Written in Heaven
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
—Revelation 3:5 (ESV)
The wonderful thing about the Christian message is that because salvation is a gift of God, it is possible for us to know that our name is written in the book. On one occasion, Jesus spoke to a group of his disciples on their return from a mission:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17–20 ESV)
Jesus saw the danger of them placing their confidence (rejoicing) in the abilities he had given them, so he told them that their confidence should not be in what they could do, but rather in the knowledge that their names were written in heaven.
And how could they know that? Only by trusting in Jesus’ word. Here, once more, is the crucial issue. We humans have a tendency to put our trust in anything other than God: our deeds, our merits, or even our spiritual gifts, as in this case. Like Abraham, we have to learn to trust what God says. Everything will ultimately depend on it—including our quality of life and works. God is deeply interested in our works, but the secret of being able to do them does not lie in those works themselves but in placing our trust in God. I repeat, salvation is from God—it is his gift apart from any merit we have. And God has given us the wonderful capacity and freedom to receive the gift of salvation by faith.
“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus spoke these words in Luke 10:20. He had sent out seventy people on a short-term mission trip within Israel. They went to the cities that He was about to go to. Their mission was simple. They were to announce that the kingdom of God had come near. Jesus delegated to them the ability to heal the sick and to cast out demons in His name.
Luke tells us that the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!” Jesus then affirmed their zeal and said, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash,” and Jesus again asserted what His authority could do!
Jesus affirmed their excitement about being used successfully of God! But then He quickly added, “However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
I find great encouragement in Jesus’ gentle rebuke here! They needed to learn not to simply rejoice when their efforts brought success, or else they might despair when their efforts were a failure. And all believers will experience times where we feel like failures.
In 1 Corinthians 4:2 we read, “It is required of servants that they be found faithful.” Note it doesn’t say “successful,” but faithful! I am so thankful that success in the Christian life is being faithful, whether we are experiencing visible success or not!
For those of us who have become born-again Christians, we can rejoice in our relationship with Jesus and that our place in heaven is secure even when our circumstances aren’t great and we feel like failures! Only in heaven will we see the fruit that was borne when we feel like failures.
Ultimately visible success wasn’t what made us who we are, so failure won’t be what unmakes us. What we are, we are by the grace of God. Whatever we do that is of eternal significance, He really does it through us! So no matter what you are facing on earth, rejoice: You’re going to heaven!
Jesus told His disciples to “rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20 KJV) And Paul, addressing some of his brethren, spoke of them as “my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:3 KJV) Then in John’s description of heaven, he says, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27 KJV) All of which seem to indicate that the book of life is the ledger of the saved of all ages.
—David Brandt Berg
“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What does Jesus mean by that? The concept or image of people’s names being written in heaven, written in a book of life—this is not unique to this passage in Luke. It’s all over the Bible. Let’s look at a few examples.
In Exodus 32, Moses intercedes for the people of Israel, asking the Lord to forgive their sin, and then adding, “But if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” In Psalm 69, the psalmist talks about the righteous being enrolled in “the book of the living.” In Daniel 12, there is the prophecy that God’s people would be delivered, that is, “everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” Then in the New Testament, in Philippians 4, Paul mentions the names of several individuals who have worked with him in the cause of the gospel—Euodia, Syntyche, Clement—“whose names,” Paul adds, “are in the book of life.”
Finally, when we come to Revelation, we see this “book of life” and “names written in heaven” business all over the place. In Revelation 3, Jesus’ promise to the Christian who overcomes is that “I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”… In chapter 20, at the final judgment, anyone whose name is “not found written in the book of life” is thrown into the lake of fire. To be sure, it will be a fearful thing if your name is not written in that book. But for those whose names are found written in that book, the outcome will be quite different, and much better. In Revelation 21, we read about the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, and those who will be able to enter there are “those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
“The Lamb’s book of life.” “Names written in heaven.” This is where our great joy is to be found. In Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This is not something that you did. This is something God did. He did this for you, by his grace, as a gift. Your names are written in heaven, dear friends, written there with the blood of Christ. This is how you get in that book. Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Lamb who was slain, was slain as the sacrifice for your sin. His blood cleanses you from all your sin.
So this is what Christ is on the way to doing, as he heads to Jerusalem on his Lenten journey. His name, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”—his name would be written on a plaque nailed to a cross, so that your name would be written in heaven, in the Lamb’s book of life.
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