Who are the overcomers in Revelation 2 and 3?
The seven assemblies the Spirit addressed in the Revelation were literal churches; the conditions He addresses in the letters to them existed in those assemblies. The overcomers in each assembly were believers who had spiritual power to counter and transcend the evil influences that caused the conditions addressed. The overcomers thus maintained testimony regarding the character of Christ, something which none but believers could do. In his other writings, John teaches that overcoming is a characteristic of all believers (1Jo 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5). Therefore all true believers in each of the churches overcame the evil conditions that threatened the “testimony of Jesus.”
The letters to these churches unfold also “the mystery of the seven stars” (ie, churches) (Rev 1:20). Amid evil conditions that will affect testimony during the entire time until the Rapture, all believers and only believers will be overcomers.
To be sound in handling the Word of God, we must treat the overcomers consistently, whether in the literal or mystery interpretation of these letters.
In general, what is the Lord emphasizing in the rewards He offers the overcomers?
The Spirit wrote the Revelation to the seven churches. He did not write in order to satisfy their curiosity about the future, nor help them gain a degree in eschatology. The book would adjust their testimony to be consistent with what Christ would be and do at His revelation. It would assure them that “the testimony of Jesus” (1:2, 9; 19:10) will eventually and inevitably triumph.
In addition, each letter associates the overcomers with the coming glories. They have a share in the tree of life, a crown of life, the book of life, the ruling rod of iron, white raiment, the temple, coming city, and “My throne.” They needed to read the rest of the book to understand the glorious implication of these statements. And, as we would expect from the inspired pen, each compensation is tailor-made to counter the conditions those believers faced.
What is the significance of the hidden manna and the white stone (Revelation 2:17)?
Many commentators give varied, helpful insights on the significance of these two items the Lord held out to encourage the overcomers in Pergamos. These insights deserve careful consideration to determine their merit. The suggestions that follow are selected from the many suggestions on the basis of three tests: What best suits the conditions affecting Pergamos? What best relates to truths revealed in the rest of the Revelation? What has historical meaning in Pergamos?
Manna and a white stone are not specifically mentioned in the rest of the book, but their meaning should be within its context.
Two passages may help regarding the hidden manna. One passage is, “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), where “hid” and “hidden” are the same Greek word. These are the only two usages of the word in the epistles that do not involve something hidden by men. The other passage is, “The ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna . . .” (Hebrews 9:4), which is the only other passage in the epistles that mentions manna specifically. Later in the book, John sees the “ark of His testament” in God’s temple (Rev 11:19) and “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven” (15:5). “The tabernacle of the testimony” is reminiscent of the tabernacle that housed the ark of testimony.
When the city comes down from heaven (21:10), John saw no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (v 22). The fulfillment of all that the ark (with its golden pot of manna), the tabernacle, and the temple signified will be the Lord and the Lamb. Overcomers in Pergamos, where they are being taught “to eat things sacrificed to idols” (2:14), turn from this fellowship with idols (1Co 10:20) to enjoy present strength for their hidden, spiritual life. One day they will enjoy fellowship with the exalted, glorious Lamb and with the Lord God Almighty in that heavenly city.
Regarding the white stone, at least four features are given: it is first a stone, it is white, it has a new name inscribed, and that name is known only to the one who receives the stone. The only other NT use of this word “stone” is when Paul speaks of casting his vote (his voting stone) against believers when he persecuted them. Voting rights also belonged to city citizens. The white stone is linked with the rights of citizens of the heavenly city. In the Revelation, white (used 16 times) is associated with heaven 15 times. The exception is the white horse of the one who imitates what is heavenly (6:2). Interestingly, jurors cast a white stone for innocence and a black one for guilt. Antipas, either literally or figuratively, had received the black stone from men. The overcomers would receive the white stone from the Lord.
The inscribed new name contrasts with writing on the parchments for which Pergamos was famous. A new name is linked by the Lord with a victorious people (Isa 62:2). That name is known only to two, expressing a special intimacy between the Lord and the one who holds the stone.
The white stone linked the overcomer with the heavenly city, with permanence, with victory despite the possibilities of martyrdom, with approval, and with a unique, eternal intimacy with the Lord.