Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
The "white stone" has been spoken of as being the symbol of acquittal, of election and choice, of admission to the heavenly banquet; all which may be true. But there is one objection to any such interpretations, namely, that they all are gathered from the circle of heathen associations, whereas the whole Apocalypse moves within the circle of Jewish symbols. So, then, if we doubt as to the force of these and other similar interpretations, have we anything in the Jewish history, especially somewhere about the same period as the manna, which may help us? I think that an explanation which has been sometimes given seems to be commended by very many considerations. There was a precious stone, lustrous and resplendent — for that is the force of the word "white" here, not a dead white but a brilliant coruscating white — on which there was something written, which no eye but one ever saw, that mysterious seat of revelation and direction known in the Old Testament by the name of Urim and Thummim (that is, lights and perfectnesses), enclosed within the folds of the High Priest's breast-plate, which none but the High Priest ever beheld. We may, perhaps, bring that ancient fact into connection with the promise in my text, and then it opens out into a whole world of suggestions with regard to the priestly dignity of the victors, with regard to the gift that is bestowed upon them, a hidden gift worn upon their breasts and containing within it and inscribed upon it the Divine name, unseen by any eye but that of him that bears it.
I. THAT NEW NAME IS CHRIST'S AND OURS. It is His first, it becomes ours by communication from Him.
1. "I will give him a new name" — a deeper, a more inward, a fresh knowledge and revelation of My own character — as eternal love, eternal wisdom, all-sufficient, absolute power, the home and treasure, the joy and righteousness of the whole heart and spirit. The Cross remains for ever the revelation of the love of God, but in heaven we shall learn what we know not here — the full wealth which shall succeed the earnest of the inheritance, and possessing the lustrous glories we shall understand something more of the infinite mercy that has bought them for us. The sun remains the same, but as different as its sphere looks, seen from the comet at its aphelion, away out far beyond the orbits of the planets in the dim regions of that infinite abyss, and seen from the same orb at its perihelion when it circles round close by the burning brightness, so different does that mighty Sun of righteousness look to us now in His eternal self-revelation, by sacrifice and death, from what He will seem in that same self-revelation when we shall stand by His side!
2. On this new revelation of the name of Christ there follows as a consequence assimilation to the name which we possess, transformation into the likeness of Him whom we behold. We cannot know His name without sharing it. If we behold His glory we shall possess it, as the light must enter the eye for vision. The light and the soul which receives will, as it were, act and react. The light beheld transforms. The soul transformed is capable of more light. That again flows in and purifies and beautifies. Thus, in continuous reciprocal energy, the endless process of learning to know an infinite Saviour, and becoming like a perfect Lord goes on with constant approximation, and yet with somewhat ever undisclosed. The gift is not once for all, but is continuous through eternity.
3. Then there is a third idea implied in this promise, if the new name be Christ's, and that is possession or consecration. His name is given, that is, His character is revealed. His character is imparted, and further, by the gift He takes as well as gives, He takes us for His even in giving Himself to be ours. The High Priest's mitre bore on its front "Holiness to the Lord," and one of the last and highest promises of Scripture is cast in the form supplied by the symbol of Aaron's office and honour, "His servants shall serve Him" — in priestly service that is — "and they shall see His face." Action and contemplation, so hard to harmonise here, shall blend at last. "And His name shall be in their foreheads," the token of His possession, manifest for all eyes to behold. And thus when we behold Him we become like Him, and in the measure which we become like Him we belong to Him, not one step further.
II. THIS NEW NEW IS UNKNOWN EXCEPT BY ITS POSSESSOR. That, of course, is true in all regions of human experience. Did ever anybody describe a taste so that a man that had not tasted the thing could tell what it was like? Did ever anybody describe an odour so as to do more than awaken the memory of some one who had once had the scent lingering in his nostrils? If we have not known the love of a child, no talking will ever make a man understand what a father's heart is. Religious experiences are not unlike ordinary human experiences in this matter. It is not possible to communicate them, partly by reason of the imperfection of human language, partly by reason that you need in all departments sympathy and prior knowledge in order to make the descriptions significant at all. And in our earthly life, though your faith and mine, and our joys and our consciousness of Christ's love are all weak and tremulous, as we know, still we cannot speak them full out, and if we could there are no ears to hear except the ears of those who are possessors of like precious faith. The law applies to the heavens as well. Not till we get there shall we know. The text seems to imply what is more wonderful still, that though there shall be no isolation in heaven, which is the perfection of society, there may be incommunicable depths of blessed experience even there. Each man standing at his own angle will see his own side of the light; it will be enough and the same for all, and yet different in each. "No man knoweth saving he that receiveth." We must possess to understand; we must stand before the throne to apprehend.
III. THE CONDITION AND THE TRUE CAUSE OF POSSESSING THIS NEW NATURE. It comes as the reward of victory; it comes as a bestowment from Christ; "To him that overcometh will I give." And it seems to me that we have much need of trying to unite these two thoughts more closely together than we generally do. The victory is condition. It is not anything more than a condition. The real cause is Christ's bestowment. I believe as thoroughly as any man can in the application of the idea of reward to Christian service, but I believe that this is a secondary idea, and that the primary one is "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord." I believe that all outward discipline, and labour, and sorrows, and disappointments, and struggles, the efforts that we make after victory, that all these prepare Christians, and make us capable of receiving the gift. I believe that the gift comes only out of His infinite and undeserved, and God be thanked! inexhaustible forgiving goodness and mercy. The one is, if I may so say, the preparing of the cloth for the dye, and after that you have the application of the colour. No heaven except to the victor. The victor does not fight his way into heaven, but Christ gives it to him.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.