In this series, Higher Purpose, we have seen how God made us for work. The Fall however, changed everything and after that work became toilsome, frustrating and devastated by the effects of sin. In the last two sessions we have been wrestling with how we might go about redeeming our work and get our heads around a new story for our work in light of the Gospel. This final instalment focuses on the last part of the Tick & the Cross Illustration (see graphic below). This part is called Restoration or New Creation. We will be asking questions such as: Will we work in the New Creation? What will be the nature of that work? What level of continuity will there be with our work here?
Before we get started I want to make a couple of comments about the diagram itself. I am sure that you noticed that New Creation sits above the level of the original Creation. This is designed to communicate that there will be something far more glorious about the New Heavens and the New Earth, than God’s original creation. We know from passages like Romans 8:19-22 that it is not just human beings that await restoration and liberation but all of creation:
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.Romans 8:19-22
Paul speaks here about all of creation experiencing frustration, bondage to decay and birth pains. Having gone through all of this God is perfecting both His people, and His world, into something even better. These verses suggest that it was necessary to go through all this in order to give people like us the freedom to choose to follow Him in the life to come. For those of us who have made the decision to follow Jesus, we will be given the privilege of spending eternity with him as the people God intended us to be.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.Colossians 1:19-20
Will there be work in Heaven?
My simple answer to this question is yes of course! Work was part of God’s good creation before the Fall and so it makes no sense to say that there will be no work in Heaven. After all Ephesians 2:10 says that God has created us in Christ for good works. These works have been prepared in advance – works that we will do both here and in eternity!
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
Much has been written about what life might be like in the New Creation. There is a danger that we stray into endless speculation. In this post my aim is to focus on the things that we can be confident in. Some people seem to have the idea that in the New Creation we will sit around playing harps in the clouds as part of some never ending worship service. But that fails to find much backing from Scripture. No, I hope we will be excited to hear that the New Heavens and the New Earth will not be boring. Yes we will be engaged in serving God (see verses below), but this will involve fulfilling the responsibilities he gives to us. Through the remainder of the blog we will explore what this might for us.
15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
3 The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.Revelation 7:15, 22:3
What will be the nature of this work? (Luke 19:11-27, Isaiah 65:17-25)
These two passages help us get a glimpse of what work could look like in the New Creation:
After Jesus meets Zacchaeus He tells the parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19. It is about a man of noble birth who went to a distant country and put ten of his servants to work. The first servant earned ten more with his mina and was given responsibility over ten cities as his reward. The second earned five more and was therefore given charge of five cities. Finally, we are told of another servant who hid his mina in a piece of cloth. He did not even earn any interest on the money and so his mina was taken and given to the one who had ten minas. Just like the man of noble birth Jesus has also said that one day He will come back. His explanation of the parable is that to those who have, more will be given, but to those who have nothing, even what what they have will be taken away. I don’t know about you, but having new responsibility and/or authority in the New Creation all sounds rather exciting!
We will look at the second passage more closely because it deals specifically with what it calls the new Heavens and the New Earth. God says we will rejoice forever in what He will create – it will be a delight and its people a joy. You might notice in these verses some similarities to John’s vision in Revelation 21:
17 ‘See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 ‘Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.Isaiah 65:17-25
The reason that this passage is significant to our topic lies in verses v20-23. God speaks specifically here about building houses and planting vineyards, but we might translate this to other professions too. What is especially significant is what it says about our labour no longer being in vain. We will not build houses or plant vineyards and fail to enjoy the product of our labours. The work we do in the New Creation will therefore feel very different to the work we do here, because it will not be toilsome, frustrating or subject to the sinful natures of people like us. No this work will be restful, joyful, satisfying, motivating, fulfilling, enjoyable and full of purpose and meaning.
What level of continuity will there be from our work here?
When thinking about the New Creation we need to consider elements of both continuity and discontinuity. For example, we know from Revelation that there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain. We are told that “the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4b). Later on in that chapter it says that “nothing impure will enter it [the Heavenly city]” (v27). These are instances where there is discontinuity between how things are now and how things will be. In terms of our work, the principle of continuity would however suggest that there is every chance that we will get to further develop in the areas we have been involved in here. James Campbell puts this well in his book Heaven Opened:
The work on the other side, whatever be its character, will be adapted to each ones’ special aptitude and powers. It will be the work he can do best, the work that will give the fullest play to all that is within him.James Campbell, Heaven Opened
However, we would also have to say that for certain professions this continuity is quite unlikely! I think it likely that professions such as dentists, health care workers, law enforcement officers, military (see Isaiah 2:4) & funeral directors would be fairly redundant in the New Creation. There will still be plenty for us to learn anew and no shortage of new opportunities to embrace. I love the way that Tim Keller describes the huge potential of all that awaits us in this New Creation:
In all our work, we will be able to envision far more than we can accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us…[however] our deepest aspirations in work will come to complete fruition in God’s future.Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavour
This series is at an end, but I really hope that these reflections have been helpful to you. We’ve worked through the topic of work in God’s big story using the Tick and the Cross illustration. I hope that we have seen something of our own story in the story arc of God’s plan for the world. I hope that you have been inspired about how we can redeem our work in the here and now. Furthermore I hope that as we have been encouraged and inspired as we’ve begun to envision what work might mean for us in the New Creation!
God Bless you,
See other posts in this series
- Created for work
- Working from a place of rest
- Finding Purpose in our work
- Working for the glory of God
- Wrong ways of working
- Work in the New Creation