Posted April 24, 2017
Question from a Catechism Student
(7th Grade Boy)
Q. What if someone sins after God brings us all to heaven?
The question asks about what will happen if a saint (or maybe an angel) sins after being made perfect and brought to heaven. Before we answer this question we must ask another question, which may be what the student really meant to ask. Is it possible for a saint or angel who has entered the state of perfection in heaven to sin? This is a good question considering that Satan was a perfect angel before he sinned, and Adam was a perfect man before he sinned. It would seem that it may be possible for perfect angels and perfected saints in the future to sin.
But it will not be possible for saints (or angels) to sin in heaven. Rev. Herman Hoeksema teaches this on pages 628-631 of Reformed Dogmatics (vol. 2, second edition). Rev. Hoeksema explains the biblical teaching about eternal life on these pages. In heaven God will give his people eternal life, which Rev. Hoeksema explains, “is resurrection life. It is immortal in the true and scriptural sense. It lies on the other side of death. It is victory over death.” Then a little later he writes,
Eternal life is everlasting. It can never be lost, exactly because it has its root in the incarnation of the Son of God. Now we have a beginning of this eternal life in our hearts; it is only a principle. That beginning of eternal life will be translated into the fullness of joy at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory. Then it will advance into the state of spiritual perfection, as well as to the perfection of the resurrection of the body. It will reach its final perfection of glory when all the saints in Christ, all the elect of God, shall have been gathered; our bodies shall have put on incorruption and immortality (1 Cor. 15:53).
The reference to 1 Cor. 15:53 which speaks of immortality is important. One who has immortality cannot die. Because death is the “wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23) one who cannot die also cannot sin. Adam did not have immortality. He could sin, and he could die. Immortality is a gift of salvation Jesus Christ gives to his elect. The elect receive that immortality in stages. In regeneration they receive the seed of immortal life. In death they are given immortal souls. In the resurrection they receive complete immortality in body as well as soul. Once saints receive their glorified bodies and souls they can never again fall into sin or die—that is what immortality means!
So “what if someone sins after God brings us all to heaven”? The answer is that no glorified saint or angel will be able to sin, so we do not have to think about what would happen if they did. The eternal life we will have in heaven will never stop. So we give thanks to God for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23)!
For various reasons I have not written a blog post for a while, but it is good to be back again. I intend to write shorter and more frequent posts. And today I am starting with what may become somewhat of a regular feature: A Question from a Catechism Student. The future of this feature depends of course on the catechism students that I teach and the questions they ask. But I do not want to limit this to the students I teach. If there are children or young people out there who would like to ask a question please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the answers to these questions I will attempt to point you to something published by the RFPA.
So here’s the question that came from a 5th grade girl. What happened to Lazarus’ soul after he died and before Jesus raised him back to life?
For an answer to this question I point you to Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics (vol. 2, Second edition, p. 471). Rev. Hoeksema speaks of Lazarus in connection with what is called the intermediate state. The intermediate state refers to the state of the body and soul after death but before final resurrection. Rev. Hoeksema teaches that ordinarily the soul of the child of God goes to heaven immediately after death to the conscious experience of glory and fellowship with Jesus. This is the hope and comfort of believers. Our souls do not sleep after death but go to heaven.
But Rev. Hoeksema recognizes that the soul of Lazarus could not have gone to heaven to then return to “this present world of sin and death.” So what happened to the soul of Lazarus and to others in scripture who died and then returned to this life? Rev. Hoeksema explains, “We must maintain that in those cases the Lord provided a special state in which most likely they were unconscious, and from which they were aroused into a conscious state in the present world by the wonder of what we would call a typical resurrection [a foreshadowing of the final resurrection of the body].”