Heavenly Rewards

The Types / Their Basis / Their Permanence
And the Difference They Should Make in Your Life

By Glenn Meredith

Rewards

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Glenn Meredith

Glenn Meredith is the pastor of Brookhaven Church in McKinney, Texas, the church where Dr. Reagan and his wife, Ann, are members. Glenn is a native of Louisiana. In 1983, he graduated from the Criswell College in Dallas with a Master’s in Biblical Studies. He has served Brookhaven Church for more than 30 years. The church was recently moved from Dallas to the Frisco/McKinney area, the fastest growing area in Texas. He and his wife, Carol, are the parents of two children, a son and a daughter, and they have two grandchildren.

I’ve got to be honest with you about the fact that from the early part of my life, I wasn’t real excited about the return of Jesus. I could remember sitting in a revival meeting one time when I was a teenager, and the evangelist actually said that when Jesus returns, we are going to stand before His judgment seat and watch as our lives are flashed on a giant movie screen and all the sins that we have ever committed will be shown on that screen for all to see. To say the least, I really wasn’t looking forward to that!

I have found since that time that many believers share the same feeling of fear and anxiety that I felt as a teenager. And if that is how you feel, then I have got great news for you! The great movie show of your life is not what the Bible teaches.

The Misunderstood Passage

Let’s get into this issue by taking a look at 2 Corinthians 5:10 where the Apostle Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body whether good or bad.” Now, all my life when I would read that passage, I would think, “Okay, I’m going to stand before Jesus at His judgment seat, and He is going to talk to me about all the good things that I’ve done, but also all the bad or sinful things that I’ve done. And all those sinful things will be paraded before the world.”

Now, the great good news I have for you is that this passage is teaching no such thing. There are several words in New Testament Greek that can be translated as “bad.” A couple of them mean morally bad, referring to something that is sinful or wicked. But the word that is used here (kakos) is a different word, and its primary meaning in this context is worthless. It would be like if a person said, “The piece of fruit that I bought is bad.” The word, bad, in that sentence doesn’t mean the fruit is morally sinful or evil. It just means it is worthless.

That’s what Paul is teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:10. When we as believers stand before the judgment seat of Jesus, we are not going to be judged of our sins. Instead, we are going to be judged of the works that we have done for Jesus. And what will be evaluated are those works that we have done that are of value to the Lord. The Bible says that we will receive rewards for those things that we have done that are of value. And those things we have done that are worthless, that are of no genuine eternal value, will be burned up.

The Good News about Judgment

Now why is it that when we are standing before the judgment seat of Christ that somehow we don’t have to give an account of our sins? Why is that? Is God just going to overlook them? Are we just getting a pass? No, the Scriptures say that we who are believers will never stand before Jesus and give an accounting of our sins. And that’s because of another judgment that has already taken place. I’m talking about when the Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious Savior, was hanging on the Cross. The Bible says Jesus’ death for our sins cancelled the charge of the legal indebtedness which stood against us and condemned us. Jesus has taken it away, nailing it to the Cross.

The cross was like the electric chair of the Roman Empire. It was the means of public execution. And so when a criminal was crucified, they would nail to his cross the charges for which he was dying so that all who would walk by and see him would know the crimes for which he was being executed.

When our Lord Jesus was crucified, Pilate had a sign placed on His cross that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” But the Bible says that’s not really the crime for which He died. His death, according to Colossians 2:14, was for your sins and mine which God nailed to the Cross. Thus, while Jesus was hanging on the Cross, God began to treat Jesus like He would have treated you and me in judgment for our sins. That is why Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Why? Because at that moment He was answering for your sins and mine.

And so, my sins and yours were judged upon the Cross. And because of the blood that Jesus Christ shed for our sins, because of the death that He died in our place, the Bible says that the record book of our sins was taken away, removed and canceled. There is no more record of your sin if you’re a child of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that great news? And, in fact, if you stood before God and He required your sins to be judged again, He would be unjust.

And because of that, when the Lord Jesus comes for His Bride, the Church, the first thing He’s going to do is reward His Bride. He’s not going to beat up His Bride with judgment. The Bible tells us there is a promise of rewards.

A Misunderstood Concept

Now, I find that believers don’t really talk about rewards very much. I’m really amazed quite frankly at the reaction I get when I bring up the subject. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone do something that is sweet or thoughtful or kind, and I will say something like, “Well, the Lord is going to reward you for that.” And the person will say, “Oh, no, no, no, I’m not doing it for the reward. I don’t want any reward.”

