Heaven, Education, and Eternal Learning

Heaven, Education, and Eternal Learning

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Published:
December 23, 2020

True education should prepare its protégées to be successful citizens in this life, and to look forward to the new heaven and the new earth. Christian education is expected to inject into the mind of the student to aim at the Kingdom of God. The ultimate goal of Christian education, and that of the Christian hope, is to live eternally in the new heaven and the new earth, which await the faithful when Christ returns.

In his book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn suggests that in the new heaven and the new earth humanity will “continue to learn, create, design and entertain” (see Mal 4:2).[1] Education will continue in heaven, for in eternity mankind will never stop learning. Man in heaven will be more creative than what we can imagine and think; life in the new heaven will continue this kind of creativity. Living in heaven “will involve eternal discovery and learning. . . . Learning will be inexhaustible and unending.”[2]

Learning in heaven will be part of man’s spiritual growth and the saints will get to know God fully. The Bible speaks of heaven as “a place where humans will eternally learn and grow in their understanding.”[3] Stephen Dunne, in his book, It’s Steve, says that there will be schools in heaven,[4] where the redeemed will study the wonders of the creation of God. The redeemed will spend eternity learning about the hidden mysterious things to be found in the new heaven.

According to Henry Harbaughs, heaven allows no distinction between:

Acts of devotion and ordinary employments. Nothing will be secular there. Not only the exercises of stated seasons, but celestial employments and pastimes will be worship. The ordinary flow of heavenly life will be one constant scene of worship. In this sense, “they serve him day and night in his temple” [Rev 7:15a].[5]

In other words, in heaven there will be no secular life; all actions of the saints will be acts of worship. It is the duty of Christian education to instill in the minds of pupils that consecrated Christians should not have separate secular and sacred lives. All activities must be sacred, for we understand that the activities of Christ in the carpenter’s shop were full of sanctity. I like how David Gregg penned it in his book, The Heaven-Life, or Stimulus for Two Worlds: “shoemaking is as sacred as preaching.”[6] It suffices to say that the true life of the Christian is spiritual and is worship.

In heaven, there will be improvement of spiritual life, where the redeemed will grow into the knowledge of God. “Heavenly education forms the basis for saintly progress.”[7] The education and the study of God’s creation will be part of the work of the redeemed.

Jonathan Edwards, in his volume, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, said that while the redeemed in heaven will rest from the pain of labor, weariness, and unpleasant activities, heaven is not a place for cessation of all action and to entertain idleness. Heaven will be a place of rest, and “the most perfect rest is consistent with being continually employed. So it is in heaven.”[8] According to Edwards, the employment of the saints is to serve God; they are employed in contemplating God, His glorious perfection, and His works, and, in turn, the saints will gain knowledge in these things. It suffices to say, and in line with Edwards’s thoughts, education will continue in heaven, where the saints will “gain knowledge” in various aspects of God and His wonderful creation.

In the view of Phillips Brooks, heaven is not a place of pure stagnation, “but active, tireless, earnest work.”[9] Alcorn maintained that heaven would be a city full of “bustling activity, cultural events, and gatherings involving music, the arts, education, religion, entertainment, and athletics.”[10] According to him, if the new heaven and the new earth does not have these characteristics that are associated with a city, it would be misleading for the Bible to repeatedly call it a city.

There will be no idle moment in heaven; each activity will be valuable. Angels are “always doing things; they are always engaged in useful, industrious enterprises.”[11] Heaven would be “a busy hive, a center of industry,” said William Clarke Ulyat.[12] The redeemed were “not made for rest but activities” proclaimed Gary Scot Smith.[13] Employment in heaven “will be as varied as our aptitudes.” If heaven were to be a place of worshipping, praying, and praising God only, Smith contended, “many faculties of the mind would remain unemployed.”[14]

Ulyat rightly said:

The nature of the work there will be rest. Love and joy in and ability will make it “easy and light.” “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Heaven is a creation, a place of constructive grandeur. Practically it is a workshop. Concealment at present as to what it is to be in the far distance of time and space, gives opportunity for the imagination to conceive.[15]

Heaven, apart from being a place of learning and continuous growth, will be a place where the redeemed will live forever and ever. Hence, learning will never come to an end. “Heaven will be a place of eternal activity—eternal social concern” for all.[16]

Heaven is a school for the redeemed, as Ellen G. White said:

Heaven is a school; its field of study, the universe; its teacher, the Infinite One. A branch of this school was established in Eden; and, the plan of redemption accomplished, education will again be taken up in the Eden school.[17]

At the school in heaven, all the saints will study the truth and it will be free from errors. Man, with “immortal” and “incorruptible minds,” will “contemplate with never failing delight, the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love.”[18] Mankind will not experience weariness and exhortation while learning. All human faculties will be expanded and developed. For this reason the same author says, “All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God's children. . . . the years of eternity, as they roll, will continue to bring more glorious revelations.”[19]

It suffices to say that “education” and not instantaneous sainthood shall occur in heaven. Education, work, serving God, and praising Him are hallmarks of the new heaven and the new earth. In heaven, as it is on earth, the total person will be actively and fully involved in work and worship. Learning in heaven will take place exponentially.

 

Notes & References:

[1]Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2004), 53.

[2]John Hart, 50 Things You Need to Know About Heaven (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014), 145.

[3]Brian McAnnaly, Life After Death & Heaven and Hell (Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Christian Media, 2012), 234.

[4]Stephen Dunne, It’s Steve (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2011), 38.

[5]Henry Harbaugh, The Heavenly Home: or the Employments and Enjoyments of the Saints in Heaven (Philadelphia, PA: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1857), 330.

[6]David Gregg, The Heaven-Life, or Stimulus for Two Worlds (New York, NY: Revell, 1895), 63.

[7]Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History, 2nd ed. (London, UK: Yale University Press, 2001), 285.

[8]Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. by Anthony Uyl (Raleigh, NC: Lulu, 2017), 2:261.

[9]Phillips Brooks, Visions and Tasks, and Other Sermons: Fourth Series (New York, NY: Dutton, 1886), 125.

[10]Alcorn, Heaven, 124.

[11]Dell B. Tschudin, Devil’s Bargain (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2004), 109.

[12]William Clarke Ulyat, The First Years of the Life of the Redeemed After Death: A New Unfolding in Theology and in the Christian Life and Destiny Here and Hereafter (Saint Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press, 1901), 191.

[13]Gary Scott Smith, Heaven in the American Imagination (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 172.

[14]Smith, Heaven, 172.

[15]Ulyat, The First Years, 191.

[16]Martin Hägglund, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2019), 4.

[17]Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 301.

[18]Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 677.

[19]Ellen G. White, The Faith I Live by (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 2000), 360.

 

Youssry Guirguis is an Old Testament scholar with a special interest in the area of Islamic studies at the Asia-Pacific International University in Thailand and the Andrews MAR (extension site) program director for the Asia-Pacific International University. He is an adjunct professor in Middle East University’s Master in Islamic Studies Program and has conducted research in the areas of biblical studies, Islamic studies, and biblical rituals.

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