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What you do in this life matters in the life to come.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24
Work is not part of God’s curse because of sin. However, God’s curse often makes our work painful and frustrating: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life … by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. (Gen 3:17-19)”
But the good news is that God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ is redeeming, restoring, and expanding God’s original purpose for our work.
When Jesus returns he will remove the curse from the earth and make it new:
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him” (Rev 22:3).
Some wrongly use this verse to teach that our “worship” in the new earth will be a solely vertical, motionless, and utter absorption of our souls with the eternal contemplation of God as a “beatific vision”.
The problem with this view is that two verses later we see this worship includes our ruling with Christ over the new earth: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5).
On the new earth, Adam and Eve will resume their godly dominion over the earth. So will Noah and his godly offspring. And so will the offspring of Abraham, David, and all the disciples of Jesus from the first century to today. And so will we. The age to come on the new earth will not be an eternal day off.
Our life to come will not be spent in heaven with Christ as disembodied spirits, like believers who are now in heaven with the Lord. Our final state as believers will not be some ethereal heaven somewhere off in space where we’ll just float around forever singing and praying. On the contrary, heaven is not our final destination.
Everyone who goes to heaven is making a round trip. When Jesus returns to make all things new, he will bring heaven, and all who’ve been with him in heaven, back down to earth. And he will give them new bodies in which they will rule with him over a new earth carrying out God’s original mission to subdue the earth forever.
The Bible teaches that our new bodies and this new earth will not be completely different from the first ones. But our bodies and the earth will be glorified, meaning they’ll be renewed and purified. In 1 Peter 3 the Apostle Peter tells us about God’s coming fiery judgment on the whole universe that will precede the coming of the new heavens and new earth. Peter is not saying that God will completely annihilate everything and start over with a totally new creation.
Instead, he draws a parallel to God’s earlier judgment on the whole earth by water during the time of Noah. So God’s coming universal judgment by fire will be a refining fire that does not completely annihilate, but renews and restores all things to God’s original design.
There is much mystery regarding what our work will look like in the age to come. And there is a tension we experience between “the already” and the “not yet” of God’s kingdom on earth. But we know that our work will be fulfilling and joyful, bringing glory to God.
The Bible’s promise of a new earth teaches us that the events of human history matter. All of history is moving toward the fulfillment of God’s mission to redeem and restore his fallen universe in Christ. (Eph 1:10, Col 1:20) In the age to come we will all hear: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).
This does not mean that Jesus will destroy or replace the kingdom of this world, but that the kingdom of this world will actually become the Kingdom of Christ. In Revelation 21 we read, “[t]he kings of the earth will bring their glory into it [the holy city] … they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev 21:24-26).
Again, there is a lot of mystery here, but the implication in Scripture seems to be that everything of ultimate worth from the history of the nations that enriched this present earth will somehow enrich the life of the new earth.
Author, Randy Alcorn writes:
As the magi, kings of foreign nations, once came to the old Jerusalem seeking to worship the Messiah King, on the New Earth countless magi will journey to the New Jerusalem and they will humbly offer King Jesus the tribute of their cultural treasures.
King Jesus will be pleased to receive their faithful work on the old earth as worship that will enrich life on the new earth. He will delight in rewarding those whose work served him faithfully in this world, with the privilege of continuing to rule and serve with him in all their work in the world to come.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus paints a picture of his return as a master who returns to learn how faithful his servants have been with what he entrusted to them while he was gone. To the servant who was faithful, the master does not say to him, “Well done, now you can retire from working for me.” Instead he says,“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:23).
What we do in this life truly matters in the life to come. God calls all followers of Jesus, not just the clergy, to be an integral part of his cosmic restoration project of making all things new.
This includes all of our real life domains of influence, not just “religious areas,” over which God sovereignly places us as his vice-regents to help make his invisible kingdom more visible.
The Apostle Paul summarizes it like this:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
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