There is a mysterious passage in the Book of Revelation. Perhaps that may be said of nearly every passage in Revelation. This verse, however, seems particularly mysterious.
St. John writes, “To him who conquers…I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.”
This new name is given to all believers after they are judged by Christ Himself—perhaps immediately following the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
It is the last name we will ever receive.
But, what kind of name is this? Why should it be that no one knows the name except the one to whom it is given? At other times within salvation history, when someone is given a new name, it is revealed for everyone to know. In fact, when God bestows these names, it is precisely so that others might know the new mission they have received along with their name.
Perhaps it is difficult to understand what this name represents if we read Scripture by focusing on God’s just punishments. Perhaps we focus on that aspect because those stories are the most exciting, or perhaps because we see ourselves in those receiving the punishment. But if we were to ask, “What kind of story is Scripture?” the answer is this: a love story. The entire story of salvation history is, at its heart, nothing other than the story of the Lover pursuing His beloved. Earthly lovers poetically pledge that they would traverse through Hell itself to be with their beloved. Only, the Divine Lover really did. And why? So that He could one day say to us, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
This is why Jesus repeatedly refers to Himself as the Bridegroom.
The scene St. John describes in Revelation turns out to be a marriage feast: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Let me suggest, dear reader, that if this scene is the culmination of the Divine Bridegroom’s great romance with every human soul who has ever accepted His eternal love for her, then the key to understanding this new name requires understanding the very deepest truths of marriage itself.
Something Only We Know
Within marriage, in the mutual gift of self between husband and wife, there is a language that is spoken between them to which no other person is privy. It is a language by which the lover offers themselves entirely to their beloved, and expresses their desire and willingness to receive the beloved—withholding nothing, denying nothing—in return. In some mysterious sense, this language is both an act and also the way the lovers describe and understand the love between them.
Fulton Sheen notes that, “It takes three to make love in hearts—The Lover, the Beloved, and Love.” The language of the lover and the beloved, then, is the act by which they realize their love and are able to name it. Again, Sheen says that love must be triune, and when lovers speak of “our love” they are recognizing that their love is “something distinct from both, and yet in both.”
A name is always meant to tell us what something is. This language spoken between spouses ultimately is meant to name the love that exists between them. For all that, it is the most mysterious name in all creation, for it can only be spoken by the lovers to each other—no one else can or ought to hear it. This name contains everything each lover is to each other, and that they are together. In a word, it is the name of their triune love. It is not a name that can be spoken aloud, but only from one soul to another.
The Great Romance
Now we see why this final name given to us is one “which no one knows except him who receives it.” It is not merely the case that the name is secret. Rather, it is the case that nobody else could know the name, even if they desired to. For this name, like the name of the love within marriage, can only be spoken from Lover to beloved, and from beloved to Lover.
Perhaps we might be tempted to believe that we are all destined to have the same kind of generic relationship with God. If so, let that notion die now. The Divine Lover is telling us that our relationship with Him is so uniquely intimate that it can only be expressed through a distinct name that we will share with Him and Him alone.
When we hear that name, spoken by the Divine Lover, we will fully, finally, realize the truth: that we have been the beloved in the world’s only eternal love story. From eternity, through time, death, and hell itself, we have been unceasingly pursued. “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Those words aren’t the end of the love story—they are the start.