Divine Preservation in God’s Kingdom
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. (10:20)
Satan may, if God permits, bring trials into our lives as he did to Job (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7), Peter (Luke 22:31), and Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). But he can never take away our salvation or separate us from God’s love (John 10:27–29; Rom. 8:28–39; Jude 24–25). The cause for that confidence lies in the final reason for the seventy’s rejoicing.
Although they rejoiced in the power over and protection from Satan’s kingdom of darkness the Lord had granted them, there was a far more significant reason for the seventy to rejoice. Jesus exhorted them not to rejoice merely because the spirits were subject to them, but rather that their names are recorded in heaven. They would not only experience God’s power and protection in this life, but also His blessing forever.
The wondrous reality that the seventy were genuine disciples was the supreme cause of their joy. Success in evangelism and power over Satan’s kingdom are for this life only. Believers’ knowledge that their names are recorded in heaven, never to be blotted out (cf. Dan. 12:1; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), far surpasses all earthly joys.
20 This verse, with its call to rejoicing in the supreme blessing of assurance of heaven, is one of Jesus’ great sayings. “Do not rejoice” does not exclude the disciples’ taking joy in spiritual victories but rather introduces a strong and typically Semitic comparison. The idea of the names of God’s faithful people as being written down in heaven is common in biblical and extrabiblical Jewish writings. In those days it was natural to refer to this through the metaphor of a book or scroll (e.g., Ex 32:32–33; Ps 69:28; Da 12:1; Mal 3:16; Rev 20:12–15).
20. Nevertheless, it is not this in which you should rejoice, that the spirits submit to you, but this, that your names are recorded in heaven.
Jesus does not mean that these men erred in rejoicing over their God-given power over demons. Did not their ability to cast them out redound to God’s glory? Did it not also result in delivering the enslaved from the powers of darkness? What the Master must have meant was that authority over demons was, after all, insignificant in comparison with having one’s name recorded in heaven’s book of life. Cf. Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 3:5; 20:12, 15.
Casting out demons ceases when life here on earth ends. But right standing with God, resulting in everlasting salvation to his glory, never ends. Besides, authority over demons does not guarantee salvation. It is entirely possible that even upon Judas had been bestowed the ability to cast out demons. See Luke 9:1. But that did not make him a saved man!
For Practical Lessons and Greek Words, etc., see pp. 585–590.
10:21–24 The Rejoicing of Jesus
Cf. Matt. 11:25–27; 13:16, 17
21 At that time Jesus rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and learned (people) and didst reveal them to babes; yes Father, for such was thy good pleasure. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 And turning to his disciples he said privately, “Blessed (are) the eyes that see what you are seeing! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you are seeing, but did not see it, and to hear what you are hearing, but did not hear it.”
The beginning of this paragraph so closely resembles what is found in Matthew’s Gospel that the opinion of many, namely, that the same event is being described in Matt. 11:25 ff. as here in Luke 10:21 ff., may well be correct. That event was the return of the “seventy,” or perhaps better, as has been indicated, the “seventy-two.”
Verses 1–24 of Luke’s tenth chapter are clearly a unit: the charge to the seventy-two (verses 1–12), the serious consequences of rejecting their (hence their Savior’s) message (verses 13–16), their return and exuberant report (verses 17–20), and Jesus’ own rejoicing coupled with the benediction he pronounced on the seventy-two (verses 21–24) belong together.
20 Though sometimes identified as Lukan composition (e.g., Fitzmyer, 859 “v 20 may also be of Lukan composition”), only the πλήν (a strong form of “but”) with which the verse begins lies under suspicion of being Lukan (see the discussion in Miyoshi, Anfang, 107–9). There is, however, a difficulty about the form in which such a saying could have been transmitted. Different scholars have identified as the original unit vv 17, 20; vv 18, 20; and vv 19, 20. The best of these suggestions is the first (cf. Grelot, RSR 69  88–89; rejoicing, the submission of the demons, and the role of the name link vv 17 and 20). This suggests that we should choose (from the options canvassed at v 17 above) in favor of heavy Lukan over-writing rather than Lukan composition. Could the original unit here have run something like, “They returned saying, ‘Even the spirits are subject to us [in your name].’ He said, ‘Do not rejoice in this; rejoice, rather, that your names have been recorded in heaven’ ”? (For a negative version of this sentiment, cf. Matt 7:22–23.) Luke (or his source) will have developed the parallelism between the two parts through the insertion of vv 18, 19.
