It is surprising that few systematic theology texts or courses demonstrate interest in exploring the meaning of work from a theological perspective. Every category in systematic theology offers a lens for examining the meaning of work. Our daily work, both paid and unpaid, is a reality that consumes most of our time and energy in this life, so making theses theological connections is imperative. Many popular conceptions of eternity with God - the end point of Christian eschatology- are built around glimpses of eternal rest or eternal worship. For many Christians, these are not particularly compelling or attractive futures if they are isolated from activity and accomplishment. We have been created to contemplate and worship God, yes, but also to be actively involved in God's creation. People want more from a vision of the future if it is to be worth looking forward to and working towards.
Some questions related to work that teachers might want to reference in a course on eschatology:
- Does the phrase “eternal rest” imply that there is no work in the end, or just that work will no longer include drudgery and struggle?
- If there is work in the end, what sort of work is it?
- How much continuity and discontinuity is there between work in this creation and in the new creation?
- Does our present work have any eternal significance?
- Does any of our present work or the fruit of our work survive in the new creation?
- In what ways is work impacted by our understandings of the resurrection of the body and the final reconciliation of the cosmos to God?
There are several resources on this website that can be used to correct popular misconceptions and provide students with a compelling and scripturally-grounded vision of what Christian eschatology means for our work now and eternal life with God:
- The TOW Theological Foundations page provides a condensed outline for a theology of work, including a section on the New Creation
- Some relevant commentaries on Eschatology and Work are:
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 - Part of a section titled "Our Work is Not in Vain," this commentary talks about questions of continuity and discontinuity in relation to resurrection.
- 2 Peter 3:13 - The commentary on 2 Peter is all about Work and New Creation.
- Isaiah 65:17-23 - Isaiah chapters 60 to 65 introduce a relevant discussion on "The Ultimate Meaning of Work."
- Revelation 17-22 - See the TOW commentary on the book of Revelation called "A Tale of Two Cities," as well as our article on "the Meaning of Revelation for Our Work"
In addition to the direct study of these more obviously relevant passages in our commentary you can also do a search of any particular topic on our advanced search page.
ESCHATOLOGY ASSIGNMENT- Work and the New Creation
Does the work that we do, or the fruit of our work, survive in the New Creation? If so, explain in what ways you understand this to be true. If not, is there any eternal significance in our present work?
Identify key scripture passages and themes that have influenced your thinking and conclusions. Also demonstrate that you have considered the work of Darrell Cosden in The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work (Paternoster/Hendrickson, 2006) and at least one other prominent theologian of your own choosing who has addressed this topic.
For more on teaching eschatology within systematics, see the article Teaching Systematics: The End of Work, or Work in the End?