Man has had all sorts of thoughts about God and His heavenly creatures. There is no shortage of songs and paintings about the heavenly realm. But, what is actually going on up there? Is heaven really interested in what is going on down here? Jesus lets us in on the happenings of heaven in Luke 15. And what we discover might surprise us. What do we see when we look through the heavenly window Christ opens? Heaven rejoicing when a sinner repents. We see a number of things about heaven’s joy in Jesus’ teaching.
We learn that all of heaven rejoices. It is not as if there is simply one angel rejoicing, like he’s the evangelistic MVP of the angelic team. Jesus says in verse 10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God.” We might not know all that we would like to know about angels. But we do know that they are mighty creatures, created by God, who do His will. The angel Gabriel said that he stands in the presence of God. Can you imagine these powerful creatures rejoicing together when a sinner humbly turns from sin to God? The Father too is in heaven rejoicing that His Son has found what was lost. Christ is glad as well as He comes to the lost sheep and “lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:5). God the Spirit adds His joy as He shines light and holiness into the heart of the repenting sinner. All of heaven joins together in the celebration.
We see the magnitude of heaven’s joy in verse 7 when Jesus says, “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.” Jesus does not say that heaven has no joy over nine-nine righteous persons. Surely, heaven rejoices over many righteous people. But there is more joy over the repenting sinner. We know from experience that joy is a thing that can be larger or smaller. You can have solid joy in a nice peanut butter jelly sandwich for lunch. But you’ll have more joy over a steak dinner. But even steak-dinner joy is surpassed by the joy of the multiple course Thanksgiving meal. There is no little joy in heaven when sinners repent, but a great shout of celebration arises.
And there is this great joy over just one sinner who repents. Have you considered that heaven is interested in every particular repenting sinner. Heaven does not merely rejoice in general at the idea of sinners repenting, but specifically over the individuals who turn away from the way of death to the way of life. There is not a sinner repenting anywhere in all creation that does not set the angels dancing in heaven.
We also see that heaven will go right on rejoicing with or without us. The older brother was angry and refused to go into the party verse 28 says. That is quite a scene isn’t it? The father goes out and speaks graciously with the grumpy son. Music and dancing can be heard in the background. The father would love to have the son come join the party. But the party is not going to stop for him. It is wonderfully comforting to know there is a joyful celebration bigger than us going on. It will be perfectly fine without us; we may not be fine without it. There is something pleasantly humbling about this truth: You cannot stop the joy in heaven over repenting sinners, so you might as well join in.
That is precisely what heaven calls us to do. The joyful man wants to share his joy. Happiness has a way of wanting to be spread around. The shepherd in verse 6 says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” The woman in verse eight says in verse 9, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” The father tells his servants in verse 23 to celebrate for his lost son is found. And so all heaven cries out to join in the rejoicing. “Come,” they say, “and rejoice that the seeking God has found this lost sinner. Rejoice that our God has granted this sinner repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Christ!”
Behold the joy of our God and Father. Hear him call to his servants to bring ring, robe and shoes for the feet of his long-lost son. Listen as he tells his cook to grill up the best piece of meat. Watch him tell the musicians to sound forth their music. See him there encouraging family and friends to get on the dance floor. Will you resist when He encourages you to come inside? May God give us grace to rejoice in what He rejoices in, to love what He loves, to long for what He longs for: the salvation of sinners.