Pastor Josh Combs
“To the one who conquers…I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17
The Greco-Roman imagery that Jesus uses here in His message to the church at Pergamum can’t be ignored. When an athlete achieved victory, he would be given a white stone with his name carved upon it. This white stone would serve as his entrance pass to a victors’ banquet and celebration of athletic achievement.
The church at Pergamum was engaged in a brutal contest on enemy turf. They were “playing” their fiercest rival in the most difficult “stadium” around. They were on the road, facing the ultimate away game. As John records the direct message from Jesus, the Lord clearly states, “I know….” Christ acknowledges that these Christians are working near “Satan’s throne,” that they have experienced brutal persecution and personal loss, and are under attack from false teachers. Not only is the domain of darkness surrounding them, but wickedly vile “preachers” have brought the fight into the church. The struggle is real. The game is on and Jesus wants to strengthen, challenge, and encourage His church. The word picture that Jesus paints is that He is waiting at the finish line with a trophy and a personal invitation to a victory celebration for those who conquer.
The Christian life has often been compared to a race with a grueling course but a glorious, long-looked-for finish line. The writer of Hebrews states, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The apostle Paul challenges the Corinthian church to “run that you may obtain” the trophy (1 Corinthians 9:24).
What awaits the victorious believer at the end of the race is our heavenly Father with the prize and an endless “victory parade.” The Scripture is very specific that this is not a generic prize, but something personal and uniquely special that the victor is given by the Lord. The reason for this is that, as Hebrews teaches, there is a unique race set before each of us. That individual course is fraught with peaks and valleys, obstacles, distractions, trials, and triumphs. What Jesus says is crucial for each athlete (believer) to hear. Jesus says, “I know where you dwell….” William Newell, writing about this passage says, “There is a personal character in all trials, through which the overcomer (that is, the true believer) will be brought to know the Lord in a peculiar way shared by no other.” This is why we speak of a personal relationship with Christ. Because our trials in this life are deeply personal, we are assured by the Lord that our victory and reward will be deeply personal as well.
The white stone given has upon it our new name, encompassing in it the victory that the Lord has carried us. That name, which will be unique to each believer, is given directly by the Savior. The old will be set aside and eclipsed by the new identity that the Lord eternally imparts to each of us. A new name that we will instantly recognize, know, and embrace will show us that the Lord knew the whole time the difficult race that we were running. Just as a trophy or medal identifies the event, so will this new name.
One day our name will be changed by the Lord Jesus. This new name will reflect the fiery trials we endured in life, while giving us entrance into eternal life. So let us run our race, looking to Jesus, knowing He holds a glorious prize.
Today’s Bible Reading: Revelation 2:12-17; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27