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Will our Knowledge of our Sin in Heaven turn it into a Hell?

Some Christians live in fear that heaven will be spoiled or their joy diminished because then they will see with much greater clarity than ever they did while on earth the wickedness and perversity of their sin. Won’t that undermine our capacity of joy in heaven? Continue reading . . .

Some Christians live in fear that heaven will be spoiled or their joy diminished because then they will see with much greater clarity than ever they did while on earth the wickedness and perversity of their sin. Won’t that undermine our capacity of joy in heaven? Won’t it bring us grief and sorrow and thus turn heaven into a sort of hell?

No, says Jonathan Edwards, and for at least two reasons. First,

“because they [the saved in heaven] will so perfectly see at the same time, how that ‘tis turned to the best, to the glory of God, or at least will so perfectly know that it is so” (Miscellany 432; Yale, 13:482).

What Edwards means by this is that the truth of Romans 8:28, among other similar texts, will be clearly and joyfully understood. In that text we are assured that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The “good” in view here is not only our ever-increasing conformity to the moral and spiritual image of Jesus (see Rom. 8:29a), but also the “good” of God’s glory. That is to say, as each event in life, to use Edwards’ language, is “turned to the best” by God’s majestic governance and powerful providential orchestration, his glory is increasingly seen. Thus what may otherwise have caused us grief will be swallowed up in the vision of how our gloriously omnipotent and infinitely wise God “turned” it to serve his purpose in making his beauty and splendor more clearly seen.

There is a second reason why our knowledge of our sin in heaven will not spoil the experience. The saints, says Edwards,

“will have so much the more admiring and joyful sense of God’s grace in pardoning them, that the remembrance of their sins will rather be an indirect occasion of joy” (ibid.).

He’s not denying that we will remember and think about our sins and failures on earth. What he’s saying is that so great and joyful will be our awareness of pardon and forgiveness that the latter will immeasurably outweigh any sorrow we might otherwise experience. As we think on our sin in heaven we will instantly be gripped with the wonder of grace, that God has so freely and mercifully forgiven us of all our transgressions. Whatever momentary sadness might be induced by reflecting on our sins will suddenly become an occasion of joy as we see and savor the truth of God’s having wiped clean the slate of our sin and having reckoned to us, through faith alone, the perfect righteousness of his Son.

So do not fear that in heaven your memory of earth will diminish the promised joy. It will actually serve only to intensify it!

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