Working in the Future Kingdom: what will we be doing in heaven?

[This article was taken from our book “The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul.”]

 

At one time or another, most orthodox Christians have asked, “What will we be doing forever in heaven?” Peter Kreeft, a Christian writer, exemplifies the orthodox position concerning Christians in heaven in his book, Every Thing You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven But Never Dreamed of Asking. In Chapter 3, titled, “What Will We Do in Heaven,” Kreeft comments, “This is the first question most people ask about Heaven.” [1] The following quote summarizes his answer.

The basic idea for my answer to that question comes from Richard Purtill’s book, Thinking About Religion. In Chapter 10— “Life After Death: What Might It Be Like?”—he postulates three human tasks in Heaven in this order: (1) understanding our earthly life “by Godlight,” (2) sharing all other human lives, and (3) exploration into God. [2]

Kreeft’s answer is very telling. He does not go to the Bible to find out what the saved will do forever in heaven. Instead, Kreeft quotes the work of another man who “postulates” an answer. To “postulate” is to set forth a possibility or to make an assumption. So Kreeft admits that the best answer he has for what Christians will be doing in heaven is an assumption. What he fails to realize is that there is no biblical answer to this question because the saved will not be in heaven forever! According to Scripture, Christians will be in heaven with Christ for a short period of time and then return with him to earth. Christians will then be involved with the responsibilities of Christ’s earthly Kingdom.

In the future Kingdom there will be different positions and responsibilities. At the Judgment, each person will “receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, every person will not receive the same reward or assume the same responsibilities. So, the question is not, “What will we be doing in heaven,” but, “What will we be doing in our future life on earth?” The answer to this question can be found in the Word of God.

The Lord is going to make a new earth that will literally be an “Eden” or “Paradise” and, just as God gave Adam and Eve work to do in the Original Paradise, there will be work to do in the coming Paradise. In fact, looking back at what God gave Adam and Eve to do in the Garden of Eden provides a prototype or a snapshot of what life will be like in the future Paradise. Genesis 2:15 speaks about two tasks that Adam and Eve had to perform. God put them in Eden “to [1] work it and [2] take care of it.” The NASB says, “to cultivate it and keep it.” Like any farm or garden, Eden required work or “cultivation.” Adam and Eve had to cultivate the garden just as any farmer has to cultivate and work the soil and take care of the plants.

Eden was a garden with wonderful fruits and vegetables, and therefore the second part of Adam and Eve’s job was to “take care of” or “keep” it. The Hebrew word translated “take care of” is shamar, which means, “oversee, protect, keep, have charge of, tend (for flocks and herds), guard, watch, preserve.” The world was full of animals and, in the Original Paradise, all of them were plant eaters (Gen. 1:30). Part of Adam and Eve’s work was to guard the garden and keep the wild animals from grazing in the Garden of Eden. Imagine Eve looking out the window of her house and shouting; “Adam, the lions are eating my favorite shrubbery. Adam! Get them away from my bushes!” Remember, lions will again eat plants in the future, so you may end up shooing them away from your bushes or your vegetable garden.

God gave Adam and Eve authority and responsibility in the Garden of Eden. He gave them work to do. It should, therefore, be no surprise that various types of work will be part of life on the new earth. The types or work mentioned below are almost always found in the context of the Millennial Kingdom, not the Everlasting Kingdom. Some types of work, like “gravediggers,” could not be available in the Everlasting Kingdom because there will be no death. Likewise, because there will not be a temple in the Everlasting Kingdom, all the duties associated with the Temple will be eliminated. Some types of work are clearly stated, while others are only implied. Those that are clearly stated include:

1) Administration and rulership. Isa. 1:26; 32:1; Jer. 3:15; 23:4; Ezek. 44:24; Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2 and 3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26 and 27.
2) Builders. Isa. 54:12; 60:10; 61:4; Jer. 30:18; Ezek. 36:10 and 33; Amos 9:14.
3) Cleanup duties. Isa. 9:5; Ezek. 39:14 and 15.
4) Farmers. Isa. 30:23 and 24; 32:20; 61:5; 62:9; Jer. 31:5 and 12; Ezek. 36:9 and 34; 47:12; 48:19; Amos 9:13.
5) Fishermen. Ezek. 47:10.
6) Gravediggers. Ezek. 39:14 and 15.
7) Herdsmen. Isa. 30:23 and 24; 60:6 and 7; 61:5; Jer. 31:12.
8) Landscapers. Isa. 60:13.
9) Metalworkers. Isa. 2:4; 60:17; Micah 4:3.
10) Servants. Isa. 14:2.
11) Temple duties for those Levites who were not pure-hearted. Ezek. 44:10–14.
12) Temple duties for those Levites who stayed faithful. Ezek. 44:15 and 16.
13) Vinedressers. Isa. 25:6; 62:9; Jer. 31:12; Amos 9:13.
14) Workers. Ezek. 48:19.

