Ask Ivor

Mike asks:

"If we were created and given free will and chose to ignore God's will for us, then after the Second Coming, after the culmination of history, what will be different? Will those saints who receive eternal life have free will? How do concepts like free will, sanctification, obedience and being puppets get worked out?"

The Christian doctrine of sanctification is that believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are being increasingly transformed into God's likeness, and that this process will be completed "in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet."

Will we retain our free will in the afterlife? Scripture says, "What we will be has not yet been made known." Therefore we can only speculate about this question.

It is natural for us to insist on the necessity of free will; otherwise we would be puppets, not humans. On the other hand, we appear to want a guarantee that in heaven we will not fall. Perhaps there is no guarantee: if angels can fall, then so perhaps can we. Then again, maybe it is somehow possible to retain free will and to be immune from sin.

Augustine speculated about all of this fifteen centuries ago and came up with this theory: "Who can measure the happiness of heaven, where no evil at all can touch us, no good will be out of reach.... The souls in bliss will still possess the freedom of will, though sin will have no power to tempt them. They will be more free than ever—so free, in fact, from all delight in sinning as to find, in not sinning, an unfailing source of joy.... In eternity, freedom is that more potent freedom which makes all sin impossible.... Just as the immortality that Adam lost by his sin was, at first, a mere possibility of avoiding death, but, in heaven, becomes the impossibility of death, so free will was, at first, a mere possibility of avoiding sin, but, in heaven, becomes an utter inability to sin.... Can we think that God himself, who certainly cannot sin, is therefore without freedom? ...In the everlasting City, there will remain in each and all of us an inalienable freedom of the will, emancipating us from every evil and filling us with every good, rejoicing in the inexhaustible beatitude of everlasting happiness...."