Pastor Jeffrey Grupp, Church of the Nazarene
In this article, I will argue that Heaven ahead of us may be similar to an Eden-like existence, but not identical to it–and there are significant differences between the two, most notably of which is that the types of souls in Eden in that past were very different from the types of souls that will be in Heaven (for those who are accepted into Heaven) after the death of their post-Fall physical bodies. This is not a view discussed much among theologians, as far as I know, but it shows that God’s plan was one of grace, via the Fall (the Fall was part of the plan all along), to generate souls that are sinless and which cannot sin and contaminate Heaven (unlike what happened in Eden). This information shows how critical it is to be transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and therefore to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11) after the Spirit takes over our lives by our invitation and our consequent total surrender to God, and where we spontaneously cease to sin since the Trinity is in control of our lives and self has been crucified (Galatians 2:20, James 4:7, Galatians 5:25, 1 Cor. 10:31, Romans 6:13).
I was reading in Diane Leclerc’s book, Discovering Christian Holiness, a few nights ago where I came across the following passage: “Sin takes us away from our humanity, not closer to it. To be renewed through sanctification (both in its entire and progressive form) is to be restored in nature to what God originally intended” (Leclerc 186). I paused after reading that, thinking about the idea that our fallen nature is, supposedly, not what God originally intended (if that’s what Leclerc was saying), and also how the Eden/Edenic state is how we were intended, supposedly. The word “restored” in Leclerc’s passage cited, above implies we are to go back to how we originally were, in some way, in our Edenic existence, as if our future Heavenly existence (for those who are saved) will be going back to something that was just like Eden was. I’ve heard these ideas many times before, they all never sat right with me, and I think are not correct.
If God intended us to be in our Edenic state, then why put that tree in the garden and start talking to Adam and Eve about it? Clearly an Edenic existence is not what God was ultimately planning for, and the fall was part of His grace: the intended plan of God was precisely what happened, which was not Eden, but rather a situation where Christ saves the world by free grace. 2 Tim. 1.9 shows how the fall was part of the plan, and therefore Eden was not (well, it was part of the plan just for a short time, and just to be obliterated by sin). And those points all show us that our intended state is to be a salvational human post-Fall (whether on Earth before physical body death or after in Heaven), rather than an Edenic human—and there’s no question, in my mind, that a post-Fall salvational and perfected human is not equal to an Edenic one.
For one thing, I think the Edenic human is more prone to sin caused by free will than a post-Fall perfected human is (Hereafter I will refer to this second sort of human by the title “Wesleyan perfected post-Fall salvational human,” in keeping to the Wesleyan theological tradition, of which I am a pastor at a church in the United States, and which holds as a primary thesis that humans after entire sanctification are perfected, and thus can be sinless. Also, a more obvious, but titanic difference between an Edenic human vs. a Wesleyan perfected post-Fall salvational human is that the “perfection” of the Edenic human is like a robotic perfection: unchosen (Adam and Eve had it because God implanted it into them, not because they rejected darkness and chose it); but the perfection of the Wesleyan perfected post-Fall salvational human is chosen, via the free will of the human. That difference is more than mildly significant! The reason the Fall happened was so God could build His holy fellowship for that will last for eternity, but Edenic humans are not suited for that (not all of them, at least), lest there be the risk of a fall in Heaven, since they have capacity to sin, but Heavenly humans (post-Fall salvational humans) might not (especially after they arrive in Heaven after physical body death; see below for more discussion of this). Our future in Heaven is for those who have passed God’s judgment due to their reckless surrender to Him, and not for those who have the aforementioned implanted perfection (Edenic humans), who have capacity to sin. So, what God intended was not Eden (if He did, it would have lasted), but rather what He intended is precisely what we have now: post-fall salvational humans trapped in a fallen world helping (by witnessing, surrendering, etc.) to prepare the world for His Second Coming.
So, sin originated from human freedom, and God did not intend sin, even though the Fall was, in a way, part of God’s plan. God cannot originate sin, but God can create free-willed beings that by their own free-willed agency can create free-willed choice-events (which are uncaused supernatural events), where some of them can be choices of evil—so God does not create sin, but rather He creates freedom, that, in turn, creates sin. In simpler terms: God created us, knowing we’d sin: He had to know we would since He’s omniscient, so, again, in a way, the Fall was intended, part of the plan, which I think is what is strongly implied by 2 Tim. 1:9:
2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)
9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)
9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)
9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:9 (VOICE)
9 God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling—not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King.
