Luke 10:20
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
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(20) Notwithstanding in this rejoice not.—Above all exercise of power was the consciousness of the divine life, the feeling that they had a Father in heaven who had, to speak after the manner of men, registered their names as citizens of His kingdom. That was the great blessing for them, and for all believing souls after them. The words leave open the question whether that registration conferred a title which they could not forfeit, and the current language of the Old Testament—the prayer of Moses, “Blot me out of Thy book” (Exodus 32:32), the warnings of Exodus 32:33, Deuteronomy 9:14; Deuteronomy 29:20—would suggest the thought that even here the joy was to be tempered with fear and trembling. The reappearance of a like promise in Revelation 3:5 as the reward of obedience, and therefore conditioned by it, no less than the general tenor of the teaching of the Epistles (1Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 2:21; 2Peter 1:10), confirms this interpretation. It may be noted (1) that the better MSS. omit the word “rather,” and introduce the second clause abruptly—“Rejoice that your names are written . . .;” and (2), as implied above, that the root-thought of the image is that of a king taking the census of those who are citizens of his kingdom, as distinguished from aliens and foreigners. In Psalm 87:4-5, we have a memorable instance at once of the literal fact and of its spiritual application.

Jeremiah - Luke



Jeremiah 17:13
. - Luke 10:20.

A name written on earth implies that the bearer of the name belongs to earth, and it also secondarily suggests that the inscription lasts but for a little while. Contrariwise, a name written in heaven implies that its bearer belongs to heaven, and that the inscription will abide.

We find running throughout Scripture the metaphor of books in which men’s names are written. Moses thought of a book which God has written, and in which his name was enrolled. A psalmist speaks of the ‘book of the living,’ and Isaiah of those who are ‘written among the living in Jerusalem.’ Ezekiel threatens the prophets who speak lies in Jehovah’s name that they ‘shall not be written in the writing of the house of Israel.’ The Apocalypse has many references to the book which is designated as ‘the Lamb’s book of life,’ and which is opened at the final judgment along with the books in which each man’s life-history is written, and only ‘they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ enter into the city that comes down out of heaven.

I. The principle on which the two lists are made up.

It is commonly supposed that the idea of unconditional predestination is implied in the writing of the names in the book of life. There is nothing in the figure itself to lead to that, and the text from Jeremiah suggests, on the contrary, that the voluntary attitude of men to God determines their being or not being inscribed in the book of heaven, since it is ‘they who depart from God’ whose ‘names are written on earth.’

Then, since in the New Testament the book of life is called ‘the Lamb’s,’ we are led to think of Christ as writing in it, and hence of our faith in Him as being the condition of enrolling our names.

II. The significance of the lists.

They are lists of the living and of the dead.

True life is in fellowship with God. The other is the register of the burials in a graveyard.

They are lists of the citizens of two cities.

The idea is that the one class have relations and affinities with the celestial, are ‘fellow-citizens with the saints,’ and have heaven as their metropolis, their mother city. Therefore they are but as aliens here, and should not wish to be naturalised. The other class are citizens of the earthly, belonging to the present, with all their thoughts and desires bounded by this visible diurnal sphere.

They are lists of those who shall be forgotten, and their works annihilated, and of those who shall be remembered and their work crowned.

The names written on earth are swiftly obliterated, like a child’s scrawl on the sand which is washed away by the next tide, or covered up by the next storm that blows about the sand-hills. What a contrast is that of the names written on the heavens, high up above all earthly mutations!

In one sense oblivion soon seizes on us all. In another none of us is ever forgotten by God, but good and bad alike live in His thought. Still this idea of a special remembrance has place, as suggesting that, however unnoticed or forgotten on earth, God’s children live in the true ‘Golden Book.’ Their names are in the book of life. ‘Of so much fame, in heaven expect the meed.’ Ay, and as, too, suggesting how brief after all is the honour that comes from men.

Also, there will be annihilation or perpetuation of their life’s work. Nothing lasts but the will of God. Men who live godless lives are engaged in true Sisyphean labour. They are running counter to the whole stream of things, and what can be left at the end but frustrated endeavours covered with a gloomy pall?

Is your life to be wasted?

They are lists of those who are accepted in judgment, and of those who are not.

Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27.

The books of men’s lives are to be opened, and also the book of life. What is written in the former can only bring condemnation. If our names are written in the latter, then He will ‘confess our names before His Father and the holy angels.’ And He will joyfully inscribe them there if we say to Him, like the man in Pilgrim’s Progress, ‘Set down my name.’ He will write them not only there, but on the palms of His hands and the tablets of His heart.

10:17-24 All our victories over Satan, are obtained by power derived from Jesus Christ, and he must have all the praise. But let us beware of spiritual pride, which has been the destruction of many. Our Lord rejoiced at the prospect of the salvation of many souls. It was fit that particular notice should be taken of that hour of joy; there were few such, for He was a man of sorrows: in that hour in which he saw Satan fall, and heard of the good success of his ministers, in that hour he rejoiced. He has ever resisted the proud, and given grace to the humble. The more simply dependent we are on the teaching, help, and blessing of the Son of God, the more we shall know both of the Father and of the Son; the more blessed we shall be in seeing the glory, and hearing the words of the Divine Saviour; and the more useful we shall be made in promoting his cause.Rather rejoice ... - Though it was an honor to work miracles, though it is an honor to be endowed with talents, and influence, and learning, yet it is a subject of "chief" joy that we are numbered among the people of God, and have a title to everlasting life.

