Many of us know about the physical manna the Israelites ate in the desert. As the story found in Exodus 16 goes, the Israelites find themselves in the wilderness. They begin to complain to Moses that their life was better in Egypt because at least back then they weren't starving. They seemed to have conveniently forgotten about the 400 years of intense slavery they'd just escaped.
So the Lord provides meat and a substance called manna. A bread-like substance whose name literally means "what is it?" since it fell from the skies. God provided for their physical needs at that moment.
But what about the hidden manna in Revelation 2? What exactly is this? Let's take a look at the verse to see how the Bible makes ample use of bread analogies:
Revelation 2:17: "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."
The white stone also appears to have some intrigue, but for our intents and purposes, we'll cover the hidden manna for today's article. We'll cover what it means, the context of this passage, and why we should seek after it with all of our hearts.
What Is the Hidden Manna in Revelation 2?
To put it simply, the hidden manna represents Jesus.
Back in the Old Testament, the physical manna fulfilled the physical needs of the Israelites. But spiritually speaking, they were starving. They needed the Bread of Life to step down, take on their sin, and to fulfill their spiritual needs. Hence why Jesus breaks bread at the Last Supper and calls it his body, broken for us.
And this is why we take communion on a regular basis. Whether our churches do it on a weekly basis, or every so often, we take and eat the bread to remember Christ's sacrifice and Christ's promise that he will come again. He fulfills us, sustains us. He is our bread, our manna.
Revelation does often make use of bizarre imagery, so it would make sense that manna would be included in that roundup. The idea of communion was repugnant to the Roman Empir because they'd misinterpreted it to mean cannibalism. So let's take a look at the context of Revelation 2, and why it speaks about the hidden manna.
What Is the Context of Revelation 2 and the Hidden Manna?
We find the hidden manna passage within the letter to the Church of Pergamum. In the first few chapters of Revelation, the Apostle John addresses seven different letters to seven churches.
Pergamum, according to GotQuestions, was a city full of art, culture, and beauty. But unfortunately a pagan deity rests in the heart of the city, and according to John's letter, at least one follower of Jesus was put to death in Pergamum for standing strong in his faith.
The church as a whole in this city seems to do the same. They won't buckle under the societal pressures to give up their faith.
However, John does seem to indicate they've bowed down to some moral compromises. Especially of those of Balaam and Balak, and those of the Nicolaitans. It seems the morally wrong actions had something to do with pagan sacrifices. Most likely, they were eating meat dedicated to idols, and committing sexual immorality while doing so.
With this in mind, John calls them to repent and remember the important sacrifice. The one of Jesus. That the food from the idols won't sustain them spiritually. But the hidden manna will.
In turning to the hidden manna, we will receive a white stone of acquittal (a common practice in Greek courts) and will enter the gates of heaven.
In other words, God wanted the church to turn back to him. Sure, they stood strong in their faith, but they seemed to have forgotten their foundation, and so they buckled under some cultural practices. John reminded them of who sustains them. Let's take a look at what the Bible has to say about the bread that sustains us.
What Does the Bible Say about Bread and Jesus?
Matthew 6:11: "Give us today our daily bread."
We not only need God, but we need him on a daily basis. We find him through prayer, through the reading of Scripture, and through the regular fellowship with believers.
John 6:35: "Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Jesus doesn't mean this in a literal sense. We aren't supposed to take a chunk out of Jesus' shoulder for lunch. But Jesus understands that our spiritual needs far transcend our physical ones. Sure, we can have a full stomach and still fly wayward toward hell at the same time.
Matthew 26:26: "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
As mentioned before, Jesus calls himself the bread during the Last Supper. We commemorate this through the practice of communion. Knowing that God alone sustains us and fulfills our spiritual needs.
Acts 20:7: "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight."
The breaking of bread is an important practice in the Early Church. It reminds them about what Jesus did, and why they needed to turn to Jesus on a constant basis.
For more Bible verses on bread, check out this article here.
Why We Should Seek after the Hidden Manna?
It seems very intuitive that we need to turn to Jesus to sustain us, revive us, and heal us. But it's far easier to say it than do it.
It's also easy to laugh at churches like Pergamum and say, "Well, yeah. Eating meat sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality seems like a rather bad idea. Why didn't they put two and two together." But in reality, we turn after "meat" to idols. We turn to things that will not sustain us or only will fill our empty stomachs for a short while.
There's a reason the woman at the well gets so excited about the idea of water that will never make you thirsty again.
John 4:15: "The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
It's exhausting to go back to sources that will not sustain us. That only satisfy us for a short period of time. They fill our stomachs for a while, but once our stomachs empty, we feel a longing for something that will last us.
Like the Church of Pergamum, we need to turn to Christ. We need to push away the temporary things that only fill us for a short period of time. And we need to seek after the hidden manna. We need to seek after Jesus, the only one who can truly satisfy.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Kate Remme
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.