Do the Angels Really Rejoice?
WHEN SOMEONE COMES TO FAITH, Christians often smile and say (with an allusion to Luke 15:10) that angels will be rejoicing in heaven. But what does Luke 15:10 really say?
Luke 15:10 says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” I never saw that word “before” before. The rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of one sinner is happening before the angels. Michael Reeves asks, “Who is before the angels of God in heaven?” It is God!
Now I am not suggesting that the angels are not getting in on the celebrating that goes on in heaven. I would think they would readily follow God’s cues for celebration. But I am suggesting that something more profound is happening here. It is God, first and foremost, who rejoices to lavish his love on those who once had rejected him. It is God who is leading the celebration of heaven.
In case you doubt it, all you need to do is to look at the story Jesus tells immediately after Luke 15:10. It is the story known as the Prodigal Son. Or, it could be better identified as the story of “the Loving Father.”
Surely the focus of joy and celebration in this passage comes from “the Father.” Luke 15:20-23 captures the celebration of the Father’s heart for his son.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
It is the Father who leads the celebration! It is the Father who said, “let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Unlike the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers (Hebrews 2:11), his Father is not ashamed to be known as our Father (Hebrews 11:16). “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
This really puts a smile on my face.
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