One of our readers recently asked several questions I hear often: “In the life after death, what will we do? Will we work? Will any of the things we have today, like cars, be there?”
In order to answer the question, we need to clear up a few things.
Where Do Christians Go When We Die?
When Christians die, their souls go to heaven and their bodies return to the earth from whence they came (Gen 3:19). This heaven is not eternal; it is just a bus stop! It is where we go and wait for God to finish the work he is doing in our present age. In this heaven, we won’t have physical bodies; we will be more like the angels (Mark 12:25). This heaven is not our final destination. We will stay there until the final resurrection. Then our souls will be united with our resurrection bodies and we will live in a physical new earth forever.
Scripture teaches when Christ returns, there will be a general resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (Dan 12:2). At that time, the spirits of the saints who have returned from heaven with Christ will be reunited with their resurrection bodies (1 Cor 15:12-57). Following this resurrection, there will be the final judgment where Christ will stand as judge over all those who lived on the face of the earth. Believers will be judged righteous not because of their acts, but because they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
We see references to this in both the Old and New Testaments (Isa 65:17-19, Isa 9:7, Isa 11:6-9, Rev 21:1-5). Our resurrection bodies will be physical bodies but not like the ones we have today (1 Cor 15), and we will dwell in a physical new earth, a place where there is no sin. The Bible does not speak at length about what these bodies will be like, but we do have a description of Jesus’ resurrection body. People touched him; he ate a piece of fish (Luke 24:37-42). This is not a new teaching; the Church has taught this for 2,000 years.
Will We Work There?
It is also clear from the Bible that we will work in the new earth. Work was something Adam was made to do: “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15).
Many believe that work is a curse, but the reality is that God made work, and it was part of the very good earth before Adam’s fall from grace. It is only after Adam’s sin that work is cursed; it is the curse that makes work often difficult (Gen 3:17-19). In another IFWE article, Russell Gehrlein writes:
In your job today, you will likely experience the “thorns and thistles” that have come as a result of the Fall; the reality is that work will be difficult until Christ returns. But what happens to work when Jesus comes back, and Adam’s curse from Genesis 3:16-19 is no more, as it states in Revelation 22:3: “No longer will there be any curse”?
In Revelation 22:3, when describing the “new earth,” it says “No longer will there be any curse.” The curse that came through sin was lifted because of Jesus. Though Adam had sinned, and because of his sin, all mankind was cursed, because Christ did not sin, yet died willingly anyway, he has provided a way for the curse to be lifted.
Russell goes on to describe what work will be like in the new earth:
Just imagine what our work could be like in the New Creation without the pain, frustration, stress, difficulty, unpredictability, sweat, and interpersonal conflict between sinners that we currently experience in our labor due to the Fall.
The possibility that there will be work for us to do is implied in the scriptures. The prophet Micah suggests that we don’t just lay down our weapons, we will pick up instruments of work: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Mic 4:3).
Michael Wittmer writes in his book Becoming Worldly Saints that God’s plan for the world’s future is not destruction, but restoration:
God did not say, “I am making new everything!” but rather “I am making everything new!” He does not promise to make new things to furnish the new earth, but to renew the things that are already here.
Darrell Cosden in his book The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work begins to address our last question: “Will any of the things we have today carry over to the new earth?”
Our sanctified imaginations can only suggest what we think God’s promise to make all things new might mean… There will be, no doubt, some specific products of our work that through judgment will be transformed and incorporated into the “new physics” of the new creation. I am quite hoping that Handel’s Messiah will be regularly in concert in the New Jerusalem.
Paul Stevens, in his book Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture states one thing he knows for sure. The work that we do in this restored, sinless world will be important to God and fulfilling for us because this is what God originally intended.
That is something to look forward to.