In our modern world names are usually chosen after someone else or just because they sound good. As for me, I was named after my maternal grandfather who died before I was born. All I knew about the origin of my name was that it was French and that there were some famous kings in history with that name. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered my name meant “famous warrior.” But in the Bible a name was usually chosen for its meaning. You see this all over the scriptures. But there were times when God changed a name signifying a special change of character. Let’s study a few of the more prominent Bible name changes:
Jacob to Israel: (Gen 32:28) . . . “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Jacob mean’s “heel catcher” and Israel means “prince with God.” At birth Jacob caught his brother Esau’s heel by the hand. He later stole his brother’s birthright and then his blessing. God sought to break Jacob’s deceptive nature through his many years working for his uncle Laban. It all culminated when he wrestled with the angel and then turned to clinging to the Lord. His name was changed to reflect being transformed from a self-made man to a man who was now governed by God.
Simon to Cephas (Peter): (John 1:42) . . . “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). Simon is Hebrew and means “rock” and Cephas is Aramaic and means “stone.” The common understanding is that his name indicates what God by His grace would do through him. He would be a rock-like man in the church during its early years. Jesus said in Mat 16:18, “You are Peter (Greek for petros, a small rock), and on this rock (petra, a large rock foundation, signifying his confession of Jesus being the Messiah) I will build My church.”
Saul to Paul: (Acts 13:9) Then Saul, who also is called Paul . . . Saul means “desired” and Paul means “little.” Saul was named after king Saul, the king the people desired. The name Paul suited Saul’s transformed character and who was now a humble servant of the Lord.
Louie to ?: (Rev 2:17) . . . 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.”’ Up in heaven we get a new name. That name will be personal, and no man will know it but he that receives it. This name will reflect the intimate relationship we have with God. When a couple is close, they often have “pet names” for each other. This is the same idea. Perhaps the new name will reflect our character, our substance, our contribution to the body of Christ, and/or the depth of our walk with the Lord.
One thing we may learn from the Bible name changes is that we are not citizens of the world that is seen, but of the kingdom that is to come (Phil 3:20), and it is there that our true names, our everlasting names will be written (Rev 21:27).