What Kind of Work?
Most of us have two kinds of daily tasks. There are ones that we really enjoy doing: we know how to do them, we can do them well, and we get a feeling of satisfaction with having accomplished something useful. Then there are the ones we dislike: they may be tasks which don’t seem very necessary, or tasks we are not prepared for, or ones we find frustrating, disappointing, or unappreciated.
When we really enjoy our work, it isn’t hard. When things are going well, and we accomplish a lot, we can end a long day of work with as much energy as we started it with. Working, filling needs and accomplishing goals raises our self-esteem and stimulates our mental and emotional processes.
On the other hand, when work is frustrating, when we make blunders or spin our wheels, just the opposite happens. Worry, guilt and frustration bleed away our energy. By lunch time we’re ready to call it a day. We feel about as lively as a wet rag. By the time the day is done, we don’t want to hear about work, think about work, or have anything to do with work.
It’s good to keep these two kinds of work in mind when we think about what we will be doing after we die. There will be a great deal of work to be done there, but fortunately, it will all be the kind that is energizing and satisfying.
Work Brings Happiness
The Bible makes it clear that work is an important part of heaven’s happiness. Anyone who wants real happiness has to work, and angels aren’t excluded. “The soul of a sluggard desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 13:4). “Whoever desires to become great among you,” says Jesus, “let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27). “When you eat the labor of your hand, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128:2).
As much as the Bible praises the workman, it also warns against laziness. “The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long” (Proverbs 22:25, 26). The prophet Ezekiel condemned Israel’s laziness with these words: “This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness…” (Ezekiel 16:49). The Bible urges us to be useful and warns against idleness, so no angel could spend his time being idle.
Heaven Is Like a Workplace
Another indication that work will be a part of our life after death is that Jesus so often compared people in the kingdom of heaven to servants, workmen and laborers. “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out…to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1). The Lord is compared to the master, and the angels to servants who work for Him (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; 21:34; Luke 12:37, 14: 15-24).
The Bible gives some examples of some of the things people do when they become angels. They often serve as messengers, like the angels who announced the Lord’s birth, and later His resurrection (Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 28:2-5). In fact, “angel” literally means messenger. Another job given to angels is guarding people. “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). For example, angels came to protect Lot and bring him safely out of Sodom when it was about to be destroyed by fire (Genesis 19: 1-17). When Peter was in prison, an angel set him free (Acts 12:5-10). And when Daniel was thrown in a den of lions, God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths (Daniel 6: 22). The average person, of course, is not so much threatened by fire or hungry lions as he is by his own burning hatred or insatiable desires. Angels protect us from these, too.
Angels also serve as guides. An angel guided Eliezer on his trip to Haran to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:7, 40). An angel guided Moses and the people of Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 14:19, 23:20, 32:34). An angel guided John through the Holy City New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-10, 22:1), and another guided Ezekiel in a similar way (Ezekiel 40-44).
Another job given to angels is comforting those who are going through trials or grief. For example, after Jesus’ temptations angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:13). “When we cried to the Lord, He heard our voice, and sent an angel” (Numbers 20:16). When Hagar and her son were dying of thirst in the wilderness, an angel came to comfort her and show her where to find water (Genesis 21:14-19).
Another role for angels is taking care of children in this world (Matthew 18:10). When angels have so many duties relating just to people on earth, we might expect that they should have many more relating to people in the other world, such as caring for people who have just died, helping in the process of resurrection and comforting them (Luke 16:22, Matthew 13:41).
There is another indication of the ways people continue to be useful after death. The Bible tells how all who allow the Lord to work in them are like one body. Each person has a unique way of serving the others, just as each part of the body uniquely serves the other parts. The Lord is the head which unites and directs the individual parts (1 Corinthians 12). Of course, people who go to heaven will continue to serve each other’s needs this way, and will continue to participate in the Lord’s work, as members of His body.
Rest from “Labors”
With this many indications of the useful, joyful work which waits for us in heaven, one might wonder how anyone could think that heaven is just a vacation. The Lord promises that we will have rest from trouble (2 Thessalonians 1:7), from the kind of work that is frustrating and discouraging, and from our struggle against our own evils. And at the same time, He promised that the next life will be one of greater fruitfulness and productivity—a life where the greatest will be those who serve the most—where our work will be easy and light. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).