DOES GOD REALLY FORGET OUR SINS?

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There are several passages in the Bible that indicate that God forgives and forgets our sin. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Hebrews 10 explains how Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for sin was a once-and-for-all sacrifice. Unlike the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, in which sacrifices were continually made for sin, Jesus paid for sin once. His payment was complete. Hebrews 10:14–18 says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”

These passages make it evident that God does not remember our sins. However, God’s “not remembering” is not what we usually think of as forgetfulness. God is omniscient. He knows everything, and He forgets nothing. However, He can choose not to remember something. In human relationships, we can choose to remember the offenses someone has committed against us, or we can choose to forget. To forgive someone, we must often put painful memories out of our minds. We don’t actually forget the sin, and it’s not that we are unable to recall the offense, but we choose to overlook it. Forgiveness prevents us from dwelling on past troubles.

Rather than treating us as our sins deserve, God removes our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west”—an immeasurable distance (Psalm 103:12). Think of travelling around the globe. When does one stop going east and start going west? It is impossible to say. When we are saved, our sins are completely forgiven. This is what the writer of Hebrews is talking about—Jesus made a one-time sacrifice that completely removes our sin. In Christ, we are justified (declared righteous) before God. Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Romans 8:31–39 is a beautiful discourse on our security in Christ. Sin has no say in our standing with God. We are fully accepted and declared righteous in Him. God does not remember our sins in the way He treats us. Instead, He treats us as righteous. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In this way, God “forgets” our sins.

Even as Christians, we sin, but we know that God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9). God cleanses, and then He moves on. He does not hold our sins over us. Instead, He frees us from the slavery of sin and sets us free to experience a new life. Knowing the complete forgiveness of God in Christ, we can join King Hezekiah in praising our Redeemer: “You have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17). Like Paul, we can forget what is behind and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).

Prophet Nathan Emol

DO WE HAVE APPOINTED TIME OF DEATH?

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The Bible tells us that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). So, yes, God knows exactly when, where, and how we will die. God knows absolutely everything about us (Psalm 139:1-6). So does this mean our fate is sealed? Does this mean we have absolutely no control over when we will die? The answer is both yes and no, depending on the perspective.

The answer is “yes” from God’s perspective because God is omniscient—He knows everything and knows exactly when, where and how we will die. Nothing we can do will change what God already knows will happen. The answer is “no” from our perspective because we do have an impact on when, where, and how we die. Obviously, a person who commits suicide causes his own death. A person who commits suicide would have lived longer had he not committed suicide. Similarly, a person who dies because of a foolish decision (e.g., drug use) “expedites” his own death. A person who dies of lung cancer from smoking would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had not smoked. A person who dies of a heart attack due to a lifetime of extremely unhealthy eating and little exercise would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had eaten healthier foods and exercised more. Yes, our own decisions have an undeniable impact on the manner, timing, and place of our death.

How does this affect our lives practically? We are to live each day for God. James 4:13-15 teaches us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” We are to make wise decisions about how we live our lives and how we take care of ourselves. And ultimately, we trust God that He is sovereign and in control of all things.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WILL WE REMEMBER OUR EARTHLY LIFE WHEN IN HEAVEN?

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Isaiah 65:17 says, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Some interpret Isaiah 65:17 as saying that we will have no memory of our earthly lives in heaven. However, one verse earlier in Isaiah 65:16, the Bible says, “For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” It is likely only our “past troubles” will be forgotten, not all of our memories. Our memories will eventually be cleansed, redeemed, healed, and restored, not erased. There is no reason why we could not possess many memories from our earthly lives. The memories that will be cleansed are the ones that involve sin, pain, and sadness. Revelation 21:4 declares, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The fact that the former things will not come to mind does not mean that our memories will be wiped clean. The prophecy could be suggesting the wondrous quality of our new environment. The new earth will be so spectacular, so mind-blowing, that everyone will quite forget the drudgery and sin of the current earth. A child who is scared of the shadows in his room at night completely forgets his nocturnal fear the next day on the playground. It’s not that the memories have been wiped out, only that, in the sunshine, they don’t come to mind.
Also, it’s important to make a distinction between the eternal state and the current heaven. When a believer dies, he or she goes to heaven, but that is not our final destination. The Bible speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth” as our eternal, permanent home. Both passages quoted above (Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1) refer to the eternal state, not the current heaven. The promise of wiping away every tear does not come until after the tribulation, after the final judgment, and after the re-creation of the universe.

In his apocalyptic vision, John sees sorrow in heaven: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (Revelation 6:9–10). John is obviously in heaven (Revelation 4:1–2), and he sees and hears those who obviously remember the injustice done to them. Their loud calls for vengeance indicate that, in the current heaven, we will remember our lives on earth, including the bad things. The current heaven of Revelation 6 is temporary, though, giving way to the eternal state in Revelation 21.

