OCCUPATIONS IN HEAVEN bases on Rev. 22:1-5
By Glenn Pease
The story is told of a man who died and found himself in a region of fabulous abundance. His slightest wish was instantly granted. At last, however, the novelty wore off and he became bored. He told his host he would love to do something. Was there any work he could perform, or any problem he could help solve? His host said, "I am sorry, but there is no work to be done here." "No work!" cried the man in frustration. "Nothing to do!" he shouted. "I would rather be in hell than have nothing to do forever." His host replied, "Just where do you think you are?"
The hell of hell will be nothing to do. There will be no labor of love, no purpose to being, no goals to achieve, and no expressions of creativity. Hell will be a state of perpetual unemployment. Dorothy Sayers, the great female apologist for Christianity, said, "Damnation is without direction or purpose. It has nothing to do and all eternity to do it in."
In contrast, heaven will be a place, not only of eternal enjoyment, but of eternal employment. When God made Adam, He made him a creature of creativity, with a desire to work. He gave him a job, to keep the garden of Eden, and to study the animal kingdom, so he could give all the animals names. Adam was made a botanist and zoologist the day he was created. God made man to study and to have dominion over his environment. He gave him both physical and mental work, for both are vital to the joy of living.
It is a logical conclusion that God will give even more exciting and satisfying jobs to His children in the eternal paradise. Certainly, his perfected saints will be ready for greater labors than even Adam ever dreamed about. This has been the universal hope of believers down through the centuries. They expect to serve God in a way that satisfies the built in desires God has given them to be creative. Robert J. Burdette, expressed the faith of many when he wrote, " My work is about ended. I think the best of it I have done poorly; any of it I might have done better; but I have done it. And in a fairer land, with finer material and a better working light, I shall so a better work." The poet adds these words,
I cannot think of Paradise a place
Where men go idly to and fro,
With harps of gold and robes that shame the snow;
With great wide wings that brightly interlace
Whenever they sing before the Master's face---
Within a realm where neither pain nor woe,
Nor care is found; where tempests never blow
Where souls with hopes and dreams may run no race.
Such paradise were but a hell to me;
Devoid of all progression, I should rot,
Or shout for revolution, wide and far.
Better some simple task, a spirit free
To act along the line of self forgot--
Or help God make a blossom or a star.
It is intolerable for Christians to believe, that rest from the battle with evil, means an everlasting idleness. Can that be the goal of all God's work, and all the cooperative labors of man? To be saved to spend eternity in idleness, just when we finally gain what we need to be most effective, is inconsistent with the nature of God's wisdom. Better that we be left sinful and imperfect beings, who love serving our Lord, than to be perfected for the sake of inactivity and unproductive idleness. We can understand the hope for rest from life's battles, and that is a legitimate concept of heaven, but in our new bodies we will not need rest. We only need rest for what we endure now, and that is why the poet has written,
There once was a woman who always was tired
She lived in a house where no help was hired.
On her death bed she said, dear friends I am goin
Where washing aint done nor cookin nor sewin,
And everything there will be just to my wishes,
For where they don't eat there's no washin of dishes.
Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me ever,
For I'm goin to do nothin, forever and ever.
We can understand her desire to escape from the burdens of life, and that is a part of our heavenly hope. But to do nothing for ever and ever, is certainly not a worthy ambition for a child of God. Our ultimate hope ought to be, to do more for the glory of God in our perfected bodies, than we ever could in the weakness of our earthly bodies.
The question is, what will we do in heaven? What kinds of jobs will be available? What sort of service will be needed? In order to get the best possible answers to these questions, we need to look at heaven from two perspectives. We need to look at Revelation and it's implications. First lets look at-
We need to listen to what God tells us in His Word, about the activities of heaven. Here in Rev. 22:3, the redeemed in heaven are called servants, and in Rev. 7:15, they are also called servants. It says there, "Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night within His temple." These two verses have had a profound impact on Christian thinking about heaven. If the redeemed are called servants, and they worship and serve God, and they reign for ever and ever, as verse 5 says, then we get a picture of heaven as a place of perpetual motion and never ceasing activity.
Billy Graham, commenting on the significance of the title of servant, attached to the saints in heaven, said, "I believe that means we are going to work." We need to see this, not as a threat, but as a promise. It is said that Thomas A'Kempis when a youth, studied the book of Revelation with a group of other young men. At the end of the course the teacher asked each member of the class to quote his favorite promise of no night, no pain, no death, and others. But when A'Kempis came to answer he said that his favorite promise was "His servants shall serve him."
