Culture, Arts, and Technology on the New Earth

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.” (Exodus  31:1-6)

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. (Psalm 104:33)

We will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD. (Isaiah 38:20)

I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. (God, Jeremiah 31:4-5)

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (John, Revelation 21:23-26)

My dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:58)

In the beginning man was given the so-called cultural mandate—the command to rule over the earth and to develop a God-glorifying culture. Because of man’s fall into sin, that cultural mandate has never been carried out in the way God intended. Only on the new earth will it be perfectly and sinlessly fulfilled. Only then shall we be able to rule the earth properly. [1]

Anthony Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off”


Some people may find it difficult to envision drama or literature without plots involving villainy, deceit, violence, or adultery. . . . Such fears are understandable, because it is difficult to see beyond the horizon of our experience. These questions reflect an inadequate vision of resurrected life. Consider comedy that makes you laugh but not at the expense of another. Reflect upon poetry that brings tears to your eyes, paintings that put you in raptures, music that gives you goose bumps, . . . Do our aesthetic adventures depend upon sin for flavor? I think not. In heaven, as on earth, effective drama portrays a triumph of good over evil. I daresay the vastness and the openness of the renewed cosmos offers adventures adequate for epic tales, just as it provides raw material for the visual arts, for painting, for sculpture, for architecture. [2]

Arthur Roberts, Exploring Heaven


God may ultimately choose not to preserve this book or that building, but he will spare enough authors and architects to re-create the best of whatever is lost. [3]

Michael Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth


When you painted on earth . . . it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. [4]

The Spirit, in The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis


The rise of human civilization hints at a coming splendor. Civilization has brought health and safety. It has brought freedom from toil and provided creative enjoyment to millions of persons. How much more, freed from the curse of sin, will civilization flourish! Heaven will provide for urban as well as pastoral living. . . . Already the city of man is probing the galaxies. Already it has catalogued the human genome. . . . With the curse of sin gone, apocalypses past, surely human beings in heaven will become active stewards of the Lord in completing or extending the universe of things and ideas. . . . Civilization is not old; it has barely begun! [5]

Arthur Roberts, Exploring Heaven


We have a creative task in the world. We must shape things in ways for which there is sometimes no clear direction. This is why imagination is not just a feature of the arts; it is a feature of human life itself. Without imagination, without experimentation, without openness to new questions and new possibilities, there can be no science and no technology. We are not challenging God when we do this, at least not when we do it in humility and faith. We are not stealing fire from the gods. We are taking up our responsibility before God to shape what he has placed in our hands. [6]

Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home


Part of God’s plan for the earth is that it be filled and subdued by humankind, that its latent possibilities be unlocked and actualized in human history and civilization. A good deal of that development has already taken place, though it is distorted by humanity’s sinfulness.

We must choose restoration rather than repristination. It would be a profound mistake to attempt to go back to the original stage of the earth’s development, to the sort of world exemplified by the garden of Eden. From a cultural point of view, that situation was primitive and undeveloped. It preceded Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal Cain (sons of Lamech), for example, who introduced a number of historical advances (animal husbandry, music making, metalworking) that contributed significantly to the furtherance of civilization (Genesis 4:20-22). It is doubtful whether Adam and Eve were acquainted with the wheel; it is certain that they had not yet discovered how to make textiles (Genesis 3:21) or bake bricks (Genesis 11:3). . . . Repristination would entail the cultural return to the garden of Eden, a return that would turn back the historical clock. [17]

Albert Wolters, Creation Regained


Salvation in Jesus Christ, conceived in the broad creational sense, means a restoration of culture and society in their present stage of development. That restoration will not necessarily oppose literacy or urbanization or industrialization or the internal combustion engine, although these historical developments have led to their own distortions or evils. Instead, the coming of the kingdom of God demands that these developments be reformed, that they be made answerable to their creational structure, and that they be subjected to the ordinances of the Creator.

