[July 7, 2013] Last week, having begun and introduced the largest section of the Gospel according to Luke (Luke 9:51—19:27), we now consider its grand opening scene. While Matthew and Mark record only the sending of the Twelve, Luke tells us that Jesus also called and sent seventy (or seventy-two) others, and he pays more attention to their sending and return than he did to that of the Twelve. While John’s gospel recognizes the existence of the Twelve, it pays no attention to them at all, nor to the seventy (or seventy-two). What is Jesus doing in Luke’s gospel?
The Twelve versus the Seventy[-Two]
Luke’s gospel is the first half of a two-volume work, the second half being the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s gospel takes the original Gospel according to Matthew and rearranges and adapts it for a cosmopolitan (a mixed diasporan-Jewish and gentile) audience—having in mind in particular the Pauline churches of the northern Mediterranean—and adds a great deal of his own material that he gathered by interviewing eyewitnesses. Luke does not underplay Jesus’ Jewishness at all, but he nevertheless presents Jesus as the Savior of all. He also presents Jesus as the believer’s Exemplar, and more particularly as the exemplar Apostle. He is the model on which the apostolate of the churches is based.
When we consider the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the Gospel moves progressively from Jerusalem to the gentiles. It moves from Jew to Samaritan to proselyte to the uncircumcised—Peter and others playing a major role in this—and then in chapter 13 Paul and Barnabas are set apart and sent out as apostles to the gentiles. After that, come other apostles. Peter plays an important role in initiating this expansion of the field of the Gospel, as do Stephen and Philip (John accompanies Peter to Samaria), and James (the brother of Jesus) gives his okay to it; but where are the Twelve? Apart from Peter, they stay in Jerusalem—as far as we know—and play no further role in the apostolate of the churches. If they travelled (the characteristic of a “sent one,” i.e., an apostle), it was probably confined to Palestine and lands with dense Jewish populations (Alexandria and the East).
Were the Twelve at fault? They are rarely actually called “apostles” in the gospels. In Matthew and Mark they are only called apostles in connection to Jesus sending them on their first mission (Matthew 10:2; Mark 6:30); in John not at all. They are mostly known as “the Twelve,” and so also in Paul’s epistles. Luke calls them apostles more frequently (6:13 and 9:10 in connection to that first mission; and 17:5; 22:14; 24:10 and continually in Acts 1—11:1, and Acts 15 and 16:4, where we rarely hear of them traveling). Their apostleship was to the circumcised, Paul tells us in Galatians 2:8. The apostles that came later, such as Paul and Barnabas, had an apostleship to the gentiles. In practice, Peter also ministered to gentiles and Paul to Jews (after all, in gentile lands the churches were mixed), though we do not know whether the rest of the Twelve ministered outside of Jewish lands (apart from later legends about them).
Primarily, the Twelve were chosen to be with Jesus as eyewitnesses of His ministry (“beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us,” Acts 1:2; see Mark 3:14 where Jesus appointed them “so that they might be with Him”). Their testimony is contained in the Gospel according to Matthew.
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we also see that they had an eschatological role with respect to Israel. In Luke 22:28-30 Jesus says, “You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” In Matthew 19:28, He says, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Otherwise, in the Acts of the Apostles, apart from Peter (and John on his trip to Samaria), they pretty much confine themselves to Jerusalem as leaders of the church along with the elders and James the brother of the Lord.
The significance of their number being Twelve, then, has very much to do with their connection to Israel (the twelve tribes), not only to the Jews but to the entire nation from an eschatological point of view (the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15, when the dry bones come to life again; remember the widow of Nain and her dead son).
Other apostles were chosen by the Holy Spirit to establish churches throughout the gentile world and to appoint them elders and to guide them by means of their teaching and spiritual authority. They each had their “measure” or region that they had been apportioned (2 Corinthians 10:12-16; for example, Barnabas had at least Cyprus and Paul had Galatia and the circle of the Aegean).
What is interesting with respect to this point is that the nations of the world listed in Genesis 10:2-31 are seventy (in the MT, seventy-two in the LXX) in number (see Deuteronomy 32:8), a number corresponding to the group of disciples that Jesus sent out in Luke 10. Obviously the seventy (or seventy-two) disciples in Luke 10:1 were only being sent “to every city and place where [Jesus] Himself was going to come,” between Galilee and Jerusalem. These seventy[-two] were not the apostles of Acts who go out into the gentile world. Nevertheless, Luke may be using them, by paralleling them to the Twelve in 9:1-6, to suggest by analogy the “second” apostolic movement that we see taking definition in Acts 13. I think this is his strategy, and this strategy is the reason for their importance in the scheme of the Gospel according to Luke, that is, the way in which they head this large section of Luke’s gospel that recounts Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Otherwise, the seventy[-two] have no further role in Luke’s gospel. Even though Jesus sends them (apostellō), they are never called apostles, and in 17:5, 22:14 and 24:10 the apostles are the apostles of 6:13 (the Twelve).
