God's Name—Do You Know the Origin of Name “Jehovah”?
Speaking of, everyone is familiar with it, for God’s names have been recorded explicitly in verses. Almost all believers know that God was once named “Jehovah” in the Age of Law and “Jesus” in the Age of Grace. Moreover, Revelation has prophesied that God will be called “the Almighty” in the last days. At this point, some believers may ask: Why does God have so many names? What are the origins of God’s names? Today, we will fellowship about the mystery of God’s names. Let’s first talk about the origin and significance of the name Jehovah.
The verses record, “I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). “Jehovah … is My name for ever, and this is My memorial to all generations” (Exodus 3:15). Many followers believe God’s original name is Jehovah. But did God really have a name in the beginning? What is the origin of the name Jehovah? About these questions, I have sought answers for many years. Then, after studying the Bible carefully, I saw it is recorded in Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. … And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:1–8). From these verses we can know that when creating the heavens, earth and all things, God is called God, He has no other name, nor does He have the name of Jehovah, He is named God.
However, Exodus records that when Moses herded his flock to Horeb and was called by God, he had a conversation with God. “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?” (Exodus 3:13). “And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, Jehovah, the 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” (Exodus 3:15). We can clearly know from these verses that God was called God and had no name from the very beginning. So Moses asked God, “They shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say to them?” Under that background, God told Moses that Jehovah was His name forever and to all generations. Obviously, God told the name of Jehovah to Moses when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. After leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses wrote Genesis. Thus, today, we can see Jehovah is God’s name in Genesis. It’s not that God was named Jehovah from the start.
God is originally of the formless Spirit. He doesn’t have a particular name. As God saw the Israelites enslaved and mistreated by the Egyptians and heard the sound of their cries, God used Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Therefore, the name Jehovah came into being under this background.
What does the name Jehovah mean? Why did God take this name? I remember such a passage of words, “‘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; the God who possesses great power and is full of wisdom. … 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 Jewish people, worship Jehovah. They make sacrifices to Him on the altar and serve Him in the temple wearing priests’ robes. What they hope for is the reappearance of Jehovah.” Here we know, the name “Jehovah” is a particular name during God’s work among the Israelites and God took this name to lead the Israelites. People in that age were a newborn human race, only knowing that they should sweat and labor to provide for their families, not knowing how to live, how to be human, how to worship God, how to offer sacrifice and how to follow God’s way.… God couldn’t bear to see the mankind He Himself created become depraved. So He issued the laws, commandments, and decrees through Moses, leading man to live on earth and enabling them to know how to build the temple and the altar, how to offer sacrifice and how to serve Jehovah God wearing priests’ robes in the temple, and so forth. Hence, in the name of Jehovah, God did the first stage of work, that of law. If the Israelites of that time obeyed the laws issued by Jehovah God, they would gain God’s mercy and blessings. In the Age of Law, the disposition Jehovah God expressed is not only merciful and loving, but also majestic and unoffendable. For example, in that age, the people of Israel would be stoned to death and the priests would be burnt by heavenly fire from Jehovah God, if they broke the commandments.
It can be seen that the name Jehovah is a particular name for the people of Israel who lived under the law and this name represents God’s merciful, majestic and unoffendable disposition. God did work under the name of Jehovah, from His leadership of the Israelites out of Egypt to the end of the Age of Law. All people in the Age of Law honored Jehovah’s name as sacred in their prayers. The Jews lived for thousands of years under Jehovah God’s guidance. Only when God did the work of the Age of Grace did God stop using the name of Jehovah.
Through the above fellowship, we know everything God does is meaningful. Not only can God create the heavens, earth and all things, lead man to live, as well as come to earth from heaven, being nailed to the cross and becoming the likeness of sinful flesh, but also the name God chooses is possessed of extraordinary significance. All of these things contain His wisdom. Thank God for His guidance that helps us understand the significance of the name Jehovah through this fellowship. Now some brothers and sisters in the Lord may ask, “Since Jehovah God said ‘I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside Me there is no savior’ (Isaiah 43:11), and ‘Jehovah … is My name for ever, and this is My memorial to all generations’ (Exodus 3:15), why did God’s name change to ‘Jesus’ in the Age of Grace? What wisdom and significance are contained in it?” Let’s continue our fellowship.