Biblical religion is historically progressive, not reactionary. It views the whole course of history as a movement from a garden to a city, and it fundamentally affirms that movement. Once again, the kingdom of God claims all of creation, not only in all its departments, but also in all its stages of development. [8]

Albert Wolters, Creation Regained


Scientists, teachers, artisans, farmers, merchants, and artists require a social structure to find personal fulfillment and to contribute value to others. The word commonwealth conveys this idea. Heaven will be a wealth of people from every cultural and linguistic group, with diverse traditions and customs. With a cosmos freed from sin and with inhabitants guided by the twin goals of truth and love, human beings can become fully co-creators with God. [9]

Arthur Roberts, Exploring Heaven


Life in the new creation will not be a repristination of all things—a going back to the way things were at the beginning. Rather, life in the new creation will be a restoration of all things—involving the removal of every sinful impurity and the retaining of all that is holy and good. Were the new creation to exclude the diversity of the nations and the glory of the kings of the earth, it would be impoverished rather than enriched, historically regressive and reactionary rather than progressive. To express the point in the form of a question: is it likely that the music of Bach and Mozart, the painting of Rembrandt, the writing of Shakespeare, the discoveries of science, etc., will be altogether lost upon life in the new creation? [10]

Albert Wolters, Creation Regained


Everything which authentically reflects the God of truth, all that is of abiding worth from within the national stories and the cultural inheritance of the world’s peoples, will find its place in the New Jerusalem. This will hardly surprise us if we have drunk at the wells of human culture and have experienced the deepening of sensitivity, broadening of understanding and enlargement of heart and mind which such engagement can promote.

The one who is Lord of the whole of life was never going to bring us at the end into an eternal existence of mental constriction, or of emotional and creative impoverishment. Creativity will surely be valued, for such an anticipation must be in keeping with the nature of him who set the morning stars a-singing when he created them at the beginning, and whose joyful, uninhibited cry echoes across the battlements of the new creation. “See, I am making everything new!”

In other words, the “glory and honour of the nations” will only provide a starting point. What creative possibilities await us in the unfolding of the eternal ages no present imagination can begin to unravel. And since we are going to a heaven of, among other things, unprecedented cultural creativity, what authentication this gives to the worthwhileness of all such endeavour in the present. In this, too, we may dare to believe, “[our] labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). [11]

Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven and Hell


What we need is not to be rescued from the world, not to cease being human, not to stop caring for the world, not to stop shaping human culture. What we need is the power to do these things according to the will of God. We, as well as the rest of creation, need to be redeemed. [12]

Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home


Every legitimate and excellent fruit of human culture will be carried into and contribute to the splendour of life in the new creation. Rather than the new creation being a radically new beginning, in which the excellent and noble fruits of humankind’s fulfillment of the cultural mandate are wholly discarded—the new creation will benefit from, and be immensely enriched by, its receiving of these fruits. [13]

Cornelius Venema, The Promise of the Future


Nothing of the diversity of the nations and peoples, their cultural products, languages, arts, sciences, literature, and technology—so far as these are good and excellent—will be lost upon life in the new creation. [14]

Cornelius Venema, The Promise of the Future


[Critiquing what Paul Marshall calls “lifeboat theology”:] It is as if the creation were the Titanic, and now that we’ve hit the iceberg of sin, there’s nothing left for us to do but get ourselves into lifeboats. The ship is sinking rapidly, God has given up on it and is concerned only with the survival of his people. Any effort we make to salvage God’s creation amounts to rearranging the deck chairs. Instead, some say, our sole task is to get into the lifeboats, to keep them afloat, to pluck drowning victims out of the water, and to sail on until we get to heaven where all will be well.

[Proposing the alternative of “ark theology”:] Noah’s ark saved not only people, but it preserved God’s oher creatures as well. The ark looked not to flee but to return to the land and begin again. Once the flood subsided, everyone and everything was intended to return again to restore the earth. [15]

Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home


Kings in those days were more than political rulers; they were the representatives and bearers of the cultures of the nations over which they ruled. John is here speaking [in Revelation 21:24] about the cultural and artistic contributions of various national groups which shall then have made their home in the new Jerusalem. . . . [I]n the life to come various types of people will retain their unique gifts. These gifts will develop and mature in a sinless way, and will be used to produce new cultural products to the everlasting glory of God’s name. . . .

