Summary: Why do the angels in heaven rejoice when lost people get found? It is because they see what we have been saved from and what we have been saved to.
LOST AND FOUND
In July of 2002 nine miners were trapped in Quecreek, Pa when mine shafts collapsed due to floodwater. The men were trapping in a pocket of air 244 feet down in the 50-degree cold waters. The miners gasped for air as floodwater rose to their chins. They tied themselves together so all of their bodies would be found if they drowned. Miner Blaine Mayhugh, 31, asked his boss for a pen when the water in the shaft kept rising. He wanted to write his wife and kids to tell them he love them. Night and day rescuers fought to reach the men. On Sunday July 28, 2002 the rescue workers broke through the coal-mine wall to find the nine trapped miners all alive and well. I still remember the news report that day. People were weeping and cheering at village roadsides and television sets at the news that the trapped miners had been rescued. There was great celebration.
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Jesus used these three stories to address the comment that “this man welcomes sinners”. Each of these stories, including the story of the prodigal son which follows this has a similar message. They deal with the pain of losing something, the joy in finding it and the celebration that takes place when lost things get found.
Why is there rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents? Why do the angels get so excited every time someone is saved? It is because the angels can see what you and I often don’t. They see:
1. What You Have Been Saved From – being lost
The word for hell occurs 23 times in the new testament (KJV). There are basically 2 words or pictures used. The first word is used 12 times and is the Hebrew word GEHENAH which comes from the words GEHEE (valley) and HINNOM (sorrow). The Valley of Hinnom was a garbage dump south of Jerusalem where garbage and dead animals were taken to be burned. The smell of decay and death must have been terrible. It was the worst possible place a Jew could imagined.
The picture of fire is often associated with hell. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the rich man is in agony in fire and longs for a drink. Jesus spoke of hell as a place of fire. In Revelations we see that hell itself will be thrown into the lake of fire.
The second word which is used 10 times in the New Testament is the Greek word HADES which comes from HA (not) and EIDO (to see or perceive by any of the senses).
When I was in University I lived in a basement apartment without a window. It was completely dark except for one little light from my stereo system which would light up the room. What would total darkness be like?
A family visited a cave in the state of Kentucky. The guide led us through many beautiful and winding subterranean passageways. Suddenly he turned off all the lights and said, "I'm the only one who knows how to get back to the entrance. If I left you here, you'd probably never find your way out. Anyone lost in this cave would no doubt become insane within a week from the oppressive loneliness. Be quiet for a moment and feel the darkness!" I remember my youngster clutching my arm. After about 30 seconds, someone in the party could endure it no longer and cried out, "Turn on the lights! I'm going crazy now!" The guide laughed, but we'll not soon forget that frightening experience. I thought of the "outer darkness" of Hell and shuddered!