39) A New Name for a New Identity (Revelation 3:12-13)
As mentioned in the previous meditation, Christians often struggle with a sense of identity. They fail to grasp who they are by virtue not merely of creation but especially regeneration and redemption. A failure to embrace our new identity and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it can be devastating. Virtually every assault and accusation of Satan is grounded in his effort to convince us we are not who God, in fact, declares we are. If the enemy can persuade you that you are a spiritual impostor, an interloper, an unwanted and unqualified intruder into the kingdom of God, his victory is virtually assured.
On the other hand, if I’m able to rest securely in who I am in Christ, an identity forged by forgiveness not failure, by his goodness rather than mine, I am enveloped and enclosed in a veritable fortress of strength and protective love. No assault will prevail. No accusation will stand. No insinuation, however subtle, will undermine my confidence or sow seeds of suspicion in my soul. I am who he says I am by virtue of what he has done and will do. It’s just that simple.
This is the great practical payoff of a glorious principle based on a God-ordained promise in Revelation 3:12. Look at it again:
“I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:12-13).
If ever you and I needed to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” it is now. So may God enable us to listen carefully and confidently.
Here is your current identity and ultimate destiny if you know Christ truly. It consists in having inscribed on your body, soul, and spirit the name of God, of his city, and of his Son! There is, of course, as is the case with virtually all spiritual realities, a sense in which this is already true of us though not yet consummated. What we are now, we shall be in eternal verity, forever.
First, written on us is “the name of my God,” says Jesus. There is a rich background in the Old Testament for this statement. One hardly knows where to begin. But let’s start with Exodus 28:36-38, where we read,
"You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, 'Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD” (Exodus 28:36-38).
It doesn’t stop there. Consider these several instances of God’s people receiving his name:
“ . . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).
“I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:5).
“The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give” (Isaiah 62:2).
“You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will put you to death, but his servants he will call by another name” (Isaiah 65:15).
In the priestly blessing that we often cite today as a benediction, God declares that “they will put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Num. 6:27; see also Deut. 28:10 and Daniel 9:18-19).
In ancient times, especially in the world of magic, to know someone’s name was to gain power over them. As a counterpoint, then, to be called by God’s name certainly suggests his sovereign rights over us as his children. It also points to ownership and consecration: our lives should be dominated and determined by our identity as his own, shaped and fashioned in godliness according to his glorious image.
Second, Jesus promises to inscribe on us “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven.” This should come as no surprise, given what the NT says about our citizenship in the New Jerusalem (see Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Phil. 3:20).
Furthermore, in Revelation 21:2-8 the people of God are virtually identified with the New Jerusalem. In other words, to bear the name of the city of God is more than simply a way of identifying its citizens, its rightful inhabitants. There is also a sense in which we are the New Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 56:5; Ezekiel 48:35)! At minimum it is a way of stressing our permanent and ever so intimate presence with God and his presence in and for us, forever.
Lastly, and perhaps most important and precious of all, we shall bear Christ’s “own new name.” Note the emphatic position of the adjective, literally, “my name, the new.” Christ’s new name can hardly be any of those with which we are already familiar, such as Lord, Messiah, Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Word, etc. “New” (kainos) means more than simply different or recent, as over against what one formerly was designated. Here it means new in quality, belonging to and characterized by the life and values of the new creation for which we have already been re-born (2 Cor. 5:17).
This “new name” is another way of alerting us to the fact that there awaits us a fuller, indeed infinitely expansive, revelation of the glory and beauty of Christ beyond anything we have seen, heard, or understood in this life. Whatever we know of Christ, however rich the treasures we enjoy of him in the present, whatever knowledge or insight into the unsearchable depths of his wisdom, knowledge, ways, and judgments we are graciously enabled to experience, all is but a sub-microscopic drop in the vast ocean of a spiritually macroscopic revelation yet to come!
Let’s also not forget that being given a new name in biblical tradition is most often associated with the idea of receiving a new status, function, or change in character and calling (see Genesis 32:28). I can’t even begin to speculate on what this entails for us in the ages to come!
And what, precisely, is this new name? We don’t have a clue! In fact, its secrecy or hiddenness is one of its priceless qualities, for an unknown name suggests again that we who are called by it and have it inscribed on our souls are invulnerable to the enemy’s attack. What Satan does not know, he cannot destroy. To be called by this “new name” is to be preserved for fellowship and intimacy with our Lord that none can touch or disrupt.