Does our work have a future in eternity? This question often causes Christians to fall back into an unbiblical dualism, giving the impression that only `Christian work,’ particularly evangelism, `survives’ into the new creation. I was shocked to hear a preacher refer to his previous job at a newspaper, saying, `What’s that got to do with the kingdom of God?’
Jesus taught that the reign of God is in the world, in the mustard seeds of truth, integrity, justice, compassion and all the values that we are to embody in precisely such places as the world of media, not merely for evangelistic dividends, but as salt and light in society.
`Work is part of what God redeems when he saves us in Christ’ For, in the end, what does God intend to redeem? Just souls? No, whole human persons – including all that they have become and accomplished in and through their work. We are not saved as body-less, work-less souls, but in every dimension of our identity as working human beings. Of course, work is also fallen. But work is part of what God redeems when he saves us in Christ. Just for `heaven?’ No, God’s mission is the redemption of the whole creation – indeed that is the scope of the reconciling work of the cross (Col. 1:20). `All things…on earth,’ says Paul. But all things on earth are not what they were in Genesis 1 and 2.
The creation now bears the marks of human work over countless generations. And all of that is under God’s restoration order – not just for demolition and obliteration, but for purging and renewal.
Revelation pictures all the accomplishments of human work – and the resultant wealth, glory, and culture – being brought into the eternal city of God – the new creation. Purged of sin and evil, yes, but not dropped in some cosmic trash-can. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it… The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful. (Rev 21:24-27).
This is a perspective that gives value to all honest work. The splendour of kings and the glory of nations are built on the work of countless millions of nameless ordinary people. That’s why I greet, thank and encourage the man who sweeps the streets around our house. His work matters to me, and I believe it matters to God and is a tiny part of what will one day be the splendour of the city of God.
Langham Partnership International
Used by kind permission of LICC www.licc..org.uk