What I see when I read that verse is that we were SAVED, and the plan for that was our being saved before the physical plane was created. But in Eden, we did not need to be saved—there was nothing to be saved from. So that means, I believe, that the plan was we were to be “the saved ones” before the fallen world was created, and before the fall happened. Not sure how else to analyze that word “saved” in there. And thus the Edenic human must not have been what was intended, but rather the aforementioned Wesleyan perfected post-Fall salvational human.
But moving deeper into this, God is, in a way, behind sin, just not in a direct way (God can’t directly create sin, but He can allow it to happen, to give one example, or God can create freedom that leads to evil, as mentioned, etc.), as indicated in this verse:
Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
This is a really interesting verse, but I don’t think that it can mean that God directly creates evil and natural disasters, but rather it must be in the aforementioned ways: free will (not God’s free will but human freedom) creates evil, according to this equation:
So, God is the impetus for this equation, but without the middle variable (human freedom), there won’t be any evil. So God creates evil, in a sense, as Isa. 45:7 states, but then again, He CANNOT create evil—so He does and He does not. This may sound like absurdism, but I think this is good analysis, and it’s just more paradoxical transcendental mathematics of the higher-order logic of God that we won’t understand until we are with Him in Heaven—the sort of higher-order transcendental logic that we are all already familiar with, with the 3=1 trinitarian mathematics (for those who are trinitarians, that is).
I think this is all about God’s grace (grace=love from God that humans do not deserve but can receive): the Fall, ultimately, is about His grace, to build His holy fellowship of believers in Heaven and leading up to and after Parousia, where the Word will save those who are surrendered, which only happens by a Fall, which can only happen in the physical plane, not in Heaven (there’s another key difference between our Edenic existence and our future Heavenly existence). This equation shows how the Fall is ultimately about God’s grace:
Humans created free=>inevitable fall=>we must be saved=>only saved by His grace
The ideas presented above are largely based on the conclusion that there CANNOT be a second Eden-like fall in Heaven. It seems that a fall can’t happen in Heaven (in other words, that a sin in Heaven will lead to the same result as it did on Earth, where all of nature was contaminated, and all human souls were damaged), since Satan’s defection from God did not appear to lead to a contamination of Heaven (as far as anybody knows) in the way the world was damaged by sin. But that was a sin among angels, not humans, and Satan was kicked out of Heaven, possibly prohibiting any infection onto Heaven at-large (unlike humans who stayed on Earth, contaminating it), so I will stick to the idea that a hypothetical sin by a human in Heaven would result in a fall of Heaven, and an angelic sin has some other effect. Presumably, we don’t lose our free will in Heaven, but everything about Scripture seems to imply there is to only be one Fall, Eden, and there won’t be another one in the next Eden-like existence (Heaven). So, somehow, unlike Eden, in Heaven we will be free-will agents that cannot sin, that do not have the capacity to sin, and thus we will be very different sorts of creatures than pre-fall Edenic humans, that could sin.
If that’s all correct and true, then Edenic humans are a very different sort of human than Wesleyan perfected salvational humans of contemporary Earth and of Heaven above, in that the former can sin, but the latter, when they get to Heaven, cannot, to restate things. Again, this is all based on the idea that there cannot be any sin in Heaven, and there won’t be another fall up there. So, the perfected (Wesleyan perfected post-Fall salvational human) Christian today must be in same way “constructed” (for lack of better words) in a very different way than pre-Fall Edenic humans, since one can sin and the other won’t once they are walking with God in Heaven.
In conclusion, it perhaps seems paradoxical, but the Fall was part of God’s plan, and if it was part of His plan, it can, ultimately, only be about love and grace, since God is only capable of love and grace. God’s plan, it appears, from what I can tell, and by the logic of this article, was to generate sinless souls for the joy-fellowship of God’s people in Heaven for eternity after physical body death (but which starts with salvational humans, especially salvational sinless humans, on Earth before death). This is a reason why the concept of sinless perfection (as in the Wesleyan theological tradition) is so important: because it would appear from the reasoning of this article that the creation of and generation of sinless human souls may be a major point of Creation (and the Fall), so that sinless free-willed agents can be generated and elected into Heaven, without risk of causing another fall in Heaven. This shows why sinless Christian perfection is so important, which is often either puzzled over or ignored by contemporary Christians. But sinless perfection is not a complicated idea, and it’s just a matter full surrender to Christ ceaselessly (Isa. 26:3, 1 Thess. 5:16-17, Eph. 6:18), substituting self’s will for the Will of God.
-Pastor Jeffrey Grupp, Church of the Nazarene, July 26, 2017
Leclerc, Diane, 2010, Discovering Christian Holiness: The Heart of Wesleyan-Holiness Theology, Kansas City: Beacon Hill.
I made a video about the above article, link below (for an audio-only (mp3) copy of this video, click here).