God rules. We serve.

throne

Revelation 22:3 “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.”

What does God do when he lives with his people? What is that relationship in the heavenly city God makes his home? He rules, and his people serve. Does that seem like a letdown for heaven–even a bait and switch? Our sinful nature chafes at the idea of chasing around doing what God wants. We want freedom. We want to do what we want. We want the otherworldly luxury resort and spa to pamper us the way we always imagined heaven. God rules and we serve? Maybe we find ourselves thinking like the devil in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven,” (even though the devil doesn’t actually rule in hell).

All of this misunderstands how God rules, and what it means for us to serve him. God’s rule doesn’t make us do all the unpleasant, menial tasks so that he can sit back and take it easy. This is the God who did everything to save us. He left heaven and became a man for us. He kept the law perfectly and died for sins and defeated death for us. This is the God whose power gives all things life and keeps all things going. He needs no help from us. His rule runs the universe to take care of our needs. His rule will run heaven for the same reasons.

Where his rule touches our behavior, it has less to do with getting his needs met. It has more to do with how we treat each other. As a father, you might say that I also “rule” my children. But I am not so interested in having them do my work for me. I am interested in teaching them how to take care of themselves someday, and how to get along with each other and other people. That is why I tell them to do certain chores, or behave in certain ways. God’s rule has us behaving in ways that show we respect him for his great love to us. It leads us to care for each other. In heaven, that won’t seem like any burden.

Let’s also not be so naive as to think that heaven would be a place we can enjoy if all we did was lay around, stuff our faces, and try to keep entertained. Doesn’t that lifestyle leave so many people feeling bored and unfulfilled in this world? Heaven will be perfect pleasure, but everlasting laziness and selfishness are not fun. God created human beings to have a sense of purpose. In order to be fulfilled, we need a way to serve. That is why the Lord will give us interesting, satisfying work to do. He will make use of the gifts that make each one of us unique. We will know, in a way we never fully realize here, that we are important, that there is a reason for us to exist. When God lives life with his people, he rules and we serve. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

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