Companies and brand names compete for your loyalty by creating a culture of brand recognition and consumer atmosphere. You learn through billboards and commercials that certain kinds of people wear certain brands of clothing and eat at certain restaurants. And then, companies and their marketing firms hope, you will decide to look like and eat like those people in the attempt to have a piece of the lives they have. Plenty of people—especially young people—become loyal consumers of a certain brand in order to have the same cache the people they see in the commercials have.
To put someone’s or something’s name on you is a gesture of loyalty. There is even a level of character imitation when we take a name and put it on. Politicians pass out buttons and bumper stickers hoping you will be recognized as their supporters, even their followers. We often associate with names and movements because we want to become like them.
In Scripture, having a name written on you is not much different. It is a symbol of loyalty, of character development, and even a sign of protection. Maybe the most infamous example of people “taking on a name” is the mark of the beast in Revelation. Whatever the bewildering “666” turns out to be, it is ultimately a mark of intense loyalty and association. Those who take on the mark are making a final association—we will follow this person and this cause come hell or high water.
But that is not the only name written on people. When God promises relationship and salvation from the troubles of this world to the church in Philadelphia, he says this:
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (3:12)
This name is so important to Christ, he repeats the idea three times. It turns out that God writing his name on his people is not just a mark of relationship and loyalty between them, it is a marker of protection. In chapters 7 and 14 those marked with his name are protected for life eternal with their God. And in a dramatic prophecy in Ezekiel 9, God’s wrath does not commence until his faithful worshipers are protected by having God’s name inscribed on their foreheads.
Look down at what you are wearing. Look around the room you are sitting in. Bring to mind the books you read and the shows you watch. What names have you chosen to associate with? What and whose character are you trying to emulate? Above any and every name is the name of Jesus Christ.
Bearing the name of Christ is the ultimate and eschatological association. Come what may, I will bear the name of my Savior and Redeemer. He will be to me the most important consideration in life and in death. His Word is my final rule of faith and action. His Empowering Presence is my daily food and water. His glory and call will be my guide.
Other names will compete for your attention, your money, your worldview, and for your life. This is why the promise is to the one who “conquers.” It takes effort – even warfare – to faithfully bear the name of Jesus Christ.