“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” – Luke 10:20
If there’s one thing missing in people’s lives today, its joy. Joy is not something limited to the Christmas season. Joy is something that we need for every day in life. With what’s going on in our nation and the world today, you might be more accustomed to sadness and sorrow than you are of joy. But joy is something we need regardless of circumstances. Actually, joy is something that helps us through every kind of circumstance. Joy steadies us. Joy stabilizes us. Joy makes us sturdy in the storms of life. We need joy, especially in our day.
Jesus sent out seventy disciples into the world to heal and share about the kingdom of God. They went out in faith and experienced tremendous victory. Because of that, when they returned, they returned to Jesus brimming with joy. What can we learn from this situation and apply practically to our lives? What is joy and why do we need it? Let’s see.
What is joy? The word “joy” (Greek chara) used in this passage, means cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness. When we read this passage maybe we picture in our mind the seventy returning from a victorious mission, high fiving before there even was such a thing as high fiving. We definitely picture them smiling, maybe hugging, we picture them happy. All of those things can be a part of joy. But joy is to be distinguished from happiness. Joy is greater, deeper, steadier, more solid, more consistent, more reliable and sustaining than mere happiness. Why is that? Because happiness depends on happenings; on circumstances. We’re happy when we win, but we’re sad when we lose. We’re happy when we get the promotion. We’re sad when we get fired or laid off. We’re happy when someone agrees with us. We’re sad when someone disagrees with us. Happiness is based on happenings; on circumstances. And because circumstances are so unpredictable and everchanging, living for happiness can be a very up and down and disappointing way to live.
Joy on the other hand is more substantial than happiness. Joy transcends circumstances. Joy is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit which is love (Galatians 5:22-24). Joy flows out of the love of the Spirit that He puts in us. Joy depends on Jesus and Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus is with us in the highs, and in the lows. Jesus is with us in the good report, and the bad report. Jesus is with us when everything is going good, and when everything is going bad. Jesus is with us, (if we know Him personally as Savior in a born-again saving relationship), all the time, in every circumstance of life. And when Jesus is with us, He rejoices with us in victory, and he takes the edge off of defeat. Jesus helps us to keep and proper eternal perspective. Jesus encourages us. Jesus always loves us. Jesus never forsakes us. Jesus gives us that steadying, stabilizing, assurance, in all circumstances, that He is in control, and that He is for us, that nothing can separate us from Him and His love (Romans 8:31-39). That truly is what joy is.
What gives you joy? At the writing of this it is opening day of the NFL football season. Maybe that makes you happy. Maybe it doesn’t. For some the politicalization and message of the professional athletes is unwelcome. That’s the case not merely because they disagree with the stance of many athletes, but because the outlet and relief from the stresses and anxieties of everyday life has been ruined, removed. Now there is no outlet, no escape from the tensions of daily life. Now sports has only added to what is perceived as a problem. And at the end of the day, those who choose to watch the games will be happy or sad based on whether or not their team won or lost. That’s happiness, not joy.
When there is rioting in the streets, some people are happy, some people are sad. The way news is reported makes some people happy, and some people sad. The way the economy goes makes some people happy, and some people sad. War makes some people happy, and some people sad. Victory makes some people happy, and some people sad. Defeat makes some people happy and some people sad.
The pursuit of happiness. Living for happiness can be an addiction. The pursuit of happiness, can be a happy, or very unhappy pursuit and way of life. It can be a very topsy turvy unstable way of living. You can start your day feeling great, and drag yourself home at the end of the day feeling lousy. Happiness depends solely on feelings and feelings are fickle. Feelings are attached to circumstances or our perception of circumstances. And because of that living for happiness leads to instability, depression, even despair at the out of control nature of life.
Some base happiness on whether or not their party or position wins out in an election. Some are happy based on whether or not they can win an argument, or beat someone out. Happiness for many is based on their job and how it goes. Others are happy based on their relationships with others. Still others are happy or sad based on the content of their bank accounts. How your day went determines your happiness or sadness. Happiness depends on things you can’t completely control. Joy depends on Jesus. You can’t control Jesus either. But we can know (through the word of God) what aligns with Jesus and how Jesus will respond to us in given circumstances. He will rejoice with us. He will comfort us. He will correct us. He will console us. He will tell us sometimes, “Neither do I condemn you.” And He will also at times tell us, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Joy is what we need. Joy goes deeper. Joy is more reliable, steadier, substantial, foundational. Joy gets us through every time and circumstance no matter whether it is good or bad. We need joy. Jesus taught His disciples about joy. That’s a lesson we need to learn too.