As is known to all, God’s deeds are immeasurable. No single one of God’s names can represent God fully, nor can it express what God has and is. God originally has no name and He is called God. Because God needs to guide, redeem and rescue mankind, He does different works and takes different names in different ages. As we all know, the Old Testament of the Bible records that Jehovah God decreed the laws and commandments to lead man in their lives, so that they realized that God would bless them if they abided by the laws and commandments, or they would be condemned and cursed by God. Jehovah God expressed the disposition of wrath and curse. At the end of the Age of Law, people couldn’t keep the law, so they were in danger of being condemned and executed under the law. In order to redeem the entire human race, God incarnated for the first time to do the work of redemption under the name of the Lord Jesus. Provided that man prayed to Him to confess their sins and repent, they could be forgiven of their sins and enjoy the abundant grace bestowed upon them by God. The New Testament of the Bible records that the Lord Jesus was full of love and mercy, which precisely represents the disposition God expressed in the Age of Grace. It can be seen that when doing different works, God expresses His different dispositions and His name changes accordingly, which is the principle of His work. This shows that God’s work is always new and never old.
For example, when someone works as a teacher in a school, people call him teacher. When he has a new job in a factory one day, others will not call him teacher when they see him. For teaching is his former work and teacher is his former title. So it is most suitable to call him a factory worker in accordance with his present work. Therefore, with God’s work always progressing forward, His disposition and what He has and is are unceasingly revealed to us. At the same time, God’s name changes according to the needs of His work.
However, no matter how God’s name changes, His disposition and essence will never change, much less the aims of His work. It’s just as a passage of God’s words 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; the God who possesses great power and is full of wisdom. ‘Jesus’ is Emmanuel, which means the sin offering that is full of love, full of compassion, and which redeems man. He did the work of the Age of Grace, and He represents the Age of Grace, and can only represent one part of the work of the management plan. 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 Jewish people, worship Jehovah. They make sacrifices to Him on the altar and serve Him in the temple wearing priests’ robes. What they hope for is the reappearance of Jehovah. Only Jesus is the Redeemer of mankind, and 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 came into existence because of the work of redemption in the Age of Grace. The name of Jesus came into existence 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. Thus, the name Jesus represents the work of redemption, and denotes the Age of Grace. 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 by which the people of Israel called the God whom they worshiped. ‘Jesus’ represents the Age of Grace, and is the name of the God of all those who were redeemed during the Age of Grace” (“The Savior Has Already Returned Upon a ‘White Cloud’ in the Word Appears in the Flesh).
Now we are more able to comprehend that God’s name in each age has extraordinary significance, representing His disposition, the principle of His work and the work He does in that age. If people cannot understand the meaning of God’s names, they will be unlikely to have a knowledge of God, and they will merely have a muddled belief. Belief in God is not merely receiving grace and blessings from the Lord or sacrificing and giving up things for God. What is more important is that man should have a knowledge of God, knowing how God has led and saved us step by step since His creation of the world. Only in this way can we know God’s intention of saving mankind and better welcome the return of the Lord Jesus.
At this point, let’s first give some thought to the following: When God came to perform His work of redemption, He changed His name from Jehovah to Jesus. Then will God change His name when He comes again?
