The sin inaugurated with Adam is ultimately rectified by Christ. Though still fallible, the saints are ultimately made sinless by the forgiveness brought on by the cross. Though not excusing the guilty of punishment ignorance of right and wrong also pardons the guilty of sin according to Isaiah 7:16, Romans 5:13-14 and Hebrews 12:7. Prior to eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve in their ignorance were sinless. The sinless state caused by ignorance that Adam and Eve enjoyed prior to eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mirrors the sinless state of the saints after the second coming. And like Adam and Eve, the saints after the end of the age are also expected to be capable of error though sin is not imparted on them as was the case with Adam and Eve due to their ignorance of right and wrong prior to the fall. Thus the end mirrors the beginning. This sinless state due to God’s forgiveness enjoyed by the people of God on earth is a shadow of the true sinlessness of the highest heaven. John 3:2-9 implies that the saints residing in the highest heavenly realm, the realm in which God exists, are sinless. Near-death experiences (NDE’s) and Romans 6:5-7 might explain how this could be?
Even after the fulfillment of all Bible prophecy, I believe that the sinful nature of man would be expected to persist after the end of the age. Most Christians believe that sin and the natural tendency to sin began with Adam. Romans 5:12 reads, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned[.]” The beginning (Genesis 1-4) and end (Revelation 21 and 22) are mirror opposites of one another. The forgiveness from sin that Jesus offered through his sacrificial death entirely remedies the sin imparted with Adam. Romans 6:4-7 reads:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
In these verses, Paul likens the process of sanctification which occurs as a consequence of saving faith in Christ to physical death and the subsequent resurrection to heaven. In other words, through the forgiveness of sin offered by faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross the saint is said to be dead to sin meaning he or she is freed from sin or made sinless because he or she is forgiven by God. I believe this analogy between the process of sanctification and the resurrection in Romans 6:4-7 is made because this process of sanctification and “death to sin” is a dark earthly reflection of the ultimate fulfillment of these verses in the sinless state of existence after the resurrection to heaven. Before discussing how mankind is potentially freed from sin as a consequence of the resurrection, let us first focus on the nature of sin here on the earthly plane.
As implied in Romans 6:7 it is through Jesus’ sacrificial death that mankind was made free from sin. The fact that humanity is free from sin does not mean that people no longer sin: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts[.]”1 Though the saints are still capable of sin, the fact that mankind is made free from sin by the cross in essence means that the saints though still fallible are sinless in God’s eyes. This is the lens in which I believe one must interpret the fall of man in Genesis 2-4.
The sin that entered the world through Adam is covenantal. Having not been granted forgiveness yet through the blood of Christ when Adam sinned his sin was attributed to him and he died both physically and spiritually. I believe that Adam and Eve ushered in an age in which mankind was held accountable for their sin in preparation for a new age in which mankind was offered the grace of forgiveness:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.2
In Genesis 2-3 it seems apparent that Adam’s nature was no different from our own. Adam was not originally created as a being incapable of sin. The fact that Adam was created as a potentially sinful or fallible being is illustrated by the fact that he ultimately disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. If it is true that the beginning (Genesis 1-4) and end (Revelation 21 and 22) are mirror opposites of one another, it follows that if man was fallible prior to the fall, then it would appear that man would remain fallible after the end of the age. In other words, no profound recreation of the biology of man and his nature is expected to occur on earth after the end of the age. This is because sin is a direct and seemingly inevitable consequence of free will. As long as mankind is given the option to error or sin, error or sin will always exist. But what exactly is sin?
Sin is a function of love and knowledge. The more love one fosters in their heart for others, the less likely they are to sin against their neighbor. Sin is also a function of knowledge. One cannot always do the right thing in any particular situation if one does not know what the right thing to do is.
The age of accountability is a Christian term for the age in which sin is finally attributable to children. According to Isaiah 7:16 children are not born knowing right from wrong: “But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” When a person does not know right from wrong, this ignorance excuses him or her from sin according to Romans 5:13: “[F]or until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”
It should be noted, however, as indicated in the following verse that though ignorance exonerates one from sin, it, of course, does not free the ignorant from punishment: “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”3 Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but did anyway. “[T]hose who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” are those who have done wrong but, unlike Adam, did not know better.
This fact is still true today. Though Christians are sinless in God’s eyes, this does not mean that the saints will not still be punished for their mishaps: “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”4 Therefore, though Adam and Eve first sinned when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it cannot be assumed that they had never done wrong in their lives prior to that point. Adam and Eve may have still errored and God may have still disciplined them but because they did not know better, Adam and Eve would not have been guilty of sin.
If the above information is true and the beginning and end are mirror images of each other, then it follows that after the end of the age the saints, like Adam and Eve prior to the Fall, are also still expected to be capable of error though sin may not be imparted on them: “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”5 The fact that human error will always exist in the earthly plane of existence is also implied in Romans 6:5-7:
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Notice that Paul implies that the nature and tendency to error is somehow wrapped up in the body such that once the body is done away with, the departed is subsequently freed from sin. Does this imply that in the absence of the physical, earthly body that the spirit or spiritual body is then necessarily sinless or somehow incapable of wrong doing?
No. Sin is not absent in all heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Why is there sin and evil in heaven?
