Minutes With Messiah Logo

A New Name

by Tim O'Hearn

Before I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer (CPO) in the Navy, I had to take a class orienting me to the complexities of my new role. Advancement to CPO is not like advancement to any other military paygrade. The uniform changes from the “cracker jack” blues or whites of a lower enlisted man to the khaki uniform like those worn by officers. The responsibility increases immeasurably more than the pay does. The respect given by subordinates increases more than that given in a comparable advancement in the other armed forces. We were told that we no longer asked for days off; we told our superiors we were taking a day off and listened for objections. The greatest change, however, was explained by one instructor. “After your advancement, your first name is no longer Tim. It is now Chief.” That new name has even carried over into civilian life. Even people with whom I work that were in the Navy, even for a short time, call me Chief.

A change of name with a change in status is not a new or unfamiliar thing. In many western cultures women have been experiencing just that for years. It is still common for a woman to take her new husband’s last name. In Genesis we read of several people whose names were changes, such as Abram/Abraham (Gen 17:5), Sarai/Sarah (Gen 17:15), and Jacob/Israel (Gen 32:28). Some people had their names changed when they were moved to a new country. (See Daniel 1:7 and Esther 2:7). Simon was given the name Peter (Lk 6:14), perhaps in the hope that he would live up to his new name. Shaul, the persecutor of Christians, adopted the name Paul when he became one. To this day converts to Judaism take a new name after their immersion. Likewise the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church takes a new name when he attains that status.

Even cities are subject to name changes. One may visit St. Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad or Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul. They even wrote a song about that latter change. In the Bible one city went by the name Salem. For a while it was called Jebus or Jebusi. Finally it became known by a combination of those names, Jerusalem. (It is also called Zion, but that may never have been a formal name of the city.) Isaiah prophesied that it would receive at least one more name change. “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.” (Isa 62:2) John writes that it has figuratively received that change. “And the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God” (Rev 3:12) This would indicate that the spiritual kingdom represented by Jerusalem has undergone a change in status. No longer is it the center of a limited, physical nation of God’s people. Now the New Jerusalem, the church of the Messiah, is the center of a broader, spiritual kingdom. It has the promised new name, and its inhabitants have the name of God.

We, the members of the church which is the New Jerusalem, are also given a new name. We receive that name on a figurative white stone. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Rev 2:17). When we become part of New Jerusalem we bear the name of God, and a new name. “And I will write upon him my new name.” (Rev 3:12). Collectively, the church received a new name shortly after it began. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) Individually it appears that we also receive a new name. That new name represents a change in status. No longer do we bear the guilt of sin. We are now called holy. No longer are we slaves, but children. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to a new name, but in this case it is worth it.