Can we learn in heaven? According to one survey, only 18% of Americans believe that people will "grow intellectually in heaven.”[i] It makes sense. We should know everything in heaven, right? In the presence of God, won't all knowledge be ours?
And yet, we will be learners in heaven. Ephesians 2:6-7 says, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Do you catch the presumption of active learning in heaven in that verse? God is going to show us the incomparable riches of his grace… in the coming ages!
What are the incomparable riches of his grace he will show us? The list is endless. We will certainly understand the wonder of God’s grace on the cross more perfectly, but we will also be shown more profoundly God’s grace in creation, in art, in science, in beauty!
America’s greatest theologian Jonathan Edwards rejoiced in the progressive increase of our knowledge in heaven, “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.”[ii]
In God’s grace-filled purpose, we are built to be learners. The wonder of the new heavens and the new earth are an invitation to discovery. We need eternity to explore our infinite God, who is incomprehensibly beautiful and intelligent. Each day we will exclaim about God first, and then his creation, “Look! Can you imagine? This is amazing!”
We will read; we will talk; we will study; we will learn. We will explore; we will discover; we will create; and we will work. That’s right, we’ll work! As God reaches the apex of his creation on the sixth day, he says of what will be the crown of his mind-bendingly spectacular world, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”[iii]
God’s first words to Adam and Eve echo his purpose for them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over [it].”[iv] We were made for dominion. We were made to rule, to steward, to create, to organize, to care. We were made to work.
The curse for Adam’s sin in Genesis 3 is not that he will work; it’s that his work, for the first time, is going to be hard. He’s going to battle thorns and thistles, and his work is going to make him sweat. In heaven, we will experience work restored (and even better!) than the work Adam experienced: fulfilling, exciting, purposeful.
We’ve all had a glimpse of this promise in our lives. Even in some of my early jobs I remember the satisfaction of purposeful work. I remember creating my own twist of a dish when I worked as a chef in a fast food Japanese restaurant in high school. I was delighted as the staff greedily gobbled down my new concoction. I remember the feeling of having deep cleaned, re-stocked, and re-organized the officer’s tower when I worked as a Detention Officer. And of course, there have been so many powerful moments of joy as a pastor. “Do you know, dear friends, the deliciousness of work?”[v] Charles Spurgeon once asked his congregation. Do you? You will!
We are Christ’s workmanship, “an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”[vi] God will not turn his instruments prepared for noble purposes and good works into paper weights in heaven.
Heaven will be dynamic.
Days will roll by, each as full and dynamic, and restful, and delightful as the last. There will be laughter and work and discovery and all of it will be done as worship.
Can you wait for that dynamic day?
God calls us into a non-static destination. The Unicorn, upon reaching the new Narnia in CS Lewis’s The Last Battle rejoices, “’I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… come further up, come further in!’”
A dynamic reality awaits us and God calls us, even now “come further up, come further in!”
Photo credit: Aaron Burden/Unsplash
[i] Alcorn, Heaven, 318.
[ii] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, 483. Quoted in Alcorn, Heaven, 319.
[iii] Genesis 1:26
[iv] Genesis 1:28
[v] Charles Spurgeon, “Foretastes of the Heavenly Life” quoted in Alcorn, Heaven, 333.
[vi] 2 Timothy 2:21
For more on the What is Heaven? series, see:
Part 1: What is Heaven? It’s Physical
Part 2: What is Heaven? It’s Dynamic!
Part 3: What is Heaven? It’s a Feast
Part 4: What is Heaven? It’s a Community
Part 5: Anticipating Heaven