Have you ever heard someone say “Just getting to heaven is reward enough for me” or “I’ll get to heaven by the skin of my teeth?" These remarks reveal an attitude of ignorance toward spiritual things. Obviously any person who thinks like this is not living a life of full surrender to Jesus Christ. He is not investing His life in things that are eternal but in things that are temporary. Jesus on many occasions taught about receiving rewards for the work we do on earth. Paul also taught on rewards in heaven according to our works on earth. Some people may argue the point that because every person is saved by grace and not by works all Christians will receive the same rewards in heaven or that the reward all Christians receive is heaven itself and nothing more. To believe this may ease the conscience of Christians who are not living lives led by the Holy Spirit on earth. Many Christians are not living according to the will of God. They are busy about their own works instead of the works that God has prepared for them to complete.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them"(Eph 2:9-10NKJV).
The Bible unequivocally declares the works we do on earth determine our rewards in heaven. God is keeping an account of what we as Christians are doing on earth. There are degrees of reward in heaven. Christians who love the praise of God more than the praise of man on earth will receive great reward in heaven. You must understand that the choices you are making presently will have eternal consequences attached to them.
Let’s begin with what Jesus taught about rewards in heaven.
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly"(Matt 6:1-4NKJV).
Rewards are based on the motivations of your heart. The Lord knows what motivates you to do what you do. Some people do good things to be seen of men. They like the praise of man. These people have no reward in heaven. They get their reward from the praise of man. They receive no reward from God. When you do good works to obey and honor the Lord He will reward you.
Jesus taught that in heaven there will be degrees of rewards that people will receive.
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven"(Matt 5:19-20NKJV).
In heaven people are called either least or great according to their works on earth. You will be known in heaven according to how you lived your life on earth. If you think that your good works alone will get you to heaven, you are sorely wrong. The Pharisees lived a blameless life according to the Law yet their hearts were full of pride and self-righteousness. This kind of attitude eliminates people from the Kingdom of Heaven. On earth if you do not let attitudes, people or possessions keep you back from serving God you will obtain great reward in heaven.
So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first"(Mark 10:29-31NKJV).
Notice Jesus said people who abandon their own lives for His life would receive a hundredfold reward. This indicates that rewards are determined by degrees. Often people see this verse to only mean people who have geographically left their homes and families for the gospel’s sake will receive this kind of reward. Sometimes we live in the same house with people who do not love Jesus Christ. We may not leave them in location but we must leave them in the sense of passion and purpose. Any man or woman who have not let their spouse or children, father or mother, wealth and position, keep them back from wholly following after the Lord on earth will be greatly rewarded in heaven. Many Christians forfeit their rewards in heaven to live an easier life on earth. Do not be foolish enough to gain your reward on earth only to forfeit it in heaven.
"But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented"(Luke 16:25NKJV).
Anyone who is doing the will of God on earth will suffer persecution. Anyone who is living a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution"(2 Tim 3:11-13NKJV).
Jesus taught that those who suffer persecution on earth for doing God’s will would receive great reward in heaven.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you"(Matt 5:10-12KJV).
Again we see the matter of degree as related to reward. Great reward is waiting in heaven for those who endure persecution of men on earth. You can gauge right now what is waiting for you in heaven by the kind of life you are living or not living on earth. If you are living a godly life then you will suffer at the hands of men. People will speak evil of you. People will lie about you. People will desire your hurt. You may lose a promotion that is rightfully yours but your boss who has the power to grant it witholds it becasue of your faith. But God is watching and you will receive great reward in heaven. So do not lose your hope because a fully surrendered life to God brings with it great reward!
One of the fundamental things we need to know to have a firm foundation in our faith is the matter of eternal judgment.
"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment"(Heb. 6:1-2KJV).
There is a judgment waiting for every born-again believer.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences"(2Cor 5:10-11KJV).
If you are ignorant of this judgment you will not mature as a Christian because it’s so fundamental to your faith. If your foundation is not fully developed anything you build on it will be shaky. Eternal judgment for Christians pertains to the works they did on earth and the rewards they will receive for those works in heaven.
"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire"(1 Cor 3:8-15KJV).
There are several things we must take note of here. The Holy Spirit is making it clear that even though we will not all be doing the same thing we are all one and of the same importance. One may plant and the other may reap but only God can give the increase. No matter what your functions are the Lord values everyone the same. God bases His rewards to you according to your obedience to Him in accomplishing what He has called you to do not according to how the world may view the importance of your assignment. The Lord has pre-ordained that you should accomplish certain works on this earth while you live here. As you draw very close to the Lord He will reveal to you what you are to do. This will take a sacrifice on your part to hear Him and then obey Him. You must not allow the enemy to distract you from hearing God or from the direction the Holy Spirit is leading you. You can only accomplish God’s assignment for you through His grace not through your own abilities.
When you stand before the Lord on Judgment Day He will try your works by fire. He is looking for purity in your works. Did you do them by His power or by your own power? Did you do them in love or out of a sense of obligation or manipulation? Did you do the works He called you to do or did you do the works of which you called yourself? Jesus is your foundation therefore take heed how you build on that foundation. If you build well you will gain rewards in heaven but it you do it poorly you will suffer loss. How can anyone suffer loss in heaven of all places? You will not suffer loss in terms of your eternal salvation. Born-again Christians standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ are in no jeopardy of losing their salvation. Our salvation is always due to the faith we have in Christ and His atoning work on the cross. We are saved not through works but through faith.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast"(Eph 2:8-10NIV).