Are there seventy or seventy-two? The United Bible Society Committee originally thought the external evidence was equally balanced and the internal evidence was inconclusive. The later manuscripts tend to agree on seventy. Kurt Aland however argues strongly for seventy-two on the basis that a copying error would more likely drop the “two” than add it. Probably, then, the number should be seventy-two.
What Old Testament usage might it reflect? I have suggested the symbolic number of gentile nations (Genesis 10). We might also add the Septuagint itself, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was supposed to have been translated by seventy of the best Jewish scholars probably in the late second century BCE. The Septuagint was written for the Jews living in the Diaspora, and it played a role in the Jewish proselytism of gentiles.
Many commentators think the number alludes to the seventy elders of Israel chosen by Moses (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16, 24) to whom were added Eldad and Medad (Numbers 11:26-30), bringing the number to seventy-two. In Numbers 13 Moses sends twelve scouts into the Promised Land. Commentators compare the twelve scouts and the seventy-two elders to the twelve apostles and the seventy-two “others.” The difficulty with this analogy is that while the twelve scouts were sent, the seventy-two elders were not, and the seventy-two others whom Jesus sent in no way functioned as elders.
It is said that Jacob had seventy offspring (Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy 10:22). Perhaps this could be the allusion. Jacob had twelve sons (the twelve tribes and hence the Twelve apostles), but a total of seventy offspring (hence the seventy-two others). This would work if the number were seventy and not seventy-two. The purpose of the sending of the seventy would then be similar to the purpose of the sending of the Twelve. The difference was that the travels of the Twelve were confined to Galilee and that of the seventy was between Galilee and Jerusalem. They both were sent to the house of Israel, and literally, they were.
Only, the literal sense may not be enough in this case. Literally the seventy-two were send “ahead of [Jesus] to every city and place where He Himself was going to come” on His way to Jerusalem. Probably the word “others” refers to other messengers sent ahead of Him to make arrangements for Him (9:52, though seventy-two is a large number for this task). Yet the charge given to them in 10:2-16 seems to refer to an extended tour that would have taken some time and cover wide area. Like Matthew 10, these instructions are general instructions intended for all “sent ones” (i.e., apostles), and look to the future. In other words, the teaching that Luke has inserted here is more extensive and general than the occasion warranted. I’m sure Jesus gave these instructions, but their role in Luke’s arrangement of his materials is more for the reader than an attempt to practice accurate historical journalism.
In conclusion, the allusion to Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy 10:22 reflects the literal sending of the seventy[-two] others, and the allusion to Genesis 10 suggests, by way of foreshadowing, the second apostolic movement that takes definition in Acts 13.
Jesus Appoints and Sends Ahead Seventy-Two “Others” (Luke 10:1)
In Luke 9:51 Jesus “stiffens his face” to go to Jerusalem. In 9:52 He sends messengers on ahead of Him into Samaria and one of the villages refuses to have Him. They go to another village instead (9:56). Then we are told of three would-be disciples, one of whom might actually have become one but all of them initially coming short (9:57-62). Now in 10:1 the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sends them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. Literally, as I said, they were to “make arrangements for Him” (9:52), since He is journeying to Jerusalem for the Passover.
However, seventy-two “others” might also allude to the Twelve who were sent out in to proclaim the kingdom of God in 9:1-2. This becomes even more apparent when we compare the slimmed down instructions in 9:3-5 with the more extended instructions in 10:2-11. The instructions to the seventy-two in 10:1-11, 16 are more parallel to the instructions to the Twelve given in Matthew 9:35—10:16, 40 than the instructions to the Twelve given in Luke 9:3-5.
