Tag Archives: Christian vocation

What Will Work Be Like in the New Heaven and Earth? Russell Gehrlein October 12, 2017

In your job today, you will likely experience the “thorns and thistles” that have come as a result of the Fall; the reality is that work will be difficult until Christ returns. But what happens to work when Jesus comes back, and Adam’s curse from Genesis 3:16-19 is no more, as it states in Revelation 22:3: “No longer will there be any curse”?

Here are some key points worth considering:

  • At the consummation of all things, Christians and the earth will be fully redeemed (Rev. 21:1-5)
  • Many aspects of human work will continue in the New Jerusalem (Isa. 65:21-23)
  • It may even include the best of human culture and achievements, past, present, and future such as the wheel, Handel’s “Messiah,” food, architecture, roads, government, technology, etc. (Rev. 21:24, 26)
  • There will be no more need for doctors, lawyers, counselors, or wheelchair manufacturers

If we understand that some of the things we do now could be carried over into eternity, it can radically change our attitudes and actions in our work. It means it has eternal value.

Tom Nelson, in Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, states,

If our daily work, done for the glory of God and the common good of others, in some way carries over to the new heavens and new earth, then our present work itself is overflowing with immeasurable value and eternal significance.

In plain terms, we need to see the huge impact of the great reversal of the curse, where sinless humanity and its relationship to work are restored to pre-Fall conditions.

Focus on the New Creation

Just imagine what our work could be like in the New Creation without the pain, frustration, stress, difficulty, unpredictability, sweat, and interpersonal conflict between sinners that we currently experience in our labor due to the Fall.

The possibility that there will be work for us to do is implied in the scriptures. The prophet Micah suggests that we don’t just lay down our weapons, we will pick up instruments of work: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Mic. 4:3).

If there is work, it will not seem like it, as the quality of workers and the workplace will be fully restored. There will be no corrupt leaders, workaholism, unemployment, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, greed, exploitation of workers, etc., that exist in a fallen world. We will no longer experience the power or the presence of sin. Work relationships will not be characterized by conflict, but by peace, fellowship, and unity. The hopeless message of vanity of Ecclesiastes 1 will vanish. There will be no meaninglessness in life and work “under the sun” because we will all be “under the Son.”

Revelation 21:1-5 gives us a description of what to expect at the consummation, after Jesus returns and the judgment of Satan and his followers is complete. You can see that contrary to popular belief, heaven is not a place of disembodied spirits playing harps up in the clouds. The New Jerusalem will come down to earth, where God will dwell for all eternity with those whose names are found in the Lamb’s book of life and where there will be no more death or sadness or pain.

Michael Wittmer, in Becoming Worldly Saints, reminds us that God’s future plan is not destruction, but restoration:

God did not say, “I am making new everything!” but rather “I am making everything new!” He does not promise to make new things to furnish the new earth, but to renew the things that are already here.

Paul Stevens, in Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture, agrees, “Our final destiny is not a workless utopia but a renewed world in which we will work with infinite creativity and fulfillment.”

Nelson concurs: “Your work in the new creation will be even better than it was in the old creation. God has a great future in store for his image-bearing workers.”

In his book, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work, Darrell Cosden ponders more specifically what our work will be like,

Our sanctified imaginations can only suggest what we think God’s promise to make all things new might mean…There will be, no doubt, some specific products of our work that through judgment will be transformed and incorporated into the “new physics” of the new creation. I am quite hoping that Handel’s Messiah will be regularly in concert in the New Jerusalem.

Wittmer suggests that Bach and Michelangelo will be there with time to create even better works.

What Kind of Work Will We Do?

This is only my biblically informed speculation, but it appears to me that there will be two categories of jobs that we will not find anywhere in the eternal kingdom.

