So what assurances do we have that the human fall into sin will not repeat itself in heaven? This is the question from Nicholas in Camacho, Florida, who sent us an email to ask: “Pastor John, I have often worried that, after some time after being in heaven, I will sin against God. If the devil, once perfect and in God’s presence, fell into sin, what does that mean for us who are justified sinners? Could the sin of Eden be repeated in heaven? The thought that I may still sin against God when I am in heaven has plagued me for some time. Does the Bible offer Christians any hope that we will forever not sin once we are glorified?”
Yes, it does offer hope, and, no, the fall will not be repeated in heaven. So here is why: The reason that we who are united to Christ by faith in his glorious work on the cross and in the resurrection is that this blood that he shed seals a new covenant. That is why it is not going to happen. We are not going to fall like Satan did or like Adam did.
New Covenant Commitment
One of the marks of the new covenant is not only that God gives us eternal life, but also that God commits himself, because of Christ, to keep us from doing anything that would jeopardize our eternal life. In other words, the newness of the new covenant is precisely that God is committed to keeping us from falling away the way Satan did or Adam and Eve did in their days of innocence. They were not the beneficiaries of the blood-bought new covenant. We are.
Jesus said this at the Last Supper: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). I take that to mean that everyone who is covered by this blood, through faith in Christ, is a beneficiary of that covenant. It is a blood-bought covenant. Those in Christ covered by Christ’s atoning work are beneficiaries of this new covenant.
And what God commits himself to do in this new covenant is spelled out in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel 36, and Jeremiah 32. Let me just read a few phrases from those passages.
This is Jeremiah 31:31–34: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” — which Jesus now is applying to his new Israel, the people of God who are in Christ. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . . For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Ezekiel 11:19–20: “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.”
And here is the best of all. Jeremiah 32:40: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.”
Now that is the bottom-line new covenant commitment. Let me read it again: “I will not turn away from doing good to them. I will put the fear of me in their hearts . . .” In other words, it doesn’t depend on us. God is going to take charge of keeping us. “That they may not turn away from me.” “That is the point of my putting my fear within them. I will not let them turn away from me.”
In other words, the glory of the new covenant is that God will never find himself in the position where his redeemed people turn against him, because the very heart of the new covenant is that he won’t let it happen: “I will put the fear of me in their hearts. They will not turn from me.”
God’s Keeping Power
It is precisely this keeping power of God, this keeping commitment of God, which Jude sees as the mark of God’s majesty and dominion and authority. I preached on this a couple of years ago at Together for the Gospel. I was so moved by it as I came to the end of my pastoral time, looking back over 33 years and saying, “He kept me. He kept me! I still believe! Can you believe that?! I still believe! I wake up in the morning a Christian every morning, putting my faith in Jesus.” Why? And here is what it says:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25)
Why did Jude rise to that level of acclamation? He did it because he was so stunned that God has devoted his entire being to keeping his children. That is the connection. The very majesty and dominion and authority of God are behind the stipulations of the new covenant. He will keep his people from stumbling. He will present us blameless. He will keep us blameless.
Here is one more aspect of the new covenant that underlines the same glorious truth: The resurrection of Christ led to his new role as the redeemer in heaven who continually intercedes on behalf of the saints. It isn’t as though he did a saving work for us, and then he went on a vacation forever — as if he disappeared and the cross does it all. No, no. Christ does it all by mediating the work of the cross to the Father and applying it to us day by day.
There is no reason to believe this is going to cease, because Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he [Christ] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” That’s amazing.
What does Jesus pray, always, forever, into eternity making intercession? Here is an example: in Luke 22:31–32, Jesus says to Simon Peter just before he denies him,
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again [not if], strengthen your brothers.
In other words, the intercessory work of Jesus on behalf of his people is to pray that our faith not fail. And even though Peter, in that part of redemptive history before glorification, denied the Lord, he did not let him deny the Lord utterly; he didn’t let him fail in his faith utterly. And once we obtain our glorified bodies and are completely conformed to Christ when he appears, as it says in 1 John (1 John 3:2), that eternal intercession of Jesus will keep us from any sinning. This is what he bought for us in the blood forever.