Revelation 2:17(2)

Sermon preached on September 18, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was growing up a ship called the William Carson was the main ferry between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It was a ship that just about everyone loved. It traversed the 108 miles across the Cabot Strait from my hometown to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. It was a car and passenger ferry. She could carry 60 cars and 260 passengers. Everyone loved the Carson. In the 1950's, when she was built she was state of the art. She was an ice breaker, so it could cut through ice if it wasn't too thick. She had double hull, so that if only the outside hull was breached, the ship would still be safe. She had several watertight compartments—so that even if both hulls were breached, they would be able to close the watertight doors and hopefully she would be able to stay afloat. My dad worked with CN, which operated the Carson and I remember when I was 8 or 9 years old he gave my brother and I a tour of the Carson. We went everywhere through it—we toured the bridge, where the wheel was where they steered the ship, through the kitchen and dining area, the cabins where people slept during a voyage, the engine room etc. It was all pretty exciting for us. But part of the tour was unsettling. It was when we were way down in the bowels of the ship, and when we were touring the watertight compartments. They had these great big steel doors on rollers that would automatically be shut if there was a problem. The doors were all raised so that the could shut very quickly. I can't remember how quickly they told me those doors could close if there was a problem, but it was enough to scare me. We had gone through three or four of the watertight doors and I had thoughts of the doors closing and us being trapped there. I didn't like it at all. The whole idea of watertight compartments is that if there's a problem they're going to close the watertight doors. If you don't get out of there before they shut you're lost. Those of you who saw the movie Titanic know what I mean. If you're locked in one of the compartments where water gets in you're going to drown. Even if you're in one where there's no water and the ship sinks, you're doomed, you can't get out. That watertight compartment will be your tomb. The idea is that in order to save the ship, they will shut the watertight doors and anyone who is trapped in the watertight compartments is dispensable. The other people on the ship and the ship itself is more important than you and your life. It doesn't matter who your are, if there's a real problem and they shut those doors on you, you're pretty well doomed.

When I was down inside the watertight compartment and they explained that to me, I didn't like it. It was a terrible feeling. Knowing that you're dispensable is not a good feeling at all. I couldn't wait to get out of there and be on a place on the ship where I knew I would be able to get out of if there was a problem.

Are you dispensable to God? As a believer in Jesus Christ, how important are you to Him? Is He totally committed to you, or are there some circumstances where you are dispensable?

One of the great implications of our text is that

if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you are exceedingly special to Him and that you are not now, nor will you ever be, dispensable.

In Revelation 2:17 Jesus said to the church at Pergamum,

"He who has an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.
To him who overcomes,
I will give some of the hidden manna.
I will also give him a white stone
with a new name written on it,
known only to him who receives it."

Today we're going to be looking at the last part, the white stone with a new name written on it. We're not sure of all the details about the white stone, but the fact that it relates to us having a new name written on it, shows that you are very special to Jesus Christ and that your safety is assured.

What is the white stone with a new name written on it?

There are lots of theories. Some believe it was an amulet. An amulet was an ornament or small piece of jewelry thought to give protection against evil, danger, or disease. I suppose the most well known one today is a rabbit's foot to bring you good luck.

Now we know silly things like rabbit's foots are superstitious and they should have no place in our life. The reason they're superstitious is that they have no basis in fact, in God's revelation. For example, I played hockey with a guy, he was the best player on our team and one time he got it in his head that he had a pair of lucky socks. He started believing that every time he wore those socks he would have a really good game. He wouldn't even let his mother wash them, he believed that would somehow take the 'luckiness' out of them.

Now that was just nuts. There was no basis for that except for some unrelated coincidences. Everything like that is just superstitious. What separates the superstitious from the real is what God says about it. For example, God told Samson that the secret of his strength was in his long hair. So Samson believing that wasn't superstitious. It was fact. When he gave up his secret to Delilah and she cut off his hair he lost his strength.

Thus, if in the future Jesus gives you a white stone and says that it represents His protection over you, it will indeed be very precious. It would represent the fact that you are absolutely safe, that you are protected, that God's wing is over you and that you will never be harmed.

Another idea is that it's not an amulet but a marker indicating acquittal. In New Testament times it was common for someone to be found guilty or acquitted on the basis of the jurors revealing a colored stone. For example, in Acts 26:10 the apostle Paul said about his past life.

"And that is just what I did in Jerusalem.
On the authority of the chief priests
I put many of the saints in prison,
and when they were put to death,
I cast my vote against them."

Literally, he brought them down by revealing his 'stone' against them. If the vote was against someone, a black stone was shown. A black stone indicated guilt. A white stone indicated acquittal. So by giving someone a white stone, Jesus could be indicating that they will never be condemned. Their acquittal on the last day is assured.

But I think the best understanding of the white stone that has been presented is that the white stone is a token of membership. G. K. Beale writes, Revelation:), 252-253.

"Against this background, the meaning here probably refers to the reversal of the guilty verdict issued by the world's institutions against the overcomer because of refusal to participate in its idolatrous meals. Accordingly, the 'white stone' becomes the invitation to take part in Jesus' supper (cf. 19:9). The notion that a banquet meal is in mind is supported by the reference to 'manna.'"

The white stone could very well be the admission ticket into the wedding feast of the Lamb, which Jesus will give us.

