In an earlier article, we took a look at the new name promised to overcomers in the book of Revelation. In the passage, it says that this name is written on a white stone.
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
Now let’s dig in and see what we can discover about the white stone. A good place to start is to take a look at the meaning of the original word. The Greek word used here is “pséphos”, which means a small smooth stone, or pebble. The root of the word suggests something that can be held in the hand, something that has been worn smooth by handling.
There are a couple of interesting things that can be drawn from the idea of a small stone held in the hand. According to The Jewish New Testament Commentary, a white stone was used in the ancient world as an admission ticket, specifically given to a champion as admittance to a nobleman’s post-conquest festivities. When coupled with the fact that the promised white stone in Revelation has a secret name written on it, we can think of this as the non-transferable gift from Jesus Christ of admission into His presence, and into Heaven. Where the old testament priests were limited in their admission into the holy of holies, we gain access, not through our own merit, but by virtue of God’s gift to us: a gift of which the white stone is a token.
The second picture represented by the white stone is that of a voting ballot. Many sources refer to the custom of using stones as a means used by jurors of casting votes after arguments have been heard in a trial. A white stone signified a vote for acquittal, while a black one meant a vote for the defendant to be condemned. This idea is supported in an interesting way in the New Testament itself. In Paul’s testimony before king Agrippa, he speaks the following words, referring to his persecution of the Christians before his conversion:
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
The interesting thing about this passage is the fact that the word used for “vote” is the same as the word used for “stone” in our revelation passage.
The depth and wonder of the gift of a white stone begins to become more clear as we consider these things. Christ, our mediator, has heard the evidence against us. For each and every person on this planet, there is undeniable evidence that should bring the verdict of guilt, followed by the sentence of death. In spite of His having heard this evidence, Jesus is casting His vote in our favor. He does this without the perversion of justice because of the fact that He took the guilty verdict that should have been ours, and bore the death penalty as well.
In addition to the wonder of His gift of admission and His gift of acquittal is the wonder of the fact that He doesn’t give a token that could be mass-produced, like a printed ticket or something of that sort. He didn’t even go to the quarry and order up enough granite to be fashioned into as many white stones as would be needed. Instead, each stone has been individually engraved: each in a way that is different from the engraving of any other stone.
Now that we have a little picture of what this promise might have meant to the original readers, let’s take a look at the condition of the promise, namely that it is for “Him who overcomes”. What does it mean to overcome? Does it mean that we never ever fail? I don’t believe this to be the case. We have all lost some battles, but God has already won the war. In order to associate ourselves with His victory, our responsibility is to continue to believe in His promise to us. He promises admission and acquittal to the overcomer. We overcome by believing those promises, and by testifying to that belief.
When do we receive the gift of the white stone? To a large degree, I think it will be fully clear to us when we reach the next life, but at the same time, I am convinced that there is something of the truth of the white stone with the new name that we receive in this world as we are in the act of overcoming. Let us be encouraged by the fact that in our hand we hold an admission ticket to Heaven, and an admission ticket into His presence at this very moment. We hold an acquittal that was personalized with a name that identifies us uniquely.
What a gift! I challenge those who read this to stop and consider what has been given, and allow the wonder of it to sink in. When it has, open your heart and your mouth in praise and worship to the Giver!