People have said to me, “Heaven will be perfect, but a sinless environment doesn’t mean we can’t sin; Adam and Eve proved that. They lived in a sinless place, yet they sinned.”
It’s true that Satan tempted them, but he too originally was a perfect being living in a perfect environment, beholding God himself. Not only was there no sin in Heaven; there was no sin in the universe. Yet Satan sinned. Hence, Heaven’s perfection, it seems, doesn’t guarantee there’ll be no future sin.
Some people also argue that being human demands free choice, and therefore we must have the capacity to choose evil in Heaven. If that’s true, then we could experience another Fall.
Clearly, this is a question of great importance.
Christ promises on the New Earth, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), the promise of no more death is a promise of no more sin. Those who will never die can never sin, since sinners always die. Sin causes mourning, crying, and pain. If those will never occur again, then sin can never occur again.
Consider the last part of Revelation 21:4: “For the old order of things has passed away.” What follows the word for explains Heaven’s lack of death, mourning, crying, and pain. These are part of an old order of things that will forever be behind us. The sin that caused them will be no longer. We need not fear a second Fall.
Scripture emphasizes that Christ died once to deal with sin and will never again need to die (Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). We’ll have the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). We won’t sin in Heaven for the same reason God doesn’t: He cannot sin. Our eternal inability to sin has been purchased by Christ’s blood.
For by a single offering [himself] he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV). On the cross, validated by his resurrection, our Savior purchased our perfection for all time.
“Nothing impure will ever enter it [the New Jerusalem], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). The passage doesn’t say: “If someone becomes impure or shameful or deceitful, that person will be evicted.” There’s an absolute contrast between sinners and the righteous. That Satan and evildoers are cast forever into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10 and 21:8) shows an eternal separation of evil from the New Earth. Heaven will be completely devoid of evil, with no threat of becoming tainted. Three times in the final two chapters of Scripture, we’re told that those still in their sins have no access to Heaven, and never will (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15).
That evil will have no footing in Heaven and no leverage to affect us is further indicated by Jesus when he says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace ... Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:40-43, emphasis added)
Hebrews 9:26 says with an air of finality that Christ sacrificed himself “to put away sin” (NASB) or “to do away with sin” (NIV). Sin will be a thing of the past.
We’ll be raised “incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 15:52, NKJV). Incorruptible is a stronger word than uncorrupted. Our risen bodies, and by implication our new beings, will be immune to corruption. Since the wages of sin is death, if we cannot die, then we cannot sin.
“Anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). Christ will not allow us to be vulnerable to the very thing he died to deliver us from. Since our righteousness is rooted in Christ, who is eternally righteous, we can never lose it.
Some people believe that if we have free will in Heaven, we’ll have to be free to sin, as were the first humans. But Adam and Eve’s situation was different. They were innocent but had not been made righteous by Christ. We, on the other hand, become righteous through Christ’s atonement: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). To suggest we could have Christ’s righteousness yet sin is to say Christ could sin. God completely delivers us from sin—including vulnerability to sin.
Even now we may “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4). In Heaven there will be no evil desires, and no corruption, and we will fully participate in the sinless perfection of God.
What does this mean in terms of human freedom? Some people suggest our free choice is a temporary condition for the present life and won’t characterize us in Heaven. But it seems to me that the capacity to choose is part of what makes us human. It’s hard to believe God would be pleased by our worship if we had no choice but to offer it. It’s one thing for him to enable us to worship. It’s another for him to force us to do so or to make it automatic and involuntary. Christ woos his bride; he doesn’t “fix” her so she has no choice but to love him.
Imagine a husband who desires his wife’s love, and to insure that love, he injects her with a chemical to remove her free will, to make her love him. This is not love; it is coercion. Once we become what the sovereign God has made us to be in Christ and once we see him as he is, then we’ll see all things—including sin—for what they are. God won’t need to restrain us from it. Sin will have absolutely no appeal. It will be, literally, unthinkable.
The inability to sin doesn’t inherently violate free will. My inability to be God, an angel, a rabbit, or a flower is not a violation of my free will. It’s the simple reality of my nature. The new nature that’ll be ours in Heaven—the righteousness of Christ—is a nature that cannot sin, any more than a diamond can be soft or blue can be red. God cannot sin, yet no being has greater free choice than God does.
Theologian Paul Helm says, “The freedom of heaven, then, is the freedom from sin; not that the believer just happens to be free from sin, but that he is so constituted or reconstituted that he cannot sin. He doesn’t want to sin, and he does not want to want to sin.”
Will we be tempted to turn our backs on Christ? No. What would tempt us? Innocence is the absence of something (sin), while righteousness is the presence of something (God’s holiness). God will never withdraw from us his holiness; therefore we cannot sin.
We’ll never forget the ugliness of sin. People who’ve experienced severe burns aren’t tempted to walk into a bonfire. Having known death and life, we who will experience life will never want to go back to death. We’ll never be deceived into thinking God is withholding something good from us or that sin is in our best interests.
