I received an email last week that contained two excellent questions about our will and the nature of Heaven, and thought the question and my answer might make for some good conversation.
Here’s the two-part question: In Heaven there is supposed to be no sin, sorrow, or suffering. If you knew of someone in Hell, while you were in Heaven, then you’d be suffering – but it’s OK, god will make sure you don’t suffer. So that’s removed. But sin, in its essence, is going contrary to the will of god. If there will be no more sin in heaven, you the individual can no longer go contrary to god’s will, meaning you lose your own free will, or rather it will be somehow supernaturally restrained such that “you will freely never do anything against god’s will”. In which case, the question to the theists becomes “Why create beings with free will if the end-game is a situation where said free will is removed?”
And my answer: You’re right that in Heaven there is no sin, sorrow or suffering, and the first question you raised is a really difficult and important one. There is an answer to it, but I doubt it’s an answer that any of us can fully comprehend on this side of heaven. The answer is that Scripture tells us that in heaven we will have minds and wills and emotions that align perfectly with God’s. So, whatever God sees as right, we will see as right. So, in heaven, while we won’t rejoice over people who have gone to Hell, we will see their presence in Hell as a result of their rejection of and rebellion against the one true, good, perfect and holy God. So, we’ll see their “life sentence” as right and just and good. Not with a “gloating” attitude in any sense. But we will celebrate God’s justice more fully and perfectly than we do now. The reason we can’t fully comprehend how we could ever possibly feel that way about someone who is in Hell is because we all have an underdeveloped sense of justice. We tend to believe that all humans deserve Heaven. Heaven is theirs to lose if they “really blow it.” But that’s not how Scripture views the state of humanity. Just the opposite actually. All humans deserve Hell. The fact that some go to heaven is only a result of God’s blood-bought, grace-given rescue of them. If we had a more highly attuned sense of justice, we would not be surprised that many go to Hell. We would be surprised that many go to Heaven.
Regarding your second question, you’re also correct that the definition of sin is acting contrary to God’s revealed will for our lives. But you’re incorrect (in terms of how Scripture views the human will) in thinking that sin is a result of free will. Sin is a result of bondage. Sin is what we’re bound to do as sinners until grace frees us not to sin. We are unable not to sin until God frees us from that bondage by grace. And grace trains and sanctifies us to allow us to act more and more in line with God’s perfect will for us. So, in heaven, we will have a perfectly freed will—completely free from all the effects and bondage of sin. So, far from having our freedom removed, we will for the first time be perfectly free to act exactly as we desire to act. And there will no longer be a war between desires fueled by the Spirit and those fueled by the flesh (Gal. 5). We will live in complete freedom, living out the desire of the Spirit alone. So we will be perfectly free and perfectly sinless because we will finally only desire to act in accordance with God’s will and will be uninhibited by the effects of sin in doing so.