Is There Sin in Heaven?
One of my inquisitive college students recently asked me if there is sin in heaven. Admittedly, I do love challenging questions such as this one, so I thought it best to give it some thought before I officially responded. The question naturally sparked quite a bit of lively conversation in the classroom. Initially my response was based on the nature of evil and where evil stems from. After allowing for more time to think about this question, I do believe that it is best to not only consider the source of sin but also the definition of sin.
There are various ways to define sin, but for our purpose we will focus on the position that the Bible takes on the nature and definition of sin. We will begin by exploring the very nature of God because He is the standard by which a Christian should discern what is either good, or what is considered to be bad. When Scripture is read correctly, we see that in the Creator, there are no flaws, only perfection. When the LORD created the universe and all that it would hold, every creature would have its designated function. When we study the creation around us, we can clearly see a great deal of perfection, design, and purpose in in every living thing. We know from Scripture, that even the animals and the natural realm remain within the Creator's boundaries for which they were created (Psalms 19:1-6; Mark 4:41). We even see in Scripture that the animals are aware of God and they obey (Numbers 22:23 – 32).
Humanity, as it seems, is the only part of creation that God chose to create in his image. Therefore, we are expected, more than the rest of creation, to live according to His instructions. Science reveals that God imparted part of His perfection in our DNA, as it exhibits a level of intricacy and precision unparalleled in human technology. The study of the epigenome, which is tied to our DNA, and the simple observation of human behavior, reveals that our minds have been pre-programmed to have what we recognize as a “conscience.” Our conscience is our moral indicator that lets us know, deep down, when we are behaving in a way that is not beneficial to our health and well-being, or behaving in a way that is harmful to those around us. Modern technology can actually measure how our brains react to certain behaviors and thoughts (Matt. 5:28-29).
As the image bearers of the Creator, we are expected to live within the guidelines given to us by our Creator for optimal health (mental and physical) and living experience. Any departure from those guidelines is considered sin. Sin is, in essence, a deliberate rejection of the boundaries set by the Creator. Scripture tells us that unrepentant sin is a choice and that the penalty for sin is separation from God (Prov. 10:16; Rom.6:23). Sin is, in this respect, a behavior. Since sin is a choice, and therefore a behavior that by nature causes us to turn our back on God as we chose a different direction for our lives (1John 3:6-9, 5:18), we can safely conclude that those who chose a lifestyle opposed to the guidelines set by the Creator will not spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven. Hence, sinful behaviors will not be a part of heaven.
Sin is not only harmful to the one who is living opposed to the Word, but it is also harmful to others. Aberrant behaviors will inevitably cause disunity within a society. Community is imperative in the kingdom of God, as it is very important to God. Scripture is clear that God will not even accept an offering, or prayer, if our hearts are not right with each other (Matt. 5:23; Mk.12:33; 1Pet. 3:7). When we read in the Bible how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have always worked as a unit, we learn how the godhead has eternally existed in perfect unity as community. This unity is as an example of what is expected within the people of God. It would be a contradiction if sin were allowed in heaven in the presence of God. When we understand the Bible rightly, it becomes clear that sinful behaviors are contrary to the nature of God, and will not be tolerated in His presence.
Many will point out the fact that Satan is seen in heaven according to the Scriptures (Job 1:6; Zech. 3:1). It is true that God created the Angels, even Satan and those who followed him, however we see that they were thrown out of heaven (Is. 14:12-15; Lk.10:18). We have a tendency to see Satan as the equivalent of sin itself, but he is a creature just like everything else. Regardless of what we read about Satan being cast out of heaven and his desire to set himself opposed to the things of God, we do not see him actually sinning in heaven. What we do see in Scripture is that when Satan does stand before God he is asking permission to create problems for people. Satan’s goal seems to be to drag people down to the pit of despair (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev.12:3-10).
So what is sin? If we define sin logically we see that it does stem from our definition of evil:
To begin, our standard for good is set by the perfect standards of the Creator.
Evil, therefore, is the absence of good,
Sin is a behavior that is either harmful to ourselves, or to others,
Sin is, in essence, evil.
This is where we begin to equivocate sin to something that is evil, and we see Satan as evil.
Is there sin in heaven? NO, there is no sin in heaven. While it is true that we see Satan in heaven, according to the Scriptures, he is not sinning. It is very important to remember that he is a creature subject in obedience to God. He must ask permission to incite people to follow their own selfish desires or to go against their God-given conscience. The fact is, is that the further we are from God, the easier it is for Satan to manipulate us, and the closer we are to God the more difficult it is for him to manipulate us. The Creator has given us the gift of free-will, and that is where we are expected to guard our hearts and our minds against this natural enemy. The way we are most effective at deflecting the schemes of the enemy is by diligently reading the Bible on a daily basis to come to know the character and nature of God. It is by knowing the nature of God that we come to a discerning knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to the Creator.