Why does Luke do this? When the Twelve returned in Luke 9:10 we are simply told that “they gave an account to [Jesus] of all that they had done.” When the seventy-two returned, they are excited and Jesus is excited with them, going on at length from verse 18 to verse 24. Luke is making a comparison between the Twelve and the seventy-two in which the seventy-two are seen in a more favorable light. Moreover, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, Peter spoke up “not realizing what he was saying,” and then when Jesus and Peter, James and John came down from mountain, we find that the other disciples were unable to cast out a demon (compare 9:40 to 10:17). When Jesus told His disciples about His coming death, “they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement” (9:45). Then, right after Jesus told them about His coming death, they began to argue “as to which of them might be the greatest” (9:46), as if they were preparing to take His place! Then in 9:49-50 John is rebuked by Jesus when he tried to prevent someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ Name “because he does not follow along with us.” And in 9:54-55 James and John are both rebuked by Jesus when they want to command fire to come down from heaven to consume the village that refused hospitality to Jesus. These failures are recounted one after the other. In other words, we are shown the failure of the Twelve leading up to the choosing of the seventy-two, as if the seventy-two were chosen in the light of their failure, as if the failure of the Twelve shows the need for the seventy-two.
Luke does not highlight the failure of the Twelve in the Acts of the Apostles, but there is a hint here that he might have viewed the apostolate of Paul as a response to the sedentary insularity of the Twelve. Nowhere does he say this, however, except by hinting at it here, indirectly, in the gospel.
In any case, Jesus sends them “before His face” (ahead of Him). The words are pro posōpou autou, the same as the Greek translation of Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before My face. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says YHWH of hosts.” So Jesus will come to the temple when He arrives in Jerusalem, though the “day of His coming” when He will be “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap” (Malachi 3:2) is only foreshadowed by His inspection of the temple and city and declaration of God’s judgment upon them during the early days of Holy Week. The role of the apostolate, nevertheless, is still (to this day) to clear the way for His coming.
Notice that we are not told that the seventy-two are men. They could easily be a mixed group, and even couples. When Jesus sends them out in pairs, many of these could even be husband and wife pairs. If a husband and wife arrive in a village, it would seem very natural, and perhaps Jesus intended it in fact to be very natural. The church is supposed to grow naturally, spontaneously, as people—out of joyful sociality—share what they have discovered, what indeed has found them. Christians do not need to be pushy.
Let us consider these instructions that Jesus gives to the seventy-two.
Precede Work with Prayer (10:2)
The seventy-two are the workers or laborers who are sent out into the harvest to gather it. The harvest is ripe, but there are not enough workers to gather it in. In John 4:35 Jesus says, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are [already] white for harvest.” These are the “sons of peace” whom the seventy-two will encounter in the houses they visit and all the people of the villages who receive their announcement of the Gospel (that the kingdom of God has drawn near to us in the coming of Jesus). How is it that they are ripe for harvest? The word of God has prepared them (see 8:11). Even the Samaritans are prepared by the Torah alone for “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). And in the Diaspora, gentiles attended synagogue and listened to the word. It was these “God-fearers” who were always the first gentiles whom Paul approached. In our day, Christianity has spread to every corner of the world so that many have heard of Jesus even though they do not yet believe. They too represent those who are ripe for harvest. Could it not be that other religions also ripen the harvest? But who is gathering them in?
The Lord of the Harvest is God. The workers cannot gather the harvest unless they are sent by Him (Romans 10:15). And the Lord of the Harvest cannot send the workers until they are ready to be sent (see Luke 9:57-62). We need to beseech the Lord to raise up such workers and to send them. The word for “send out” here is not apostellō but ekballō (cognate: “ball”) which means to throw or cast out, implying compulsion. The impression is that the workers might be there but they are holding back, as if they are not willing to do what it takes. They need to be thrust out into the harvest. Therefore we need to beg God that God would push them out into the work.
The word for worker or laborer is the same word that Paul applies to himself and his co-workers. Not all the workers in the epistles were apostles, though they do seem to have labored in the word (including the women in Romans 16). As far as we can tell, however, they all worked under the authority of the apostles, even when they were “stationed” in a particular local church (as Philemon seemed to have been “stationed” in Laodicea).
The Manner of the Work (10:3-7)
“Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” The wolves are out there, but we are not supposed to be like wolves but like lambs, that is, gentle and unaggressive. When Jesus says these words in Matthew 10:16 He means that wolves will persecute, cause to suffer, and put to death the disciples. Here He means that we are to display the nature of a lamb, for “nothing will injure you,” apparently meaning that all the power of the enemy cannot injure us (10:19) even if people put us to death (see 21:16-18).
Notice that we are gathering in a harvest that is already ripe. This means that God has already prepared people’s hearts before we arrive. We do not have to beg and plead and twist arms or argue or otherwise shove ourselves onto people. When we proclaim the nearness of God’s kingdom (10:9) we can afford to be as gentle as a lamb.
“Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes.” In Matthew 10:9-10a the list is even more restricted, “Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff.” In Mark 6:8-9 they are allowed to have a staff and sandals. Mark was later than the other two and so this might reflect later practice. As even the Franciscans found out, shoes might be good to wear in colder climates. The reason for this restriction had nothing to do with self-denial or asceticism. The reason is given in Matthew 10:10b, that “the worker is worthy of his support.” Luke 10:7b uses this expression, “the laborer is worthy of his wage,” in connection to why they should stay in a particular house and eat and drink what their host gives them. This scripture is paraphrased in 1 Corinthians 9:14; and in 1 Timothy 5:18 it is quoted as Scripture (meaning that the gospel in which it is written was considered and read in the assembly as “Scripture,” yes this early). In other words, as they travel, the people whom they visit will provide them with everything they need. They are, in fact, to depend on their hospitality as something due to them. If people are hearing the Gospel, they ought to consider themselves greatly privileged and not take it for granted. They owe the worker. (The worker, though, is to receive no more than is due, namely the hospitality that is given and provisions for the work; they are not to make themselves wealthy off the Gospel!)
This enables the worker to travel light, so they can travel without delay, as the urgency of the Gospel demands. Because salutations tended to be ceremonious and time-consuming, Jesus tells them to “greet no one on the way” (this is unique to Luke’s gospel). However, that haste ends when they arrive at someone’s house.
When they enter someone’s house, they are to greet them, and offer a blessing of peace (shalom; see Luke 24:36; compare this greeting to Judges 6:23; 19:20). The peace that is offered is the peace of the Lord’s Jubilee, the peace with God of salvation. The “son of peace” is a person who is receptive to the offer of peace that the messengers bring. The word “son” of course is a figure of speech from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (see for example, Luke 5:34; 16:8; 20:34, 36 and Acts 4:36).
If people receive you into their house, “your peace” (the peace you bring) will rest on them. If they do not receive you, peace will return to you (so do not fret over it). If they receive you, stay in their house and receive their hospitality without fuss, for “the worker is worthy of his wages.” “Do not keep moving from house to house,” as if you were an annoyance. Instead, let the people whom you are staying with get to know you.
The house you stay in becomes a base for your activity in the village, and is already, by your presence there, a household church. Without a rented building, the workers can either work in the open air (such as the market place) or in homes. In order to meet with people, they probably looked for a quiet place such as the person’s home they were staying with or a cemetery or an inactive field. We learn from this that the “evangelism” of the household church took the same pattern that the workers gave. After the worker left, the believers would spread the word by inviting people to their homes or accepting invitations to the homes of others, and thus they learned to gather as they could in the home of someone who would host them, or in a quiet open place. Sometimes the gatherings might have been large, as they were sometimes for Jesus, though this was often because of the miracles of healing and exorcism that took place and not because of the message per se. Indeed, sometimes the entire village embraced the Gospel (for example, Lydda and Sharon in Acts 9:35). In such a case, the synagogue might become Christian. Otherwise, we hear nothing of Christians having buildings specifically for worship (though they might modify their home to accommodate people for worship.)
The Receptivity of the Town (10:8-11)
Verses 5-7 concern the messengers’ behavior with respect to the house that offers hospitality to the messenger. Verses 8-11 concern the messengers’ behavior with respect to the town that they enter. “Eat what is set before you” is a repetition of 7a. What, however, is our task when we are there? Until now Jesus has not mentioned it.
“Heal those in [the village] who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Of course this refers to miraculous healing because it reflects Jesus’ own ministry of healing (see 9:11b). To give the news of the nearness of the kingdom of God is to speak of Jesus, of His coming, that is, the significance of His coming: in other words, the Gospel.
To “heal those who are sick” does not mean that we do not bother with people unless we can perform a miracle on them. It has to do with caring about people where they are, at the place in their lives where they are. It means not excluding the sick because of their encumbrance. It means having compassion for all people. We would, of course, like our audience to be those who are well and well-off, and who have time and talents or other resources that they can spare. To pay attention to the sick and homebound means that our attention needs to seek out others as well. It does not mean, however, that we take advantage of anyone’s immobility or vulnerability. We are to be lambs, not wolves.
Healing people is a good thing. If we have such a spiritual gift, this is well and good. If we are skilled in the healing arts, this can also help.
