How will we become sinless in heaven?
SPROUL: This is why we talk about the order of salvation and the way the term salvation is used in every tense of the Greek verb—“we were saved,” “we were being saved,” “we have been saved,” “we are saved,” “we will be saved,” “we will be being saved.” The pattern is that we’re justified the moment we believe.
Luther’s famous motto, simul justus et peccator, “at the same time just and sinner,” means we’re justified by an imputed righteousness but remain sinners in and of ourselves. However, sanctification begins immediately. We are being conformed to the image of Christ as we are being sanctified. Even the finest, most sanctified Christian is not fully perfected until glorification. That glorification is the work of the Holy Spirit when we come into glory, by which we are cleansed and purified from sin altogether.
The “Highland Hymn” and the beatific vision talk about seeing God as He is, in se est. We don’t know what we’re going to be, but this we know: we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). The question that I still haven’t resolved in my mind is how that will work.
“We will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.” Maybe that means, referring back to the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The reason we don’t see God right now is because we’re not pure in heart. The idea is that we must be purified or glorified before we can have the beatific vision. That would seem to be the logical construct we would reach from the relationship between those two things.
I’ve always wondered if the final act of purification is that we will see Him. Is the beatific vision, the vision of God, the action that affects our ultimate glorification? I’m not sure which way that goes. It would seem to me that we must be purified before we can see God, but it may be that when we see God, we will be purified.
HAMILTON: One of the most significant dogmatic statements I’ve ever read is in Volume 2 of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: “Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics.” It’s lovely when theologians are willing to say, “I really don’t know.” There is a profundity, a holy mystery, that we see through a glass darkly.
I tend to believe that the final moment will be when we see Him as He is, unclouded by our poor sight and by the veil between this world and the world which is to come. But at times we live in holy agnosticism because God is God and we are not.
This is a transcript of R.C. Sproul’s and Ian Hamilton’s answers given during our 2016 National Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.