  1. There will be a small number of obvious jobs that will no longer exist because evil is no more (e.g., pimps, hit men, counterfeiters, porn film directors, and drug dealers).
  2. However, there will be a much larger number of jobs that will no longer exist because they are no longer needed since fallen humanity and the Earth have been restored. While the eternal value of the earthly work remains, these types of jobs and career fields will be unnecessary in the New Jerusalem: morticians, law enforcement, light bulb manufacturers, lawyers, doctors, wheelchair manufacturers, psychologists, and many more. Those that served in these areas will likely continue to apply their unique design to work that is needed.

Stevens writes that our future work will be all that God originally designed it to be—fulfilling,

Work in the new heaven and new earth will be all that good work was intended to be. Perhaps what we will be doing is what we have done in this life but without the sweat and frustration experienced here…Since there will be no curse on work, the workplace, or the worker, labor will be personally and completely satisfying, far more than was obtainable in this life.

Although there are a lot of unanswered questions about the nature of our work for all eternity, these insights should still give us a tremendous amount of hope. They should cause us all to reflect on Paul’s words of encouragement in the context of his teaching on the bodily resurrection of believers: “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

 

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the eternal value of work in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel by Hugh Whelchel. 

God places us in our vocation

C.F.W. Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. The following is from a collection of his sermons from Concordia Publishing House. He talks about how we are placed in and used by the Holy Spirit in the vocation we are in for a reason. Dr Martin Luther made vocation an important part of his issues with the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church had been teaching that those who are in “religious” vocations are on a higher level than the rest of the worldly vocations. That somehow priests, nuns, monks, do work that is more important. Luther took issue with that in that we are all placed in our vocation by God for His purposes. Therefore since we are in those vocations at God’s behest, we are serving Him to the best of our abilities in that vocation.

As a good Lutheran pastor, Dr. Walther certainly is in tune with Dr Luther’s views. The following is from a sermon he gave based on Luke 5: 1-11:

“In today’s reading, we encounter Saint Peter working diligently in his earthly calling. He explains to Christ that he has worked patiently through the entire night. Although he has caught nothing [no fish], he does not give up the difficult vocation of fishing to seek something more rewarding. Instead, we find him the next morning washing his nets with his partners and preparing to try again.

Every true Christian will work diligently and untiringly. He will not leave his chosen vocation without real cause, recalling the words of the apostle Paul; ‘So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God’ (1 Corinthians 7:24). This is not, however, a distinguishing mark of the Christian since unbelievers can also pursue a vocation with dedication and endurance. In some cases, a non-Christian may even surpass a Christian in his devotion to his work.

How, then, does the true Christian show himself to be such by his earthly work? The first thing we notice from Peter’s example is that, although he was very industrious, he laid his net aside and carefully listened to Jesus as soon as He began to preach. Moreover, he permitted Jesus to use his boat as a pulpit when the people on the shore crowded Him from all sides. Finally, when Jesus called him to be a fisher of men, Peter immediately ‘left everything and followed Him’ (Luke 5:11)'”

In the midst of his earthly work, a true Christian shows that it is not the principal activity of his life. Indeed, he places his heavenly calling above his earthly one. He seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He does not let his bodily work be a hindrance in caring for his soul. He would rather interrupt his bodily support than be without nourishment for his soul from the precious Word of God.

Today’s text tells us even more about Peter. When he let down his net and caught such a great number of fish that the net tore, he did not in any way attribute the success to himself, his diligence, his wisdom, or his worthiness. Instead, ‘he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ (Luke 5:8). He regarded his great success as a blessing of Christ alone that he did not earn. Here we see the second way a person reveals in his earthly work that he is a true Christian. He does not believe he can preserve himself by his work, his diligence, and his wisdom. but only be awaiting his daily bread from God’s faithfulness. He does not lose heart if his worked proves fruitless, but instead places his reliance upon God. If his work is crowned with success, he receives it as a gift of grace from His heavenly Father. He does not bind himself to earthly things, but separates himself from them that he might be drawn to Christ all the more.

