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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
The question you’re asking is not as simple as it appears. If the answer is no, then we would have to deal with the question of the freedom of the creature. If the answer is yes, then the sacrifice of Christ would not have been powerful enough to deal with sin once and for all. The universe would then exist under the shadow of another unavoidable conflict. Under such circumstances, would heaven be totally enjoyable for intelligent beings? In trying to answer your question, I will say two things that we can clearly affirm; and based on these I will add one other comment.
1. The End of Satan, Sinners, and Sin: The originator of sin is not eternal, and neither is his kingdom; they will both come to an end. This will take place at the moment of Satan’s final as-sault against God and His people, when fire will consume him (Rev. 20:7, 10). This is one of the most important events in the resolution of the cosmic conflict. The originator of sin and rebellion and the instigator of sin in others will cease to exist, without leaving behind a vacuum in the cosmos to be filled by someone else. Because of Satan’s absolute corruption, his presence in the universe is unnecessary.
Once the enemy is deleted from the cosmos, his supporters—demons and rebellious humans—will not remain as an extension of his person and power. They, also, will go into oblivion, leaving behind no trace of their existence and corruption. Fallen angels will face God as judge on the great day of judgment, and will experience eternal death (cf. Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4). The destruction of the wicked will also be a radical one and will take place in conjunction with that of Satan and his fallen angels (Rev. 20:7-15). Malachi expressed the idea well when he concisely stated concerning the wicked: “Not a root or a branch will be left to them” (4:1, NIV).* This extreme cosmic surgery will permanently destroy the anomaly of sin in all its diversity of expressions.
2. God’s Eternal Kingdom: With the destruction of the enemy and his hosts the universal sovereignty of God’s kingdom is reestablished. A vision of a new world that assumes universal and inalterable cosmic harmony is given. The eradication of suffering and death is expressed in ways that exclude its resurgence (Rev. 21:4). The redeemed ones will “never” leave the temple of God (Rev. 3:12), “never” again hunger or thirst (Rev. 7:16, NIV), and their names will “never” be removed from the book of life (Rev. 3:5, NIV). God and the Lamb will be praised “forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13), and Christ and His people “shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15; 22:5; see Dan. 7:14). The curse will not come back (Rev. 22:3; cf. Nahum 1:9). Not a single biblical text suggests or hints at the idea that God’s new creation could be ruined again by sin.
3. Safety Only in the Cross: Human Freedom: This is my suggestion: The cross of Christ inoculated the cosmos against a resurgence of sin. The atonement solved the cosmic problem of sin, and it is powerful enough to prevent another cosmic conflict. It was God’s divine purpose “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Eph. 1:10, NIV). He did it, and He will continue to hold everything together throughout eternity (cf. Col. 1:19). After His resurrection Christ went “into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1 Peter 3:22, NIV). The future safety of the universe is based on the meaning of the sacrificial death of Christ. Hence it will be our eternal topic of analysis. All intelligent creatures will voluntarily and permanently submit to the Lord on the grounds of the magnitude and magnificence of God’s love for them revealed on the cross of Christ.
Ellen G. White wrote: “The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” (Signs of the Times, Dec. 30, 1889).
*Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.