The Catholic Faith: What’s the Meaning of God’s Name?

God’s name is Yahweh, just as the Old Testament records, “I am, I am the Lord: and there is no saviour besides me.” (Isaiah 43:11). “And God said again to Moses: Thus shalt thou 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, hath sent me to you: This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Exodus 3:15). However, the New Testament records, “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to day; and the same for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). From these verses, it can be seen that both Yahweh and Jesus are God’s names. God is called Yahweh in the Old Testament, but is called Jesus in the New Testament. Why does God’s name change? What’s the meaning of His names? Let’s explore this aspect of the truth together.

I once read a passage in a book, which gave me some understanding of the meaning of the name Yahweh. The passage says, “‘Jehovah’ is the name that I took during My work in Israel, and 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. … That is to say, only Jehovah is the God of the chosen people of Israel, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Moses, and the God of all the people of Israel. And so in the current age, all the Israelites apart from the tribe of Judah worship Jehovah. They make sacrifices to Him on the altar, and serve Him wearing priests’ robes in the temple. What they hope for is the reappearance of Jehovah. … The name Jehovah is a particular name for the people of Israel who lived under the law. In each age and each stage of work, My name is not baseless, but holds representative significance: Each name represents one age. ‘Jehovah’ represents the Age of Law, and is the honorific for the God worshiped by the people of Israel” (“The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud’”).

In the Age of Law, God took the name Yahweh, namely, Jehovah, based on His work of proclaiming the laws and on the disposition He expressed. God began the work of the Age of Law with the name Yahweh. He proclaimed the laws and commandments through Moses and officially led the lives of nascent mankind on earth. He required people to strictly abide by the laws and learn to worship Him, and to honor Him as great. Blessings and grace would follow anyone who upheld the law; anyone who violated the law would be stoned to death or burned by heavenly fire. The name Yahweh represents what God expressed to mankind in that age: A disposition of majesty, wrath, curse and mercy. That is why the Israelites who lived under the law strictly upheld it and held the name of Yahweh as holy. They all worshiped Yahweh, prayed to Him, praised Him, and offered sacrifices to Him on the altar. They lived under the guidance of Yahweh for a few thousand years, until the work of the Age of Law ended.

Then why did God’s name become Jesus in the Age of Grace? What’s the meaning of the name Jesus? With regard to these questions, a passage in the book clearly says, “‘Jesus’ is Emmanuel, and it means the sin offering that is full of love, full of compassion, and redeems man. He did the work of the Age of Grace, and represents the Age of Grace, and can only represent one part of the management plan. … Only Jesus is the Redeemer of mankind. He is the sin offering that redeemed mankind from sin. Which is to say, the name of Jesus came from the Age of Grace, and existed because of the work of redemption in the Age of Grace. The name of Jesus existed to allow the people of the Age of Grace to be reborn and saved, and is a particular name for the redemption of the whole of mankind. And so the name Jesus represents the work of redemption, and denotes the Age of Grace” (“The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud’”).

At the end of the Age of Law, because mankind were becoming more and more corrupt and sinful, it was impossible for them to continue upholding the law. As a result, they were in constant danger of being punished for violating the law. Therefore, to save mankind, God personally incarnated on earth to do the work of redemption. He began the Age of Grace with the name of Jesus and ended the Age of Law, bringing mankind rich and abundant grace, expressing a disposition of mercy and love, and redeeming mankind from sin. The meaning of the name Jesus is: full of love, full of mercy, and a sin offering that can redeem mankind. So, in the Age of Grace, so long as we prayed, confessed and repented in the name of the Lord, then our illnesses would be cured and our sins forgiven, and after we accepted the Lord Jesus’ name, we could feel the Lord’s presence, feel peace and joy in our spirits, and enjoy God’s abundant grace and blessings. The name Jesus is specific to the Age of Grace. It represents God’s work and the disposition He expressed in the Age of Grace.

Only by looking back at the two previous stages of God’s work do we realize that God does different work in different ages according to the needs of mankind, and that the name He adopts in each age has its own representative significance—representing both His work and the disposition He expresses during that age. God begins a new age and changes the age by His name. That is to say, every time the age changes and when His work changes, God will change His name. That’s why God’s name changed in the Age of Grace. At this point, some brothers and sisters may raise this question: “Since God’s name changes, why is it said in the Bible that ‘This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations’?”

There are some words in the book that clearly give us the answer to this question: “There are those who say that God is immutable. That is correct, but it refers to the immutability of God’s disposition and His substance. Changes in His name and work do not prove that His substance has altered; in other words, God will always be God, and this will never change.” “God’s wisdom, God’s wondrousness, God’s righteousness, and God’s majesty shall never change. His essence and what He has and is shall never change. As for His work, however, it is always progressing in a forward direction, always going deeper, for He is always new and never old. In every age God assumes a new name, in every age He does new work, and in every age He allows His creatures to see His new will and new disposition” (“The Vision of God’s Work (3)”).

These words enable us to know that the words “for ever” and “to all generations” in the Bible are referring to God’s disposition and essence, and are not referring to God’s name. God’s names arise because of His management plan of saving mankind: God carried out His work in the Age of Law with the name Yahweh, and He launched the work of the Age of Grace with the name Jesus. But no matter how the age changes and how God’s name changes, God’s essence will never change, and God will always be God, which is beyond doubt. Back in the days when the Lord Jesus incarnated to do His work, the Pharisees stubbornly held on to the words, “I am, I am the Lord: and there is no saviour besides me,” because they did not recognize that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah. They did not seek the truth the Lord Jesus expressed at all but, on the contrary, they frantically resisted and condemned Him, and even colluded with the Roman government to crucify Him, thus committing a monstrous sin. As a result, they incurred the curse of God, bringing about 2000 years of national subjugation to Israel. Their failure is indeed worth thinking about deeply! The Bible says that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. So, if we are incapable of correctly understanding the Scriptures, but only understand their literal meaning, if those who believe in Yahweh uphold the name Yahweh forever, and those who believe in the Lord Jesus uphold the name Jesus forever, and we don’t understand the significance of God using His name to change the age, we will make the same mistake as the Pharisees—confining ourselves to God’s old work, blindly condemning God’s new work, and thus missing out on God’s new work and being left with nothing but regret.

Now is the last days and also the key time for welcoming the Lord’s arrival. The Lord Jesus prophesied that He shall come again, so will the Lord still be called Jesus when He returns? The Book of Revelation prophesies, “He that shall overcome, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go out no more; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my new name” (Revelation 3:12). This verse clearly states that God will have a new name. A new name will certainly never have been adopted before, which is why it is called a new name. So will God’s name change when He returns, and He will no longer be Jesus? Revelation 1:8 says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Aside from these verses, in Revelation, there are still many other verses that mention the name “the Almighty.” According to these prophecies, it is highly likely that the Lord will be called the Almighty when He returns. When God’s name changes once again, what approach should we take toward God’s new name and how should we welcome the Lord’s return?

» Further reading on Names of God page, or click on the related articles below:

• The Relationship Between God’s Names and His Work of Salvation

• The Catholic Faith: I Finally Understand the Meaning of Names of God

Why Does God Take Names, and Can One Name Represent the Entirety of God?

» Read more on our Gospel Topics page, or watch Church Skit “God’s New Name”: When the Lord Returns, Will He Still Be Called Jesus

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