It is like they turn a double back flip to get away from the idea of rewards. Well, why is that? I think it is a misunderstanding of something that they think the Bible teaches, that it doesn’t teach. Many believers think that even if the Lord promises us over and over again in His Word that we are going to be rewarded for the good things that we’ve done, they think that if they are motivated by the reward, they will lose the reward! They think God promised rewards so we would be motivated to serve Him, but if by chance we are motivated by those rewards we will lose them. Now, where do they get that strange idea?

I think it is from Matthew 6:1-4 where Jesus made the following comment:

1) “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2) “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

3) “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4) so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Because of this passage, many people think that if somehow they work for a reward, they will lose the reward. But that’s not what Jesus was teaching. The point He was making is that our good works should not be done for the praise of men. Rather, we should do our good for the praise of Jesus.

We are supposed to be motivated by the hope that when we stand before the Lord one day, we will hear our wonderful Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). That would have to be the most beautiful thing that you could ever hear in your entire eternity — for Jesus Christ to look at your life and sum it up by saying, “Good job. Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord prepared for you before the foundations of the world.” What a great day that would be.

The Temporary View

Another reason some believers are not really motivated very much by the promise of rewards is because they believe the rewards will be temporary. That’s where I was for many years. I was taught that when I died, or when the Lord came, I would stand before Him and be judged of my works to determine my rewards. And when it was all over and I had received my rewards, I would cast them at the feet of Jesus and be done with them. Everyone else would do likewise, and from that point on, we would all be the same for all eternity.

This concept is based on a passage in the book of Revelation where the Apostle John is taken to Heaven — to the throne room of God — where he sees 24 elders worshiping God. They cast their crowns before the throne, and they say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory, and honor, and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11).

But I want you to notice that this passage starts with a qualifier. It begins with the word, “whenever.” It says that “whenever” the 24 elders worship God, they cast their crowns before His throne. That does not indicate a once and for all action. Instead, it indicates that they put their crowns at God’s feet each time they worship Him. Do you really think there is only one time when we are going to break forth in worship of God? No, this is going to be happening eternally.

Likewise, do you think it won’t matter if you have no rewards with which to honor the Lord? Won’t it be wonderful to be able to say to Him, “I thought You were worthy of living my life for You when I was on earth. Here now are the rewards You’ve given me for that which I believed was just my reasonable service. You gave me the rewards, and now I place them at Your feet because You are the one who deserves the honor, and the glory, and the praise, not me.” And you will be able to do that over and over and over again throughout eternity.

So, some people don’t think about rewards because they think they’re not supposed to, and that is wrong. Others think they are temporary, and that is wrong. In 1 Peter 5:4 we are told that “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

The Minimum Effort View

I’ve also heard some people say, “Well, you know I don’t really care about rewards. They don’t really matter. I just want to make it to Heaven. And if I just get through the pearly gates and they slam the gates behind me I’ll say, ‘Whew, I made it!'” And they think they’ll be totally cool with that. They think that Heaven is going to be so wonderful that it really won’t matter to them for all eternity whether they have any rewards, because they have concluded, “We’re all going to sort of be the same up there anyway. There’s not going to be any distinctions between believers, so it doesn’t really matter.” But 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says:

11) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12) If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,

13) their work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

14) If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.

15) If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.

This is saying that at the moment you stand before the judgment seat of Jesus — when your life for Him is evaluated — your life’s work could go up in flames. Do you really think it won’t matter to you? Do you think when your name is called and you are face-to-face with Jesus, you are not going to mind saying, “Well, Lord, I just wanted your salvation, and I am glad to have it. But I didn’t think you were worth living for. I didn’t think it was worth sacrificing for You.” Do you see what I mean when I say it’s going to be a terrible thing for any believer to stand before Jesus with a wasted life?

Rewards

The Socialist View

Another reason some people are not motivated by rewards is because they have what I would call a Socialist view of Heaven. This is the concept that the rewards will be temporary, and once they are discarded, we’re all just going to be the same, and there will be no distinctions in Heaven for all eternity.

They base this reasoning on the belief that if the rewards are permanent, they would motivate us to be jealous of each other, and there certainly cannot be any jealousy in Heaven. They think, “Well if I saw somebody who had more rewards than me, I’d be jealous.” Now, that’s flawed human logic, because it’s not what the Bible teaches.

It is certainly correct that there will be no jealousy in Heaven. But it’s not because there will be no distinctions between rewards. It’s because we will all be motivated by perfect love at that point. It will be like one of my children doing something special and becoming very successful in life. I would be exceedingly happy for them, not jealous of them, because I love them.

Likewise, in Heaven, we will love our brothers and sisters, and when we see someone who did devote their life to Christ, we will admire them. We will praise them. We will thank them for their service, and we will love them. We will not be jealous.