Remember that sin is a seemingly inevitable consequence of free will. Because someone is free of the fleshly temptations of the earthly body, does not mean that the spiritual body is still not capable of more spiritually related sins like hatred, anger and jealousy. Unlike lust, these sins are unrelated to earthly, corporal existence. Thus one would expect sin to persist especially in lower heavenly realms.
According to the combined testimony of revelatory near-death experiences (NDE’s) there are many afterlife realms. The fact that there is more than one heavenly realm is confirmed in the Bible. Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms . . .”6 and 2 Corinthians 12:2: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” NDE’s confirm the existence of a multi-dimensional afterlife with several heavenly realms. Concerning the existence of multiple heavenly dimensions, Dr. Harold A. Widdison and Dr. Craig Lundahl, two NDE researchers, state, “But no matter what level or city a person qualifies for, each city is so superior to any on Earth that it is indescribable, and each succeeding realm is indescribably better than that immediately below it.”7
NDE researchers have long known that after death beings naturally gravitate to the heavenly realm whose inhabitants most closely match the degree of love and knowledge a particular being has attained in life. The fact that spiritual beings are sorted out on the basis of love and knowledge should not be a surprise since as stated above sin is a direct function of love and knowledge. The more loving and wise the inhabitants of a specific afterlife realm, the less sin is expected to be present therein. Recall Jesus’ words in Luke 10:25-28:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
In Luke 10:25-28 Jesus echoes the important role that love plays in salvation. That having been said, does there exist a heavenly realm entirely free of sin? Though it is impossible to know the entirety of heavenly realties, I believe that such a realm may exist. This realm may be the highest heavenly realm. The highest heaven is presumably where God exists in the flesh, so to speak. Recall that in Romans 6:5-7, Paul likens the process of sanctification to the resurrection of the dead. This analogy only works if there truly exists a heavenly realm that is free of sin. 1 John 3:2-9 reads:
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
The above verses imply that after the second coming and subsequent resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) the Christian saints will be sinless. These verses seem to suggest that while in heaven, the saints will not sin. How could this be if sin is inextricably tied to free will? Recall that in Romans 6:5-7 Paul likens the process of sanctification to the resurrection of the dead. The process of sanctification may hold the answer to how the sinful nature is finally removed.
The process of sanctification is a lengthy process that according to revelatory NDE’s may not end in death. NDE literature suggests that throughout the different heavenly realms, beings are constantly growing and developing spiritually. In other words, spiritual growth does not appear to end on earth. Being born-again is a powerful impetus that spurs us to change and reform. Like a child naturally growing into an adult, over time the sinful nature is presumably slowly and naturally put aside as the Christian saints of heaven and earth gradually grow in conformity to the dictates of their slowly heightening consciences–this is the fundamental essence of the process of sanctification. As the Christian saints in heaven grow in love and wisdom, they consequently qualify themselves to enter more and more pleasant heavenly dimensions according to the NDE literature. It is Jesus’ sacrificial death and subsequent second coming that makes this process possible for the Christian saint by allowing Christ’s people to enter the heavenly realms to resume this natural process of spiritual growth called the process of sanctification according to 1 Corinthians 15:50-54.
If heavenly beings are continually growing in love and knowledge in the deep time that exists in the heavenly realms, then it stands to reason that a point may eventually be reached when these heavenly beings finally arrive and self-actualize to the sinless likeness and image of Christ. It is in Christ’s sinless image that the saints are predestined to be conformed: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”8
In summary, if it is true that the beginning (Genesis 1-4) and end (Revelation 21 and 22) are mirror opposites of one another, it follows that if man was fallible prior to the fall, then it would appear that man would remain fallible after the end of the age. In other words, no profound recreation of the biology of man and his nature is expected to occur on earth after the end of the age. The sinless state that humans enjoy after the second coming and subsequent resurrection of the dead is because of God’s forgiveness, not because of a forced and instantaneous freedom from the sinful nature. This forgiveness after the end of the age is akin to the innocence of a child who though capable of wrong doing is not guilty of sin.9 Thus the state of innocence (and thus sinlessness) that Adam enjoyed prior to his having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a mirror of the innocence (and thus sinlessness) of the saints at the end of the age in which God’s forgiveness exonerates the wrong doer from sin. Thus the end truly recapitulates and mirrors the beginning.
This sinless state induced by divine forgiveness while on earth appears to be a shadow of the pure, perfect and presumably sinless state of existence in the presence of Jesus and the Father in the highest heavenly realm. The possibility of sinless fellowship with God in the highest heaven is made available to the saints through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice which is put into effect after Christ’s return and the subsequent resurrection of the dead to heaven. These events open the doors of the heavenly realms to the departed saints thereby allowing the process of sanctification to continue until the righteous are finally made perfect to reflect the image of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
How the Sinful and Flawed State of Mankind is Ultimately Made Perfect in Heaven
- Romans 6:12.
- Ibid., 5:18-19.
- Ibid., 5:13-14.
- Hebrews 12:7.
- Romans 13:13-14.
- See also Ephesians 1:20, 2:6, 3:10, and 6:12.
- www.near-death.com/experiences/research18.html#a01a (9/12/13).
- Romans 8:29.
- Isaiah 7:16; Romans 5:13.