To “heal those who are sick” does not mean that that is our mission. The mission of the church is not to do service to others. In fact, the word usually translated diakonia does not mean service but ministry, in the old sense of the word. A minister is someone who acts on behalf of the authority that has assigned them their charge, a go-between. We certainly are to aid the poor and sick and weak, but the church’s mission is not social service. This is just something it does because it is compassionate. The word “mission” is the Latin version of the Greek apostolate. It refers to our being sent, and we are sent not to fix the world but to announce the nearness of God’s kingdom in Jesus. Out of this work being done, churches arise.
When a village does not receive us, we are to move on. Before we do so, however, we are to let them know that we are leaving them behind, that we are not taking their dust with us in the form of resentment or anger or hurt feelings. We are truly leaving them behind, but nevertheless, they should also know that “the kingdom of God has come near.” It is not as though their refusal of us is inconsequential or trivial. As far as we are concerned, they do not even leave any dust on us; but as far as they are concerned, their behavior has serious affects. In refusing us, they have refused the kingdom of God. Verses 12-16 address this.
I wonder how this (our warning them) can be done with integrity. It is one thing for people to refuse us because of Jesus. That is what Jesus is talking about. More often people refuse Jesus because of us. They do not mind Jesus but they want nothing to do with Christianity because the way that Christians act is so offensive. As Paul says, quoting Isaiah 52:5, “The Name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you” because “you dishonor God” (Romans 2:23-24). How would we even know that the reason for people’s refusal of us is because of Jesus and not us? For we often misrepresent Jesus, and the persecution we incur has nothing to do with the Gospel itself but with the social threat that we pose by our intolerance (and cruelty) or with the anger we rouse by our passive or outright arrogance and insensitivity. How unconscious we are of how we come across! Our humility is rarely genuine or honest.
The Consequence of Refusing the Laborers (10:12-16)
Verse 12 says that the consequences for any particular village that refuses the messengers whom Jesus sent will be worse than the fire that came down upon Sodom and consumed it. In other words, when James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a Samaritan village that refused to have Jesus, they were not inaccurate in terms of the judgment that the village brought itself under. Yet Jesus rebuked them, for it is not the disciple’s place to curse or to call down God’s wrath or even to judge. It is important that as Jesus’ disciples we leave that in God’s hands.
When Jesus speaks as He does in verses 13-15 (or in chapter 21 for that matter), He speaks as a prophet revealing the heavenly reality of things, and not as our exemplar. We do not pronounce God’s judgment on others, though it is certainly within our reach to warn them (as in verse 11), if we can do so with integrity. While verse 12 is taken from Matthew 10:15 (where Jesus commissions His apostles), these verses are taken from Matthew 11:21-23, a quite different context (where Jesus is responding to rejection). Yet Luke blends them as a commentary on verses 10-11. They are pronouncements on villages of Galilee, that is, a reference to what is now past, as a warning to the villages that laid before Him on His way to Jerusalem. They are also a general statement, for the reader, of wherever the reach of the apostolate extends.
The Greek polis is the unit of the church, the locality, or in older language, the “parish.” Every locality ought to be a place where there is an ekklēsia of God’s kingdom. The church is a testimony of Jesus, and it interrupts the hold that the world has on the gestalt of the social life. When this fails, the village as a social unit is still intact under the ruler of this world. The presence of the church breaks this up so that reality can shine through the crevasses of the lie.
Notice that Jesus makes a comparison between those to whom the witness of Jesus has been borne and those who have never heard it. It is one thing to have never heard the Gospel; it is another to have heard it and seen its signs and to reject it. The judgment of God is not the same in all cases. There is mercy for the righteous gentile, as we see in Matthew 25:34-40 (those whom Jesus rewards in this parable are not believers but gentiles).
Verse 16 means that people’s response to the one whom Jesus sends is their response to Jesus Himself. A person cannot reject the representative without rejecting the One whom they represent. And to reject Jesus is to reject the Father. Yet those whom Jesus sends are so fallible!
The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 says that gentiles will be considered righteous or unrighteous, when Christ comes in glory, on the basis of how they treat the least of the siblings of Jesus. The siblings of Jesus, of course, is not everyone but rather “whoever does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 25:50; compare Luke 8:21), that is, His disciples. This agrees with what Jesus says to those whom He sends: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:40-42). This is irrespective of whether the “righteous one” becomes a believer in Jesus. It has everything to do instead with whether they offer Jesus’ believers hospitality: whether they feed them when they are hungry, give them something to drink when they are thirsty, invite them in when they are a stranger, clothe them when they are naked, visit them when they are sick and come to them when they are in prison. In Luke 10:4-7 we are to depend on just such hospitality when we are on the road with the message of the kingdom of God having drawn near to us in Jesus.
