My friends and I were discussing several adoptive and adopting families who we know. Many of those families gave the adopted child a new name. Of course, all gave a new last name, but some also gave a new first or middle name to the child. Some even allowed the children to choose their own new names. My friends were discussing how it would be to experience this sudden change in identity, especially for an older child.
In the context of adoption, the change in identity is desired, even a privilege – a child who had no family gains a family of his or her own. With that, he or she receives a new name that connects him to that family and those parents forever. This can be a bit mystifying for those of us who were not adopted but were born to parents who bestowed on us a name chosen and meaningful in the context of that family. But when we become born into the family of Christ, we do experience adoption, and with it comes a new name.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it”’ (Revelation 2:17, NKJV).
In the era of the Roman Empire, during the time that John the apostle lived and was writing Revelation, athletes would compete in highly acclaimed and fiercely competitive sporting events. The champion in such an event would be given great honor, and as evidence of his championship and right to that honor, he would be given a stone with his name written on it – the ancient equivalent of a trophy or ribbon. Showing that stone would grant him a ready reception anywhere he went. Just as it is today, people were pleased and excited to cater to a celebrity.
After warning of areas in which they need to repent, Jesus tells the church of Pergamum that if they overcome, they will receive a stone with their new name on it. Like the winning athlete of that day, they will benefit from a privileged position because of their efforts.
In Revelation 3:7, Jesus goes on to describe the good deeds of the faithful and loving church of Philadelphia. He urges them also to overcome, not in relation to any wrongdoing of their own but because of the evil they are forced to endure. He then encourages them by naming their reward.
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12, NKJV).
For those who have persevered in His commands, He will write the name of God, His name, on them. It will not just be written on a stone to be handed to them, but on each individual. What could be more permanent? Such a mark could never be lost, traded, or discarded. It is as lasting and inviolable as possible.
The name written is the name of God, the name of Christ. The privilege, the recognition, the celebration given to that person is due because he or she bears the name of Christ, not because of the individual. The one that bears and displays that name has victory that is eternal and unfading because it has been won through Christ. Christ’s name covers that person. After exhibiting faithfulness, endurance, and obedience, that person can now delight and dwell in the everlasting glory of Christ.