In the three parables in Luke chapter 15, we see pictures of four types of backsliders- a lost sheep, a lost younger son, a lost elder son and a lost coin – and also of the Triune God.
The lost sheep is a picture of a believer who went astray accidentally or through carelessness. The shepherd is a picture of Jesus, the Son of God. The prodigal son is a picture of a believer who went away in rebellion against God and the church. The father is a picture of God the Father. He does not go seeking for such a one as in the first case. He waits until the son reaches the level of the pigs and comes back on his own. The older son is a picture of those who are lost in legalism and self-righteousness and pride.