“There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
This chapter gives us an amazing glimpse into the joy of Heaven. This is about God’s joy, the joy of the holy angels that surround His presence, and the redeemed and glorified saints that dwell in Heaven. God delights in the recovery of sinners. Part of the eternal rejoicing in Heaven is going to be this endless chorus of hallelujahs because we have been redeemed.
God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He finds His supreme joy in the salvation of the wicked. That’s why in the wonderful teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25, He said to the faithful servants, “Enter into the joy of your master.” Can you imagine being in Heaven and having God shouting for joy over the fact that you’re there? Can you imagine, right now, because you’re in His kingdom, He is shouting for joy and the holy angels are shouting with Him and the church triumphant around His throne is joining in the cry. A party is happening in Heaven as we speak and it continues to escalate every time a soul is saved.
Our Lord was “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), but He also knew joy. In His high priestly prayer He said He wanted us to “have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). He knew joy. He knew joy even going to the cross because Hebrews 12:2 says that He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. And what was that joy? The joy of recovering the lost. Heaven’s joy emanates from the recovery of lost sinners.
What comes out in Luke 15 is how different Jesus was from the religious leaders of Israel. Jesus rejoiced in the salvation of the lost because as God He possessed the divine joy that belongs to the Creator and the Redeemer when the lost are found. He is in stark contrast to the religious leaders of Israel, who found no joy in even approaching the lost, let alone seeing them converted. They were the worst kind of shepherds, the worst kind of religious leaders, and the worst kind of representatives of God. In contrast to them, we see our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrating the priority of Heaven in saving the lost.
As we look at our own lives, we might ask the question: “How important, in my life, is the recovery of the lost? How critical is that to me? Is it my highest joy? Or do I find my joy in some trivial, temporary, insignificant thing in this world?” That’s exactly the point of Luke 15. It’s a very convicting chapter. May we see Heaven’s joy as a fresh motivation in reaching the lost.
—John MacArthur, adapted