My wife explains to others that she has had two name changes. When she married me, she changed her last name (to match mine). When she had children, her first name changed, also (to “<child’s name>‘s Mom”).
In the same way, we gain a new identity when we choose to follow Jesus Christ. Our name is no longer just our own, seeking our own goals. We become part of the Body of Christ, working together under His direction.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB
The Bible talks about a number of people who got new names in the Bible to reflect changes in their lives.
- Matthew 16:18 tells how Simon (a fisherman and an apostle of Jesus) was given a new name of Peter (or Cephas, depending on the language), which means “Rock”. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (see Acts 2:14-42), as well as his leadership, confirmed Jesus’ prophesy about Peter’s foundational role in the early church.
- Ruth 1:20 tells of a woman named Naomi, who had experienced a lot of difficulties, including becoming a widow, losing her two sons, and experiencing a famine. She asked to be called Mara (“bitter”), to better describe her situation. (I’m not sure if anyone ever actually called her by that name, though..)
We see this today, when an actor named Dwayne Johnson goes by “The Rock”, and a singer uses the name “Meat Loaf”. The expert on this, though, may have been J.R.R. Tolkien, who seemed to have multiple names for just about every character in his books*. Miss the fact that two names refer to the same person early on, and expect to be lost for dozens of pages.
However, this isn’t the only name change that we expect. Upon getting to Heaven, we are promised a new name, as well.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.
Revelation 2:17 NLT
(See also Revelation 3:12, as well as this discussion of the context surrounding the passage above: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/the-letter-to-pergamum/.)
I’m not sure what our new names will represent. They could pertain to our new relationship with God, in a redeemed state. They could relate to special characteristics of our nature (how God created us), or perhaps they will reflect our nature in Heaven.
The thing is, whatever our new names will be, they will be special between God and us.
So, whether or not you like your current name, or whether or not you have the same name you are born with, if you have aligned yourself with Jesus Christ and His salvation, you have a new name waiting for you in Heaven. There’s even an old hymn that talks about this:
While God’s new name for us isn’t likely to be something that we’ll guess, it does suggest a simple thought experiment: What would your name be if it described your role, your gifts, or your personality? What would your name be if it described your actions? If those around you – the people who really know you, not the weird bully from class – were to give you a nickname that represents who you are, would it be one that you’re proud of?
If not, consider what you could do in the future to have your “name” (even if it’s not your given name) be something that would inspire others and glorify God. Remember our example:
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 NLT
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.