Will Human Culture Disappear in Heaven?

Some Christians are under the impression that in Heaven everything will revert back to a primitive paradise, like what Adam and Eve experienced. They reason that the achievements of mankind are worthless, and in most cases, an affront to God’s plan.

Did God plan, though, for Adam and Eve, and all mankind, to remain in a state of “nature,” to never invent architecture, music, literature, technology? What about the sciences or even athletics?

Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, thinks not. Alcorn argues that at least parts of human culture will be retained, and even improved in Heaven. Alcorn writes,

Earth exists for the same reason that mankind and everything else exists: to glorify God. God is glorified when we take our rightful, intended place in his creation and exercise the dominion that he bestowed on us. God appointed human beings to rule the earth: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ ” (Genesis 1: 26-28, NKJV).

God’s intention for humans was that we would occupy the whole Earth and reign over it. This dominion would produce God-exalting societies in which we would exercise the creativity, imagination, intellect, and skills befitting beings created in God’s image, thereby manifesting his attributes. To be made in God’s image involves a communicative mandate: that through our creative industry as God’s subcreators, we should together make the invisible God visible, thus glorifying him in the sight of all creation.

Alcorn quotes theologian Erich Sauer writing about the phrase in Genesis 1: 26 “let them have dominion”:

These words plainly declare the vocation of the human race to rule. They also call him to progressive growth in culture. Far from being something in conflict with God, cultural achievements are an essential attribute of the nobility of man as he possessed it in Paradise. Inventions and discoveries, the sciences and the arts, refinement and ennobling, in short, the advance of the human mind, are throughout the will of God. They are the taking possession of the earth by the royal human race (Genesis 1:28), the performance of a commission, imposed by the Creator, by God’s ennobled servants, a God-appointed ruler’s service for the blessing of this earthly realm.

Let’s pause for a moment. A thoughtful Christian might reply, “What about those verses in the Bible that say we should avoid the world and its ways. How can Heaven contain human culture when we’re warned that human culture is to be avoided?”

Alcorn explains,

We need to think carefully when we read Scriptures that talk about ‘the world.’ I recommend adding the words as it is now, under the Curse, to keep the biblical distinctions clear in our minds:

Friendship with the world [as it is now, under the Curse] is hatred toward God. (James 4:4)

Do not be conformed to this world [as it is now, under the Curse]. (Romans 12: 2, NKJV)

The wisdom of this world [as it is now, under the Curse] is foolishness with God. (1 Corinthians 3: 19, NKJV)

The world as it was, and the world as it will be, is exceedingly good. The world as it is now, inhabited by humanity as we are now, is twisted. But this is a temporary condition, with an eternal remedy: Christ’s redemptive work.

Yes, human culture has been horribly tainted by sin, but that doesn’t mean that everything humans have created will be tossed in the garbage. There are elements of human culture that glorify God, and why shouldn’t those elements continue on with the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth?