What will heaven be like? Much has been written lately about the experiences of people who underwent death or near-death experiences, but what do we know conclusively from the holy Word of God? Besides the physical description provided at the end of Revelation, we know that in eternity, in addition to the most significant factor those who are Christ’s will enjoy–the fullness of His presence–we will also experience a corresponding absence of any sin.
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3)
The curse referred to in this verse is the result of Adam and Eve’s original disobedience to God, which ushered in the presence of sin into this world. It includes an effect upon the natural world as evidenced by the following verse:
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)
It is not clear in what way, exactly, creation was “subject to futility,” but we know that it will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption.” Some understand this to mean that until sin there was no death in the world whatsoever, and some argue that there was simply no human death. It does, however, seem to refer to the interaction of sin in mankind with the natural world. Cruelty to animals comes to mind, as well as a flawed ability to properly manage the ecological resources God has placed mankind in charge of, and this brings us to the main thrust of the effect of our contamination by sin:
“Therefore…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned–“ (Romans 5:12)
Once Adam and Eve sinned, each and every one of their descendants has been born contaminated with the presence of sin–a natural incapability of holiness, and corresponding repulsion and fear of God–a sin nature. And in the absence of the redeeming power of Christ, all remain in this condition.
The argument has been convincingly presented that the sin nature is passed down through man, thus explaining why Jesus, although fully man, did not possess it: “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.'” (Luke 1:35) Yet the remainder of us do possess a sin nature, and it is what causes so much grief and pain in our world.
If we are perceptive, we can see in any terrible situation caused by human beings that it is the effect of that sin nature that does damage and harm. When we look at any one of a number of situations–from anger, to fear, to shame, to pride, to laziness, to greed, to covetousness, to lust, and any other negative emotion–we see that it is really a shortfall of the fullness of the holiness of God we should be evidencing that is at the root of the pain we inflict upon others or they upon us.
This is why various students of human nature have reflected, perceptibly, that people are typically neither completely good or evil–they tend to reflect various combinations of these qualities. It is why we can have rapists who are otherwise upstanding citizens, child molesters who are good neighbors, corporate criminals who donate to charities, well-intentioned parents who are addicted or end up abusing, loving spouses who become violent or unfaithful, and the like.
When, however, we submit to God and begin to live through the Spirit of “…Christ in…[us], the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), we cause others less grief because we obey Him:
“I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:16-17, 19-21)
We “…crucif[y]…the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24) Instead of emanating sin, we reflect, “…the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (Galatians 5:22)
Yet even those who consciously submit to the authority of Christ and turn away from sinning cannot completely get away from its effects in this world. We are vulnerable ourselves if we take our eyes off of Christ, and we still suffer from the sins of others. This is why we look forward to eternity so much. It is not a “death wish”–an ungodly desire to cease to exist altogether. Rather, it is a looking forward to the day when we will be released from the temptation to sin ourselves–from the pain it causes us and others–and the misery the sins of others cause us. So to conclude, what should we recognize as a result of this? What should our response be?
We should respond by remembering–each and every time we are hurt by someone else–that while they are co-conspirators in the pain they cause and fully responsible for it, the real culprit is sin. Were they to turn to Christ, that pain would be diminished or even eliminated altogether, and they would someday be completely freed from it! So again, how should we respond when we are hurt by others? We must pray for them.
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (II Timothy 2:24-26)
We look forward to the time when there will be no more curse. We pray for those whose minds the “god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4) has blinded, “that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taking captive by him to do his will.” In Jesus name we ask, because this is according to His character and will, Amen.