For the Good of the Future World

All of us want to know that what we are doing now has lasting impact on eternity, right? We get that our work is impacting souls who will never die (John 11:26). We get that loving our neighbor is a means of worshiping God (Mark 12:30–31). But what does our work have to do with our future home, the new heavens and the new earth?

God created us to work. It was not an afterthought to him (Gen. 2:15). Work is not a result of the curse. It’s woven into our personhood. The fact that we were created to work is a direct reflection of God, the one whose image we bear. God works, so we work, and because of this, work will not cease when we all get to heaven. It will simply be better, perfect, and unstained by sin.

I used to be rather terrified of heaven. I don’t like being bored or having nothing to do, and in my faulty understanding, heaven was one big worship service where all people did was sing and play music while floating on clouds. I love to sing, but I thought it would get old after a while. I looked at the world around me, the work I enjoyed, the food I liked to eat, the people I loved talking with and being around, and I couldn’t see how (even though I would be without sin and with Jesus) heaven was better than what was right in front me. I think a lot of people feel that way. We need a robust understanding of the new heavens and the new earth. Yes, we will be free from sin (hallelujah!), but we will also be part of a new earth. Think about the garden of Eden for a moment. What was included in it? Food, people, animals, beauty, work, and leisure. The things we love most in this world, the good gifts that God has given us, like our work, are only foretastes of the greater glory that awaits us when this old, cursed world passes away and a new one is born (Rev. 21:1). The mundane things of our day will be seen with glorified eyes to understand how they are fulfilling God’s purposes in his creation. The thorns and thistles of our work (the neverending laundry, the filthy kitchen, the rebellious children, the outrageous grocery prices) will be gone, and we will get all of the joy and none of the pain. The point of all of our work is to reflect the God who created us, to display his glory to a watching world, and to draw others to see it, too. In the new heavens and the new earth, we will be with God, so we will see and experience the purpose of our work in new and perfect ways because we will have bodies free from sin and we will be with the Redeemer (Isa. 65:17–25).

So how does our work now have any bearing on eternity, besides the impact on souls?

Pastor and author Tom Nelson has helped me to understand how my work now impacts my work later. He uses the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30):

In the parable of the talents, Jesus paints for us an enticing and hopeful picture of a future that brings with it great reward for diligence and faithfulness. Our future reward involves a joyful intimacy with God. We will “enter into the joy of our Master,” but we will also be given greater work to do in the future. In many ways we are training now for reigning later with Jesus. The work you do now matters more than you often realize.[1]

He goes on to say that if the new heavens and the new earth that Peter talks about in 2 Peter 3 really is a purified earth (and not burned up or destroyed), then our work has eternal value. God works through us, his image bearers, to restore his creation to its rightful state. We are all working toward that final day when God redeems all that has been lost, resurrects us from the dead, and restores the earth to sin-free perfection (Rom. 8:19–22; Rev. 21:1–5). Our work is preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in a new earth, where the curse is gone, and we will work for God’s glory, always.

In the garden God gave Adam and Eve work to do. It was good work. They were to cultivate the ground, rule over the animals, and enjoy the beautiful world that God made. I imagine they also had the ability to understand how every part of their work pointed them back to the God who made them. There was no mundane task because they could see the purpose in the things we find ordinary. There was no conflict in their soul about serving one another because they knew who was their neighbor and gladly worked for the good of the other. We don’t live in that world any longer. But we will one day. While we may be clouded by our own sin and the overarching curse of life in a fallen world, our work hasn’t changed. It still serves the same purpose—worship of God, pointing back to God, and pointing us forward to the life that is coming.

A Shot at Redemption

In any work, we fall prey to forgetfulness. When I was a waitress in college, we had a term for someone who was overwhelmed on a busy night. She was “in the weeds.” Weeds can sometimes grow so thick around us that we can’t see anything else. But on our most coherent days, we all want to know that what we are doing matters now and in eternity.

Journalist Jennifer Senior sees this in parents all the time. People’s lives suddenly become focused and intentional when they have children. They see life as moving them toward something when their children enter the world. They have hope. They have a shot at redemption, she says.[2] What seemed so meaningless before now doesn’t seem that way anymore.

Christians know something on an even larger scale. We know that we aren’t the ones redeeming the culture through our work. Only God can do that. But we are given the privilege to work alongside of him. We are part of his cosmic plan to save a people for himself and make all things new. Our mundane, self-sacrificing work is part of that effort. It’s about people. It’s about seeing beyond the walls of our homes and seeing how what we do on any given day is not just blessing the people in the home, but also blessing the world that he has made. And it’s all bringing him glory. Our work isn’t giving us any points with God, but it is telling the world about the God we worship. It’s telling what we value most. It’s telling what we hope in even when it is hard. Christians work differently, in every kind of work, because we work for the Lord (not others) and we work hopefully (for the future).

Your work might be ordinary, but it’s filled with glory. Your work might be mundane, but it’s taking you somewhere. Your work might be born out of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), but it’s producing life in others for people who have eternity in front of them. It’s good work. It’s meaningful work. And it matters to God.

Content taken from Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God by Courtney Reissig, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

[1] Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 70–71.

[2] Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting (New York: Ecco, 2014), 259.