of a new secret name being written on the stone. Some believe this may describe a new name for Christ, but more likely it refers to the new name God gives the believers who have remained steadfast in their faith.
Several times throughout the Old Testament, God changed the names of His servants to reflect a new promise or purpose for their lives — Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarai became Sarah (Genesis 17:15) and Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:28).
The nations will see your righteousness,
And all kings your glory;
And you will be called by a new name
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate. (Isaiah 62:2 NASV)