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Question #305

Can someone in Heaven fall from grace?

This question in merely born out of curiosity and the answer has no bearing on my faith, but in thinking about Satan's fall, we see that he was, as a created being, given a choice concerning obedience to God. He was in the presence of God and His glory, yet chose himself over a life with God. In all of creation, it is apparent that God always gives His creation a choice: Follow Him or Don't Follow Him - and there are always consequences to our decisions. Although we read that if we live a life of faithfulness in our fleshly existence, we will inherit everlasting life, do you find in this template given to us that once we make it to heaven that we will still be faced with the choice of whether or not to follow God. My question is whether or not we might have an ability to fall from God's grace once in heaven. Possibly this can only be contemplated, but it seems to me, based on the Word and the template given, that we will be faced with the same choice once in heaven. I imagine that heaven and walking with God will be so wonderful that the thought of wanting to depart from God would be impossible, but then there's Satan...and Adam/Eve who did just that...Thanks so much for this venue. I appreciate it greatly and utilize/reference this resource when speaking with others about our God and His plan for us.

The Answer:

This question has been debated for years, but the debate has probably generated more heat than light. Most believe that man was created as a free moral agent. Some, such as the Calvinists, have a rather cloudy understanding of free moral agency. While they contend that man possesses free moral agency, they have some difficulty in explaining just how it works in light of the fact that their doctrine of predestination leads them to teach that everything that happens in life, both good and evil, has been predetermined by God, and that which God has predetermined will take place. It is difficult to harmonize that teaching with the concept of free choice.

That said, the problem stated is that if man’s free moral agency leads to wrong choices (sin), and since sin separates from God (Isa. 59:1-2), if man’s free moral agency exists in heaven, and if it once again leads to wrong choices, will man then be cast out of heaven? After all, it is argued, is this not exactly what happened to Satan?

What is the answer? Is there an answer? Not much has been written on the subject. A search through 14 systematic theologies (23 volumes) and a computer search through the writings of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers produced nothing meaningful. Google did not do much better. So, if we are to answer the question, where do we begin?

Maybe the best place to begin is at the end and work back. Although it is not often a good practice to start with a conclusion and reason backward, it sometimes helps, especially if the conclusion is not your own but is a conclusion stated in the word of God. What does the Bible teach about whether there will be sin in heaven? Most would probably turn to Rev. 21:4 which states that there shall no longer be death, mourning, crying or pain. These items that shall be no more are caused by sin. The last enemy to be destroyed is death which is the result of sin (1 Cor. 15:50-57). If sin were in Heaven would death not also be present? (More will be said about this shortly.) Even assuming that this language is figurative and applies to the state of God’s people after the destruction of Rome, the language describes a utopian existence. There is no more utopian existence than Heaven. 2 Peter 3:3-13 is perhaps less ambiguous. It clearly addresses the promise of His coming accompanied by the destruction of the heavens and the melting of the elements with intense heat. V. 13 then asserts that we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. While Peter does not state that righteousness only (no sin) dwells in the new heavens and earth, the contrast is with the old heavens and earth. Righteousness at least partially dwelled there because Peter urges his readers to live righteously in light of coming judgment (v.11). If Peter’s contrast is to make sense, it must be that only righteousness will be found in the new heaven and the new earth. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that there will be no sin in heaven.

If there is no sin in heaven, whether man has free moral agency is irrelevant at least insofar as exercising it to commit sin. Of course, free moral agency does not inevitably lead to sin. One who reads God’s self-disclosure in the Bible learns that God Himself makes choices. Yet He is sinless. Christ acted on his own volition, i.e., with free moral agency. Of his own volition (will) he laid down his life. Yet He was sinless even in human flesh and as a man.

Some argue, however, that there is sin in heaven. Satan is a fallen angel who was cast out of heaven. In Job Satan gathered with the sons of God (angels) in God’s presence. Even if we assume that Satan’s rebellion occurred in God’s presence, what is there to persuade us that the place where Satan dwelled at the time of his rebellion was the same as the eternal abode of the saints? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, the eternal abode of the saints is a place that is now being prepared (John 14:1-3), and, according to Peter, the preparation will not be concluded until this present environment has been destroyed (2 Pet. 3:3-13). Since God is omnipresent, Satan and the sons of God could come into his presence from wherever they are located. Even we as sinful humans can come into his presence. Heb. 4:16 says that we may “come boldly unto the throne of grace.”

Perhaps a more basic question is whether that which causes us to sin will be present in the world that is being prepared. Man sins when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1:14). Satan is known as the Tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5). He will not be present in that which is being prepared (Rev. 20:10). Is it not possible that man can have free moral agency while at the same time choosing that which is evil is not possible because it is not present. Sexual promiscuity is a great source of temptation for humans, but in the prepared place there will be no marrying or giving in marriage. Man will be as the angels. (Matt. 22:30). While the term “angel” is always in the masculine and they bear masculine names (Michael, Gabriel), the angels are apparently all created beings; there is none so far as we know that are the result of reproduction by whatever mode. Thus, the prepared place is “sexless,” removing a great avenue of temptation.

This change appears to be as a result of the new resurrection body. While the body raised will certainly be the body buried, it is clear that it will not be of the same nature, else why would those still living in human flesh at Christ’s second coming need to be changed (1 Cor. 15:51)? God gives us the answer – this mortal must put on immortality and this corruption must put on incorruption. This new changed body will not be subject to the temptations of the “body of this death,” thus creating the struggle that Paul so clearly described in Romans 7:12-25. What shall that body be? The best answer is that of the Holy Spirit through Paul: 35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 1Cor. 15:35-38.

When we become Christians we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). While that does not mean that we are sinless here on earth, it does mean that we become sons of God by adoption, that the Spirit has been sent into our hearts crying Abba, Father, and that we are constituted as heirs of God through Christ (Gal. 4:5-7). What we know is that God will finally give us a body that pleases him and we know that it pleases God for our eternal home to be one where sin does not enter.

We need not be concerned about our eternal life. God has told us that it will be eternal (Matt. 25:46). Man seems to always want to create an impossibility for God. It may be the question, “How can I be happy in heaven when I know that some of my loved ones are not there?” It may be the question, “How can eternal life be eternal when I might sin and be cast out?” If there is no other answer, why can we not simply trust God – He said He would make us happy, can we not simply trust Him to do so? He said the final prepared place for the Christian will be eternal, can we not simply trust Him to make it so? I am certain that the reason the author of the question said that the answer would not affect his faith is because he does in fact trust God to provide that which He has promised. That is a good example for us all.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)