“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In Luke 10:20, Jesus tells his followers to rejoice that their eternal future with God is assured. It may seem odd that he commands such joy. If someone said he was sending you to a tropical paradise for an all-expenses-paid vacation, wouldn’t you rejoice without being told to do so?
And yet, there are many reasons we may not rejoice frequently or fervently in our salvation. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the glories of heaven because we’ve become absorbed with the joys of this world. Or maybe present anxieties have jostled out future realities. It could be that we’ve been Christians for so long we can hardly remember a time when we weren’t following Jesus. Our salvation feels like a comfortable old T-shirt — safe and familiar, but not a cause for great excitement.
Here’s another possible reason for not rejoicing in our salvation: we think of our personal conversion as a normal and, therefore, boring one, as not a very big deal. I understand the sentiment: I was converted as a little boy. Unlike some of my friends, I wasn’t dramatically delivered from highly visible sins. At four years old, my drink of choice was milk or orange juice, and my most serious habit was overeating Pez. If your story is like mine, you may be tempted to consider your conversion simply as a continuation of the path you were already on, rather than as a dramatic break with your unconverted life.
Whatever the reason, Jesus comes to our aid in Luke 10. He doesn’t just command us to rejoice in our salvation; he himself rejoices over the salvation of souls. And then he provides reasons for his joy — and ours. Jesus says that our salvation is (1) the work of the Father, (2) the choice of the Son, and (3) the climax of the ages. If we press into these three realities, they can fuel our own deep and daily joy.
1. Our salvation is the work of the Father.
Your conversion moment may have looked outwardly humdrum. For me, it was kneeling with my dad and brother on a brown rug in my bedroom on Center Street in Monson, Maine. I heard no voice from heaven. The roof didn’t split open. I didn’t even get to extend my bedtime later than normal that night! Others of us can’t even point to the moment of our conversion, it seemed to happen so gradually. You just know there was a time when you didn’t love Jesus and then a time when you did.
No matter what your conversion looked or felt like, Jesus declares that it was a direct work of God the Father: “In that same hour [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will’” (Luke 10:21).
In the context, “these things” includes the offer of gospel peace and the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus is saying that God has revealed the gospel to some and hidden it from others. He’s referring to an inner revelation from God whereby he causes the gospel not only to make sense to us, but also to be desirable and attractive. The only reason someone comes to faith is because God inwardly opens that person’s mind and heart to the gospel. Our salvation is the result of God’s will: “Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Think about what this means. If you’re a Christian, it’s because God the Father willed that you would be. He was directly, personally involved in your conversion. There are no insignificant conversions, because everything God does is highly significant. I experienced a miracle on the brown rug of my childhood bedroom. I prayed to receive Jesus because the God of the universe knew me and drew me.
Notice that Jesus responds to God’s concealing and revealing work with gratitude. He thanks God, calling him “Father” to emphasize his goodness and trustworthiness and “Lord of heaven and earth” to highlight his sovereign authority. Moreover, the very joy Jesus calls for from his disciples in verse 20, he experiences and expresses in verse 21: “He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” This is a remarkable moment of intra-Trinitarian joy: the Son rejoicing in the Holy Spirit and praising the Father.
What began these fireworks of joyful gratitude? It was my prayer on the brown rug, along with every other conversion of ordinary, unimpressive people — “little children.” Jesus joyfully thanks God for your conversion, which is an exquisite miracle wrought by God’s own hand. Your salvation is the will and work of the Father.
2. Our salvation is the choice of the Son.
Jesus then provides another reason for rejoicing in our salvation. He says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Luke 10:22). He then immediately identifies one of the things the Father has given him — the right to reveal God to those whom he chooses: “No one knows . . . who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” We learn three things from this remarkable verse.
First, Jesus says he “reveals” the Father. He makes God known. When we’re saved, we don’t just come to know facts — we come to know God himself. Our salvation isn’t about winning a ticket to heaven. It’s about enjoying an eternal relationship with God.
Second, only Jesus can reveal the Father to us, because only Jesus fully knows the Father. If you want to know God the Father truly and deeply, you must know him through Jesus.
Third, the only way Jesus will reveal the Father to us is if he chooses to do so. We can’t coerce Jesus to reveal the Father to us. It’s his decision.
Again, consider what this means. If you’re saved, it’s because Jesus chose to reveal God the Father to you. There’s nothing normal, boring, or humdrum about that! Your conversion is a supernatural event, a direct result of the Father’s will and the Son’s choice.
3. Our salvation is the climax of the ages.
In Luke 10:23–24, Jesus begins to speak privately to his disciples, helping them to see the extent of their enormous privilege: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Though the Old Testament prophets and kings enjoyed great access to God and his ways, they longed to see the Messiah and the coming of the kingdom of God. But it’s happening in the disciples’ day — that’s why they’re “blessed” by God.
Like the first disciples, we live after Jesus’s first coming and before his second coming, in the time of God’s inaugurated kingdom. We read in the Bible of Jesus’s words and works. We know the love of God through Jesus’s atoning death on the cross. We know the grace of God through the gospel message of justification by grace alone through faith alone. We know the power of God through Jesus’s resurrection. We know the presence of God because his Holy Spirit lives within us.
As Christians living when we do, we’re nothing special in ourselves, but we are specially blessed.
Every single time the triune God writes someone’s name in heaven, it’s a divine miracle. Your conversion, whatever it looked or felt like to you, was nothing less than supernatural. There are no ordinary conversions.
And this leads us back to Jesus’s command in verse 20: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” If we understand the miracle of our conversion, then like Jesus himself we’ll respond with exuberant thanks to God. We’ll rejoice in the fatherly love and sovereign goodness of the Lord of heaven and earth.