How then will Christians suffer loss in heaven? The Greek word for the phrase to “suffer loss” is “zemiothesetai. Its verbal root zemioo, has a wider meaning than merely suffering loss. The meaning of this word includes punishment as well as to affect with damage. Zemioo was a business term meaning to punish by exacting a forfeit. This makes the meaning more clear. We suffer loss in heaven by forfeiting the rewards that were meant to be ours if we had only obeyed God while on earth. This same Greek word is used by the Apostle Paul as he states that everything he gained from the world (prior to His conversion to Christ) he counted as loss to gain Christ.
"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ"Phil 3:8KJV).
To gain reward in heaven we must be willing to suffer the loss of earthly things for the cause of Christ. If we choose to hold onto earthly things while we live this side of heaven we will ultimately lose heavenly things in the after life. We will forfeit the rewards prepared for us by the Lord in heaven. Martyred Christian missionary, Jim Elliott, once said “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
We see in the Bible a theme dealing with the proximity we have to God in heaven over and over again. Jesus Christ sits in heaven at the right hand side of the Father.
"But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God"(Luke 22:69NIV).
Heaven is a real place. It is a kingdom. Not everyone will have ready access to King Jesus Christ on His throne. The degree of one’s accessibility appears to differ one from another. For instance, the mother of James and John wanted her sons to sit on the right and left side of Christ’s throne but Jesus told her that was not a privilege He could grant. The Father only assigns those seats for those of whom He prepares.
"Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father" (Matt 20:20-23KJV).
To sit near Christ on His throne is a great honor and God will not honor everyone with it. Jesus indicates that to obtain such a reward you would have to be able to go through afflictions on earth for the sake of the kingdom like that of what Christ suffered.
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"(Rev 3:21-22NIV).
Another reward the Bible speaks of is Jesus Christ calling you a good and faithful servant. For Christ to acknowledge you in front of the angels is also a reward.
"Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God"(Luke 12:8-9KJV).
I believe when you confess Jesus before men rather than remaining quiet before them Jesus immediately confesses your name before the angels. When you get to heaven the angels will already know you and welcome you into heaven.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"(2 Peter 1:10-11).
The angels of God will play a part in the reward ceremonies in heaven.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works"(Matt 16:27KJV).
If you are ashamed of Christ while you live on earth you will experience Jesus Christ being ashamed of you in heaven. Many Christians do not stand up for Christ on earth. Many Christians never open up their mouth to declare Christ in front of their co-workers and many will not even testify of Him in church. Over and over again Christ warns us not to fear man but to fear God. This is important because in heaven we will pay the consequences for being afraid and not confessing Christ before men.
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels"(Mark 8:38NIV).
When you stand before Christ in heaven will you suffer loss in heaven because you were ashamed of Him on earth?
The Lord wants to give you a full reward instead of a partial reward. In order to get your full reward you must start well and finish well on the earth. You will not receive a full reward if you have lived an on again off again Christian life. You must decide to follow Christ with your whole heart and not turn back to receive your full reward.
"Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son"(2 John 8-10NIV).
What God has prepared for you can be taken away if you do not lay hold of your commitment to Christ.
"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"(Rev 3:11-13NIV).
In the ancient Greek world, it was customary to place a pillar in a temple to honor a dignitary. Christ will honor believers who do not compromise their faith on earth. To have your crown taken away must mean that the reward God desires to give you can be taken away by decisions you make on earth. The Holy Spirit admonishes us to hold onto what we have accomplished in Christ. Paul alluded to his when He said that he had to discipline himself… to keep his bodily desires in subjection to the desires of the Spirit otherwise he could become disqualified.
"But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified"(1 Cor 9:27NKJV).
We must endure to the end to receive the fullness of our reward. We cannot shrink back when the times get tough and still receive a full reward.
"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved"(Heb 10:35 NIV).
Jesus spoke of the kingdom being like the Master giving his servants certain amounts of money and seeing how they would use the money. God gives every Christian a measure of faith but what we do with it is up to us. We can use it and it will increase or we can keep it to ourselves. The Lord is presently testing us. How we step out in faith now determines our rewards in heaven. The scripture indicates that those who serve Christ well in faith on earth will have more authority in the Kingdom of Heaven than those who play it safe and do not take risks in faith.
"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' 18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' 19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.' 20 "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' 22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' 24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' 25 "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' 26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me'"(Luke 19:16-27NIV).
The scriptures also mention several crowns that we will receive in heaven. The crown of righteousness, the crown of life and the crown of glory just to name a few are laid up for the saints. You may have heard the old hymn that asks the question “will there be any stars in my crown”? This is somewhat scriptural as well.
"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever"(Dan 12:1-3NIV).
People who have been wise on earth and have led many into righteousness will shine in heaven. The brightness of your light will indicate what kind of person you were on earth. Stars in the night sky shine at different illumination. Some shine at great magnitudes other shine yet dimly. We read in scripture that Jesus’ face began to shine like lightning as Moses and Elijah appeared to Him.
"About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus"(Luke 9:28-31NIV).
How brightly will you shine in heaven? It’s up to you now how you will be later in eternity. If anyone has ears to hear let him hear!
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