Q & A: Free will in Heaven?

While reading Benjamin Warfield’s critique of perfectionism and the attendant descriptions of both justification and sanctification, I received a question from a friend whose son had asked if we will have a free will in Heaven. Since my mind was already engaged in the topic of how the gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, it seemed a good time to include the question in those I have dealt with over the years here on drbarrick.org. 

Years ago, as young man in Wyoming, I had the wonderful experience of seeing a hawk enter a steep dive out of the sky. A moment before I thought the hawk would be killed by his plummet, it sunk its talons into a cottontail rabbit, extended his wings, and bore his prey away.

Several years later, after I was born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, my pastor was speaking about the Christian’s will. He explained that a person is composed of intellect, emotions, and will. As an unbeliever, we possess a sin nature. Therefore, our intellect, emotions, and will operate within the sphere of that sinful nature.

My mind went back to that marvelous scene involving the hawk and the rabbit. The rabbit could not alter his nature to protect himself and to escape the hawk’s deadly dive. Could it but change to a rock, the hawk would have died instead of the rabbit. The rabbit, limited by its nature, could only act within its nature.

Likewise, our free will on earth operates within the realm of our nature. We began with only a sin nature and we used our free will to sin (Romans 3:10–18, 23). We willfully pursued sin whether or not we had received any knowledge of the gospel and what Christ had accomplished for sinners (Hebrews 10:26). After we are born again, we receive a new nature (Romans 6:4–7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20–24) allowing us to freely obey Christ and be Christlike — or, because we still have our sinful flesh (Romans 6:17–22; 7:5, 14, 18; 13:14; Galatians 5:16–17), we can still choose to sin. Thus we wage a battle within ourselves like Paul’s in Romans 7:14–25.

In Heaven, however, our sinful flesh is gone and our nature is completely conformed to Christ. Therefore, at that time our free will will only choose what is right, holy, and godly. In Heaven we will not be sinless, perfect human beings like Adam was when he was created. He had free will, but he used his free will to choose to disobey God. But as for us, in Heaven we will have been glorified (Romans 8:30) and made to be completely like the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45–49; 1 John 3:2–3). There will be no sin, no Fall, in Heaven (Revelation 21:27; 22:3).

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