The Roll Up Yonder


   For a minute or two think of how it must have been like for some of the disciples of our Lord to have been able to perform miracles for the first time in their life.  When the seventy returned unto Jesus, they said:  “…Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17).  After Jesus assured them that they would have power over the hosts of Satan, He made the following unexpected statement unto them: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  What the Son of God said unto them on that occasion would be the most significant thing that could be said about anyone.  That our name is written in Heaven! 

   We love to sing the old hymn:  “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.”  The inspired Word of God certainly portrays a roll or a book of life up yonder in Heaven. 

Phil. 4:3, “And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.” 


I.                   TO KEEP A ROLL HERE UPON EARTH OF THE MEMBERS OF A LOCAL CONGREGATION IS THE PROPER AND FEASIBLE THING TO DO.  (These rolls of those brethren identified with a particular congregation of the church of our Lord are usually referred to as a:  “Membership Book” or a “Church Directory.”)

A.     The Jerusalem church members were counted. 

Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:  and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” 

Acts 4:4, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” 

Acts 6:1, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” 

B.     It is as though the Lord went down the list of names in the church at Sardis when He said unto them:  “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments” (Rev. 3:4). 

C.   Elders are taught to be overseers of their congregation.                                

Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” 

1.      It is easier to oversee a local church, if the elders have a list of the membership.  This promotes order, which is commanded. 

1 Cor. 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” 

2.      Not only should the elders, as the overseers of a local congregation, know all those within its membership; but the members should know those who rule over them. 

Heb. 13:7, 17, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God:  whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation [manner of life]” 

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:  for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief:  for that is unprofitable for you.” 

1 Thess. 5:12, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you;” 


A.     The Apostle Paul saw this need, and sought to identify himself with the church at Jerusalem. 

Acts 9:26, “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples.”

1.      He was already a member of the body of Christ, His church.

2.      He merely joined himself to the local group of disciples.

3.      This is usually referred to as placing membership with a particular congregation of the church of our Lord. 

B.     The New Testament church has no organization here upon earth above the local congregation. 

Phil. 1:1, “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” 

C.     The local church is the only organization of the Lord to discipline its members. 

Matt. 18:17, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:  but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” 

2 Thess. 3:6, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” 

1.       There is no organization above the local congregation to exercise church discipline.

2.      If it was a scriptural withdrawal then sister congregations must recognize and honor the withdrawal from an erring brother or sister in Christ. 

D.    The gospel of Christ is to be proclaimed and upheld by the local church.  Organizations such as the Missionary Society are unscriptural and therefore unauthorized.   

1 Tim. 3:15, “…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 

Acts 13:1-3, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” 

E.     Since God has provided for the existence of the local church, you and I should be members of one. 


A.     The fact that one’s name has been added to a local church roll is not any proof that God has added that person to His church.

1.      It is man’s business to do the baptizing (Matt. 28:19-20), and God’s business to do the adding to the universal church (Acts 2:47). 

B.     The fact that brethren leave a name on a church roll here on earth is no proof that God is going to leave it on the roll up yonder.

1.      Names once entered in the roll up there can be removed! 

Rev. 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” 

Rev. 22:19, “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the thing which are written in this book.”

2.      God is looking after this matter and will handle it properly. 

C.     The important thing is to have your name on the roll up yonder (Phil. 4:3), and to keep it there (Rev. 3:5). 

Phil. 4:3, “And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.” 

Rev. 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”

1.      But many think that if their name is on a church roll here on earth all is well with their soul no matter how they live.  This is false security! 

D.    The false conception of rolls and letters seems to be increasing.

1.      Some have a misunderstanding about moving letters.

2.      We do not keep letters of members.  A letter is a recommendation; and of course, we are happy to give such to worthy Christians.

3.      Too often we hear, “I moved my letter!”—well, what did they move?

4.      There are Biblical examples of letters of recommendation. 

Rom. 16:1-4, “I commend unto you Phebe:  our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:  That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you:  for she hath been a succourer [helper] of many, and of myself also.  Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:  Who have for my life laid down their own necks:  unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” 

(In Paul’s letter to Philemon he encouraged Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a brother.  He praised Onesimus unto Philemon as having been profitable unto him.) 


A.     The Son of God emphasizes that He does not want one single soul lost. 

Matt. 18:11-14, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.  How think ye?  If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” 

1 Tim. 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 

2 Pet. 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 

B.     We are not only to pray for laborers to go forth harvesting souls, but we are to be personally involved in doing so. 

Matt. 9:35-39, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.  Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” 

C.     Each and every soul is worth more than the entire physical universe.  This is true because we have been created in the image of God. 

Matt. 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Gen. 1:26-27, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:  and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” 


   An individual’s name is written in Heaven when that precious soul obeys the gospel of Christ.  After that, they should remain faithful so that their name will not be blotted out of the book of life 

Adapted and enlarged from a sermon by the late brother Leroy Brownlow

--Dub Mowery

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