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La la la la la la(Keep in mind this is more like the formation of a thought, as opposed to a well established viewpoint.)

If you die and go to heaven, are you unable to “mess up” from that point on? I don’t mean this in a “free-will” sort of way, as if suggesting that once a person gets to heaven they’re a robot or something, unable to do anything but strum a harp and bounce around from cloud to cloud forever and ever.

What I mean is, if Lucifer, as a created being, was able to … fall, to sin, while in the presence of God (as did Adam and Eve while in the garden, although there was some nice looking fruit involved); then do you or I have any better chance at eternal security after death? Or did I just miss that in the Salvation* fine print of one of the Gospels, like so much legal copy at the bottom of televised car ads.

Put another way: Even if you’re not a once-saved-always-saved Calvinist in this life, if you believe once-in-heaven-always-in-heaven, would that be a sort of Posthumous Calvinism**?

Theoretically, even if I live a good Christian life, even if I accept Jesus as my personal lord and live by the law of love, even if I spread the good word and get welcomed into heaven; I might be able to still fall from grace after the fact. And if that happens after the earth is finally judged and destroyed with fire (and all the rest of that Revelation stuff), it would seem the only other place to be sent would be Hell.

But… Hell is the place reserved for people who either willingly reject or never accept Christ in this life, right?

But (I know, another but) if this is all theoretically possible, which I think you must admit it is at the very least an interesting topic, then what’s the point of serving God and getting into heaven in the first place?

I’m sure I’m missing some obvious components right now, but it just seems all too likely that if Lucifer could fall before original sin, if he and a third of the angels could rebel, (and they supposedly didn’t even have fee will, but either way), then any one of us could do the same in the hereafter.

Given enough time, and eternity seems awfully long, I think heaven could eventually be a very quiet place.

Thoughts?

* Salvation not available to all people at all points in human history; either where those He (God) has Chosen were unable or unwilling to proselytize for whatever reason, or where the Applicant only sought Salvation after threats of torture and/or death. Terms of Salvation subject to change as society’s moral values and ethical codes evolve or adapt due to advances in science, reason or tolerance. Applicants are only responsible for fulfilling those Salvific Requirements deemed necessary by The Church at the time of their death. Applicants who accepted Salvation and ended up in a Persistent Vegetative State during which time Salvific Requirements were changed in any way by The Church will be immune to those changes granted they did not come out of said PVS. God will not be held responsible if Applicants are confused by rhetoric, reasoning, or apparent historical, scriptural, theological and/or soteriological “issues” resulting in Applicants choosing the wrong version of God or the wrong Church. Offer void where prohibited.
** Once you’re in heaven, you’re in for good.†
† But only if you believe that, of course.
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14 Comments

  1. Great thought. No answer here as I need to ponder this further.

    The other interesting question I’ve been pondering along these lines is, why do we say Heaven is suffering/pain free, when we use the “God allows suffering/pain/holocausts (s/p/h) so that we can TRULY know His love” or “S/P/H are His absence so that we appreciate His presence” arguments to justify their existence in this life? If we no longer have s/p/h or His absence, even in complete fullness, can we know His fullness fully?

  2. Good question as well.

    P.S. I love the automatically generated related posts for this one: A Mac vs PC ad, another Mac ad, and then Legal history resources. Maybe I should have used more keywords….

  3. ADJ,

    Intriguing questions to be sure. Though they take for granted:

    1- a literal personification of evil
    a- that he actually “fell” from heaven (when those verses have NOTHING to do with all that falling. *If you recall I addressed that very thing here http://theophiliacs.com/2008/11/21/more-proof-that-fundamentalists-do-not-read-their-bibles-ii/ and here http://theophiliacs.com/2008/11/25/is-the-devil-in-the-details/

    2- An evangelical understanding of “heaven” and it being the point. I’m sure one of these days James will get around to doing his posts on eschatology and we can talk some more.

  4. Reed,

    This is definitely aimed at the inerrantist vein of Christianity, since that’s where my roots were formed. It’s my default, therefore my critique goes in that direction first.

    Tony,

    1- True. But if not literal, what are my other options? (Honestly, I’m not all that familiar.)
    a- Great observation.

    2- Again, what are my other options?

    Roger,

    Interesting caveat, but it seems a touch overly simplified. 🙂

    But I’ll follow suit: When I was a kid, I was super excited about flying around space on a dinosaur for all of eternity until my hopes were dashed when, in “big church”, the pastor explained how heaven is where we do nothing but praise God forever and ever. That sounds awfully boring to a nine year old.

    Now put that into an adult context, I realize flying around space on a dinosaur isn’t the end all of awesome things to do, (although it’s pretty darn close) but it makes me wonder what heaven really is supposed to be about and if I might ever get the inclination to do something else in a million or so years. And could that inclination be wrong somehow and have consequences?

