These days in many places names don’t mean as much as they did in the past. For example, my name means “fighter” but I never realized it until I was in my twenties and looked up its meaning online. In Cambodia, the name that people use from day-to-day, which may differ from their given name, usually has a generic meaning like “girl” or “star”.
Yet the giving of names has always connoted ownership or at least the fact of close association or allegiance. For example, traditional marriage meant for the bride to disassociate from her father’s house and to enter familial partnership with her husband. Thus, she would give up her father’s name to take on that of her husband.
The account in Genesis of the naming of Adam tells us a lot. God named Adam, which means “man”, but then He gave Adam the job to name the rest of the creatures of the earth. In essence, God was saying, “Man, you are under my direct jurisdiction. But I’ve made this world for you, so get to it and enjoy it…I will guide but not interfere with your leadership.”
From the start, God affirmed man as lord of the earth. The garden was man’s training ground, where God coached Adam and Eve and their offspring to expand the garden’s borders and fill the earth with the true glory of the Creator. The word for “man” could easily be synonymous with something like “earth-lord.”
Names are a powerful substance, as are the giving of titles. I remember when my boss put me into leadership as a youth. I worked at a pizza delivery shop and one day he made me a supervisor. That changed me. I worked harder and paid more careful attention to any detail that might improve my shop and my coworkers.
The giving of names and titles invokes responsibility, both for the name-giver and the recipient. When my wife and I named our children, we were speaking a promise into their lives that we would care for them, protect them, and teach them about life…to the best of our ability. Conversely, they are firmly under our care. They start their journey dependent upon us for everything. For a season of their lives, it is necessary for them to obey us for their own safety and well-being.
Jesus gave his disciple Simon Barjona a new name, “Petros” or Peter, meaning “rock” because Peter had received revelation that Jesus is the awaited Messiah. Indeed, the first sprouts of the assembly of Jesus began with words from Peter to crowds of people gathered at Pentecost, who became the first converts to the new kingdom order of God on earth.
Labels stick. People named the first followers of Jesus after his resurrection “Christianos”, or Christians as we know it today, meaning “little Christs”. This was originally a taunt for the fledgling groups of kingdom citizens, and the name has since adhered to his followers and religious folk through the centuries.
Jesus made a powerful promises to kingdom citizens who overcome:
“To him who overcomes…I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Revelation 2: 17)
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore ; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” (Revelation 3: 12)
The white stone that Jesus speaks of is significant, because in the ancient courts a black stone meant condemnation for the accused and a white stone meant his acquittal. The white stone proclaims the innocence that Jesus bought when he redeemed us by his own blood. Justice was portioned upon his head. We are free from condemnation.
The new name written on the stone will describe each member of the kingdom perfectly. The Maker will give each person his or her definitive purpose. No longer will men wonder, “Who am I?” You can revel in freedom and enjoy your identity forever.
Then, there is the beautiful imagery of those that overcome, a fixed pillar in the innermost sanctuary of the temple of Jerusalem, in the Holy of Holies, where God resides in heaven. This represents permanent abiding in intimacy with the Creator, never to be alone again.
Jesus will write God’s name on such a citizen; which is evidence of the permanent ownership of God the Father, and the responsible commitment He makes to His creation.
The name of the New Jerusalem and the new name of Jesus signify God’s new order that Jesus will set up on the new earth. Finally, “New Jerusalem” or the new government will come to earth just like it is in heaven.
Names are powerful things. I don’t know about you, but I want to know my new name, the one that Jesus will give to me. While I am happy with the one my parents chose for me and think that it’s spot-on in many ways, I have a vested interest in how my Creator views me.
What’s in a name? The manufacturer knows exactly how its product works. When I want to learn about my Canon 30D, I turn to the owner’s manual that Canon made for its customers. Creation should never look to the creation to find its purpose. As intelligent, interesting and inspiring as it may sound, men’s explanations will never compare with the definitive manual that the Creator has provided.
How about you? Do you want to know what God thinks of you? What would possession of the name that your Creator gave to you mean to you?