Blog - Reaching Forward

Will Our Work Ever End?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Will we work in heaven? If not, what will we do?” Pete Hammond (see last blog) ends with these questions on the "Jobs Are:” page in his Lessons, Prayers & Scripture on the Faith Journey.

Bible writers did not leave us with any eternal work descriptions. Like much else that lies beyond earth’s clocks and calendars, what will occupy us in the future remains wrapped in mystery. Years of tradition have suggested we’ll spend eternity not working but playing—harps. But while it offers few specifics about our post-resurrection activity, Scripture does contain hints that raise some fascinating questions.

David wrote of God, "You made him [man] ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Ps. 8:6). The writer of Hebrews says this refers to Jesus (Heb. 2:9). And Paul confirms that God will place everything under the feet [under the authority or rule] of Christ (I Cor. 15:27). Christ will "reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

But it is also true that as God’s people we will "reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). Paul quotes an apparently well-known saying that includes the promise that, "if we endure, we will also reign with him” (II Tim. 2:12). And according to Rev. 5:10, the blood-purchased people of God will reign not in heaven but "on the earth.”

Our ruling/reigning role began early on. God’s first job description for his human creatures assigned us to "rule . . . over all the earth” (Gen. 1:26). A clue to what that would involve comes in the next chapter when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden "to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Does it follow, then, that we rule God’s earth primarily through our work?

Physically, of course, we are made of the very earth we are to rule over. So the first chunks of real estate you and I are to rule over are our bodies. Paul confirms that in I Thess. 4:4, when he says that "each of you should learn to control his own body.” After that, God expands the territory for which each of us is responsible to rule under his authority. We do almost all of that ruling by working—whether on a payroll or off.

A parent, through the work of bringing made-of-dust children under proper control, rules that part of the earth from the home. By working, a dentist exercises authority over decay, breakage, and wear that would otherwise interfere with teeth functioning as God intended. Entrepreneurs, in their work, learn to take charge of resources in ways that provide work and wages for others. Even in this present age, the work of ruling takes countless forms.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus praised both servants who had worked well. Then he made this promise: "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25:21). Is our work in this age in some way an apprenticeship to help prepare us for even greater responsibilities in the age to come? When this creation is "liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21), when the new earth appears, and when we occupy new bodies, will the ruling/reigning then differ in character from the ruling/reigning now? Or will we still do it primarily through work—purged, to be sure, from the drudgery and difficulty resulting from sin?

Intriguing questions. Any insights?

Comments (5)

Matthew Clark (10/3/2011 5:22:32 AM)
Have you read "Leaf by Niggle" by J.R.R. Tolkien? It's a little fairy tale that makes the argument that our work here continues and comes to life in eternity.

God is worker, work existed for us before the Fall. Yes, we will work and I believe grow in Heaven. "Further in, further up," as Lewis says in Narnia.
Fanni (12/11/2011 7:24:21 PM)
Frankly I think that's absolutely good stuff.
al Erisman (9/24/2011 9:01:21 PM)
There is a very good description of work in Isaiah 60--trade, transportation, financial dealings. This picture of the New Jerusalem is the very picture of eternity and does fill in something on our work.
Larry Peabody (9/25/2011 12:09:44 PM)
Thank you, Al. Yes, Isaiah 60 does confirm that work will continue in the age to come.
Christian Overman (9/27/2011 9:02:10 AM)
I really LOVE the way you put this, Larry: "Physically, of course, we are made of the very earth we are to rule over. So the first chunks of real estate you and I are to rule over are our bodies."

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