Looking Back Upon Our Earthly Life
Luke 10:17-20
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through your name.…

These words refer to a definite moment in Jesus' life. That same hour in which He sent forth the seventy, He beheld Satan fall from Heaven. Yet that was a prophetic vision of the Lord. When He saw Satan falling, Jesus was in spirit above time, beholding as one finished whole, from the beginning to the end, the history of God's conquest of evil. While the seventy were going forth to win their first unexpected success in His name, the Lord in prophetic anticipation was looking back upon His work and theirs as a work already accomplished; as even the devils, to their surprise, began to be subject unto them, His Spirit went forward to the final triumph of redemption, and, as one looking back from its completion, Jesus beheld Satan fallen. Throwing ourselves forward in the pure imaginations of faith into the world to come, let us seek to look back and down upon this world as though we already were beyond it. Surrendering ourselves to our faith, and with our powers of spiritual imagination lent to the aid of our faith, let us seek' humbly to imitate our Master, and look upon our world as He looked upon this earth, when, as from a position in eternity, He saw Satan fall from heaven.

I. In the first place, if we look upon our own lives as one looks back upon a way already trodden, and a work already accomplished, we shall gain a truer sense of the proportions of things. If we can succeed in transporting ourselves beyond the present, and regarding its occupations as already past; if we can draw back, as it were, in our own souls from the events of new and here, and regard our whole life, past, present, and future, as one undivided and completed whole; then we cannot fail to gain a more just estimate of the real proportions of events in our lives, and to correct, as in a large view from beyond, our present sense of the relative importance of things. And just this true sense of proportion in life is hard for us to keep in the nearness of present things; yet it is essential to large, happy living that we should gain and keep it.

II. In the second place, in so far as we can put ourselves in the exercise of our own faiths beyond this life, we shall gain in many respects a different, and in all a more just estimate of our own real attainments. We shall see more clearly what we may expect to win for ourselves from life. Look down now upon what you have made, or are making, for yourselves in this world from this higher position after your own death. Measure what you are seeking to attain by its worth as judged by that estimate from beyond. From this point of view let us seek to determine what are the real attainments which a human being may reach in this world. That artizan, for example, has stood up faithfully for years to his work. He dies. The arm loses its strength, and the hand its cunning. What can he have gained by years of faithful work in making square-joints, honest insides, or lines true to an infinitesimal? What can the workman be conceived as keeping hereafter as the reward of all his labour under the sun? Not the eye, not the arm of flesh; yet the doctrine of the resurrection stands in the Scriptures as the pledge that our life here and hereafter is to be in all its powers one continuous life; and though this body shall return to dust, the discipline and capacity of the man, which is to be gained through the right exercise even of these bodily powers, is something which may count in the life of man for ever. Even in the honest and best exercise of his bodily senses a man may be training himself for the quick and skilled use of those powers of spiritual embodiment which shall succeed these mortal powers. That artist, for instance, who one evening as we gained the crest of a hill, with an exclamation of delight, counted instantly five different hues upon the horizon where my duller eye had only seen at first glance one resplendence of the setting sun, may have gained in that quick sense of colour a power which shall be carried on as a possession of the soul into the spiritual body, enabling that trained artist's spirit hereafter to see with instantaneous and enhanced delight the hues and harmonies of colour of the new heavens and the new earth. Hence I venture to say that the training and discipline of any power in the honest work of a lifetime may be so much real attainment for immortality — so much gain carried in the man himself through death into the world of larger opportunity. A man, therefore, should perform all his labour on this earth not as though what he does now is all of it, but as an heir of immortality. Jesus lived for two worlds at one and the same time. He was the Son of Man who was in heaven, as the Scripture says. All true, deep life must have something of the sense of heaven in it as a present fact.

III. We are led, thus, to the third remark that only as we strive to throw ourselves forward into the life beyond, and to consider our whole existence here as it is in its relation to the man and his life then and there, can we form a safe estimate of the worths of things. Such and such opportunities are brought now within reach of a young man or woman. What are they worth? Success is a safe happiness to the Christian man who can look down upon it as from out the kingdom of heaven. Success is a danger and snare of soul to that man who is not himself already in his heart above it. This position, finally, as of one looking back upon this world, which we all need sometimes to take in the Christian imaginations of faith, is the position from which in a little while we must be judging all things both in life and death. Our whole life erelong shall be one finished picture in the retrospect. And may it lie then behind us in the softening, hallowing light of God's grace! By the grace of God, the penitent, converted man, even now judging himself from out the hereafter, as Christ did the world, may say: From my life I saw sin falling; from the heaven of my desires I beheld Satan fallen; — Behold God alone is reigning.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

WEB: The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!"

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