Types of work that are implied but not specifically mentioned include:

1) Cooks, butchers, and bakers. Isa. 25:6.
2) Musicians. Although everyone will sing and make merry, it seems there will be a need for specialists as there always has been. Isa. 35:10; 65:14; Jer. 30:19; 31:4.
3) Tentmakers. Isa. 54:2; Jer. 30:18.
4) Weavers, tailors, and seamstresses (clothes are worn in the Kingdom). Ezek. 44:17-19; Rev. 19:13,14.

The responsibilities described and implied in Scripture provide a general overview of the kinds of work people will be doing. Those doing the work will include everyone in the Kingdom: Christians, resurrected believers, and the “natural” people who are allowed into the Kingdom at the Sheep and Goat Judgment. Although there will be significant differences in the assignments people receive in the Millennial Kingdom, no one will hunger or be in want. Isaiah 14:30 says, “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety.” The picture painted in Scripture of the future Kingdom is one of people enjoying life. They eat and drink, work and play, sing and dance, and enjoy fellowship with their Lord. The Bible does not give, nor does it need to give, a complete description of all the activities in the future. There will be clothing, so there will be tailors and seamstresses, but there is no specific mention of them in the Bible. There will be pots and containers, but there is no mention of potters. There will no doubt be baskets and rugs, but there is no mention of the weaving trades in verses referring to the future Kingdom.

The point is this: the future life on earth will be one of peace and prosperity in a familiar setting. Most people think that eternity will be vastly different from life now, but God did not make a mistake when He created this world and humans as physical beings on it. In fact, He called it “very good.” The Bible describes a future life that will be in many ways very similar to the life that people have lived on earth for centuries—but without disease, war, injustice, hunger, etc. God gives enough information in his Word that people can avoid wild speculation about the future. Bible students can see the future life for what it will be: similar to the way things would have been if Adam and Eve had never sinned and the world had continued to be inhabited by them and their descendants.

When the Kingdom comes and all the saved are in Paradise, will people try to understand their past lives by “Godlight” as Kreeft and other theologians postulate? The biblical evidence suggests they will not. Isaiah 65:17 says, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” No one likes to dwell on painful memories. Although remembering things in the past can be a part of forgiveness and healing, once a person is healed and whole, there is no reason to dwell on past hurts and pains. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Furthermore, Ephesians 5:12 says, “For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” If these are God’s commands for Christians who live in the midst of a world of sin, how much more will they be true when life in Paradise is enjoyed apart from all the pain of the past? The secret and sinful activities of people today are not a glory to God, and “every hidden thing” will have already been brought up at the Judgment when sinners will receive what they deserve (Eccles. 12:14). When Christians are whole and in their glorious new bodies living in Paradise, it will not glorify God to dwell on this fallen world. [3]

Endnotes

[1] Peter Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven But Never Dreamed of Asking (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990), p. 51.
[2] Ibid.,p. 52.
[3] Although we will not want to dwell on the past, we will have some memory of it. See the section, “Similarities Between the Old and the New” in Chapter 5.

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5 comments

  1. Cool. Ephesians 5:12 says, “For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” If these are God’s commands for Christians who live in the midst of a world of sin, how much more will they be true when life in Paradise is enjoyed apart from all the pain of the past.
    I must have read this so many times and never really got it. I thought it has something to do with gossip. And it may at that. But this article shows Gods heart behind this scripture and now it has a new meaning.
    Thanks

  2. “Fishermen” are listed as type of work needed. Their is no death on the new earth how do explain the death of the fish that would be caught?

    1. You are confusing the Millennial Kingdom (the 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth) withe eh Eternal Kingdom. They are different. Death can happen in the MK but not the EK.

  3. Great Commentary.

  4. Thank you. I guess my one worry is the people I love not being in heaven with me. Especially my dad.

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