Charles Spurgeon, who gave much thought to being servants in heaven, wrote, "What engagements we may have throughout eternity we are not told, because we have enough to do to fulfill out engagements now; but assuredly we shall be honored with errands of mercy and tasks of love fitted for our heavenly being; and I doubt not it shall be one of our greatest delights while seeing the Lord's face to serve him with all our perfected powers. He will use us in the grand economy of future manifestations of his divine glory. Possibly we may be to other dispensations what the angels have been to this. Be that as it may, we shall find a part of our bliss and joy in constantly serving him who has raised us from the dead."
There shall we see, and hear, and know,
All you desired or wished below,
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.
The phrase in the Lord's Prayer, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, is another clear light of revelation that tells us heaven is a place where God's will is being done perfectly. With countless numbers of angels, plus the saints of the ages, there is always plenty to do, for God has a need for infinite service. Moses and Elijah, you recall, were assigned the task of breaking back into history to comfort Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. What they did for many centuries before this, and the many since, we do not know, but the point is, they had a job to do for God, and it is not likely this was the only job God had for them for all the centuries they have been in heaven.
We are not trying to say that the saints in heaven are being driven from one task to another like slaves, but that there is never one moment of boredom in heaven. There is always something to do that is filled with meaning. Heb. 12:1, says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, as we run the Christian race. It is almost universally agreed upon that this represents the redeemed in heaven who know what is happening here on earth, and are cheering us on as we run the race for the glory of Christ. Wide World Of Saints is on 24 hours a day for those in heaven.
Jesus in the Parable of the Nobleman tells of how he went on a long journey, and left ten servants with ten pounds to trade with while he was gone. When he returned, the one servant had made ten pounds from his one, and Jesus said the nobleman responded, "Well done good servant, you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities." The one who made five pounds was made ruler over five cities, and the one who buried his money, lost it all. The parable is about the gifts Jesus gives to His followers, and the rewards they will receive when He returns. Jesus seems to be saying that those who are faithful will receive jobs of leadership over others in the eternal kingdom.
Here in Revelation 22:5, it says the servants will reign, and how can you reign if you do not have some authority over other beings, or over some territory? Clearly one of the jobs of eternity will be the job of leadership, involving administration, and decision making.
This is not a lot of revelation, and what there is, is general, and that is why Paul says, "We see through a glass darkly, or in a mirror dimly." But what we see is enough to fill the heart and mind with all kinds of implications. We want to look at heaven, now, from the perspective of-
By revelation we know God is not a God of idleness. He is a creator who loves to use His creative energy. He created the universe out of nothing but His own creative thought. He is a working God. He is not a workaholic, however, or even He took a Sabbath rest. He made the angels to labor with Him, and He made man to labor in cooperation with Him. This is a matter of clear revelation. By implication, we can conclude, that unless God's nature changes, He will go on creating new worlds with endless projects, in which He will use both angels and men. God's creative capacity is beyond our wildest imagination, and we can be assured He will never become lazy or indifferent. By implication, therefore, we can see eternity opening up an absolute infinite possibility of new jobs for Jesus.
The question is, just how specific can we get concerning the occupations of heaven. There is always the risk of misunderstanding. Like the little girl who was happily humming a hymn as she dusted the furniture to help her mother. "Mommy", she asked, "Will I be dusting God's chair when I get to heaven the way the hymn says?" The mother looked up surprised, and asked, "Which hymn says that honey?" The girl responded, "and dust around the throne, and dust around the throne." It took the mother a while to figure out she was quoting a line from the hymn, Marching To Zion, which says, "and thus surround the throne, and thus surround the throne."
It is not likely that dusting is one of the tasks awaiting the redeemed in heaven. But not all occupations are based on misunderstanding. The Bible says God will grant us the desires of our hearts, and that there will be eternal pleasures at His right hand. This implies that the interest, skills, and gifts that are developed in this life, will continue to be a part of life
in heaven. This means that heaven will be filled with infinite variety, even as this life is.
It is always a danger to try to picture heaven in a limited way, that appeals to some, but leaves others disappointed. Frank Gaebelein, for many years co-editor of Christianity Today, says he can't wait to hear what composers like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart can do with a chorus of ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands. There is a good basis for his hope to be fulfilled, but there are many who do not find this a great attraction, for they never even listen to the works of these men on earth. We dare not limit our concept heaven to our own interest. God has made man with an infinite variety of interest and gifts, and all of them will be satisfied in heaven.
