By Chen Gong
When I studied at a junior middle school, my parents believed in the Lord and often told me some stories about the Lord Jesus. At that time, I thought God’s name was Jesus. Afterward, when flipping through The Old and New Testament which was my father’s greatest treasure, I noticed that “Jehovah” was mentioned in many verses in the Old Testament. Curious, I asked my father, “Who is Jehovah?” Then he told me, “Jehovah is the heavenly Father. He is an omnipotent and omniscient God.” I continued, “Isn’t there only one God? How come He is called by Jesus and also is called by Jehovah? Why is He called by different names? Could it be that God is just like us human beings: we have first names at home, formal names at schools, and pen names when we are writers?” Smiling, my father answered, “When it comes to God’s name, it’s a mystery. There is no way for us humans to explain it properly unless God reveals it.”
Later, persuaded by my parents, I often attended the church meetings and also read the Bible. In the Bible, I found several verses about God’s name. For example, Psalms 135:13 says, “Your name, O LORD, endures for ever; and your memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.” Matthew 1:23 says, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Luke 1:31-32 records, “And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David.” Seeing these verses, I considered: What is exactly the mystery of these names: Jehovah, Jesus, and Emmanuel? Since when has God had name? Why does one God have different names? In order to make clear these questions, I consulted the Bible, sought and discussed with others, but I didn’t find the answers, these questions being always mysteries in my heart. When attending the meetings, I listened to messages carefully to notice whether the preachers could explain the mystery about God’s name. Yet many years passed by. Though I had listened to numerous messages, no one talked about that. Gradually, I found the preachers fell into a conversational rut, with the result that I was incapable of enjoying the enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. So it became a misery for me to attend worship at the church with my mother every Sunday.
Later, as a consequence of being occupied with the work, my attending meetings became less frequent, and I was less and less interested in belief in God. One day, my mother came to my home with a sister. When we spoke about belief in God, I asked the sister, “Do you know why God is called by Jesus, and also Jehovah? Why does God have different names?” Instead of replying to me immediately, she took out a book from her handbag and opened it. Then pointing at a few lines, she showed them to me, “You should know that God originally had no name. He only took on one, or two, or many names because He had work to do and had to manage mankind” (“The Vision of God’s Work (3)”). These words were like a flash of lightning. I thought: It turns out that God had no name originally. It was because He had work to do that He took on names. But, what’s the relationship between God’s work and His name? I must listen to the sister carefully.
The sister seemed to read the notion in my face and said, “God’s identity is the Creator and He originally had no name. When He created the heaven and the earth and all things in the beginning, He still had no name. Until when He sent Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, He didn’t tell Moses the name Jehovah. As it says in Exodus 3:13, 15, ‘And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say to them? … And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations.’ In this way, the Israelites were able to call God’s name precisely when praying. And God made the laws and commandments through Moses to teach man how to live, how to worship Him, and so on. God launched the work of the Age of Law with the name of Jehovah. All those who prayed to the name of Jehovah God and obeyed the law and commandment promulgated by God could live with His blessing and grace. On the other hand, those who disobeyed the law would be burned by the heavenly fire, or stoned to death. And so, God led people to live with the laws. Thus, the name of Jehovah was the particular name of God in the Age of Law. It means ‘The God of the Israelites (God’s chosen people) who can take pity on man, curse man, and guide the life of man. It means the God who possesses great power and is full of wisdom.’
By the end of the Age of Law, as people got increasingly sinful, there were not enough sacrifices to make atonement for them. If the situation had been developing, all we humans would have perished under the punishments of the laws and the wrath of God, because God is holy, and the filthy is not allowed to exist. Yet, we humans were created by God Himself and God’s intention was that we could live upon the earth happily. Hence, He incarnated Himself in the flesh, came to this world to do the work of saving man, and took on the name of Jesus. The Lord Jesus preached everywhere, accomplished healings and cast out demons, supplied people with abundant grace to enjoy, and bestowed peace and joy unto them. If they sinned, their sins could be forgiven by praying to the Lord Jesus to ask for His mercy and forgiveness. At last, the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross as the sin offering for us humans, so that we could continue in existence. In the name of Jesus, God ended the Age of Law and started the redemptive work in the Age of Grace, which means ‘the sin offering that is full of love, full of compassion, and redeems man.’”
After hearing her fellowship, I was surprised and delighted for I had been puzzled by these questions for many years and now, I eventually had some understanding of them. Overjoyed, then I said to her, “I got it. It turns out that it’s meaningful for God to take on different names. In different ages, God would take on different names to do the corresponding works and express different dispositions.”
She said with a smile, “Thank God for His enlightenment and illumination. You got that right. Concerning God’s different names, we still need to understand another aspect. God is so wise and so almighty, and what He has and is is so abundant. A single name isn’t able to fully represent Him at all, so He took on different names in accordance with the need of His works. But regardless of the changes to His name and His work, His essence is immutable, and there is only one God throughout the entire universe from everlasting to everlasting. Let me take an example that may not be very appropriate. Suppose that our father was a teacher at first; afterward, he was promoted a dean of the students; in the end he became a principal. Although his appellation changed, and at the same time the nature and the range of his work also altered, he is still our father, which is shall never change regardless if he is a teacher, a dean, or a principal. Brother, let’s read more passages. You’ll be even more clear about the truth of God’s names.”
