Forthright Magazine

Finding hidden manna

“To the one who overcomes, I will give him some of the hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17). This cryptic claim is promised to the Christian victors in Pergamum.

We know manna is the food God provided the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 19). But it was not hidden. It abundantly fell everywhere around the camp! What is John communicating with “hidden manna?”

We might expect this enigmatic statement to remain obscure if it were not for the fact that the various promises to the seven churches in Asia find fulfillment in the latter chapters of Revelation./1 Therefore we might expect to find an explanation. But neither the word manna nor hidden appear anywhere in those final chapters.

Is there hope for discovering what this hidden manna might be? Perhaps.

If the first observation is that a pattern exists of promise followed by fulfillment in the final chapters, the second observation is that sometimes these promises are repeated to other churches. For example, twice the metaphor of ruling is promised.

Those who conquer at Thyatira are promised “authority over the nations – he will rule them with an iron rod” (Rev. 2:26,27). Similarly, the victors in Laodicea could look forward to being granted, “permission to sit with me on my throne” (Rev. 3:21). Although the language is not identical, the sentiment is similar. Furthermore, receiving a “crown of life” at least hints at the same metaphor (Rev. 2:10).

Might a food also be promised to another church? To the Christians in Ephesus who would overcome, they were promised access to the tree of life (2:7). As expected, the tree of life figures predominantly in Revelation’s closing message (Rev. 22:2,14,19).

If we focus on what the manna in the wilderness represented and not just its historical and geographical associations, did not manna embody God’s provision of life sustaining food?

There is another convergence between the tree of life and hidden manna.  What happened to the tree of life?  With Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden, an angel was stationed at its entrance preventing anyone access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Thus for all practical purposes, that tree became hidden.

Given that the earlier promises find fulfillment in the latter chapters of Revelation, it seems reasonable that hidden manna is likely another term for the tree of life. Life sustaining food also resonates with the crown of life. Through various metaphors and images, John encouraged his readers to overcome opposition by being faithful even to the point of dying for the testimony about Jesus. Why? Because it is worth it. You will eat from the tree of life, the hidden manna. You will have life! This is also a lesson for us.

1/A symmetry exists between promise and fulfillment whether it be eating from the tree of life (Rev. 2:7; 22:2), possessing protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 21:7-8), receiving a crown and ruling (Rev. 2:10,26; 3:21; 20:4; 22:5), wearing white robes (Rev. 3:5; 22:14), having one’s name in the book of life (Rev. 3:5; 21:27) or possessing God’s name inscribed upon oneself (Rev. 3:12; 22:4).


Barry Newton
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