But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)
Bodily resurrection was a big deal to Paul. So big that Paul dedicated the longest section in his letter to the Corinthians to this topic.
Why does physical resurrection matter so much? Because without it, Paul says our faith is “useless.” And I would argue our work is as well.
Unfortunately, the false teaching Paul was combatting here is still alive and well. Today it appears in our caricatures of heaven as 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.” “Until” is the keyword there. The intermediate or “present heaven” is just a stop along the way to our final destination—the new earth—where God will dwell with us in our physical resurrected bodies.
What does the promise of bodily resurrection mean for our work? At least two things.
First, we can look forward to using our resurrected bodies to work without the curse for eternity! The Lord revealed this clearly to Isaiah when he said, “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). Floating souls don’t “build houses” and “plant vineyards.” People with physical bodies do! And that’s precisely what this passage says we will do forever—work where there will “no longer be…any curse” (Revelation 22:3).
If you love your work today, this promise should be thrilling to you—far more thrilling than the idea of playing harps for millennia on end. And if you loathe your work today, this promise should be thrilling as well, as you can look hopefully to the day in which your work will be perfect, blissful worship.
Second, if we believe that human bodies can be resurrected from the dead, surely we can believe that our physical work can carry on on the new earth. In Revelation 21:5, Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new”—not just our physical bodies. Could it be that “all things” includes the novel you’re writing, the table you’re building, or the road you’re paving? Maybe! Scripture certainly offers hints to that end. Revelation 21:24-26 says that “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into” the new earth. A parallel passage in Isaiah 60 lists some of the honor or “riches” of the nations as “the ships of Tarshish,” “herds of camels,” and “gold and incense”—all artifacts of human culture.
The work you will do today healing people, serving cups of coffee, or designing a new building matters because the material world matters to God. “Therefore,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”