While speaking, the sister opened the book and read, “God can be called many names, but among these many names, there is not one which can encapsulate all that God has, there is not one which can fully represent God. And so God has many names, but these many names cannot fully articulate God’s disposition, for God’s disposition is too rich, and extends beyond the knowledge of man. The language of man is incapable of fully encapsulating God. Man has but a limited vocabulary with which to encapsulate all that he knows of God’s disposition: great, honorable, wondrous, unfathomable, supreme, holy, righteous, wise, and so on. Too many words! Such a limited vocabulary is incapable of describing what little man has witnessed of God’s disposition. Later on, many people added more words to better describe the fervor in their hearts: God is too great! God is too holy! God is too lovely! Today, sayings such as these have reached their peak, yet man is still incapable of clearly expressing God. And so, for man, God has many names, yet He has no one name, and that is because God’s being is too bountiful, and the language of man is too inadequate. One particular word or name is powerless to represent God in His entirety. …
And so, each time God comes, He is called by one name, He represents one age, and He opens up a new path; and on each new path, He assumes a new name, which shows that God is always new and never old, and that His work is always progressing forward. History is always moving forward, and the work of God is always moving forward. For His six-thousand-year management plan to reach its end, it must keep progressing onward. Each day He must do new work, each year He must do new work; He must open up new paths, must begin new eras, begin new and greater work, and bring new names and new work” (“The Vision of God’s Work (3)”). Then she fellowshipped, “God’s disposition is too great and wondrous. A single name is incapable of representing God in His entirety. The whole society is always progressing forward, and God’s work which is always new and never old, is always moving onward. And His name is changed as the era of His work changes. We must not constrain God to a scope or think that keeping a single name of God is equal to being loyal to Him.
At that time, the Pharisees holding on the letters of the prophecies in the Bible thought that the returned King must be called Messiah; otherwise, they would not accept Him. Due to holding to the name of Messiah based upon their own conceptions and imaginations, they didn’t seek and investigate the Lord Jesus’ work and words, but resisted and condemned His coming crazily. Eventually, they nailed the Lord Jesus on the cross, with the result of being condemned by God because of their enraging God’s disposition.”
Hearing this, with the truth bursting upon her, my mother said, “The Pharisees’ failure gives all of us believers in God a warning. Whenever we should not only keep a single name of God, otherwise we will not acknowledge Him if He changes the name. In that way, won’t we be eliminated like the Pharisees?”
I thought to myself: Yes, absolutely. What she said makes sense. It seems that our faith in God can’t only insist on a single name of God. Because God is always new and never old, His work of saving man is always going higher, and He was called by different names in different ages. We can’t only hold on His single name, or it’s easy for us to walk the path of the Pharisees and crucify God on the cross again.
Due to my knowing nothing of God’s work, I asked the sister, “I think the words you read are right, and they unlocked the mystery. But I just heard you say God’s work is always progressing forward, and is always new and never old. It seems that there is another new God’s name apart from Jehovah and Jesus. Are there any prophecies in the Bible to substantiate it?”
She said with a smile, “Yes, there are biblical bases. Only in the Revelation, there are several prophecies to testify it. As it says in Revelation 1:8, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, said the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.’ Revelation 2:17 records, ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; To him that overcomes 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 knows saving he that receives it.’ There are still other verses in the Bible. These verses show us that in the last days, God’s name will not be called Jehovah, or Jesus, much less the Messiah. And He will not be the Lord Jesus who is full of love and mercy and forgives others until seventy times seven as we know, but rather will take a new name and do a more through stage of work of salvation, so as to end up the whole era. Finally, God will allow all creatures to see His true countenance and admit that it is this God that leads us mankind from the beginning to the present day.”
I asked sharply, “Will God still have a name after His whole work comes to an end? What will we call Him when we pray?” The sister opened the book again and asked me to read, “The day will arrive when God is not called Jehovah, Jesus, or the Messiah—He will simply be called the Creator. At that time, all the names that He took on earth shall come to an end, for His work on earth will have come to an end, after which He shall have no name” (“The Vision of God’s Work (3)”).
Until that moment, the questions and perplexities in my heart were smoothed away finally. I just understood God had no name originally, and it is because of His management plan to save mankind that He started to take on names. Every name God takes has a profound historical significance, which represents His disposition and what He has and is expressed by Him in this era. I also realized that God will have another new name when He returns in the last days, and we couldn’t insist on a single name of God by our notions and imaginations in case we walk the path of Pharisees’ believing in God yet resisting Him. From these words and the sister’s fellowship, I benefited a lot and my relationship with God got closer at once. At that night, I was too excited to fall asleep soon.
Next day at break, my mother and the sister left hurriedly to look after other new believers before breakfast. When they were about to leave, the sister left the book for me and exhorted, “You will understand more and get nourished by truth as long as you read this book attentively.” I replied with nodding joyfully and decided to read this book carefully in the hope of keeping pace with the Lord’s footprints.