Several years ago I read two books about Peg and Joy Woodson. Both of these young children died from an incurable disease. This was right at the time when many people were testifying that they had died, and had gotten a glimpse into the next life. Peg was asked what she thought about it, and she said, "People are talking about running around barefoot in heaven, but I don't like to run around barefoot. Have you ever seen one picture of a kid reading in heaven? If you don't read in heaven, I don't think I want to go." "Yeah," echoed her brother Joey, "If you don't read in heaven, I don't wanna go."
The health of these two had limited their activity, and their whole life revolved around reading. It became their primary interest. With new bodies in heaven they may really enjoy running barefoot, but the point is, if reading is still their primary interest in heaven, you can be assured there will be plenty to read, for God promises to grant us the desires of our hearts.
Peter Marshall, the famous preacher and chaplain of Congress wrote, "I love music and have always wanted to study it. But I've never had the opportunity....In heaven I look forward to the study of music as one of the satisfactions I'm going to have." This is the conviction of the saints through the ages. God has given us more dreams and aspirations than we can fill in one small lifetime. We are made for eternity. Many Bible scholars long for the chance to discover the fullness of truth in God's Word, and they expect to get this chance in heaven. Those with a scientific mind expect to probe deeply into the mysteries of the universe in heaven. Poets, artists, and musicians expect to express truth with a beauty and freedom never known on earth. Every aspiration that God has planted in hearts of men, will motivate them though out eternity. The greatest one's love for anything in this life, the greater is one's anticipation of fulfillment in heaven. Listen to Grace N. Crowell, one of the great Christian poets of our time,
When the curtains of the Blessed Country part
Some evening in the West to let me through,
A keen delight will quicken in my heart,
My faltering, slow tongue will speak with new
Articulation, and the words I seek
And long for now will sparkle up in me
Like clear, cold water, and my lips will speak
A language fraught with strange intensity
I shall have words for April sunsets then,
For the look of autumn sunlight on a wall
For a thousand things the earth-bound tongues of men
Have tried to voice but never said at all.
And in some corner of heaven, mad with delight
I shall sit down and write, and write and write!
G.M. Day, also a Christian writer, had a mother who loved gardening, and she writes in her book, Joy Beyond,
Those who loved flowers and trees and gardens here
assuredly have them in their fade less glory in the
better world. I am confident that my garden-engrossed
mother, who spent so much time among her flowers
in her latter years is delighting now in the wonders of
a heavenly garden.
Thy gardens and thy goodly walks
Continuously are green,
Where grow such sweet and pleasant flowers
As nowhere else are seen.
The more you study heaven and how God's people think of it, the more the implication is strengthened, that your occupation in heaven will be directly related to the interests and aspirations you have developed in this life. In other words, heaven will give you the chance to be and do what you have always wanted to be and do, or to do it on a level beyond what the limits of this life allow.
W.A. Criswell was for many years pastor of the largest Baptist church in the world. He administered this vast organization of world wide influence-the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He writes of how this influenced his view of heaven.
In our work we shall administer, according to the
Word of God, the entire universe and everything
that is in it. That includes God's solar system and
the infinitude of the world about us. The government
of the universe will be given into our hands and
the administration of God's creation will be
turned over to us.
God has gifted this man with the ability and love for administration, and thus he longs to do it even on a greater scale in heaven.
The Old Testament Temple was a hive of activity. It took a whole tribe of Israel to keep the functions of the temple going. The choir alone was 3,000 trained singers. Imagine what God has awaiting for us who will be servants in His eternal temple. It will be place of endless enterprise. Boredom will not be in the dictionary of heaven, nor will idleness, laziness, or unemployment. Heaven will be filled with glorious tasks of infinite variety.
When asked what we will do in heaven, Harold Lindsell, editor of Christianity Today, replied, "We will work forever and enjoy it." George W. Truett, that great preacher and author of a previous generation, wrote, "Yonder in the immeasurable and infinite immensities of the eternal spaces of God are worlds and worlds and worlds-worlds by the millions....and it may be that one of the services on which God will send us....is to go here and there not limited as we are now and declare the riches and wonders and glories of God as we can never declare them while we are fettered in the flesh." Here was a man who spent his life declaring the glory of God, and he hoped to go on doing it forever.
One of the major purposes of this life is to discover what you would love to do forever. The loves, the interests, the gifts, and the aspirations we develop in this life will greatly affect our service and occupation in heaven. This makes the discovery, development, and dedication of our gifts all the more important, for the more we do this now the more we experience a foretaste of our heavenly occupation.