Names are written in heaven - The names of citizens of a city or state were accustomed to be written in a book or register, from which they were blotted out when they became unworthy, or forfeited the favor of their country. Compare Psalm 69:28; Exodus 32:32; Deuteronomy 9:14; Revelation 3:5. That their "names were written in heaven," means that they were "citizens" of heaven; that they were friends of God and "approved" by him, and would be permitted to dwell with him. This was of far more value than all "earthly" honor, power, or wealth, and "in" this people should rejoice more than in eminent endowments of influence, learning, talents, or possessions.

20. rejoice not, &c.—that is, not so much. So far from forbidding it, He takes occasion from it to tell them what had been passing in His own mind. But as power over demons was after all intoxicating, He gives them a higher joy to balance it, the joy of having their names in Heaven's register (Php 4:3). It is a usual thing in holy writ, to have prohibitions delivered in general terms, which must be understood in a restrained sense. That it is so here, appeareth plainly by the word

rather, prefixed to rejoice, in the latter part of the sentence. For it was doubtless a just cause of joy and rejoicing to them that Christ had honoured them with such an extraordinary gift and power, but not of so much joy as to know that their names were written in the book of life; for as the good was infinitely greater, so a proportionable joy was requisite upon the assurance of it.

The expression written in heaven, is equivalent to the being written in the book of life, whereby is signified, either the certain designation of some to eternal life, or effectual calling. We read of this book of life, Revelation 3:5 20:12,15 21:27 22:19. It is called the Lamb’s book, Revelation 13:8, and it is said it was written from the foundation of the world; which will justify those divines who understand it of a particular election from eternity; whereas it is objected that when amongst the twelve there was a Song of Solomon of perdition, it is unreasonable to think that all the seventy were elect vessels. It is easily answered, that our Saviour’s words were true according to the usual phrase of speaking, if the generality of them only were such. Nor need our Saviour be understood as asserting all their names were so written, but only asserting the greatest cause of joy to be, if men can by their calling find that their election is sure. From our Saviour’s words we may infer,

1. That there is a book of life, an election of grace.

2. That there are names written in this book; it is an election of persons.

3. That men may know that their names are written in that book, otherwise they could not rejoice; no man rejoiceth but in a good with which he hath some degree of union.

4. That this is a greater cause of joy, than for a man to know that he hath a power to cast out devils.

Men may be made use of to cast out devils in Christ’s name, who yet may go to the devil at last, Matthew 7:22,23; so cannot those whose names are written in the book of life. But I cannot understand that our Saviour in these words asserts that all the names of the seventy were written in that book. The tendency of his discourse is rather to quicken them to give all diligence to make sure of this cause of joy and rejoicing.

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not,.... That their power was enlarged, or that they had, the same as before:

that the spirits, evil spirits, devils, are subject unto you; and come out of men at your command; rejoice not so much in this, or chiefly and principally; not but that it was matter of joy both with respect to the gift bestowed upon them, and the benefits men received by it, and the glory that was brought to Christ through it;

but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven; in the book of life, called the Lamb's book of life, written from the foundation of the world: in divine predestination to everlasting glory and happiness: which shows that God's election to eternal life is of particular persons, of persons by name; that it is sure, and certain, and immutable, being in opposition to what is written in earth, Jeremiah 17:13, that the knowledge of this may be attained to, through the grace of God, the revelation of Christ, and the witnessings of his Spirit; and that this is matter of the greatest job, since it is the foundation and security of all the blessings of grace and glory.

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Luke 10:20. πλὴν has adversative force here = yet, nevertheless. The joy of the Seventy was in danger of becoming overjoy, running into self-importance; hence the warning word, which is best understood in the light of St. Paul’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which laid much more stress on the ethical than on the charismatical results of His influence = rejoice not so much in possessing remarkable spiritual gifts as in being spiritual men. This text may be put beside Matthew 7:21-23 as bearing on the separability of gifts and graces (χαρίσματα and χάρις).

20. are written in heaven] Rather, have been recorded in the heavens (reading ἐγγέγραπται). On this ‘Book of God,’ or ‘Book of Life,’ see Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Php 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27. It is the opposite to being “written in the earth,” Jeremiah 17:13.

Luke 10:20. Μὴ χαίρετε, rejoice not) An admonition salutary at the time of their first experience, intended to moderate in a due degree their joy. Their joy is not forbidden, but is reduced to proper bounds. They who rejoice in excess through self-love, are liable to become like Satan.[98]—ὑμῶν) the names of you, who are Mine.—ἐγράφη, have been written) Although Satan hath exclaimed against it [accusing you, Revelation 12:10] in heaven: (your names are written in heaven) even though on earth you have no celebrity.—ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, in the heavens) in the book which is in the heavens, the kingdom of which ye are announcing: in these heavens moreover from which Satan hath fallen down. The contrary is declared concerning apostates (prævaricatoribus, those who do not steadily follow the Lord: shufflers; crooked walkers), Jeremiah 17:13, they shall be written in the earth.

[98] Overweening pride was his great sin.—ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 20. - But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. "After all," went on the wise and loving Master, "though you have made the glad discovery of the power you possess, if, as my servants, you use aright my Name, after all, your real reason for joy is, not the possession of a new, mighty power, but the fact of your name having been written in the book of life as one of my servants commissioned to do my work." Many commentators here cautiously point out that even this legitimate joy should be tempered with fear and trembling, for even this true title to honour might be blotted nut of that golden book of heaven (see Exodus 32:33; Jeremiah 17:13; Psalm 69:28; Revelation 22:19). In this deep legitimate joy men and women of all callings, who try to follow the Master, in every age, may share. Luke 10:20
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