At Work & Theology 101

Heavenly Displays & Earthly Work: Glimpsing God’s Eternal Glory

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Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel, IFWE founder and long-time executive director, passed away on Good Friday after a four-year battle with ALS. You can read more about his life and legacy here. He wrote this article after the solar eclipse in 2017.

God’s Original Intent for His Creation

You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. (Ps. 104:1-2)

Earlier this week, cheers and applause burst forth as millions of people in the U.S. experienced a beautiful sight watching a total or partial eclipse of the sun by the moon. Some reported feeling goose bumps, feeling the cool of the evening, and even hearing the crickets begin to chirp. Americans will have to wait another twenty years to see anything like it.

It’s hard not to cheer for the glory of God’s creation at such an event. God was incredibly detailed in designing the universe. On the first five days of the Genesis creation account, the phrase “And God saw that it was good” is used four times (Gen. 1:10-25).

Yet, at the end of the sixth day we read,

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen. 1:31).

Why the difference on the sixth day?

At the end of the sixth day, God is finished with his work of creation and is looking back at everything he has made.

In this entire creation, from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies spinning in space, everything works exactly as he planned.

John Schneider writes in his book, The Good of Affluence,

This creation that God majestically called forth into being is good. It is good in its individual parts, and it is good as a whole, as an integrated system. In fact, in this integrative cosmic sense, the text informs us that God declared it to be very good.

Here we find the first hint of God’s original intent for his creation. The purpose of God was to be glorified by his creation.

We read in Revelation 4:11,

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.

This is another reason why God describes creation as “very good.” Just as a great painting reflects the glory of the master artist, God created everything for his glory.

God is most glorified when his creation works as it was designed to work. This idea is epitomized by the Old Testament idea of shalom.

In his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga defines shalom as:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be…The full flourishing of human life in all aspects, as God intended it to be.

Earthly Signs of the Kingdom of God

The life of Jesus gives us a glimpse of this “full flourishing of human life.”

During his ministry on earth, Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and fed the five thousand. But did Jesus heal everyone that was sick, and did he feed everyone that was hungry?

No, he did not.

Could he have?

Of course. As the son of God, he could have done anything he wanted to do.

Then why didn’t he?

Theologians suggest that Jesus was demonstrating his power and authority in these signs and wonders. This is correct, but there is another reason, too.

The third chapter of the four-chapter gospel, Redemption, is about “showing the way things could be.”

When Jesus healed the blind man, he was showing people there could be a time when no one is blind.

When he fed the five thousand, he was showing people there could be a time when no one is hungry.

We read in Revelation 21:4 that the fourth chapter of the four-chapter gospel, Restoration, is coming, a time when,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Our Work & God’s Kingdom

As Christ’s disciples in the present age, Christians are to imitate him by working to bring about flourishing. Christians do this in order to show those within their spheres of influence the way things could be and point to the way things will be when Jesus returns to consummate his kingdom.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait another twenty years for another beautiful display (the next eclipse) of the glory of God. We can begin today, in our everyday work. The work of our hands can produce flourishing that glorifies God, serves the common good, and advances God’s kingdom in the here and now.

Editor’s note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on August 22, 2017.

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