Monday, August 26, 2019

If We Have Free Will In Heaven, How Can We Not Sin?

            The Bible teaches us that there will be no evil and sin in heaven (Revelation 20:10, 21:4, 8, 27, 22:3, 15 cf. Isaiah 35:8-9). Would the heavenly residents have free will to not sin or would they not have free will at all?

            Those in heaven will have free will, but they will not sin. Norman Geisler explains the notion that heaven will be a place of moral perfection:1

Heaven Is a Place of Moral Perfection
The present world is laden with layers of evil; even the apostle Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). In heaven, though, every believer will be made absolutely perfect, for “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears” (1 Cor. 13:10; cf. 1 John 3:2).
“Nothing impure will ever enter it [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). Therefore, we are to “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Heaven is a place of ultimate and complete sanctification.

            According to Geisler, heaven will also be a place of perfect knowledge: “[Now] we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:9–12)”2

            Heaven, Geisler writes, is also the place of the Beatific Vision (seeing God face to face):3

Heaven Is the Place of the Beatific Vision
The Beatific Vision is the blessed vision that Moses sought, God forbade, Jesus promised, and John described—seeing God face-to-face.
Immortal Man Will See God
However, immortal human beings will see God face-to-face; John declared that in heaven “they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). Again, Paul explained, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The psalmist added, “In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (17:15). As John said, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
The term Beatific Vision, this face-to-face experience with God, comes from the word for beatitude, meaning “blessed” or “happy.” This vision is the ultimate fulfillment of all divine aspirations—it will be a direct, complete, and final revelation of God in which the believer will see the divine essence…

            The Beatific Vision rules out the possibility of sin and fulfills our freedom, says Geisler:4

The Beatific Vision Makes Sin Impossible
Knowledge of God is knowledge of an infinite good;17 once one directly sees infinite good, it will no longer be possible for him to do evil,18 for to be directly informed in one’s mind by absolute good is to become completely conformed to it. Hence, the Beatific Vision makes sin impossible. Just as seeing absolute beauty will spoil one forever from longing for anything ugly, likewise, beholding the absolutely holy will overpower any attraction to or desire for the unholy.
The Beatific Vision Fulfills Our Freedom
Though heaven makes sin impossible, it does not destroy but instead fulfills our freedom. Heaven completes our freedom to completely love God, just as (analogously) marriage here on earth frees us to love the one to whom we belong. True freedom is not the freedom to do evil, but the freedom to do good. The essence of free will is self-determination, and if one’s self chooses to do only the good, then the fulfillment of it in a place where only good can be done is not the destruction of freedom, but the completion of it.19
God is both free and unable to sin; it will be likewise for us when we become most godlike, for the perfection of our freedom is the freedom from sinning, not the freedom of sinning. The best freedom is the freedom to do the best; beholding and loving the absolute best (which makes sin impossible) is the best thing we can ever do.20

            If the Beatific Vision prevents sin in heaven, how did the angels sin in heaven while being in the presence of God? William Lane Craig summarizes an answer to this complex question, “Originally created “at arm’s length” from God epistemically, they had a time to choose either for or against God. Those who chose for God were then sealed with the Beatific Vision, so that no further fall is possible. Fallen angels are Satan and his minions.”5

            Craig also explains that those in heaven will not sin because of the Beatific Vision and that the freedom to sin would cease to exist:6

God has created us at an “epistemic distance,” so to speak, which allows us the freedom to rebel against Him and separate ourselves from Him. This world is a vale of decision-making during which we decide whether we want to live with God forever or reject Him and so irrevocably separate ourselves from Him. As discussions of the so-called “Hiddenness of God” have emphasized, God could have made His existence overwhelmingly obvious, had He wanted to. During this life, we “see in a glass darkly,” as St. Paul put it; but someday we shall see “face to face” (I Cor. 13.12). Medieval theologians liked to talk of the “Beatific Vision” which the blessed in heaven will receive. There the veil will be removed, and we shall see Christ in all of His loveliness and majesty. The vision of Christ, the source of infinite goodness and love, will be so overwhelming as to remove all freedom to sin. I like to think of it like iron filings in the presence of an enormously powerful electromagnet. They would be so powerfully attracted to the magnet that there is simply no possibility of their falling away. So with the blessed in heaven.
…One could hold that God via His middle knowledge knew exactly which persons, if saved and glorified in heaven, would freely persevere in grace, even though they would retain the freedom to sin. It’s not that they have a different nature than others; it’s just that this is how they would freely choose. God has chosen to create a world in which all the saved are precisely such persons. Hence, everyone in heaven will freely persevere. They could fall away but they just won’t. Interestingly, creating a world like this could involve God’s having to put up with a lot of otherwise undesirable features of the world, such as vast amounts of natural and moral evil. Perhaps only in a world like that would all those who come freely to know God and His salvation be a person who would freely persevere in heaven…
…it seems right to think that the unalloyed vision of Christ would be something so overwhelmingly attractive that freedom to resist it would be utterly removed.








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