Revelation 1-3

Matt Summerfield reflects on the meaning of the white stone that Jesus gives to those who are victorious.

Matt Summerfield
Matt Summerfield

In the early chapters of the book of Revelation, Jesus sends a personal letter to seven churches. With one or two exceptions, each letter provides both an encouragement, a challenge and reward.

One church he writes to is in a place called Pergamum, which was an ancient city in Turkey. Jesus' encouragement to them, was that despite the fact that they were living in a difficult place, they hadn't given up on their faith. The challenge was that they had compromised their faith. They were doing some things that were destructive, ignoring God's best in certain parts of their lives.

Jesus ends his letter by telling them about their reward:

'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

So what is a white stone and what is the value of a new name?

A name is all about identity. I've got to know the lady who sells the Big Issue in Hitchin outside Boots and every time I chat to her and call her Rebekah she says, "You've remembered my name." There's something powerful about being called by your name. It tells us that we've been remembered and that we are known.

However, aside from our first name, many of us live with other names and words that have shaped our identity. Words that were said over us and other names that have come to define our lives.

If someone asks, "Who are you?" we might answer, "My name is Matt", but actually there is a deeper answer that many of us carry:

I am ashamed
I am stupid
I am fearful
I am ugly
I am angry
I am jealous
I am bitter
I am broken-hearted
I am lonely
I am dying inside - the list goes on

So how can this change?

In Revelation 2:17 God reveals the answer...if you hold on to me, Jesus says, I will generously and supernaturally provide what you really need in life, (which is what Jesus meant by the reference to 'hidden manna').

And what you really need is a new name, a new identity. You need new words that you can hold on to. Words that represent the new life that God has given you.

Bible scholars debate the symbolic meaning of the white stone in this verse, because white stones were used for a variety of different things in ancient times. So I just want to mention three things about your new life in God, represented by the white stone.

The first is purity - white is always a reference to purity in the scriptures. When we ask God to be part of our lives, we're asking God to clean up the mess in our lives. The mess in our thoughts, words and actions. Then we can feel free of shame and guilt and genuinely feel like we have a fresh start.

This was one of the purposes of a white stone in Ancient times. In Ancient courtrooms, the jury was given a black stone and a white stone as they deliberated on whether to pronounce the defendant guilty or not-guilty. When they returned to the court, if they found the defendant guilty, they would hold out the black stone, but if they believed the defendant was not guilty they would hold out the white stone. If you're 'not guilty' that means you're free to go. You don't need to be held back by your past. You're free to go in to your future. So one of the symbolic meanings of the white stone is about being declared 'not guilty'.

All of us know that we're guilty of thinking and doing and saying things that have caused great damage. We all carry the black stone of guilt around with us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross 2000 years ago, he was saying, "I've taken your black stone of guilt on the cross. I've paid the price for your guilt. You don't have to carry it around with you anymore. I'll give you a white stone instead. If you believe me, if you trust in me, I will declare you 'not guilty'. I will clean up your life and give you a fresh start.

When we say yes to God, He gives us a new name:

Set free
New start
Not guilty

But there's a second thing that this white stone represents - and that's opportunity.

When an athlete won in a games tournament, as part of their prize they were often given a white stone with their name inscribed on it. The white stone was an admission ticket to the winner's celebration and feast. When they turned up at the party, they'd show their white stone with their name on it and they'd be let in to the feast. So in that sense, the white stone represented 'free entry' and this was about having privilege. It wasn't just to a feast either, it could be like having the keys to a city. New opportunities and possibilities would open up to you, because you were the carrier of the white stone.

When you say yes to God, not only does He declare you 'not guilty' as He begins to clean up your life, but He also opens up amazing opportunities for you as you discover what He created you to be and do.

The last thing is all about security. Knowing that whatever happens in life God is with you and for you. He will never leave you, or give up on you. This was another purpose behind a white stone in ancient times.

A white and black stone were often used in elections. When people voted, if they rejected the candidate then they would vote with a black stone. So a black stone was all about 'rejection'. This is where we get the term today 'blackballed'. If you've been blackballed, then you've been rejected. However if they voted with a white stone it meant 'acceptance', it means you're in.

It was similarly used to demonstrate friendship. A close friend might give you a white stone with their name on it and it was a sign of them saying to you, I'm 100% committed to you, my home is your home and my life is your life. I will always be for you. I will always be here for you.

That's the promise that Jesus is making. You've been accepted, God has chosen you, God wants to adopt you in to His family and if you say yes, if you accept the white stone of security, then you'll know the promise of security with God, in this life and the next.

Whatever names you're carrying over yourself, God wants to give you a new name.


Time to embrace your new name! CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.