What is the meaning of the white stone in Revelation 2:17?

Marko Joensuu         No comments

In Revelation 2:17, For the overcomers in Pergamum, God promised hidden manna, and “a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” The meaning of hidden manna is clear. God will give the Christians hidden strength to get through the spiritual wilderness they are in. He is not asking them to leave Pergamum but to endure a lengthy time of difficulties.

But there have been many questions about the meaning of the white stone.

Isaiah 56:3-5 prophesies:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

In the context of the list that speaks about everlasting rewards, it seems clear that the name the overcomers will receive is everlasting, as prophesied by Isaiah. But what is the meaning of the white stone?

If we follow the hermeneutical principle of seeking the explanation first in the Bible, we must go to Acts, as apart from Revelation, the Greek word for stone or pebble is only mentioned in Acts, and only once.

In Acts 26:9-11, when giving a speech in his defence in front of King Agrippa, Paul uses the Greek word pséphos (stone, pebble), in the casting of a vote against Christians:

Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

Casting a white stone meant “Yes”, but casting a black stone meant “No”. Paul, who was being judged by King Agrippa, says that he himself also once judged the followers of Jesus by casting a black stone against them.

Following the theme of overcoming to gain an eternal life, John seems to say that the judgment of God is to give the overcomers an everlasting life with an eternal name, and the giving of the white stone means that they are declared not guilty.

There are alternative explanations to the meaning of the white stone, but they all seem to point to the theme of God giving us an eternal glory through giving us an eternal name. 

Tessarae gladiatoris were four-sided prisms of ivory or bone that were bestowed as an honour on gladiators. On the four faces of this white token were inscribed the name referring to the gladiator, a name referring to the patron, a Roman date, and the year in the form of consul’s names. (Banducci 2015, 203)

If the house of Satan, using Tertullian’s expression, was the amphitheatre, then it would be fitting that the victorious Christian gladiator would receive a white stone, but with a new name. So, the white stone could symbolise either the triumph of the Christian martyr at his death, or as we have seen earlier, that he was declared not guilty. Perhaps it symbolised both.

And in the Old Testament, God often renames His people. Their new name will reveal their eternal identity. No matter what people have called us, this is what God will know us as—through eternity. This might be one of the reasons why there will be no jealousy over rewards in heaven; if part of our reward is visible only to God and ourselves privately, it will form part of our eternal identity, but it will be a secret between God and us.

I love the idea that I will have a secret in heaven that will only be known to God and me! Our new name will be the eternal bond that will make my relationship and your relationship with God utterly unique.

But the white stone is given to the overcomers in the end of their life, which means that it will reveal the fullness of their identity in God for all eternity. God calls us, but who we are will be made fully manifest only when we enter eternity. That is why it is unwise to define yourself fully by your current roles or gifts. God might be doing something new in your life in the last day of your life! That was the fate of the martyrs.

For more on the Book of Revelation, you can read my book Understanding Revelation.


Banducci, Laura M. ‘A Tessera Lusoria from Gabii and the Afterlife of Roman Gaming’. Herom 4, no. 2 (November 2015): 199–221.
Tertullian, Ad Martyras

Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
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