Much ink has been spilled on the first sin; but whatever else it is, it's a lack of faith on the part of our Edenic parents.
Adam and Eve have the run of creation. They have the blessed calling of our Lord to subdue creation and make it their own, to their hearts' content. They have frequent and constant communion with the Lord of all creation; they lack nothing. And yet, the one minor sacrifice that He asks of them, they cannot do. Why?
The serpent persuades them to abandon their trust in God; he persuades them to abandon their faith. "God's not being honest or forthright with you at all!" he says, "He's holding out on you. If you trust His command, you'll miss out".
Has anything changed to this day? Isn't all sin, when it comes right down to it, a lack of faith? What is greed but a lack of trust in God's provision, sexual immorality but a lack of faith in His design? What is selfishness but a rejection of our created purpose, a willing decision to go our own way?
One ought not be too hard on Adam and Eve. What is their sin but ours? As gladiators spill real blood to recreate gruesome war - murder and depravity to celebrate murder and depravity - so we recreate that infamous day in the garden, over and over again, by our lack of faith.
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
No pretense or wearing masks. No cliques. No hidden agendas, backroom deals, betrayals, secret ambitions, plots, or schemes.
We are going to judge angels. Which angels? Doesn’t say: the fallen ones, I’m guessing. It’s only fitting, given that they’ve been our unrelenting tormenters since the beginning. If our Heavenly Father is going to share this important work with anyone, why not us?
More pertinent than the sense of status this imparts on us, at least for the sake of this argument, is the following detail that we might be tempted to miss: in Heaven, we’ll have work to do.
We oftentimes imagine that Heaven will be boring. If there’s no pain, no grief, no sadness, no fear, then there will also be, it stands to reason, no adventure. In the movie Star Trek Generations, Captain Picard tracks down Captain Kirk in something called the nexus: a nebula of sorts where people get all they ever wanted – a science-fiction heaven. Picard needs to persuade Kirk to leave the nexus with him to go fight bad guys. He finally succeeds when Kirk, being pursued by Picard on horseback, makes a particularly dangerous jump and notices a fearlessness that had never accompanied that same manoeuvre in real life. If there’s no fear, Kirk remarks, then this must not be real. If it’s not real, it’s meaningless.
Kirk here is expressing a truth that most of us have pondered once or twice at least: if Heaven truly is a paradise that offers each of us everything we ever wanted without the nuisance of work, the inconvenience of conflict, or the fear of evil, we will quickly become disenchanted with the whole thing. For Kirk, leaving this nexus thing to go fight bad guys is the perfectly rational choice.
This idea of Heaven, however, doesn’t come from the bible. It’s cheap and malnourished, missing the point and offering the absurd notion that evil is the real source of our happiness (the possibility of falling off a horse and breaking one’s neck produces fear, fear produces excitement, excitement produces happiness). But as much as the occasional adrenaline rush might indeed produce a limited boost in pleasure, it will not produce lasting contentment.
So what does? I agree with the Westminster catechism that the chief end of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, yet those who study their bibles carefully will note that human beings were created with a very specific purpose in mind:
“there was no man to work the ground…the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it”.
Being created in the image of our Creator, we are to work; we are to create.
Theodor Roosevelt once said that “the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing”, and he was exactly right. Each of us has the innate urge to work, to create, which is precisely why work can be so painful.
We were cursed when we disobeyed; and thorns grew up to choke out the real produce. Our sin has jinxed the very activity with which we are supposed to find our meaning. Whether it’s in building, farming, parenting, advising, whatever, we were put on this earth to make it better. Not only are our efforts hindered in this endeavour, oftentimes, the opposite is achieved; we make it worse. Everything we do is an uphill battle. While not always destined for failure, our projects always miss the mark to some extent.
I’ve worked in Human Resources for over twelve years now, and the formula for making happy employees is so simple and obvious that it’s almost embarrassing given the number of research dollars that have been sunk into the subject. Happy employees believe that they are able to make valuable, positive and lasting impacts on the organizations or communities they serve. Unhappy employees believe that their companies couldn’t care less about them, and that their contributions are ultimately worthless.
Now, imagine the best job you’ll ever have. Your boss not only values your contributions, He revels in them. Your contributions are not only valued, they’re celebrated. Your impact is not only lasting, it’s eternal. If you build a deck for a house, it will never rot. If you’re a chef, the food you work with will never spoil. Money won’t be your reward because you won’t need money. The work itself will be your reward.
Whatever your Heavenly calling is going to be, you’re going to love every single minute of it. As I write this, my wife is outside putting mulch down around her carefully tended perennials to help keep out the weeds. Will there be mulch in Heaven? Maybe, but it won’t be necessary. (FYI, if your business on earth is pesticides, you’ll need a new profession in Heaven, sorry).
They say these days that you should make a career out of whatever it is you love doing. And while that’s certainly good advice for those able to take it, even such vocational work can’t escape creation’s curse. Show me a successful entrepreneur and I’ll show you someone who has had to scratch, claw and fight every step of the way. Some of what we do on earth, I think, is blessed, and some eternal remnant of it will be retained and carried over to the new earth, providing it is work done unto the Lord. But imagine work on the other side; imagine work without the curse.
If you have Jesus, one day you'll be able to do more than imagine.
“A team of international scientists used several of the world's most powerful telescopes to study the energy of the universe and concluded that the universe is slowly dying.”
“For dust you are and to dust you will return”.
What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
Everything is dying. Everything, disintegrating, falling apart. Every living thing that you encounter will die. Every atom in your body will, eventually, be ripped apart and come to nothing. Scientists agree, this universe will eventually fragment into a soupy mass of individual particles, dust.
Death rules our cosmos; decay is the only constant.
The Bible has an answer for why this is: sin. Human beings became convinced that their only Creator was holding out on them. They selfishly tried to snatch what was not theirs by right, finding out the hard way that He wasn’t lying when He said, “you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:10). A reckless act of self-centredness put a curse on humanity; and creation was cursed right along with us (Genesis 3:17-19).
Death is natural, they say, a part of life. But we know that’s not true, don’t we? Somewhere, deep down, we know that it’s wrong. Organisms are not supposed to get sick and die; the cosmos is not supposed to rip itself apart. We weren’t created for destruction; yet destruction is our lot, our only lot. Everything that we achieve or gain is ultimately nullified by this ghastly aberration called death.
What is God’s response to all of this? We know Jesus died for our sins, but did He die so that creation could end up in the scrap heap, and so that those who call Him Lord could be sent to a palace in the clouds to partake in a church service that will never end? Did Satan win; is the universe his now, at least until it dies?
Not even close. Creation is the first thing in scripture, and it’s the last thing.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
Jesus didn’t die to rescue our spirits from a sinking ship so that we could spend eternity floating in ethereal wonderment. He became human so that He could restore creation, end the curse, resurrect our bodies and abide with us forever (Revelation 21:3). This curse under which you and I suffer, under which creation groans (Romans 8:22), will end. We will dwell in the house of the Lord, on earth, forever.
Look at the world around you. Do you see a write-off? Don’t.
Colin McComb lives in Edson, Alberta with his wife, Gail, and their three lovely children.