The Angels in Heaven Rejoice
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Some of Jesus’ last words before ascending into heaven were the mission statement for His disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”1
Forty-three days earlier He had died on the cross, and after three days He had risen from the dead. The purpose of it all was so that humankind could have the opportunity to be forgiven for their sins, to be reconciled to God, and to have everlasting life. His death and resurrection had made salvation possible. He had made it possible for us to live eternally with Him.
Jesus’ years of public ministry were spent preaching, teaching, and training. Jesus reached out to those He was aiming to help—the sinners who needed salvation. Those He met and ate with were not always the rich, the righteous, or the folks who were “living right.” He was willing to minister to those whom others rejected—the hated tax collectors, the sinners, the unclean and unworthy.
He was criticized when He connected with those who were in the margins, but He made it clear how important every person is, no matter what their circumstances: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”2
So He told them this parable:
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.3
Every person is valuable to God. God is no respecter of persons. Everyone, no matter what their status, is a sinner before Him and in need of His love and redemption. He wants everyone to receive salvation, and He and the angels in heaven rejoice when they do.—Peter Amsterdam
Joy in the presence of the angels of God
You’re probably thinking of what Jesus said in two of His parables, which tell first about a sheep that was lost and then about a coin that was lost. (You can read them in Luke 15:3–10.) In both instances, something very valuable had been lost, and their owners searched diligently until they found it. And when they did, they not only rejoiced, but their friends and neighbors rejoiced also.
In a far greater way, Jesus said, we are infinitely valuable to God, and when we are lost and separated from Him, He searches for us and does everything He possibly can to rescue us. And when we finally realize just how lost we are and turn to Him in repentance and faith, He rejoices—and all heaven with Him. Jesus said, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”4
Why do they rejoice? Not because they’re surprised, but because a great victory has been won! Someone has been snatched from the jaws of Satan and death and hell, so why wouldn’t all heaven rejoice? Jesus’ words remind us of just how valuable we are to God, and how much He yearns for us to be with Him in heaven forever.
But Jesus’ words also remind us of what it cost God to make our salvation possible: the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Don’t delay, but turn to Christ in repentance and faith today. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”5—Billy Graham6
A special kind of joy
Our Lord tells us that “there is joy”—very special “joy in the presence of the angels of God”—and He tells us what is the cause of it. … The special “joy in the presence of the angels of God” is “over one sinner who repents.”
Now, you workers for the Master, you sweepers in the dust looking for the lost pieces of money! You candle-holders who have been shedding your feeble rays as far as you can—and who have become somewhat weary—now come and refresh yourselves by looking upon some of the results of your service! And you, who in imitation of the great, good, Chief Shepherd, have gone after the lost sheep and are scratched by many a briar and tired after your many desperate leaps over hill and dale—forget your weariness for a while—and begin to share in the joy of Christ’s servants as you see how, before the Throne of God on high, they are making merry over the souls that are being saved! …
Jesus tells us that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner.” That one may be a poor servant girl, or a working man whose name will never be known to fame—and there is only one—but the angels are not so sparing of the praises of God that they will wait till there is a score of penitents! They see them gathering Home one by one and they are glad of every opportunity of expressing their special delight at the increasing number of the redeemed. …
Remember that the conversion of one sinner is, in Heaven, reckoned to be such a marvel that it makes special joy there in the presence of the angels of God! Surely, then, the salvation of even one soul ought to make your spirit exult and rejoice with exceeding joy! If you have lived to bring one sinner to Christ, you have not lived in vain.—Charles Spurgeon7
God’s great joy in redemption
It was Jonathan Edwards who said, “God’s single end in redemption is His own joy.” God has a compelling interest in the recovery of sinners for His own joy.
On the other hand, the Scripture says God has no joy in the death of the wicked, Ezekiel 18. Same chapter, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord. “Therefore, repent and live.” … No pleasure in the death of the wicked. But God finds joy in the repentance and salvation of sinners.
Prophet Zephaniah says in chapter 3, “The Lord your God is in your midst; He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” We really don’t think about God as shouting with joy, but that’s what Luke 15 is about. It’s about the joy of God in the recovery of sinners.
In chapter 15, verse 1, we get the setting: “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.” All the sinners, all the outcasts. The religious elites are mentioned in the next verse: “The Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes detested those whom they deemed as sinners. They saw them as outcasts, unclean lowlifes, and they thought that their self-righteous disdain toward sinners was God’s attitude toward sinners. They were, after all, the agents of God. They were God’s representatives in the world, and they expressed the very virtues of God, and they were just sure that God had nothing but disdain for sinners.
Our Lord’s response to them in this chapter is that they didn’t know God at all. They were so far from God that they did not understand that the joy of God is bound up in the salvation of sinners….
He tells [a] story to drive the point home. In verse 8, a woman has ten silver coins. This would essentially be the whole amount of savings which would secure her future. She loses one of those valuable coins. She finds it. She calls her friends and neighbors to celebrate, and the application comes in verse 10: “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” There’s joy in the presence of the angels of God. And who would be the joyful one in the midst of the angels? God Himself; and the angels would join in that rejoicing.
Every time a soul is saved, every time a sinner is rescued, heaven erupts in joy. That being the case, there’s a nonstop joy in heaven because every moment of every day a sinner somewhere is being redeemed. Heaven is in a constant state of rejoicing.—John MacArthur8
Published on Anchor June 2022. Read by John Laurence.
Music by John Listen.
1 Mark 16:15.
2 Luke 15:1–2.
3 Luke 15:3–10.
4 Luke 15:10.
5 Romans 10:13.