“THAT YOUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN”
1. When you stand at a meaningful moment ‘looking o’er life’s history,’ as the song says, what is it that you rejoice over?
a. That’s a relevant question as we stand here on the last Lord’s Day of the year.
b. It has been quite a year. Unless you’re just determined not to, you should be able to look back and find something to rejoice about.
c. So how do you decide?
2. Jesus taught his disciples about this very question at an important moment in his ministry.
a. The missionaries he had sent out returned with a joyful report of success: even the spirits were subject to the authority he had given them!
b. The Lord saw in this news a prediction of the collapse of the enemy and a promise of the triumph of his servants.
c. But he had something to say about their priorities: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
3. The highest reason for joy in anyone’s life is that his name is written in heaven.
1. Whose Names Are Written There?
a. The “names...written in heaven” include more than the seventy to whom Jesus was speaking in our text.
i. As E.M. Zerr put it, “The names of the faithful children of God are enrolled in heaven.”
ii. To those who had been forgiven through that one sacrifice for sins forever, the writer of Hebrews said, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assemble of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (12:22, 23).
iii. That’s what the writer says those who have had their sins blotted out through Christ have come to: “the company of those who have peculiar rights in the heavenly Jerusalem and whose names are, therefore, enrolled in the register of its citizens.” (New Bible Comm., p. 1215)
b. The “names written in heaven” is a way of referring to the same group which is otherwise known in the scriptures as the church.
i. There are two classes of people: those whose names are written in heaven and those whose names are not.
ii. The Lord “writes” in heaven the names of those who he adds to his church.
(1) Mark 16:16
(2) Acts 2:38
(3) Acts 2:41, 47
iii. God has a “book of life” which, as Homer Hailey observed, “is God’s roll of the faithful in his city of Zion, those who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and have continued ‘in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel’ (Col. 1:23).”
2. Why Is The Picture of a Heavenly Roll Used?
a. The figure of a roll or a book came from the practice of ancient kings of keeping official registries of their kingdoms.
i. When a child was born, his or her name would be written in that ‘book of the living’ where it would remain until that person died.
ii. One whose name was found on that roll had all the rights and privileges of citizenship in that kingdom; one whose name was blotted out had forfeited those privileges and was no longer regarded as being among the living.
b. The Old Testament frequently uses this picture to speak of the God’s “book of remembrance” (Mal. 3:16), “the register of the house” (Ezek. 13:9) in which the name of “everyone who has been recorded for life” (Isa. 4:3) has been written.
i. Exodus 32:32, 33 – “‘But now if you will forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.’”
ii. Psalm 69:28 – “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”
iii. Daniel 12:1 – “...But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”
c. The existence of such a record was a way of illustrating the omniscience of God and emphasizing to all of us that he knows us thoroughly.
i. In a breath-taking confession of God’s greatness, the psalmist said, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:16).
ii. So intimate is the attention of God to one of his people that the singer could say, “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8).
iii. His understanding, of course, extends to our deeds, assuring that he is able to judge us according to what we have done, whether it is good or evil.
3. How Should the Book of Life Impact Us?
a. Having our names written in the book of life will enable us to keep our balance in the circumstances of life.
i. Luke 10:20
ii. The Lord made this point to help his disciples avoid over-confidence and pride because of the power they had exercised.
iii. But if knowing their names were written in heaven could allow them to take success in stride, it would also help them hold steady when cases of failure came along.
b. Knowing our names are written in heaven is a key ingredient in maintaining our unity in the Lord.
i. Philippians 4:2, 3
ii. The apostle was appealing to two women who had worked side by side with him in the cause of Christ to agree in the Lord.
iii. The basis of his entreaty was that they were fellow workers whose names were in the book of life – their citizenship was in heaven! (cf. 3:20)
iv. Our treatment of each other must reflect the doctrine we embrace: if God writes the names of those he saves in his book of life, our relationship with each other must reflect what we think of him.
v. It’s the Lord’s choice; he’s the one who writes the names there.
c. Properly valuing having our names in the book of life gives us the strength to bear up under responsibility and to overcome trials.
i. Revelation 3:5
ii. The dramatic conflict between the Lamb and his enemies in the last book of the Bible results in very different fates for those whose names are written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and those whose names are not written there (Rev. 13:8; 17:8).
iii. Revelation 20:12, 15
iv. Revelation 21:27
v. “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10).
1. As this year draws to a close, what matters most is “that your names are written in heaven” – that our names are listed in the book of those who have been given life by the Lamb.
2. Whether our names are written there is not a matter of chance, but of whether we choose a way of life guided by the lies of the old dragon and characterized by his ugly nature, or a way of life marked by the faithfulness and truth of the Lord.
3. Revelation 22:17