Heavenly books of life are known from ancient Sumerian and Akkadian times (see Paul, JANESCU 5  345–53). In the OT see Exod 32:32–33; Pss 69:28; 87:6; Isa 4:3; and esp. Dan 12:1; and cf. Mal 3:16–17. In the NT cf. Phil 4:3; Heb 12:23; Rev 3:5; 13:8. See also 1 Enoch 47:3; 108:3, 7; 1QM 12:2. The image is that of a register of citizens and is to be distinguished from the equally widespread image of God’s record book of the deeds of the people upon earth (the images are at times merged). An assured place in the kingdom of God is the supreme benefit that emerges through the experience of God’s grace in the ministry of Jesus. Note the contrast between Satan fallen from heaven and the names of the disciples now recorded in heaven.
The Seventy(-two) have been involved in a mighty work and are excited by what they have experienced as they have in their mission explored the reality of the authority entrusted to them by Jesus. Jesus acknowledges and interprets this experience but bids them focus rather on the place secured for them in God’s future for his People.
We are to glean the success of the mission from the announcement of the returning messengers. We have no broader report, but at least they have had a heady experience of the reality of supernatural and spiritual power. As they have used his name, Jesus has been demonstrably Lord over the demons.
Jesus responds by reporting to them his own vision of Satan’s fall. This can be understood as simply a metaphorical description of the significance of what has been occurring in the disciples’ mission, but is probably better taken as referring to an actual visionary experience, like those of some of the OT prophets (Amos 8:1–2; Jer 1:13–19; etc.). In vision the prophets saw what God intended and found their own role in relation to it. Jesus saw that God intended the downfall of Satan and that it was his task to achieve this in God’s name.
In various circles of Jewish thought there was an expectation that the coming of the end-time would involve a final conflict between God and Satan, which would result in Satan’s decisive defeat. Jesus shared this view and allowed it to define his own role. But not only does this define his own role; it also defines the role of the disciples who are called to share in and extend Jesus’ own ministry. Through exorcism, healing, and proclaiming of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ vision becomes tangible reality upon the earth.
v 19 uses the imagery of trampling down one’s foes to develop the thought further. Jesus has imparted to his disciples the authority to move with impunity against all the forces of evil. In this verse there are probably allusions to Deut 8:15 and Ps 91:13. The former draws a connection between these present promises and God’s protection of the Israelites in the dangers of the Exodus wanderings. The latter provides a link to the protection promised by God to the one who makes God his shelter. Similarities with Rev 9:3–4 increase our confidence that the text here is using imagery of the end-time conflict between good and evil. The reality of this divine empowering and protection is pictured in Acts (e.g., 28:3–5), but the coming fate of Jesus in Jerusalem, which is so stressed in this journey section of the Gospel and also in other elements of the Acts portrayal, should warn us against taking this language in a way that is too triumphalist and that leaves no place for the Christian call to suffering (compare the paradoxical juxtaposition in Luke 21:16–17 and v 18).
One can easily be carried away by the experience of power. In v 20 Jesus expresses to the disciples just this concern. The prime goal of his ministry has been to restore people to God—to provide for them a secure place in the kingdom of God. To put it in terms that look ahead in the Gospel, the goal of Jesus’ ministry has been to see prodigals restored to their Father. The disciples are to rejoice that they have been recorded in heaven, for life in the kingdom of God (compare Dan 12:2).
10:20 Yet they were not to rejoice in their power over spirits, but rather in their own salvation. This is the only recorded instance when the Lord told His disciples not to rejoice. There are subtle dangers connected with success in Christian service, whereas the fact that our names are written in heaven reminds us of our infinite debt to God and His Son. It is safe to rejoice in salvation by grace.
 MacArthur, J. (2011). Luke 6–10 (p. 342). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 582–583). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21–18:34 (Vol. 35B, pp. 565–567). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1409). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.