As you can imagine we get a lot of questions in the inbox about heaven and eternity and what to expect there. The most recent question in the inbox comes from a listener named Michael, who asks simply: “Pastor John, in heaven, will we be permitted to do anything we want?”
The answer is yes. So, shall we go on to the next question?
Okay, okay. A simple yes could be misleading if I didn’t say more, so here is the more.
Another way to say yes is that in heaven — that is, in the age to come — when there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sin, those who have trusted in Jesus will experience for the first time complete and perfect freedom. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). And Paul said, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Only Christians will enjoy complete and perfect freedom, which I have often defined this way: doing whatever you want to do and not regretting it in a thousand years.
“True freedom is doing whatever you want to do and not regretting it in a thousand years.”
Now, let me see if I can help us feel the wonder of this by describing four stages of freedom — and only the last stage is perfect freedom: we only have it in heaven and we will have it in heaven. The four stages are 1. freedom of opportunity to do what we can, 2. freedom of ability to do what we desire, 3. freedom of enjoying what we desire while we do it, and 4. freedom of enjoying what we desire forever, because it is good and leads to no regret. Now, here is just one illustration for all four of these.
One. Let’s take skydiving, for example. Suppose you are on your way to the airport to go to your first real jump. You have been studying it. You have done everything except jump. You are ready and it is scheduled. Your car hits a pothole — I am thinking Minnesota. You have a blowout and you run into a telephone pole — and you are no longer free to jump that afternoon. Whether you have the ability to or desire to doesn’t matter. You don’t have the opportunity because you are sitting in your car waiting for a tow truck. So, you don’t have the freedom of opportunity.
“To be fully free, you must have the opportunity, ability, and desire to do what leads to unending joy.”
Two. Or suppose you make it to the airport, but you have no ability at all. Suppose in a different situation you never studied skydiving and never learned the first thing about how a parachute works. So the opportunity is there, but you don’t have the freedom of ability. You are in bondage to your lack of knowledge.
Three. But suppose that you make it to the airport. You have been to school. You have been trained, and you have all the abilities you need. So, you take off for your first jump, but as soon as you look down, all your desire vanishes — and in its place comes a tremendous fear. The opportunity is there. The ability is there. The know-how is there. But you don’t have any desire anymore. The freedom of desire is gone.
“We love to obey God’s commands because they are good, wise, holy, and loving.”
Four. Now, there is one last requirement for full freedom. Suppose you get to the airport, no obstacle. You have all the know-how necessary. You look down at the tiny little clusters of silos and barns and farmhouses, and you just can’t wait to jump. All the desire is there. And so you have the freedom of opportunity. You have the freedom of ability. You have the freedom of desire. So, you jump and you fall a long way without pulling the cord. And unbeknownst to you, your parachute is not going to open. It is going to fail, and you are going to die.
Are you free before you know that? Well, in three senses you are. But in the critical fourth sense, you are not. What you are doing so happily. All the opportunity is there. All the know-how is there. All the desire is there. And it feels really satisfying as you fall. But you don’t know that you are in bondage to immanent destruction. You are.
“In heaven, we will do everything we want to do because we will be made holy in greater and greater joy.”
So, in order to be fully free, it is not enough to have opportunity, ability, desire. The acts you desire and perform have to be pleasing to God, and they lead to unending joy, not any regret, because they are good. They are wise. They are holy. They are loving. We can experience that in measure or in part here, doing God’s will in such a way that we will have no regret, but not perfectly. But in heaven we will do everything we want to do because we will be made holy, and everything we want to do will not result in a crash landing, but in greater and greater joy.