17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
The joy of serving Jesus. It’s a joyful thing to go out and faithfully represent Jesus. If you are ever feeling down or depressed, one of the most effective ways to get out of your depression is to go out and serve the Lord in some way. I don’t mean to put a selfish twist on serving Jesus, but joy is one of the benefits of answering Jesus call to go out and represent Him with others.
The joy of defeating demons. What was their immediate source of joy? It was that, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” They were impressed with the power they could exert in the name of Jesus. The demonic world is no match for the authority wielded in the name of Jesus. And it’s a joyful thing to see people released from the clutches and grip of the demonic enemy.
18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
The joy of Satan’s fall. Hearing of their victorious exploits, Jesus comments, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” This can mean a number of things. Jesus may be recollecting His preincarnate state seeing Satan cast from heaven when he originally rebelled against God (cf. Isiah 14). Jesus may be referring to His temptation in the wilderness and overcoming Satan’s temptations (Luke 4:1-13). It may be a kind of prophetic word of Jesus announcing that their victory was a sign of the beginning of the end for Satan. Either way, Jesus is exulting in the demise of the devil. And that’s always a good thing.
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
The joy of authority in Jesus. Jesus gave them “authority” (Greek exousia) which comes from a root word (Greek exestin) meaning it is possible, it is lawful. The idea in such “authority” is that in the name of Jesus they had the power to “trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” Jesus was their Source of power. But in the name of Jesus they had authority to call on such power to defeat the enemy. With such authority they needn’t fear because “nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Now having said that we should remember how Satan tempted Jesus by referring to scripture. IN the wilderness testing, Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 about how God would protect with His angels. Satan tempted Jesus to put God to the test. And Jesus rejected that tempting lure. We are not to act carelessly or presumptively because that is to put God to the test. We can trust the God will protect us from harm when we are about His work. But we shouldn’t abuse such authority by frivolously putting Him to the test to protect us.
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
The greatest joy. Jesus said that while authority over the devil is good reason to be joyful. The better and greatest joy is “because your names are written in heaven.” That is the great joy.
The Book of Life. The Bible says the following about God’s book of life:
- Exodus 32:33 – “And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.” (See also Psalm 69:28).
- Daniel 12:1 – “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.”
So we see that even in the Old Testament this idea of a Book of Life is alluded to. In the New Testament that passage we are considering is the first mention of the idea of our names being written in heaven:
- Luke 10:20 – “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
These words of Jesus allude to The Book of Life. Later in the New Testament Paul specifically refers to this Book:
- Philippians 4:3 – “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
Is your name written in this Book? In Hebrews it speaks of a kind of registration in heaven:
- Hebrews 12:23 – “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,”
Are you registered with God; written in His Book of Life?
In the last book of the Bible is speaks quite a bit about this “Book of Life.” It states:
- Revelation 13:8 – “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
This verse speaks of those whose names are not written in the Book of Life as being susceptible to deception and delusion of Antichrist and that they will indeed end up worshipping this devilish figure in our future. Is your name written in God’s Book of Life? If not, you will be deceived into worshipping the most devilish incarnation of Satan in the history of the world. Read what Revelation goes on to say about this horrible fate:
- Revelation 17:8 – “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
Just think, if your name is not written in the Book of Life, you will worship and “marvel” at him. If your name isn’t written in the Book of Life, if you haven’t received Jesus as Savior, you will end up worshipping someone from the pit of hell itself!
In this last book of the Bible it speaks of a final judgment day. On that day you will wish your name was written in the Book of Life and face terrible regret if it is not:
- Revelation 20:12 – “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
That’s a somber sobering verse. Is your name written in the Book of Life? Have you received Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Have you settled with God your sin problem? Because any thought of entering heaven without being saved from sin, without your name in the Book of Life, any thought like that is a pipe dream, a delusion, a fantasy, a vapor that will go up in smoke in the end:
- Revelation 21:27 – “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
Now, you might not want to accept these truths, but if you dare to reject them, if you discount their truth and try to change their meaning, there is a sobering warning from Jesus for you:
- Revelation 22:19 – “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Is your name written in the Book of Life? Have you received Jesus as your Savior and Lord?
Now some would argue whether or not God can, “take away his part from the Book of Life.” What do we make of that and the idea of eternal security? Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:242). Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). (See also John 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 1:13; Jude 24 etc.). What about those statements?
Pastor and Bible teacher Chuck Smith states regarding this question:
“What does Jesus mean about blotting names out of the Book of Life? He means just that. Don’t think I’m going to take away from this book. For in the final chapter it says that if any man shall take away from this book, his name will be taken out of the book of Life (Revelation 22:19). I don’t want mine blotted out! You say, ‘What did He mean by that?’ I don’t know but I won’t try to explain it away. ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches’ (Revelation 3:6).”
