Why Are You Here? Heavenly Work Vs. Earthly Work -- By: Gregg R. Allison

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 19:2 (Summer 2015)
Article: Why Are You Here? Heavenly Work Vs. Earthly Work
Author: Gregg R. Allison

Why Are You Here? Heavenly Work Vs. Earthly Work

Gregg R. Allison

Gregg R. Allison is Professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allison served many years as a staff member of Campus Crusade, where he worked in campus ministry and as a missionary to Italy and Switzerland. He also serves as the Secretary of the Evangelical Theological Society and the book review editor for theological, historical, and philosophical studies for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Allison is the author of several books, including Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Zondervan, 2011), Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Crossway, 2012), and Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Crossway, 2014).


This brief article examines the nature of human work from a biblical and theological perspective. Creation frames human work because God created humans as his image bearers, giving them the task of building civilization through procreation and vocation. But humanity’s purposeful work became cursed work through sin. Now the gospel transforms and restores our work as Christians, allowing us to display God’s glory in both our “heavenly” work and our “earthly” work. We must resist the temptation to elevate the spiritual over the physical, as Greek philosophers, the Roman Catholic Church, and many evangelicals have tended to do, and instead insist that God can be equally glorified in all legitimate callings and vocations. This article is not an exhaustive treatment of this theme, but offers an outline of work within a biblical and theological framework.

Purposeful Work

The first chapters of Scripture present a creational framework for the heavens and the earth and everything that exists in them. Genesis 1:1 is the overarching statement of divine creation. Not with already existing materials, but out of nothing, the eternally existing triune God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—created the universe and everything in it. Genesis 1:2-25 narrates the details of the sequenced creation, each creative work building on the next, moving from the context (space and time) to inorganic matter (light, water, land, sun and moon, planets, moons, and stars) to organic life (plants, vegetation, fruit trees, fish, birds, animals, livestock, reptiles, amphibians). These days of creation present everything being brought into existence in anticipation of something greater: God was preparing a space that would be hospitable for the climax of his creation, an earth that this cr...

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