The Eternal Work of Eden, Heaven, and Earth

As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, many are finding that the work they did before the pandemic doesn’t seem as important or meaningful to them now.  People are quitting their jobs or retiring early so often, we created a new catchphrase: “Great Resignation.”  Also, many workers, especially younger ones, are demanding that their employers become more vocal and active on social and political goals they agree with, or they will leave.[1]  In short, people are asking for reasons to go to work outside of their employer’s actual business, beyond the job itself, and in addition to the paycheck it provides.   None of this is entirely new, but the pandemic has made it a much bigger issue.  Is work itself meaningful?

As a partial response to this frustration, today’s post will make three points about work before the Fall, in the Garden of Eden, and what that means for our future in heaven and the place of work in our lives now.  We start with an idea from Genesis that is sometimes missed:

#1 – “Not all the world was Eden”
As noted by Michael Heiser in his book The Unseen Realm[2], Eden’s geography is limited and defined in Genesis 2:8-14.  Also, when God expels Adam and Eve from the garden in Genesis 3:23-24 we know that they are still on earth, but no longer in the garden.  God didn’t create a new place for them to go but removed them from the part of the earth that was Eden.  While Eden was a paradise, it was not the entire world.  Which leads to the second point:

#2 – The original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden
In Genesis 1:28 we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Heiser notes on this verse that “the earth needed filling” and that “it makes no sense to subdue the garden of God.”

Eden was a perfect pattern which mankind was to learn from and apply to the rest of the world.  God’s creativity in Eden was a model for human creativity everywhere else.  The pre-Fall world was not a world where there was no work left to be done, which suggests that:

#3 – Work is Eternal
A popular view of heaven is that it is a leisurely place where we don’t have to work.  Images of angels playing harps and finally being able to kick back and relax come to mind.  Some hope in heaven partly for this reason – that they’re tired of working and can’t wait for it to be over.  However, in Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Adam had a job to do in Eden, and God’s people will have jobs to do in heaven.  Work is not only part of our current fallen world, but a part of our eternal destiny as well.  This may seem like bad news to some of my readers, but does the idea of doing nothing for eternity really appealing when you think about it?

We can be encouraged because the actual hope of heaven is always greater than we can imagine.  As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  While in heaven we will work, it will be thoroughly meaningful and fulfilling.  Every person will be perfectly suited for their tasks and doing exactly what they were designed to do.  No longer will work be cursed by “thorns and thistles,”[3] where labor means pain and you only benefit “by the sweat of your face.”[4]  Work will not be gone, but redeemed and perfected.  Heaven will not be what we expect, but God promises it will always be better than our expectations.

Work is Now
For now, this means that whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world, and will be fully reproduced in heaven.  In the Lord’s Prayer, part of the meaning of “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) is that we should live as much as possible in this world in the same way we would in heaven.

Christians are God’s agents in this world to glorify Him and make Him known, in our jobs or in any other roles we find ourselves in.  Heiser cites many examples from the Bible which show that “God works through figures like Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the apostles. But the pattern extends to us, to all believers. There is nothing we do that God could not accomplish himself. But he has not chosen that method. Rather, he tells us what his will is and commands his loyal children to get the job done.”

In heaven your job will not be what it is now, but for each of us, whatever role we have, whatever our circumstances, our job is to take the gifts of creativity and character God endowed us with and make this world a bit more like Eden.

Jesus was a perfect pattern which we are to learn from and apply to everything we do in this world.

[1] There is less news coverage of people who don’t want politics in the workplace or who have different social and political goals and might leave their jobs to find a less politicized workplace.
[2] Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.  (2015).  This post draws from pages 49-52.  I’m not unaware that this book (and many others I read) might be controversial to some, but I learned a lot from it and saw several passages of Scripture in a different and sometimes better light.
[3] Genesis 3:18
[4] Genesis 3:19

2 thoughts on “The Eternal Work of Eden, Heaven, and Earth

  1. I agree with all three of your points, but I personally believe that heaven is the “paradise” where our redeemed souls go when we die. It will be incredible, and awe inspiring, but it’s only a pit stop. Since only Adam and Eve saw the Garden of Eden all the rest of humanity has no idea of what the model looks like. In heaven we get our chance. Then at the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s return we once again have bodies, only this time they are glorified and eternal and healthy and strong mentally and physically. And the earth will recreated (Behold I make all things new) and then we get to start over. There will be enough of us to inhabit and work and enjoy the renewed earth and each other. We will work together in perfect harmony, body & soul reunited and with Jesus reigning as our King. The dwelling place of God is among men. Once again we may enjoy a walk with him in the cool of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

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