The fact that not only kings but nations are mentioned implies that the various cultural contributions of different ethnic groups will then no longer be in competition with each other, but will harmoniously enrich life in the Holy City. Christ, who is the lamp of that city, will then draw all these cultural products into his service, for the glory of his Father. [16]

Anthony Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off”


How might we expect [Paul] to finish such a chapter [1 Corinthians 15]? By saying, “Therefore, since you have such a great hope, sit back and relax because you know God’s got a great future in store for you”? No. Instead, he says, “Therefore, my beloved ones, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”

What does he mean? How does believing in the future resurrection lead to getting on with the work in the present? Quite straightforwardly. The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout the letter, is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. And if this applies to ethics, as in 1 Corinthians 6, it certainly also applies to various vocations to which God’s people are called. What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it, “Until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away”). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

It’s no good falling back into the tired old split-level world where some people believe in evangelism in terms of saving souls for a timeless eternity and other people believe in mission in terms of working for justice, peace, and hope in the present world. That great divide has nothing to do with Jesus and the New Testament and everything to do with the silent enslavement of many Christians (both conservative and radical) to the Platonic ideology of the Enlightenment. Once we get the resurrection straight, we can and must get mission straight. [17]

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope


The possibilities that now rise before us boggle the mind. Will there be ‘better Beethovens’ on the new earth? . . . better Rembrandts, better Raphaels? Shall we read better poetry, better drama, and better prose? Will scientists continue to advance in technological achievement, will geologists continue to dig out the treasures of the earth, and will architects continue to build imposing and attractive structures? Will there be exciting new adventures in space travel? . . . Our culture will glorify God in ways that surpass our most fantastic dreams. [18]

Anthony Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off”


At Christ’s return, the earth will be healed from sin’s wounds. These include not only toxic waste and chemical pollution but also cultural and moral pollution. The healing of wounds implies the return to an original condition. If our new bodies will look enough like the old bodies to be recognizable, doesn’t this suggest that the New Earth will look enough like the old Earth for us to recognize it?

. . . The New Earth will still be just as much Earth as the new us will still be us. Our resurrection bodies will have our eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Like Christ’s body, ours will maintain their distinguishing features. If our new bodies will so closely correspond to the present ones, won’t the New Earth just as closely correspond to the present one? Will there be a New Mount Saint Helens and New Himalayas and a New Alaska under the new northern lights? Will there be a New Bermuda, a New Canada, a New Australia?

. . . My understanding of Scripture suggests that the New Earth will include not only resurrected geographical locations but also resurrected cultures. The kings of the nations will bring their tribute, splendor, and glory into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24, 26). There will be not one nation but many. This reference gives us biblical basis to suppose that the best culture, history, art, music, and the languages of the old Earth will be redeemed, purified, and carried over to the New Earth.

Surely these kings and cultures who bring their “splendor” and “glory” into the new world won’t start from scratch. They’ll bring into the new world a national and personal history, an ethnic identity, and a wealth of customs, art forms, and knowledge. All these will be purified, but that leaves plenty of room for distinctive cultural celebrations, holidays, meals, sports, and many customs. [19]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


In Daniel’s vision of the Messiah’s return to Earth, “He was given authority, honor, and royal power over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him” (Daniel 7:14, NLT). There’s a direct continuity between the kingdoms of the old Earth and God’s eternal Kingdom on the New Earth. Earthly kingdoms will not be destroyed but “handed over” to God’s people: “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints” (Daniel 7:27).

Surely the greatness of the nations that will be handed over to God’s people cannot be restricted only to those nations existing at Christ’s return. Indeed, most of the nations Daniel speaks of— including Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Rome—faded away long ago. But in the sweeping breadth of his redemptive work, I believe that God will resurrect not only modern nations but also ancient ones, including, for instance, Babylon and Rome. I think it’s likely we’ll not merely meet the redeemed people of ancient civilizations but also walk among redeemed civilizations. Are ancient Assyrians, Sumerians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, and Greeks among God’s redeemed? We know they are, for no nation, past or present, is excluded from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 7:9). In Heaven, God has determined to have representatives from every tribe, people group, and culture.

