The Lord Jesus tells the Church of Pergamum, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. To him that overcomes I will give to eat of the hidden manna and I will give him a white stone and in the stone a new name written which no man knew except the one that receives [it]).” (Rev. 2:17)
Some identify the expression, “having been hidden,” with the pseudepigraphal books of Second Maccabees and Second Baruch which speak of the hidden ark of the covenant that the Messiah alone knows the location and will remain hidden until He returns. The ark contains the two tablets of the law, Aaron’s rod which budded, and a pot of manna (Heb. 9:4). ( Paige Patterson, The New American Commentary: Revelation (Nashville: B& H, 2012), p. 109)
There is another tradition within Judaism that fits the subject of hidden manna for the believer today. This tradition is also not in the law and no one knows when it came to be observed in the Passover, but it mysteriously appears within Judaism and incredibly points to Christ. The Passover meal is celebrated with three pieces of bread. Before the meal, one piece of bread is taken from the middle partition of a three partition cloth called the matzah tosh. The unleaven bread is broken in two and wrapped in cloth and hidden in the house. The hidden piece of bread is called the afikomen (Hebrew Habba’ “the coming one”). After dinner the children of the house search for the afikomen as a game and are rewarded when found. Then the bread is broken and all partake of it.
The present participle of Revelation 2:17, “to conquer, overcome,” has the sense of, “one who is right now overcoming,” or, “a person who is known as an over-comer.” The person who overcomes the world and its sway will in the future be given the hidden manna. The expression, “I will give to him to eat out of the manna, having been hidden,” moves us back to the wilderness wandering and the manna that the Lord provided daily to the Israelite. It served to provide the necessary food for the two million or so Israelis moving through the wilderness. It can be assumed that the manna promised here is not for physical sustainment but for spiritual sustainment. Moses makes this clear as he says in Deuteronomy 8:3:
And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (Deut. 8:2-3)
Our Lord applies this manna to Himself as He declares, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). The hidden manna here is Christ!
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:33-35)
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven - not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:57-58)
It is at this point that the Lord tells the disciples that He will return to heaven,
What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:62-63)
This hidden manna, is given in the future to the over-comer who overcomes in this life. That is, the manna of God is provided with three tenses: the past tense is Christ has come in the flesh, His body broken, He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, raised three days later, and ascended to the right hand of the Father (John 6:53-63).
The manna is present with the believer as Christ is the very One who sustains life as one partakes of Him in his or her daily walk (John 6:53). The present manna is called in theology our sanctification – our walk in newness of life, sustained by Him as we are tested and moved to maturity in Him.
Finally, there is the future tense of Christ as the manna. Christ our future manna deals with our final redemption where we will be delivered from our flesh to a glorified body in the resurrection. It is this future “state of being,” spoken of here. When our bodies will be transformed into something acceptable for presence of heaven – the dwelling place of God, where sin is not allowed and the corruption of an earthly fleshly body must be transformed into a body that is incorruptible and proper for the presence of God. Our future presence with Christ in glory will be fulfilled in the future as life itself has its source from Christ
The three tenses of Manna:
Past (John 6:33-35). Christ’s broken body died on the cross, was buried, was resurrected three days later, and ascended to heaven. Our salvation accomplished in the past, trusting in this truth assured our indwelling presence in Christ.
Present (John 6:35,63). Christ is the bread of life that sustains those that appropriate Him in their daily walk. Our sanctification is accomplished in Him and through Him, and by Him as we participate in the daily presence with Christ.
Future (John 6:39-40; Rev. 2:17). Christ was the firstfruits of our future resurrection. Our presence in heaven with Christ is secure as Christ is our firstfruits of the resurrection. Our future presence with Christ in glory will be fulfilled in the future as life itself has its source from Christ.