There is one more way in which Peter demonstrated in his work that he was a true Christian. When Jesus had stopped speaking, ‘He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”’ (Luke 5:4). His command was completely contrary to the rules of fishing and Peter’s own experience. The best fishing is not in the depths of the open sea but close to shore; it is also not during the day but at night. How does Peter respond? ‘And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets'” (Luke 5:5). This is how all true Christians work. They are motivated by God’s command because His Word says, ‘By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread’ (Genesis 3:19). Christians therefore daily say, in the conviction of their heart, ‘But at Your word I will let down the nets.”‘

“And gently grant Thy blessing That we may do Thy will, No more Thy ways transgressing, Our proper task fulfill, With Peter’s full assurance Let down our nets again. Success will crown endurance If faithful we remain. Amen (The Lutheran Hymnal p 544:5)

(Translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer “God Grant it: Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther” pp 551-553)

God uses our work to put others in right relationship with Him. Makes sense!

God is only going to give you so much family to raise or relate to as Christians. He gives us a lot more relationships in the place where, it seems, that we spend more waking time than anywhere else. Ah yes, where we work to earn our wage, the place where we toil in order to support our families, but also to interact with those around us.

God certainly puts us into each of our relationships for a reason and our workplace, ask my wife, seems to have taken up the majority of my waking time. God has put me in some interesting places to witness to Him. I worked for two of the biggest banks in the world, and one of the biggest manufacturer in the world. People knew that I was a Christian and occasionally someone would want to talk to me about it. I worked for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, right on the top of Beacon Hill in downtown Boston, obviously a place desperate for Christian witness. I served in the Coast Guard Reserve for 29 years with 4 years of active duty. Needless to say for people who regularly face life and death, the questions have to trickle out and they did. I built many relationships through my workplaces, a lot of really interesting people and opportunities.

So when Patrick Morley in his book “A Man’s Guide To Work” states: “This is the ultimate purpose of work: to bring people into right relationship with God and with each other.” You really do have to come to the realization that the workplace can present many challenging relationships and many rewarding relationships. God uses each relationship to help us, co-workers, even customers to come to Jesus, to continue to grow in Jesus and for our work to serve in ways imaginable and unimaginable.

Morley goes on to write: “Once you see your work life the way God sees your work life, it is a perspective that will permeate every human encounter, every decision you make and every minute you allocate.” In the military you are taught to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Whether you are being subjected to hostile, or criminal activity or if you have to deal with issues of the weather. As Christians should we be constantly aware of our environment where we work, where we serve as examples of serving, where we serve as examples of leaders, mentors and followers?

“The purpose of your work is to improve people’s lives – to bring them into right relationship with God and others.” Now that I am a pastor, this is certainly obvious in my vocational life. But we are all part of the royal priesthood of believers. The other people around you at work may not realize it, but God has put you there in order to be His priest to the people around you. More than likely, I’m never going to be in your workplace, I’m never going to know the people you know. Even if they aren’t Christians, wouldn’t God put someone in their midst to minister to them?

No you’re not going to be a bull in a china shop, you are there to do your work. But those around you should know that you are a Christian and when they are around you, even in your day to day work, they see something different in you that they don’t see in the people who aren’t Christians. When God wants you to witness to them He will give you the opportunity, and it will be at an opportune time. Not when you have a million dollar customer waiting to work with you in the conference room, but at a time that God arranges where you can truly see your fellow worker and truly share what your life in Jesus has been and help him/her see His life in Jesus.

God doesn’t intend your workplace to be where you do the least you can get away with, punch in at exactly when you’re supposed to be there, punch exactly when you’re supposed to, take advantage of every little opportunity and keep your mouth shut and ignore those who work around you. You are there to attest to God’s will in your life and to be an example, often the only one people around you may see, of how God works in a life and brings someone to His Lordship in life and to eternal life.

Wednesday mornings at 10am, I know goofy hour, have a better suggestion? We meet at the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa., to share about our Christian lives in the workplace. You’re not the only Christian who has to spend so much time in the secular world, this is a chance to share with others who live their Christian lives out in the workplace. Park behind the church 140 W King, walk about 100 yards east to the coffee shop. I will even buy you’re first cup of coffee.