Because Scripture explicitly tells us that resurrected nations will be part of the New Earth, I think there’s every reason to believe we’ll see a resurrected Egypt, Rome, India, and China, as well as resurrected cultures of every part of ancient Africa, South America, North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe, including small cultures about which we presently know very little.

I interpret “every tribe and language and people and nation” literally. God chose people in even predominantly pagan nations and reached them by sending men and women or angels, dreams, and visions. What people groups will be worshiping Christ on the New Earth? Celts, Goths, Huns, Lombards, Saxons, Vikings, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Canaanites, Hittites, Phoenicians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Malaysians, Aztecs, Mayans, Incas—and countless other civilizations, ancient and modern. Representatives of nations and cultures that no longer exist today will be raised, to God’s glory, in a purified form that includes whatever pleased God and excludes whatever didn’t.

Do you have a special interest in Europe of the Middle Ages? Then perhaps you’ll enjoy developing relationships with those who lived in that era. Perhaps on the New Earth you’ll live in a beautified version of their culture. (We shouldn’t assume that all ancient people would embrace every modern convenience, even when given the choice.)

. . . I believe we have more than just biblical permission to imagine resurrected races, tribes, and nations living together on the New Earth; we have a biblical mandate to do so. So close your eyes and imagine those ancient civilizations. Not just what they were, but what they yet will be. [20]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


Some people expect the New Earth to be a return to Eden, with no technology or the accomplishments of civilization. But that doesn’t fit the biblical picture of the great city, the New Jerusalem. Nor is it logical. Would we expect on the New Earth a literal reinvention of the wheel? [21]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


The first person Scripture describes as “filled with the Spirit” wasn’t a prophet or priest; he was a craftsman, “with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs . . . and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:1-3).

God gifted and called Bezalel to be a skilled laborer, a master craftsman, a God-glorifying artist. Bezalel and Oholiab were not only to create works of art but also to train apprentices to do so. The gifting and calling were from God: “He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers” (Exodus 35:35).

If you don’t believe craftsmanship will be an important part of the New Earth, read Exodus 25–40. God tells his people in exquisite detail how to sew clothing, what colors to use, how to construct the furniture for the Ark of the Covenant and Tabernacle, what stones to put on the high priest’s breastplate, and so on.

The Master Designer goes into great detail in his instructions for building the Tabernacle: the veil and curtain, the Ark of the Covenant, the table, the lampstand, the altar of burnt offerings, the courtyard, the incense altar, the washbasin, the priests’ clothing. The design, precision, and beauty of these things tell us about God, ourselves, and the culture of the New Earth. Those who imagine that spirituality is something ethereal and invisible—unrelated to our physical skills, creativity, and cultural development—fail to understand Scripture. God’s instructions and his delight in the gifts he imparts to people to accomplish these tasks make clear what we should expect in Heaven: greater works of craftsmanship and construction, unhindered by sin and death.

It wasn’t an accident that Jesus was born into a carpenter’s family. Carpenters are makers. God is a maker. He’ll never cease being a maker. God made us, his image-bearers, to be makers. We’ll never cease to be makers. When we die, we won’t leave behind our creativity, but only what hinders our ability to honor God through what we create. [22]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


In the movie Babette’s Feast, a Parisian chef is forced to leave her home through the misfortunes of war. Babette ends up in a windswept Danish coastal village, working as a maid for two women who lead a small, austere Christian sect that frowns on such worldly things as gourmet cooking. Babette grows to love these elderly sisters. When she comes into a large sum of money, she spends it all on giving a single dinner party for the sisters and their friends. It’s a picture of God’s extravagant grace. Babette realizes that she’ll never again be able to afford to give such a gift or to prepare such a meal. One of the sisters is a talented singer who had little opportunity to use her gift. Touched by Babette’s generosity, she consoles her: “I feel, Babette, that this is not the end. In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be! . . . Ah, how you will enchant the angels!” [23]

