We live in a world that is changing rapidly. That is true in medicine. Who could have imagined stem cell transplants that heal diseases? Or invitro surgeries, operating on babies before they are born?
Culture is also morphing, maybe eroding is a better word. Who could have imagined that abortion up to the date of birth would be legal? That church, school and workplace shootings would be commonplace? That terms like LGBTQ and non-binary would become commonplace because of sexual perversion?
But there are some things that will never change: God, His Word, His plan of salvation, His grace, forgiveness and power and what I want to address today: Heaven and God’s rewards that can await us.
As we consider Heaven’s rewards, let’s look at the time of rewards. First Peter 5:4 says, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Have you ever wondered what motivated missionaries like Adoniram Judson, CT Studd, John Paton, and William Borden to give up wealth and comfort to live in poverty and danger? They understood the implications of this promise, that rewards are not meted out in this life but when the Lord returns for His saints.
Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” Second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body whether good or evil.” There are two great judgments in scripture; the Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema) and the Great White Throne (Rev 20). The first is a judgment of dedication for believers and the second is a judgment of damnation for unbelievers. The Judgment Seat of Christ takes place after the Rapture, in the heavenlies, during the time of tribulation on earth before the Second Coming of Christ when He sets up His Millennial Kingdom. The Bible says we will be judged for what we did in our body, good or evil. Evil is not the word for sin, it is ‘phaulon’–worthless things, things that have no eternal value. We can spend our leisure time watching TV, playing with our toys, and hanging with our friends or studying our Bible, sharing the gospel and praying for God’s work. Many things in life are not sinful but the guy who binge-watched Netflix is not going to receive the same reward as the guy who worked to advance God’s Kingdom. The Bema judgment will reveal the difference between sacrificial servants and couch-potato Christians.
But let’s also look at the truth about rewards. First, we must be clear, salvation and Heaven are not a reward for living a good life. Salvation is a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, 9). When we repent of our sin and accept Christ as Savior we are assured of heaven and may receive rewards. So how we live today will make a difference in our eternity.
First Corinthians 3:11-15, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
These verses tell us there is only one lasting foundation to build a life, family, ministry or business on–Jesus Christ. The Corinthians understood the difference between costly, enduring and beautiful building materials and the cheap, ugly and perishable materials. The difference could be seen in the exquisitely crafted granite temples and the ramshackle hovels that the poor lived in. What happened when a fire raced through town? But this passage is not talking so much about what we accomplished but why we served. The focus is not on the externals but the internals. That “day of judgment” will reveal or make manifest the quality of our service, revealing the motives behind why we did what we did! Was it done for the glory of God or the glory of our flesh?
Lastly, we’ll see the types of rewards. First Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” The word “disqualified” or “castaway” is adokimos. Paul wasn’t worried about losing his salvation but losing his reward.
In scripture when rewards are discussed they are referred to as crowns, symbols of authority and responsibility. What crowns or rewards are we eligible for? There are 5 listed in the Bible: the incorruptible crown (I Cor 9:25) for those who get mastery over the old man; the crown of rejoicing (I Thes 2:19) for those who shared the gospel; the crown of righteousness (II Tim 4:8) for those who anticipate Christ’s coming; the crown of life (James 1:12) for those who suffered for Christ in life’s trials; the crown of glory (I Pet 5:4) for those who faithfully ministered the Word of God.
These crowns are not for boasting or hoarding but to cast at Jesus’ feet in worship (Rev 4:10-11) as everlasting reminders of God’s grace. God gives you salvation, the opportunity and ability to work for Him and then He rewards you for it. What marvelous grace! Let’s refocus and get a 2020 vision, setting our sights on heaven and the crowns we can win for God’s glory.