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.
- 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).
- 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.