Randy Alcorn, 50 Days of Heaven


If mankind had never sinned, would we have invented the wheel and created machinery? Certainly. On the New Earth, shouldn’t we expect machinery made for the good of mankind and the glory of God? On the New Earth people might invent machinery that could take us to the far ends of the New Milky Way, to other galaxies and beyond. Why not? Is this notion more unthinkable than it once was to imagine sailing a ship across an ocean or flying a plane across the world or landing a spacecraft on the moon? Because people in this fallen world have extended their dominion beyond our current Earth, might we not expect people on the New Earth to extend their Christ-exalting reach into the new universe? . . . From the night I first saw Andromeda’s galaxy, I’ve wanted to go there. I now think it’s likely I will. [24]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


Will the new planets be mere ornaments, or does God intend for us to reach them one day? Even under the Curse, we’ve been able to explore the moon, and we have the technology to land on Mars. What will we be able to accomplish for God’s glory when we have resurrected minds, unlimited resources, complete scientific coopera­tion, and no more death? [25]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


I want to be part of a group that explores the vast reaches of the new cosmos. When my fellow explorers and I return home to Earth, the capital planet, and enter the gates of the capital city, we’ll gather for food and drinks, and catch up on our stories. I’ll listen to your stories; maybe you’ll listen to mine. Perhaps I’ll write about great planets of star systems far away. I’ll tell how my explorations deepened my love for Jesus. And you’ll play or sing for me the music of praise you composed while I was gone. I’ll marvel at its beauty, and I’ll see Jesus in it and in you. Maybe I’ll write a book about the Omega galaxy, while you’ll write one about the music of the heart. We’ll exchange manuscripts, stimulate new insights, and draw each other closer to God. [26]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven


In this world, even under the Curse, human imagination and skill have produced some remarkable works. The statues of Easter Island. Stonehenge. . . . The Golden Gate Bridge. Baseball. Heart transplants. Prenatal surgery. Microwave ovens. DVDs. The space shuttle. Chocolate ice cream. Pecan pie. Sports cars. It’s a list that never ends.

With the resources God will lavishly give us on the New Earth, what will we be able to accomplish together? When we think about this, we should be like children anticipating Christmas—sneaking out of bed to see what’s under the Christmas tree. . . .

Angels could have maintained the world as God created it. But it takes God’s image-bearers to develop, expand, and enrich the earth. That is culture. [27]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven

This reigning, expanding, culture-enriching purpose of God for mankind on Earth was never revoked or abandoned. It has only been interrupted and twisted by the Fall. But neither Satan nor sin is able to thwart God’s purposes. Christ’s redemptive work will ultimately restore, enhance, and expand God’s original plan. [28]

Randy Alcorn, Heaven

Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven and Eternal Perspectives.

[1] Anthony A. Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off,” Christianity Today (June 6, 2003),

[2] Arthur O. Roberts, Exploring Heaven (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 63–64.

[3] Michael E. Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 203.

[4] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 80.

[5] Arthur O. Roberts, Exploring Heaven (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 148.

[6] Paul Marshall with Lela Gilbert, Heaven Is Not My Home (Nashville: Word, 1998), 173.

[7] Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 63.

[8] Ibid., 64.

[9] Arthur O. Roberts, Exploring Heaven (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), 148.

[10] Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 37.

[11] Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven and Hell (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 321–322.

[12] Paul Marshall with Lela Gilbert, Heaven Is Not My Home (Nashville: Word, 1998), 32–33.

[13] Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Trowbridge, UK: Banner of Truth, 2000), 481.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Paul Marshall with Lela Gilbert, Heaven Is Not My Home (Nashville: Word, 1998), 30.

[16] Anthony A. Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off,” Christianity Today (June 6, 2003),

[17] N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 193.

[18] Anthony A. Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off,” Christianity Today (June 6, 2003),

[19] Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), 367.

[20] Ibid., 368–369.

[21] Ibid., 234.

[22] Ibid., 427–428.

[23] Randy Alcorn, 50 Days of Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2006), 214–215.

[24] Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), 429–430.

[25] Ibid., 254.

[26] Ibid., 407.

[27] Ibid., 400–401.

[28] Ibid., 219.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries