(Question #11) Why would the name God gave to His people not be “Christians” since Acts 11:26 says, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch”? Why is the name “Jehovah’s Witness” found nowhere in the New Testament, if that is God’s divine name for His people under the new covenant? Why would God wait almost 2000 years to suddenly start using the name “Jehovah’s Witness”. Does this mean that first century Christians were not known as Jehovah’s Witnesses”?
Some years into the Christian era a controversy arose regarding the mandatory circumcision of non-Jewish believers. In that setting one of the older men, James, said the following: “Men, brothers, hear me. Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After these things I will return and raise up again the tent of David that is fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the men who remain may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.'”
The meeting of the apostles and older men in Jerusalem occurred some years after Jesus’ disciples came to be called Christians. In spite of that James quoted from the prophecy in the ninth chapter of Amos and applied it to what was taking place then; namely, that the name of Jehovah was no longer exclusively associated with the nation of Israel, but through their anointing by holy spirit, chosen people of the nations were to have the name of Jehovah placed upon them.
Of course, most translators have expunged any trace of the unique name of God from the entire Bible – rendering God nameless. So, the passage from Amos merely says: ‘the nations who bear my name, declares the Lord.’ It is no wonder that the average churchgoer imagines Jesus to be the Lord spoken of. However, was Jesus ‘known from of old’ in the first century? Of course not. Jesus was a newcomer on the earthly scene back then. But Jehovah was known from of old. Even the nations roundabout Israel were familiar with the name of the Hebrew’s God. And we may be certain the first century disciples knew and used the personal name of God, especially when quoting directly from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures where the YHWH appeared, as was the case in the account in Acts.
But were first century Christians called Jehovah’s witnesses? No, not officially. But they did give witness to God’s name and Kingdom, as did Jesus himself.
However, the prophecy in Amos has an extended application. While it may be said that the royal tent of David was set up in the first century, due to the fact that Jesus was an ancestor of David and a legal heir to his throne. And Christ’s Kingdom went into operation on 33.CE when the first disciples were anointed to be part of the Kingdom, ultimately the raising up of the ruined kingdom of Christ occurs during the time of the end.
According to numerous passages in the Hebrew prophets “the final part of the days” is when the nations are going to be forced to know that Jehovah is God. The fact that there is a people on earth at this time in history who have revived the use of God’s personal name and publicized it in the vernacular of hundreds of different language groups ought to give thinking persons reason to pause.