Authority versus Power (10:17-19)
The seventy-two return with joy, excited that even the demons are subject to the Name of Jesus. Jesus says that He has given them authority over all the power of the enemy, and then says that as they were exercising this authority over the enemy, He was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.
When Jesus says that He kept watching Satan fall from heaven, He is not referring to the primordial time when Satan fell from his good standing with God, nor is Jesus referring to the cross when He will deal a decisive blow against Satan, nor is He referring to the time of His second advent when Satan is cast out of heaven down to the earth, nor is He referring to when Satan is thrown into the abyss for a “thousand years,” nor is He referring to the end when Satan is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. Rather, He is referring to Satan’s episodic defeats through the revelation of Jesus (the power of His Name). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that our warfare is against the principalities, authorities, universal lords of this darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies (Ephesians 6:12). He is very clear that these “archons” are in the heavens. When these powers lose their hold on a person, whether it is an interior demon or a power operating in the culture, Satan loses a bit of his dominion over humanity. He “falls from heaven.” And He does so at once, because of the authority of Jesus’ Name (His revelation).
What, then, is authority? If power is the ability to do stuff, authority is the right to do it, the legitimate use of power. So Satan has power, and can do a lot of damage with it, not because he has any authority but because he uses the power that lies in humanity itself, its capacity for physical force, the energy of its psyche, and the power that lies in the human collective. He is able to use this power because humanity unwittingly gives it to him. Humanity rejects God and reality itself, from which it cannot excise God, and therefore it makes a heroic effort to exist as though it were not dependent on God. It surrenders its power to this deceit, and here it falls prey to the powers that it creates by means of its collective gestalt. But although this power asserts that it has legitimacy and authority, it proves by its self-destructiveness and its destructiveness towards others and nature and the entire eco-system, that it has no legitimacy at all. It has no real authority. Jesus, or rather the reality that He is, has the authority of God in whom and by whom all things exist. He has the authority of authenticity that goes right down to the core of reality—all the way to where time emerges from eternity and location emerges from ubiquity—and up to its height—where particularity finds itself in personhood. The authority of Jesus is exercised when His reality is revealed into the noosphere (the collective mind-space) of humanity. At that point—the point of contact—Satan falls like lightning, the way darkness disappears when light shines.
Rejoice in God’s Grace (10:20)
Yet, do not get carried away by the outward transformation that you see. Rejoice in the heavenly reality: “Nevertheless,” Jesus says, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” The manifest healing of people when the spirits are subject to the Name of Jesus is wonderful to behold, but since we are the instruments of it our excitement may be over our role in their healing more than the significance of the transformation itself, which is invisible to the eye. It is written in heaven (not earth), that sphere alongside us that is unseen, the realm of spirit and consciousness, that realm from whence life comes into physical form on “earth” (the manifest plane).
“Your names are recorded in heaven.” Ancient cities and kingdoms kept lists of the citizens who belonged to them. If our citizenship (our legal status) is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), then our names are written there. See this idea in Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28; 56:8; Isaiah 4:3; 34:16; Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16-17; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5; and 13:8. When Jesus says “your names” He does not just mean the names of the seventy-two but rather the names of all those who received their message, the names of all who believe. What we are rejoicing in is not personal safety but rather in the victory of God’s grace. That our names are recorded, this is election (God’s selection of us*); when Satan is defeated in our case, that is grace. We only know election because of God’s grace. The doctrine of election tells us that we do not save ourselves but our salvation depends entirely on God’s authority and the exercise of God’s power to overcome us by truth, the revelation of reality. To rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven, in other words, is to rejoice in the nature of God, that God is love and expresses that love in our lives by grace, and God is freedom and expresses that freedom in the power that overcomes us and restores us to ourselves. Hallelujah!
[* God’s selection expresses the action of God’s will; it says nothing about God’s rejection of anyone. (After all, hypothetically, God can select everyone!) The fact is that we all are initially rejected by the holiness of God because we reject God, or at least the divine reality that is God. It is where we stand, and we have put ourselves there by our willfulness. However, this is also where we ALL stand, prior to God’s selection. God does not put us there except by merely existing. Without exception we are all self-selected for damnation. God’s grace overcomes this self-selection, and that grace depends on God’s freely acting—selecting—on our behalf. If we ask why God selects some and not others, we are asking prematurely: time has not yet run its course.]