The second thing we see about this white stone is that

it is going to have a new name on it, known only to the one who receives it.

In the Old Testament a change of name was often associated with a promise. For example, in Genesis 17:5 God said to Abram,

"No longer will you be called Abram;
your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations."

Later in that same chapter, God said to Abraham, (verses 15-16)

"As for Sarai your wife,
you are no longer to call her Sarai;
her name will be Sarah.
I will bless her and will surely
give you a son by her.
I will bless her so that she will be
the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."

A new name also indicates a new identity. The reference to the new name here reminds us of God's words to those like foreigners and eunuchs who were afraid they would be excluded from God's people. God proclaimed that they would be included. He told the eunuchs who thought they were only dry trees, (Isaiah 56:5)

"to them I will give within my temple
and its walls a memorial
and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off."

It also calls to mind Isaiah 62 which speaks about Zion's new name. That chapter is about God removing the shame of His people by giving them a new name. We read, (verses 1-4)

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you…"

Thus the new name also indicates a very intimate relationship with God. God will delight in those to whom He gives a new name.

This theme of taking delight in His people continues in Isaiah 65:17–19 which looks forward to the future, just like our text does. There God said,

"Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem
to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping
and of crying will be heard in it no more."

How wonderful it is going to be for us. You're going to have a new name, a new identity. Your shame will be taken away and remembered no more. As we read in Isaiah 65 'former things will not be remembered'. Dennis E. Johnson writes, (Triumph of the Lamb, p. 78)

"The victor's 'new name' could be his transformed identity in Christ, as the renaming of Abram to Abraham and of Simon to Peter signaled their transformation by God's power and grace."

God's power is going to transform you. This perishable is going to become imperishable. This mortal is going to become immortal. (1 Corinthians 15) As Philippians 3:20–21 says,

"But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him
to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body."

Along with that He is going to give us a new name, a wonderful name, a glorious name. Dennis E. Johnson writes, (p. 78)

"Jesus gives a new name, to mark us as his property and to reshape our identity to fit his perfection…"

Furthermore, the name will be a secret name—known only to the one who receives it.

Again, we're not sure of the exact significance of the new name that is secret.

It could be that the reference to secrecy here indicates that it can't be taken away, it can't be counterfeited. It's yours and yours alone. In our digital society the good guys are on an elusive and never ending quest for security. We have user ids and passwords in order to keep our bank accounts and other computer information secure. I remember years ago when I first started online banking, my user id was just my name. A coupe of years ago my bank (or someone else) told me that I should change my user id from my real name to something entirely different. So I did that. That makes it much harder for anyone to break into my account. It's like having it protected by two passwords. Before, someone could easily guess my user id. But now, since it's secret, only I know it. My user id is secure.

Our new name will be secure. It will only known to you and the Lord. There's a special relationship between the two of you. Indeed, He also has a secret name.

In Revelation 19:11 we read,

"I saw heaven standing open
and there before me was a white horse,
whose rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him
that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood,
and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him,
riding on white horses and dressed
in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword
with which to strike down the nations.
'He will rule them with an iron scepter.'
He treads the winepress of the fury
of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh
he has this name written:
King of Kings and Lord of Lords."

That's Jesus. He has many names. Most are known. Faithful and True. King of Kings. Lord of Lord's. But he has a name written on His crown that no one knows but Him Himself.

In that way you are going to be like Jesus. You are going to have a name only known to you. Craig S. Keener suggests that the new name we will receive will be, (Revelation)

"the hidden name of God (3:12; cf. 2:13, 3:8; Isa 43:1) and the Lamb (14:1; 19:12-13,16) which they will bear forever."

Now the thrust of all this is that if you're a Christian

you're very special to Jesus and He is going to admit you to glory and make you glorious, privileged and fit to dwell with Him and enjoy Him forever.

You're not dispensable to Jesus. In John 6:39–40 Jesus said,

"And this is the will of him who sent me,
that I shall lose none of all
that he has given me,
but raise them up at the last day.
For my Father's will is that
everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day."

Remember what He said to the Father in John 17:12 about His disciples,

"While I was with them,
I protected them and kept them safe
by that name you gave me.
None has been lost
except the one doomed to destruction
so that Scripture would be fulfilled."

Jesus is totally committed to you. In Hebrews 13:5–6

"God has said,
'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'
So we say with confidence,
The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me."

In John 10:27–29 Jesus said,

"My sheep listen to my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

You are so dear to Jesus. We all long for significance, for true meaning. We all long to be important, to be special, to be really worth something. In Jesus we have it. He is going to wash away our sin. He is going to give us a white stone, entrance into glory. In spite of our past life of sin and shame, He is going to give us a new name, a glorious identity like His own.

Christians rejoice in Jesus. Praise Him. Delight in Him. Who is like Him? The things He is going to do for you, His precious one, is absolutely glorious. Look forward to it.

In the meantime, be faithful. Overcome temptation and sin. The white stone and the new name are given to those who truly belong to Jesus, to those who overcome, to those who conquer.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

think about what you are going to receive on the last day.

It won't be a white stone. It won't be a new name. You won't be pure. Your sins will cling to you. You won't be admitted to heaven's glory. You won't get a new identity. You will be condemned for your sins and be cast into the lake of fire, where you will suffer forever and ever. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Find life in Him today.