I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-nine just persons, which need no repentance.
— Luke 15:7
The Bible tells us much about angels. It gives us different categories of angels and describes how they look, how they fly, what they do in the presence of God, their role in the earth today, and much more. By studying the Scriptures, it is easy to get an accurate perspective of what angels do both on earth and in Heaven. But today I want us to see the one unique thing that causes angels in Heaven to erupt in joy. What is this solitary act that triggers such a mighty angelic celebration?
With all the information about angels recorded in the Bible, there are only two verses — a total of 49 words in the King James Version — that implicitly describe an event that causes angels to stop what they’re doing and throw a celebration that is different from those they regularly experience in the worshipful atmosphere of Heaven. Both of these references are found in Luke 15, where Jesus gives the parable of a shepherd who found one of his sheep that had been lost.
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In Luke 15:4-6, Jesus said, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep that was lost.”
The Early Church believed this parable was a reference to Jesus Himself. Jesus left Heaven and, like the shepherd in the parable, came to earth to seek and to save that which was lost. The early Christians of the First and Second Centuries were so convinced this parable was about Jesus that they often used the image of a shepherd carrying a lamb across his shoulders as the graphic to depict Him. In ancient catacombs in Rome where early Christians once gathered to worship and pray, painted images of a shepherd carrying a lamb, representing Jesus, are still visible on the walls.
The Early Church saw Jesus as the Shepherd who left home and came to earth, found them lost in sin, and then lovingly redeemed them and brought them back into right relationship with God. And like the shepherd in the parable, after Jesus accomplished this awesome task, He returned home rejoicing.
According to the parable — if we believe that it represents Jesus, as the Early Church believed — when Jesus returned to Heaven, He invited all of Heaven to rejoice with Him because man, once lost, was now redeemed. From Jesus’ words in His parable, we assume that when He crossed the threshold of Heaven, He called out to the heavenly inhabitants and told them, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep that was lost!” (see Luke 15:6).
The words “rejoice with me” are a compound of the words sun and chairo. The word sun depicts something that is done in conjunction with someone else, while the word chairo means to be glad, to rejoice, to exult, to celebrate, or to express great joy. When they are compounded, the new word means to celebrate in conjunction with someone else or to greatly rejoice with other companions. This particular word is found only seven times in the New Testament, and one of them is here in Luke 15:6 where the shepherd calls on his friends to rejoice with him over the lost sheep that was found. It literally means rejoice with me, celebrate with me, or exult with me!
The finding of lost sheep was such a cause for rejoicing that Jesus called for all of Heaven to celebrate with Him! Just think how serious a man’s lost condition must be in order for Jesus to see it as a time to stop and throw a party whenever a sinner repents!
Jesus comprehends the great cost of a person’s redemption, for He paid for each soul with His own precious blood. So when a sinner repents, Jesus sees this as a time for Heaven to celebrate! He calls on all of Heaven’s inhabitants to celebrate every time a sinner is saved! Consider the profound miracle that transpires when a soul doomed to eternal destruction is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. It’s no wonder that Jesus wants all of Heaven to join with Him in throwing a celebration!
In Luke 15:7, Jesus continued, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.…” Some allege that the word “sinner” is too harsh, but it is the word Jesus used to characterize people without God. It is the old Greek word hamartolos, a word that has various possible renderings, but the basic meaning is an offender, a lawbreaker, one who is guilty of missing the mark, or a sinner.
The lost man has failed to meet the requirements of the righteous law of God and is therefore a lawbreaker or a sinner. If he doesn’t repent and receive Christ before he breathes his last breath, the penalty for dying in this lost state is eternal separation from God (see Romans 6:23).
You can see why there is such eruptive joy in Heaven when a sinner repents! The word translated “repent” in this verse is the word metanoeo (see also March 18 and 19 Gems). It is the picture of a person who hears the truth, realizes the life he has lived has broken God’s laws, and therefore makes up his mind that he will leave that old life and live for God according to His Word. The act of repentance and faith in Christ gives the lost person new birth and entrance into the Kingdom of God.
This is a huge happening! Luke 15:10 tells us, “…There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Why is this a cause for rejoicing? Because when a man is saved, his sins are removed, and he is washed in the blood of Jesus — in that moment, his nature is changed and his name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. That is an event the entire spirit realm recognizes, including mighty angels who stand in the very presence of God. They get so excited when this mightiest miracle of all takes place in the life of a human that they stop everything to take note of it and to celebrate!
I don’t know about you, but I am personally convicted by the lack of excitement I see in church when a sinner gets saved. People yawn and cover their mouth, as if it is just routine activity — when, in fact, it is the greatest miracle that can occur on planet earth! It is worth our shouting, yelling, and jumping up and down in joy, for there is no greater miracle than the new birth!
Angels live in the breathtaking presence of God and regularly see His wonders that are beyond our imagination. Yet they are so thrilled about a person who repents that they rejoice with great joy.
Maybe it’s time for us to revisit the subject of our salvation and relearn what great a miracle it is when a lost man is redeemed and quickened to spiritual life by the Holy Spirit. Since angels get excited about this, isn’t it time that we start appreciating it too?
I pray that your understanding has increased and that this study of Luke 15 has affected you in a meaningful way. Don’t let the devil steal these truths from your heart. Remember, God is always calling you higher. Make sure your heart is closely connected to Jesus’ heart. Rejoice greatly with Heaven the next time you witness someone repenting and becoming a new creation in Christ!
And if there’s anything that holds you back from your own forward progress in Him, it’s time for you to make up your mind turn from it and adjust your life to show that you are serious about making new gains in God. Your redemption was worth the highest price, Jesus’ own precious blood — so live every day like you esteem the treasure of your salvation more than all the riches this world could ever offer you!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I repent for my own apathy concerning the miracle that takes place when a lost man is saved. I was one of those who has yawned and said, “Oh, that’s nice.” But in truth, there is no greater miracle than a man whose nature is changed. Nothing is more wondrous than the moment a sinner’s heart is changed and he is adopted as a child of God! Please forgive me for being so lackadaisical about this marvelous miracle that only You can perform in the heart of a human being. Help me never forget the price that You paid for my salvation — and to never forget how my life has changed since the day I repented. Even more, I ask for Your fire to burn in my heart in a fresh way for those who are still unrepentant. I ask You for open doors for me to tell others about the love of Jesus Christ so their hearts can be changed and they can be spiritually awakened by the Spirit of God.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I will never take my salvation for granted. It is the greatest gift of God in my life, and my salvation is so precious to God that He gave His own Son that I might know Him today. I am thankful and so grateful for the privilege of being a child of God — a child of the Light. I recommit myself to serve Jesus with a passionate heart and a single mind all of my days. Just as Jesus’ blood saved and changed me, it is still saving and changing people’s lives all over the world. When people come to Christ in repentance, I join the throng of the heavenly host to celebrate this great victory. It is a commemoration of a human nature supernaturally changed, a spot in hell that has been vacated, and a place in the Father’s house that will now be filled! This is worthy of my greatest joy and exultation.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- How do people in your church respond when a sinner walks the aisle to repent and commit his or her life to Jesus Christ? Is it a time of real rejoicing or just another part of the program?
- How long has it been since you took time to deeply ponder the miracle of your salvation? Why don’t you consecrate a few minutes of your time to do it today?
- Let your imagination soar as you consider what it may be like in Heaven when it is announced that a sinner has repented.