Satan won’t have any access to us. But even if he did, we wouldn’t be tempted. We’ll know not only what righteousness is but also what sin is—or was. We’ll always know sin’s costs. Every time we see the scarred hands of King Jesus, we’ll remember. We’ll see sin as God does. It will be stripped of its illusions and will be utterly unappealing.
Because our hearts will be pure and we’ll see people as they truly are, every relationship in Heaven will be pure. We’ll all be faithful to the love of our life: King Jesus. We couldn’t do anything behind his back even if we wanted to. But we’ll never want to.
We’ll love everyone, men and women, but we’ll be in love only with Jesus. We’ll never be tempted to degrade, use, or idolize each other. We’ll never believe the outrageous lie that our deepest needs can be met in any person but Jesus.
Often we act as if the universe revolves around us. We have to remind ourselves it’s all about Christ, not us. In Heaven we’ll see reality as it is and will, therefore, never have to correct our thinking. This will be Heaven’s Copernican revolution—a paradigm shift in which we’ll never again see ourselves as our center of gravity. Jesus Christ will be our undisputed center, and we won’t want it any other way.
Someone e-mailed me this question: “In Heaven, will some people still be annoying? After all, eternity’s a long time!” Annoyance is sometimes caused by others’ sin, our own, or both. Since sin will be eliminated, so will annoyance. That doesn’t mean people won’t have idiosyncrasies, only that they won’t be rooted in sin, and none of us will degrade or dismiss others.
Jonathan Edwards said, “Even the very best of men, are, on earth, imperfect. But it is not so in heaven. There shall be no pollution or deformity or offensive defect of any kind, seen in any person or thing; but every one shall be perfectly pure, and perfectly lovely in heaven.”
In Heaven we’ll be perfectly human. Adam and Eve were perfectly human until they bent themselves into sinners. Then they lost something that was an original part of their humanity—moral perfection. Since then, under sin’s curse, we’ve been human but never perfectly human.
We can’t remember a time when we weren’t sinners. We’ve always carried sin’s baggage. What relief it will be not to have to guard our eyes and our minds. We will not need to defend against pride and lust because there will be none.
In Heaven we won’t just be better than we are now—we’ll be better than Adam and Eve were before they fell. Our resurrection bodies may be very much like their bodies were before the Fall, but we’ll be a redeemed humanity with knowledge of God, including his grace, far exceeding theirs.
Of course, Adam and Eve will be with us too, in their resurrection bodies. No one will know better than they what we’ve missed. They will have lived on the original Earth, the fallen Earth, and the New Earth. (That’s why they rank high on my list of people I want to talk with.)
In Heaven we’ll be perfectly human, but we’ll still be finite. Our bodies will be perfect in that they won’t be diseased or crippled. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have limits.
The term perfect is often misused when it describes our state in Heaven. I’ve heard it said, for instance, “We’ll communicate perfectly, so we’ll never be at a loss for words.” I disagree. I expect we’ll sometimes grasp for words to describe the wondrous things we’ll experience. I expect I’ll stand in speechless wonder at the glory of God. I’ll be morally perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be capable of doing anything and everything. (Adam and Eve were morally perfect, but that didn’t mean they could automatically invent nuclear submarines or defy gravity. They were perfect yet finite, just as we will be.)
Someone asked me, “If we’re sinless, will we still be human?” Although sin is part of us now, it’s not essential to our humanity—in fact, it’s foreign to it. It’s what twists us and keeps us from being what we once were—and one day will be.
Our greatest deliverance in Heaven will be from ourselves. Our deceit, corruption, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, hypocrisy—all will be forever gone.
Theologian and novelist Frederick Buechner anticipates the new “us” on the New Earth: “Everything is gone that ever made Jerusalem, like all cities, torn apart, dangerous, heartbreaking, seamy. You walk the streets in peace now. Small children play unattended in the parks. No stranger goes by whom you can’t imagine a fast friend. The city has become what those who loved it always dreamed and what in their dreams she always was. The new Jerusalem. That seems to be the secret of Heaven. The new Chicago, Leningrad, Hiroshima, Beirut. The new bus driver, hot-dog man, seamstress, hairdresser. The new you, me, everybody.”
What’s the hope we should live for? It’s more than freedom from suffering. It’s deliverance from sin, freeing us to be fully human. Paul says, “In this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:24). What hope? The words of the previous verse tell us: “the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). That’s the final resurrection, when death will be swallowed up and sin will be reversed, never again to touch us. This is what we should long for and live for. Resurrection will mean many things— including no more sin.
Is resurrected living in a resurrected world with the resurrected Christ and his resurrected people your daily longing and hope? Is it part of the gospel you share with others? Paul says that the resurrection of the dead is the hope in which we were saved. It will be the glorious climax of God’s saving work that began at our regeneration. It will mark the final end of any and all sin that separates us from God. In liberating us from sin and all its consequences, the resurrection will free us to live with God, gaze on him, and enjoy his uninterrupted fellowship forever, with no threat that anything will ever again come between us and him.
May God preserve us from embracing lesser hopes. May we rejoice as we anticipate the height, depth, length, and breadth of our redemption.
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.