  5. ADJ,

    I TOTALLY thought I was going to be able to like, fly in heaven. Or snowboard without getting hurt. Though I don’t recall ever wanting to ride dinosaurs.

  6. Tony,

    Would the idea of a falling from or out of grace, rather than a literal “fall” from heaven, help get the discussion going?

    I think that is more in line with what we would believe about Lucifer, or the tempter or evil one. Or is this just not what the rest of Christendom believes at all?

  7. All,

    One thing my mind jumps to immediately is the Christian theology of death. In a lot (I won’t say all) traditions death is necessary because (among other things) it serves as the watermark of our completed sanctification. In Romans 8, Paul explains that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. When we die our sanctification is made perfect. At the resurrection, we are transformed into physically perfect beings – I think there is biblical material that addresses (indirectly) that what happened to Lucifer will not happen to God’s called and chosen, because of sanctification and the resurrection. Just my two cents…

    Shawn

  8. Shawn,

    Interesting angle. Are you implying that being ‘physically’ perfect will also mean being incapable of sin or wrongdoing? I agree that the idea of a glorified physical body would come without physical ailments of any kind, this is how I’ve always thought of it.

    I feel like I’m driving at something that is not physical, something that is implicit in the idea that, though we may be ‘made perfect’ in many ways, we will still be less than God.

    I mean, we won’t be God’s equals, right?

  9. Anthony,

    I think that there is something to be said when you look at the perfection of sanctification and the perfection of our bodies in tandem.

    When I conceptualize your question, I cannot help but think of my marriage. Here is what I mean; I know that my wife has my best interests in mind. She wants what is most beneficial for me, and that frees me to quit worrying about myself and to worry about her and the kids instead. I think the Kingdom of God will be a lot like my marriage. Can you imagine a world full of people genuinely looking after the best interest of all others? I think that kind of environment is going to be achieved because of sanctification and the resurrection.

    One thing you seem to allude to (at least your words bring it to mind) is the serpent’s statement in the Garden of Eden to Eve. “God is just worried that you’ll be like him if you eat of the fruit.” Perhaps a person who has fallen, been redeemed, sanctified and given a perfect existence is better able to stand against temptation? Something that hasn’t been mentioned is that there is not an ongoing angel fall out. Those who stood are standing. Thoughts?

    Shawn

  10. Shawn,

    Well done indeed. I think the element of sanctification in the right context at the very least begins to address my concern, if not satisfying the qualm completely. The kicker is the idea of a perfect existence including the understanding of a previous ‘sinful’ existence and the knowledge of the difference between the two making the present perfect state something worth holding on to.

    I’ll have to think on that.

    I would say it would be hard to say if there is or is not an ongoing angel fallout, but that may be besides the point anyway.

    What I’m surprised no one has addressed is the possibility that, once in ‘heaven’, in whatever form it takes, we’ll also have a full understanding of what ‘hell’ really is as well, and that idea would act as a deterrent to wanting anything but the presence of God. Free will would still be active, and we would simply be constantly choosing to stay in union with God because we fully know the scope of the other option.

    Sort of like, we’re no longer looking through a glass darkly. Or is that too… contrived?

  11. Anthony,

    I don’t think it is too contrived at all. I am looking forward to a resurrection experience that finally opens up what it really means to live as a “true human” as Christ was/is a true human. Hooray for Plato and all of that Cave crap, I am excited about getting out of the cave!

    Shawn

  12. ADJ,

    I never got back to you.

    On the embodiment of evil. I know that the second I say this some will start quoting verses of apocalyptic literature at me; but there seems to me to be a fair amount of ambiguity surrounding “The Satan,” literally translated “The Accuser,” in Scripture. I will not deny there are some passages that want to give “him” form and history, but from Job to Jesus there is no uniform picture of this “person.”

    Jesus seems to have envisioned “The Satan” as a spiritual force against Israel whom he was called to defeat, but again, the Temptation scene is thought by many (even N T Wright) to be a mythological story. The idea of the red guy with horns and a pitchfork needs to be laughed at. I know that many of the things I have been angry about with the theology of my upbringing was really a result of my anthropomorphisms, and not really the ideas behind them.

    In classical Christian theology, evil is thought of as the absence of good, not a positive force with will and purpose.

    As far as heaven. I think I’ll still let James post on eschatology rather than go into it on a thread. For now, I’ll just say that Resurrection points to something much more than drifting off into ‘Jesus land’ after we die.

  13. adhunt,

    Anthropomorphism… yep, probably the worst thing that ever happened to much of scripture. It sounds good and makes for nice flannel-graphs, until you think too much about it, and without the foundational idea that some scripture can and should be read symbolically or metaphorically, the overly literal ideas become unbearably weak and leave the believer wanting something with substance.

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