Personally, I believe it is doubtful that anyone who would alter God’s word or trust in human opinion about God’s word rather than God’s word itself, is actually truly saved from their sin. If we have come to know Jesus personally as Savior, we need not worry about losing our salvation. There is evidence a person can choose to walk away from Jesus. We do not lose our free will once we are saved. But those who are truly saved would never think of walking away from Jesus.
The Parable of the Sower is instructive here (cf. Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). There are some who reject the word of God outright. There are then some who receive God’s word in only a shallow unsaved way or who receive it but nor seriously, allowing the things of this world to clutter God’s word out of their lives. These may appear to have received God’s word, but not in a saving way. The person who is genuinely saved will bear fruit and grow in their faith. Such a good soil hearted person has their name written in the Book of Life and has no fear of it ever being removed.
The important thing is that your name is written in The Book of Life and that Jesus our Lord confesses that before the Father in heaven. But is it possible to know for sure whether or not your name is actually written in The Book of Life? Yes we can; we can know for sure that our name is written in The Book of Life.
You can know for sure that your name is written in The Book of Life. Are you going to heaven? Is your name written in The Book of Life? The Bible says you can know for sure whether or not you are going to heaven.
- 1 John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
How can you know for sure that you are going to heaven, that your name is written in The Book of Life?
Realize eternal life involves personally knowing God –
- John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Realize sin separates people from Holy God –
- Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear”
- Isaiah 59:2 – “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you”
- Habakkuk 1:13 – “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness”
Realize you are a sinner –
- Exodus 20:1-17 – Examine and assess yourself by the Ten Commandments
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”
- Romans 3:10 – “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one”
- Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
- Galatians 3:10 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
- James 2:10 – “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Realize there is a penalty for sin –
- Romans 6:23a – “For the wages of sin is death,”
Realize you need to be saved from your sins and that the only way of salvation from sin is by God’s grace (i.e. a gift from God) –
- Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Ephesians 2:8–9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
- Titus 3:5 – 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
Realize Jesus paid the penalty for you –
- Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Realize your salvation is a free gift from God that requires only a repentant heart faith decision from you to receive it – To “repent” means to confess to God and forsake your sin. To “believe” or have “faith” unto salvation means Forsaking All (others or other means of salvation) I Trust Him.
- Acts 3:19-20 – “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you”
- Acts 16:31 – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”
- John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”
Realize salvation is a matter of the heart –
- Acts 8:36–38 – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
- Romans 10:10 – “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Realize now is the time to call on God to be saved from your sins –
- Romans 10:13 – For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
- 2 Corinthians 6:2 – “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
So how might we pray to appropriate all of this? What follows is a prayer to help a person have their name written in the Book of Life:
A SALVATION PRAYER:
If you believe the above Gospel and are willing to trust in Jesus with all your heart as Savior, if you want the forgiveness of sins and eternal life God in this Gospel freely offers to you, with all your heart, pray this prayer:
“Dear God, I have sinned and disobeyed Your Laws. I admit I deserve eternal punishment. But I repent; I confess my sins to You and forsake them. I ask that You please forgive me, not because of any good works I have done, but because Jesus paid the just penalty for my sins by dying for me on the cross. I believe Jesus died for me and that He rose from the dead. I believe that with all my heart. I receive it by faith, as a gift of Your grace. Please Holy Spirit fill me, give me spiritual life, eternal life. Please help me to know you Father, Son Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Help me grow in a relationship with You. Please write my name in The Book of Life. Please help me to live for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Now, begin praying and reading your Bible daily, regularly. Find a church that believes in and teaches the Bible as the word of God. Find a church where the Gospel is preached and people believe in being born again. Find such a church and become a part of your new eternal family. And tell someone else about what God has done for you. Don’t go by feelings, live by faith in Jesus. He is faithful. He will help you. Remember this:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
2 Timothy 2:15 – 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 – 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
D.L. Moody, a great evangelist and Bible teacher of the past, once said, “I am so thankful that I have a joy that the world can not rob me of; I have a treasure that the world can not take from me; I have something that is not in the power of man or devil to deprive me of, and that is the joy of the Lord.”  That is a truth worth rejoicing about.
Sometimes we lose sight of this wonderful hope of heaven we have in Jesus. When was the last time you meditated on heaven and that your name is “written in heaven”? Mark Twain is said to have criticized Christians as being, “So heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” But nothing could be further from the truth. It is being heavenly minded that motivates us to do good and lead others to Christ on earth so that they too can spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.
Next time you are down because the things of this world are not going your way, just turn your eyes on Jesus and His heaven, and just think that one day soon, we will be there with Him; for eternity! Now that is the greatest joy.
 Chuck Smith What the World Is Coming To, The Word for Today: Costa Mesa, CA 1993, p. 40