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Heaven Isn’t Our Eternal Escape from Work

Daniel Williams

1 Mar 2023

There’s an old saying regarding work: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

There’s an old saying regarding work: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

It’s a nice idea—albeit a tall order to achieve. Some jobs are harder to love than others, and even the most meaningful work can exhaust or frustrate us. Our relationships with work can be complicated; even the most diligent among us succumb to quitting fantasies from time to time.

And often, the demands of life mean we can’t devote ourselves to finding work we love to do. We simply have to do the work necessary. Stacks of bills don’t care about our job satisfaction or our inherent gifts. That weird pink mold growing in the shower doesn’t take vacations. A good few of us are doing jobs we don’t love to do, and we may very well be doing them until the Lord returns.

Most of us picture endless years of vacation in the New Jerusalem. In the ongoing debate over whether the best vacations happen in the mountains or at the beach, the oceanless description of the new heavens and earth has threatened more than one saint’s concept of eternal bliss. But no matter the landscape, few think of the hereafter as a place of work.

For many, heaven is the ultimate quitting fantasy. After all, it’s the eternal Sabbath where we cease our labors, right? Well, yes and no.

Revelation 14:13 does promise that the saints will “rest from their labor.” But in Revelation, that word labor means “toil,” as in the travail of persecution the saints will face in this life.

In Isaiah 65, God speaks of work occurring in the new creation:

[My people] will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. … My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain. (vv. 21–23)

This is the poetry of productivity unhindered by sin. In Zion we will rest from sin, sorrow, temptation, and persecution. But we will work with joy and gladness, as we were created to do. We will finally fulfill our vocational callings, free from frustration or toil. We don’t know specifically what our labor will be, but we know it will be fruitful, as it should have been all along.


The New View of Heaven Is Too Small

Our recent emphasis on “kingdom work” misses the real hope of the afterlife.


Since the rebellion in Eden, our relationship with work has been fraught. We have no memory of work as it was meant to be: always fulfilling, always an expression of love for others, always bringing glory to God. Never thwarted. Never purposeless or dehumanizing. No cogs in the wheel, only humans bearing the image of God in the work of their hands.

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Perhaps we have a faint sense of how work should be. Picture your most satisfying day of work ever. For me, it’s the satisfaction of all the cooking and cleaning that culminates in our family gathering together, or the good exhaustion of having taught my heart out in a difficult passage of Scripture. That day is an echo of Eden and a foretaste of the New Jerusalem.

We are made for work as surely as we are made for rest. Because of sin, we make idols of both, bending them to serve our self-promotion and sloth. Our work does not fully satisfy, and our rest does not fully restore.

But one day, we will labor again as we were created to labor. And we will sabbath as we were created to sabbath. Our labor will not frustrate, and our rest will not bore.

For now, we can and should still do our jobs with all our hearts, as working for the Lord (Col. 3:23). When we see our labor as serving the Lord Christ, even menial tasks are transformed from work into worship. Our efforts become offerings, whether as expressions of our gifts or as acts of simple obedience.

I have cleaned a lot of showers as unto the Lord, and I will likely clean many more before I walk the streets of gold. There will be no bills to pay in that celestial city, and there will be no pink mold. But there will be good work to do. May our joyful labor here and now serve as the firstfruits of our fruitful labor to come.


Life in Heaven: Sometimes It Sounds Boring

Redeeming the 'Do What You Love' Mantra

The good news for Christians: When work is worship, we get to love it all.


[ This article is also available in Português. ]

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