In part of the Lord’s message to the church of Pergamum, we read, “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” (Revelation 2:17). The book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature, which features symbolism and sometimes bizarre imagery in its presentation of prophecy. The “hidden manna” mentioned in the letter to Pergamum is one example of such symbolism.
Quite simply, the hidden manna is a symbolic picture of Jesus Christ. As the manna of the Exodus sustained and strengthened the Israelites for the forty years of desert wanderings, so Jesus strengthens and sustains us spiritually as we walk through this life on our way to heaven. Jesus is the “manna” from heaven—the spiritual sustenance we need—and it is promised to us.
Jesus Himself made the connection between the manna of Moses’ day and His own provision of salvation: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:48–51, 58). The manna that sustained the Israelites was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ; the manna mentioned in Revelation 2:17 is another, symbolic reference to Christ.
As a symbol, the hidden manna of Revelation 2:17 is not to be taken literally; in other words, Jesus is not speaking of something we literally eat. Rather, the Bread of Life is something we “ingest” in another, non-physical way. We receive the benefits of salvation by faith (John 1:12).
The manna is “hidden” in that it is given exclusively to believers in Christ. Only believers will reap the benefits of salvation. The unbelieving world that rejects Christ will never know the joy and satisfaction of faith in Him.
The recipient of the hidden manna is specified in Revelation 2:17 as “the one who is victorious.” The overcomer is one who endures in his faith, despite trials and hardships. Overcomers are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of this world. An overcomer holds fast to faith in Christ until the end. He demonstrates complete dependence upon the Lord Jesus through thick and thin. First John 5:4–5 encourages us that all who are born again will overcome this world: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
As we seek to remain faithful to Jesus, living in light of His death, burial, and resurrection for forgiveness of sins, and resisting the temptations of the world, we are promised goodness. The hidden manna from heaven will be ours. Even if the world cannot understand how, we will be strengthened. We will be sustained.