1Sa 2:27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh?
1Sa 2:28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel.
1Sa 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’
1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
In 1 Samuel 2, there is an interesting scene in which God revokes His promise of an eternal house for Eli. This is fairly unambiguous by the wording of the text. God had “promised” but now that promise is “Far from” Him, and a new rule supersedes the previous.
Parallel concepts are found in God’s eternal kingdom, originally planned for Saul, but then given to King David. Through David’s life and through the lives of the following Kings, God warns that the eternal kingdom can be cut off if the recipients are evil.
When we reach the New Testament, we encounter claims of eternal life. Modern Christians claim that this means that individuals become robots. No longer can they sin, but they will forever be in heaven without a chance to rebel. Is this a warranted conclusion from the use of the word “eternal”? Did eternal take that meaning with Saul, David, or Eli? What discludes a conditional eternity rather than a deterministic eternity? Are there any eternal promises in the Bible of the type the deterministics can use as an example?
The most eternal promise found within the Bible is the unilateral promise to Abraham to make of Him a great nation. Malachi 3 claims of this promise that God will not change on it. Hebrews 6:18 claims that in this promise it is impossible for God to lie. The Jews were confident that this would mean they would never be cut off completely, but John the Baptist counters otherwise:
Mat 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Even if every son of Abraham rebelled, God has innovative options that are not reliant on mankind’s continued obedience. With this being the case, there is no reason to think that both mankind is granted eternal life and that the eternal life cannot be revoked if mankind chooses to rebel. John is under the impression that mankind still has the ability to reject God even if it threatens God’s promises.
There is no reason to think that there is no free will in heaven. The closest the Bible comes to this concept is the description of the new earth in Revelation:
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
God is wiping away tears. No one is dying. No one is crying. Does this mean that there is no free will? Is this a hyperbole meant to illustrate the greatness of the Kingdom? Or is this a testament to God’s kingship and judgment? Is there any reason to default to a loss of free will?
Revelation also contains an idea of evil people still alive and functioning in the new Earth:
Rev 21:24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
Rev 21:25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
Rev 21:26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
The nations that are saved enter the city, except for those who are unclean. Why are these passages worded as such if there can no longer be sin? Would this suggest that the natural understanding of “no more tears” in the same chapter is due to the wicked not being allowed entrance? We have every reason to believe in heaven, rebellion is possible.
Also from the book of Revelation:
Rev 12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
Rev 12:7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
Rev 12:8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Rev 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
In this passage, there appears some sort of heavenly war. Inhabitants of heaven are disenfranchised and cast to Earth. This suggests that these actors all had the ability to rebel.
With all these facts in mind, the position that eternal life precludes a heavenly rebellion is just untenable. Eternal life, like God’s other eternal gifts, are more likely conditional on continued obedience.