The Book of Luke, Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven, Part I - Lesson 133
As we read this passage it is easy to see that there are three subjects that the Lord Jesus Christ brings out for our learning.
We are to learn about joy, we are to learn about salvation, and we are to learn about the sovereignty of God.
This passage opens with the return of the seventy disciples from the cities where they were sent but not just any return but a return with great joy.
We are told that they returned with joy, saying that even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
I think we can bump this joyous return up against what I imagine was their reluctance and perhaps even fear when they set off on their mission to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God.
For they were sent out as “lambs among wolves” (10:3).
Jesus sent them out with much said about rejection(10:10‑16).
They were sent out without provisions. (10:4).
They were told to eat whatever they were served which, to a good Jew this would have been a very difficult command to swallow (10:7‑8).
I remember going to banquets in Japan and sitting on the tatami mat as guest of honor and looking at, I don’t know what, and committing myself to eating what was put before me lest I insult my host.
But in eating what was set before me I did not have any religious qualms which I believe these disciples would have brought to the table.
So overall I think that we would have to say that going out under these circumstances would have been met with fear and trembling by most of these disciples.
So perhaps the difficulty of their beginning amplified the joy of their return.
Eccl. 7:8 tells us that the end of a thing is better than the beginning thereof.
Just ask the students in speech class after the speech is finished. Just ask the fine arts teacher after the curtain goes down.
But these disciples have seemingly been successful in their mission and this success has brought them back to the Lord Jesus with great joy.
So Luke sums up their report in this one statement:
Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:17).
This success reveals the peak of their accomplishments in their mind and the thing which was so outstanding in producing joy in their lives.
They had gone out with knowledge of the failure of the nine disciples who had been unable to cast the demon out of the young boy reported to us in Luke 9:37‑41.
That they were able to cast out demons was proof to the disciples that they had great authority in Jesus” name, and therefore this was a cause for joy.
Now Jesus uses this opportunity to teach about joy, salvation and the sovereignty of God.
Every event in the lives of the disciples was an opportunity for Christ to teach.
So he introduces his lesson by giving them a glimpse of what he saw as they were casting out devils.
18And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from
There are several interpretations of this saying of Christ.
Bishop Ryle of England, an expositor of the Bible, who died in 1900 wrote this:
“Some think that our Lord is speaking of the effect produced on Satan’s kingdom by the preaching of the seventy disciples: ‘I saw in spirit, or with my mind’s eye, Satan’s power declining, and himself rapidly losing his dominion over men in consequence of your ministry.
I can say this in another way.
The disciples were overjoyed and Christ joined in their excitement by telling them that their efforts had put Satan on the run.
He was coming quickly as lighting to the breach in his defenses due to the fleeing of his demons from men at the word of the disciples.
But other commentators believe this interpretation is not correct and believe that Christ is telling of a time when Satan, great and mighty as he was, fell suddenly from his high position, and became a lost spirit.
From eternal ages past, Satan rebelled from his place of power.
Christ saw that Satan had fallen as a blinding flash of brilliance, disappearing into the darkness of the sky.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God had witnessed the upheaval in ages past and it is here that the success of the disciples in expelling his helper demons reminds him of Satan’s doom.
The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown of 1871, for this verse reads this way”
I was beholding Satan as lightning falling from heaven"; that is, "I followed you on your mission, and watched its triumphs; while you were wondering at the subjection to you of devils in My name, a grander spectacle was opening to My view; sudden as the darting of lightning from heaven to earth, lo! Satan was beheld falling from heaven!" How remarkable is this, that by that law of association which connects a part with the whole, those feeble triumphs of the Seventy seem to have not only brought vividly before the Redeemer the whole ultimate result of His mission, but compressed it into a moment and quickened it into the rapidity of lightning!
When therefore the Seventy say, "the devils [demons] are subject to us," and Jesus replies, "Mine eye was beholding Satan falling," it is plain that He meant to raise their minds not only from the particular to the general, but from a very temporary form of satanic operation to the entire kingdom of evil. (See John 12:31; and compare Isaiah 14:12).
So this statement of our Lord to the disciples before he gives re-direction to their joy is to bring to them the knowledge that their ability to cast out demons was evidence of even greater matters than they had imagined.
They saw their success only in terms of their having authority over the demons; but while Jesus was also watching their success he also saw Satan’s defeat.
If they saw the demons as subject to them, Jesus saw Satan in the beginnings of his downfall.
Satan was, like lightning, falling from heaven.
That is, he was falling down, and he was falling “lightning” fast.
The coming of Christ and more specifically the cross of Christ was Satan’s defeat, and the mission of the seventy was but a foretaste of what was to come.
They merely participated in a battle with Satan’s forces, but Christ saw Satan crushed.
Jesus saw Satan as being defeated, and his power and authority as being overthrown.
Therefore do not rejoice in that which is temporal and in the mind of God already accomplished but rejoice in that which is eternal.
Luke 10:19, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
The authority which the Lord had given to His seventy disciples, included power to overcome Satan, that old serpent, and the power to overcome opposition to the preaching of the gospel which they were sent to proclaim.
Their authority in Jesus’ name included the ability to “trample on serpents and scorpions”.
This can mean literal serpents along the wayside and figurative serpents like Satan and his demons.
They were protected from Satan’s demons and they were protected
from any real danger posed by both serpents and by scorpions as they walked throughout the land.
Because of their authority on this particular mission no such dangers could defeat or hinder them, so long as they were doing what Jesus had commanded them to do.
Doing God’s will is always the best place to be even if serpents or scorpions be in the way.
For this moment, and on this mission, they were invincible, and indestructible for Jesus said in verse 19, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
But in verse 20 our Lord now turns the disciples’ attention to a better basis for their joy.
20Notwithstanding in this (the devils being subject unto them) rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
The destruction of Satan was good news but it was not news to Jesus Christ for from the mind of the eternal this was already accomplished and therefore not a cause for rejoicing.
Again this was instruction from Jesus Christ to put things into proper perspective.
Don’t waste your rejoicing on things temporal but rejoice in things eternal and your salvation is eternal.
Jesus told them that they should rejoice in the fact of their salvation, rather than the fact of Satan’s downfall and defeat.
This reminds us of Matthew 7:22‑23, where we are told of some who remind Christ of the fact that they had cast out devils in his name and expect to be received for that, but Jesus Christ tells them to depart from me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you!