As we all know, in different ages God does different work and expresses different dispositions, so He is called by different names. This is because the principle of God’s work is never to repeat what He has already completed. If God did the same work and was called the same name in different ages, then it would be meaningless to carry out a new stage of work. For example, in the Age of Law, God did the work of promulgating laws and commandments and leading the Israelites to live. The Israelites at the time, who abided by the laws and commandments, would receive blessings from God. But if they failed to keep the laws and commandments, they would be cursed by God. In that stage of work, the dispositions God expressed were majesty and wrath, burning and curse. For instance, the priests, who didn’t serve Jehovah God as He required, would be burned by heavenly fire; the common people, who didn’t abide by the Ten Commandments, would be stoned to death. In accordance with God’s work as well as His dispositions expressed in that age, God named Himself “Jehovah.” But at the end of the Age of Law, man was incapable of keeping the commandments, with the result that they committed sins continuously. In the end, they even offered crippled or blind oxen, sheep, and doves to God. God did not accept their sacrifices and they could not gain His mercy any longer. Because of such behaviors, they would end up being cursed by God, unable to survive. Therefore, in accordance with the needs of mankind, God incarnated to do the redemptive work Himself under the name of the Lord Jesus, being crucified and becoming man’s sin offering. As long as man prayed to the Lord Jesus, confessed his sins and repented before Him, he would be forgiven of his sins and need not offer oxen, sheep, or doves to God for his sins. Obviously, God’s disposition expressed in the Age of Grace was love and mercy. No matter what sins man committed, man could receive the mercy of the Lord as long as he confessed his sins and repented before Him. Take the licentious woman for example. She was caught and brought before the Lord Jesus, but He did not condemn her but just commanded her not to commit sins from then on. Therefore, in the Age of Grace, God was no longer called Jehovah, but the Savior Lord Jesus who was full of mercy and love. So, if we want to know whether God will be called by any other name in the last days, we first need to know what work God will do in the last days. Let’s look at several verses in the Bible, “And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6–7). “Because He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). “And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47–48).
From these verses, we see that God will come to judge all nations and all peoples in the last days. But why will He judge all nations and all peoples? While pondering, I think of the church condition at present. Most believers lose the previous faith and love and are unable to sincerely spend for God. More than a few believers chat and sleep at meetings. Believers cannot hold on to the Lord’s way and teachings any longer. Many illegal things keep emerging in the church, such as struggling for fame and fortune, raising jealousy and strife, stealing offerings, etc. They pursue worldly trends, covet the fleshly enjoyment in sins, living in the cycle of sin and repentance. For example, one of my Christian friends called me and said the other day, “I can’t help committing sins at home, either quarreling with my husband or getting annoyed with my children. In the church, I often show jealousy and hatred toward others on account of some trifles. The Bible says, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). How can a person like me see the Lord’s face? Doesn’t that mean I’ve wasted time all these years?” After she poured her heart out, I could feel her helplessness of living in sin because I had the same experience.
Later, I saw the Lord Jesus’ word, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:13). “He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). From these verses I understood that when the Lord Jesus returns in the last days, He will probably express His words and do a stage of the work of judgment and purification to solve our problem of committing sins, for God will not allow those who are filled with corruption to enter into His kingdom. And the Bible records the Lord Jesus will return to separate the tares from the wheat, the goats from the sheep, and the wicked servants from the good servants, which is, He will do the work of reaping and winnowing, rewarding the good and punishing the evil and classifying man according to kind. Since He will do the work of judgment, He will judge and purify man with righteous disposition, so that man will be classified according to kind. Then, will God take on a new name when doing new work? I remember that Revelation records: “Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12). “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Your ways, You King of saints” (Revelation 15:3). “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunder, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6). According to the records of these verses, when God comes to do His work, He will take a new name and will be called “the Almighty” to reign as King. So, it is highly possible that God will come to do His work under the name of “the Almighty,” namely Almighty God, when He returns in the last days.
Through studying the Bible these days, I have realized that no matter what name God takes in each age, each name is taken due to the need of the management work. It is not taken at will, but possesses temporal significance. Regardless of the changes to His names, the works of saving mankind are still done by one God, for the principle of His work is to use the change of name to change the age.
- Extended Reading:
- Why Does God Take Names, and Can One Name Represent the Entirety of God?