• Will We Work in Heaven? Written By Dr. R. Paul Stevens

    Will We Work in Heaven?


    The last book of the Bible, the Revelation, contains a vision of what will it look like when the kingdom comes fully at the end of history. This will happen when Christ returns and there is the grand finale of human history: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15). The Apocalypse of John (Revelation) ushers us into a world of dragons, beasts, angels, cosmic catastrophes and martyrs chanting hymns. We are swept from one riveting vision to the next, transported from heaven to earth and back again, in an upstairs-downstairs drama. There is a final battle, a wonderful wedding supper, and an exquisite garden city. But what will it be like to be there? Will we work in the new heaven and new earth or will we merely sit around playing our guitars and singing the same worship song a million times over?

    There are two answers for this question. The first is a theological answer. The second is a textual answer.

    Good Theology: God is a Worker and We Are Made in His Image   

    Charlie Brown once said there is nothing more comforting than good theology. Good theology says that in our final destiny we will be fully human rather than mere immortal souls floating around in the ether of heaven (the Greek view of the future). In the Hebrew and biblical view of the person, the body is not an evil shell for the precious and holy soul. We are bodies, are souls, are spirits.

    As ensouled bodies or embodied souls, made even more human than we were in our earth-time, we will work. Why? Because this is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. God is a worker and he made us male and female in his image partly to work to take care of his world (Gen 1:27-28). But there will be no curse to deal with, no sin, no cantankerous customers, no sleepless nights worrying about the bottom line. Indeed Gordon Macdonald in his children’s books envisages exchange taking place in heaven without money, and exchange is business.  


    Good Words from the Text: Your Calling Does Not End with Death   

    The second answer is textual. Revelations says, “The kings of the earth will bring their splendor into [the holy city]”(Rev 21:24). The best of the culture of every nation on earth, its technology, art, literature, service, and products will be there. “The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it” (21:26). Human creativity will be expressed fully and beautifully. Then in the final marriage of heaven and earth people will “reign (read ‘work’) with him age after age after age” (22:5 The Message).

    And on each side of the river of life are pictures of the tree of life, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (22:2). Sometimes doctors say to me there will be no work for me in heaven. I usually answer along these lines: Whatever gifts, talents and personality you have now will be present and exalted in the new heaven and new earth. Indeed, your calling does not end with death, or worse still with formal retirement. It continues into eternity. And what if all heaven is healing and renewal?

    So who would not want to be there?

    W.H. Auden, while introducing Charles Williams’ novel, The Descent of the Dove, put it starkly: “Charles Williams succeeds… in showing us that nobody is ever sent to Hell; he, or she, insists on going there…. The wrath of God is not His wrath but the way in which those feel His Love who refuse it, and the right of refusal is a privilege which not even their Creator can take from them.” [i]

    Why would you not want to be there? Heaven is permeated with the presence of God whom we will see face to face, to know as we are known and to be eternally loved.

    Yes, work will be there. But best of all, God and the people of God from every race culture and background will be there. Also some of the things we have done. Relational, instrumental, medical, domestic, service, construction work will have eternity kneaded into it and will provide some of the furniture of heaven.

    This concludes our blog post series The Kingdom and the Marketplace by Dr. Paul Stevens. On April 8th, we will be releasing a new podcast season for the Doing God’s Business podcast. Dr. Paul Stevens and Tim Chan will co-host this season and interview various guests about the integration of faith and work. Guests this season will include Andre Chen (CEO of Denham Jeans), Brenda Halk (Senior Associate of Strategic Projects at Canadian Baptist Ministries and entrepreneur), Dr. Clive Lim (Managing Director of Leap International and Visiting Associate Professor of Marketplace Theology at Regent College). The podcasts will be available on our website and on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

    [i] Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove: A History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (New York: Meridian Books, 1956), viii. See John 3:19.

    Dr. R. Paul Stevens

    Dr. R. Paul Stevens is a craftsman with wood, words, and images and has worked as a carpenter, a student counsellor, a pastor, and a professor. He is the Professor Emeritus of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College, and the Chairman of the Institute for Marketplace Transformation.

    His personal mission is to empower the whole people of God to integrate their faith and life from Monday to Sunday. Paul is married to Gail and has three married children and eight grandchildren, and lives in Vancouver, BC

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