The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19–31) is further proof that the dead remember their earthly lives. The rich man in Hades asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich man’s brothers of the fate awaiting the unrighteous (verses 27–28). The rich man obviously remembers his relatives. He also remembers his own life of self-serving and sinful comfort (verse 25). The memories of the rich man in Sheol become part of his misery. The story does not mention whether or not Lazarus has memories, but Abraham has definite knowledge of goings-on on earth (verse 25). It’s not until we reach the eternal state that the righteous will leave all sorrow behind.

Prophet Nathan Emol

CAN PEOPLE IN HEAVEN LOOK DOWN AND SEE US?

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Some see in Hebrews 12:1 the idea that people in heaven might be able to look down and see us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. . . .” The “witnesses” are the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11, and the fact that we are “surrounded” by them leads some commentators to understand those heroes (and possibly other people) are looking down on us from heaven.

The idea that people are looking down from heaven to see what we’re doing is common in popular culture. But, as much as we might like the notion that we’re being watched by our departed loved ones, that’s not what Hebrews 12:1 is teaching. Building on Hebrews 11, the author begins drawing up some practical lessons (that’s why chapter 12 begins with “Therefore”). The “witnesses” are the people whom God commends for their faith in chapter 11, and there is a large crowd of them in heaven. The question is, in what way are they “witnesses”?

The proper interpretation of Hebrews 12:1 is that the men and women forming the “great cloud of witnesses” are witness to the value of living life by faith. Their Old Testament stories give testimony to the blessings of choosing faith over fear. To paraphrase the start of Hebrews 12:1, “Since we have so many tried-and-true examples of proven faith . . . .” So, it’s not that people are in heaven watching us (as if our lives on earth are so interesting or they have nothing better to do!), but that those who have gone before us have set a lasting example for us. The record of their lives bears witness to faith and God and truth.

Hebrews 12:1 continues, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Because of the faith and endurance of believers who went before us, we are inspired to stay the course in our own race of faith. We follow the examples of Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Gideon and etc.

Some people point to the rich man’s mention of his brothers in Luke 16:28 as proof that departed souls (in Hades, at least) can see events on earth. However, the passage never says that the rich man could see his brothers; he knew he had brothers, and he knew they were unbelievers. Also, some people use Revelation 6:10 as a proof text: the tribulation martyrs call for God to avenge their deaths. Again, this passage says nothing about the martyrs seeing people on earth; it simply says that they knew they deserved justice and desired the Lord to take action.

The Bible doesn’t specifically say that people in heaven cannot look down on us, so we can’t be dogmatic. However, it is unlikely that they can. People in heaven are likely preoccupied with other things such as worshipping God and enjoying the glories of heaven.

Whether or not people in heaven can look down and see us, we are not running our race for them. We are not hoping for their approval or listening for their applause. Hebrews 12:2 keeps our focus where it belongs: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Jesus is our blessed hope, no other (Titus 2:13).

Prophet NathanEmol

WILL WE BE ABLE TO SIN IN HEAVEN?

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The Bible describes heaven or the eternal state in great detail in Revelation chapters 21–22. Nowhere in those chapters is the possibility of sin mentioned. In fact, we have the promise that, in the eternal state, we will never experience death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4)—the absence of those things is proof positive that sin is also absent, since those things are the product of sin (see Romans 6:23).

The sinful will not be in heaven but in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). Nothing impure will ever enter heaven (Revelation 21:27). Outside of heaven are those who sin (Revelation 22:15). An Old Testament prophecy also assures us that the Kingdom of God will exclude sinfulness:
“A highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it. . . .
But only the redeemed will walk there” (Isaiah 35:8–9).
So, the answer is, no, it will not be possible for us to sin in heaven.

God wills our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3); that is, He wills to make us holy and free of sin. Our sanctification has three phases: positional sanctification, which saves us from the penalty of sin at the moment of faith in Christ; progressive sanctification, which saves us from the power of sin as we grow in Christ; and complete sanctification, which saves us from the presence of sin as we enter the presence of Christ. “When Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). In other words, the process by which God sanctifies us involves justification, maturation, and glorification.

The glorification that God promises His children (Romans 8:30) necessarily includes sinlessness, because sinful beings cannot be glorious. Heaven, the place of God’s glory, is sinless. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely” (ESV), and he links the glorious appearing of Christ to our personal glorification: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). This glorified state will be our ultimate separation from sin, a total sanctification in every regard. It will not be possible for us to sin in heaven.

James 1:14 provides another assurance that we will not sin in heaven: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” In this sinful world, we face temptation daily, and James identifies two forces that prompt us to sin: our own evil desire (our sin nature) and enticement (the devil’s schemes). Neither of those forces will be in heaven. Our sin nature will have been eradicated in our glorification, and the tempter will have been consigned to the lake of fire where he can do us no harm (Revelation 20:10).

The Bible’s teaching is that heaven or the eternal state is completely holy. There will be no possibility of sin, we will be clothed with righteousness (Revelation 19:8), and will we be eternally confirmed in our state of bliss. The work that God promised to complete in us will have been finished (Philippians 1:6). Our deliverance will be complete, as the elect are redeemed—body, soul, and mind—to the glory of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6–10).

Prophet Nathan Emol