See, I will create new heavens and a new earth….[My people] will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit….They will not labor in vain. (Isaiah 65:17a, 21, 23a)
Yes, you read that correctly: Isaiah is saying that we will work forever on the “new earth” where God will establish his eternal kingdom!
This passage and many others totally upend the modern caricature that heaven is a glorified retirement home where disembodied souls float around doing nothing but relaxing and singing for all eternity. That false vision is a distortion of what theologians like Randy Alcorn call “the intermediate Heaven…where we go when we die…until our bodily resurrection.” In other words, the intermediate or “present” heaven is just a stop along the way to our final destination—the new earth—where God will dwell with his people in his eternal kingdom.
Isaiah says that in the kingdom, we will “build houses,” “plant vineyards,” and “not labor in vain.” Revelation 22:3 paints a similar picture, claiming that we will “serve” God on the new earth. Of course, service is something that is active. It involves expending energy and getting things done.
What does this mean for our work today? It means that we can grieve over frustrating work with hope, knowing that there is coming a day when work will be fully redeemed. It means that one day our everyday work will be more glorious than the best day’s work we have experienced in this life. It means that someday, work will be perfect worship again.
As we’ll see tomorrow, God’s kingdom-building project has already begun, having been launched 2,000 years ago when Jesus came to earth as a carpenter.