19) Jesus is the Feast (Revelation 2:17)
I suggested in the previous meditation that purity often comes with a hefty price tag. It may cost us “good feelings” and appear to be less than “loving” when we insist on repentance and moral rectitude. There’s no way around the fact that “peace” and “harmony” may suffer when we are committed to living out the ethical implications of the gospel of grace. But, as I said, it’s a price we must be willing to pay.
To some, that may sound depressing. It shouldn’t. Yes, it’s true that in the immediate present there will be some attendant pain when hard decisions are made and morally compromising behavior is confronted. But look at what Jesus promises in the long run for those who are obedient, i.e., for those who “conquer” (Rev. 2:17) by repenting from such “sloppy agape” and refuse to participate with or permit the teaching of the Nicolaitans. They will receive “some of the hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17), as well as “a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17).
Perhaps that doesn’t strike you as much of an incentive, but I suspect it will once we dig more deeply into the meaning of this promise.
Our Lord’s reference to the manna may well be due to his earlier mention of Balaam, in whose time Israel was being fed with manna from heaven (according to Jewish tradition, precious stones fell along with the manna).
Hebrew tradition records that a pot of manna was preserved in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:32-34; Hebrews 9:4). According to 2 Maccabees 2.4-7, when the temple was destroyed in 586 b.c., either Jeremiah or an angel supposedly rescued the ark, together with the manna, both of which would be preserved underground on Mt. Sinai until the messianic age, when the manna would again become the food for God’s people. When the Messiah would come, Jeremiah would reappear and deposit both ark and manna in the new temple in Jerusalem.
But the manna, most assuredly, is Jesus himself. Let’s look again in John 6 at his stunning claim.
“’Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:31-35). . . . ‘I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’” (John 6:48-51).
The promise to those who “conquer” in Revelation 2:17, therefore, is the assurance that they will feast forever on the person of Christ! That’s a wonderful thought, a moving metaphor, but what does it mean?
It means that Jesus, and only Jesus, will be the sustenance of our body and soul for all eternity. On him alone shall we spiritually feed and draw strength. He is the source of our on-going and eternal life. We are forever dependent on the infusion of his grace and mercy, upheld in existence by the exertion of his marvelous power.
It means we will experience, in relation with him, depths of intimacy utterly inconceivable in our present state of being. Our fallen minds cannot conceive the dimensions of spiritual ecstasy that await us in the ages to come. Our deceitful hearts cannot fathom the spiritual joy we’ll feel forever as the magnitude of his affection for us is made known afresh each moment of each passing day.
It means that when it comes to our knowledge of his personality and the glory and wisdom of his ways, words such as “consummation” and “termination” and “completion” will be utterly out of place. The revelation of his character will be eternally incessant. The display of heretofore unknown facets of his beauty will suffer no lack.
It means that we will never grow weary of seeing his splendor or become bored with the disclosure of his grace. Jesus, as the manna of eternal life, will be an infinite supply of refreshment and joy and affirmation and delight.
It means that just as eating now brings a physical satisfaction, as hunger pains are silenced and cravings are met, so the “bread of life” will satisfy our souls and enrich our resurrected bodies and fascinate our glorified minds beyond our wildest and most outrageous dreams!
It means that Jesus will be for us an endless, self-replenishing spring of refreshing water, an inexhaustible, infinitely abundant source of excitement and intrigue, an eternal, ever-increasing database of knowledge and insight and discovery that will never diminish in its capacity to enthrall and captivate.
It means that because of Jesus, and Jesus alone, we will experience the odd but glorious sensation of never being deficient but always desiring increase, of ever being filled but constantly hungry for more.
In our current condition, fallen and frail as we are, we lack the faculties to grasp such truths. They seem so experientially remote, so far beyond our capacity to see or touch or feel or even dream, that we easily dismiss them as flights of rhetorical fancy. Neither our minds can conceive nor our hearts envision such depths of delight and beauty. What does incessantly increasing joy feel like? How does one describe ever expanding excitement? Can one truly experience eternally accelerating affections of love and adoration?
Once again, I defer to Jonathan Edwards. When asked these questions, his answer was that “without doubt God can contrive matter so that there shall be other sort of proportions, that may be quite of a different kind, and may raise another sort of pleasure in the sense, and in a manner to us inconceivable, that shall be vastly more ravishing and exquisite. . . . Our animal spirits will also be capable of immensely more, fine and exquisite proportions in their motions than now they are, being so gross” (The Miscellanies, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 13. Edited by Thomas A. Schafer [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994], no. 182, p. 328).
I love it! Pleasures that are “vastly more ravishing and exquisite!” In a word, there are dimensions to physical reality and depths of spiritual apprehension and faculties of sensation and joy, of which we yet know nothing, that God will “contrive” in new, unforeseen, “immensely more, fine and exquisite proportions” to facilitate our eternal satisfaction in Him!
Oh, blessed bread of life! Glorify yourself by feeding me forever!