Believe me, there will be eternal distinctions in Heaven because what you do now in this life will have a profound impact on the rewards you will receive and the services you will be assigned.

Various Crowns

With regard to specific rewards, the Bible teaches that there are at least five different crowns that will be handed out by the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 One is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 where it says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? So, run to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

This reward is often referred to as “The Incorruptible Crown” or “The Victor’s Crown.” This is a crown that evidently will be earned by those who demonstrate self-discipline in their service to the Lord. In other words, the person who receives this reward will be one who lived their life saying, “Not my will Lord, but Your will be done. I want to live my life for You.”

2 A second crown is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 2:19. It’s called “The Crown of Rejoicing,” or “The Soul Winner’s Crown.” In that verse, Paul says, “What is our hope? What is our joy? What is the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord when He comes? Is it not you?” He is speaking of the people he has brought to the Lord.

This verse makes it clear that there is evidently going to be a reward that will be given out to those who have been instrumental in leading other people to come to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that this crown will be given to those who have personally led others to Christ. But it may be given also to those who have been an evangelistic aide — those who have prayed for souls and who have given financially to evangelistic ministries.

3 There is a third crown mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:8. It is called “The Crown of Righteousness.” The Apostle Paul wrote about this crown near the end of his life, shortly before he knew he was going to die a martyr’s death. He said: “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I’ve kept the faith, and now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge will award to me on that day; but not to me only, but to all those who have longed for His appearing.”

Think of it, there is a special crown that will be given to those people who live with an eternal attitude, daily yearning for the return of Jesus.

4 A fourth crown is one I’ve mentioned already. It’s found in 1 Peter 5:4. It is called “The Shepherd’s Crown” or “The Crown of Glory.” It is promised to faithful pastors and elders.

5 James 1:12 tells us of a fifth crown, called “The Crown of Life:” The passage reads: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” This is a crown for those who have endured difficult trials, temptations, suffering, persecution, and maybe even have given their life for the cause of Christ. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus mentions this crown: “Be faithful even unto death, and I will give to you the crown of life.”

So there are at least five different crowns, and these crowns are going to be marks of identification for all of eternity. People will point to a person walking by and say, “Look, that person has the Crown of Life, he suffered for the Lord. And here comes a faithful shepherd of the flock of God.”

Heavenly Treasures

Not only will there be distinctions of crowns, but the Bible tells us we will receive different amounts of treasure. For example, in Matthew 6:19, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourself treasures in Heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You need to understand that this statement by Jesus is a command. Jesus is not saying, “Well, let Me give you some good investment strategy that you can take or leave.” No, He’s giving us a command here. He’s saying, “Do not store up your treasures on this earth. They are temporary. Thieves break in and steal them. Some rust, and some are eaten by moths. Instead, lay up your treasures in Heaven because they will last forever. Thieves can’t break in and steal them, they won’t rust, they won’t rot, they are forever.”

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Paul also speaks of treasures in Heaven. He says:

17) Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

18) Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

19) In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

So, Jesus and Paul both exhort us to “lay up treasures in Heaven.” How do we do that? Paul tells us how in the passage above. He says, “Do good. Do good to other people because you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Be rich in good deeds and what you do for other people. Be generous in your giving, your financial giving. Be willing to share.” And in doing this He says, “That’s how you send it on ahead.” There will be treasures awaiting you in Heaven that you will enjoy forever.

Levels of Glory

The Bible also tells us that there will be distinctions of glory that will be revealed in us. Consider these words of Paul in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.” He adds in 2 Corinthians 4:

17) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all [our sufferings].

18) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So Paul says that when trouble comes into your life, and you respond by continuing to trust God, continuing to have faith in Him, and continuing to serve Him with afflictions, those sufferings are working for you an eternal weight of glory. And he says no matter how hard it is right now, it is working such a weight of glory that you will look back one day and say, “What I suffered was no big deal.”

In fact, it is interesting to me that when we go through difficulties, we usually spend much of our time praying for God to get us out of them. I think we are going to stand before the Lord one day, and when we see that all the troubles we went through while we were faithfully trusting Him were compiling for us an eternal weight of glory, we will wish we had experienced more troubles!

Degrees of Responsibility

Another type of reward the Bible mentions relates to different responsibilities that we will have during both the Millennium and the Eternal State. Jesus mentioned this reward in a very famous parable in Luke 19:11-27, called The Parable of the Minas. It is different from the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

A mina was worth about three month’s wages. Jesus told a story about a nobleman who entrusted one mina to each of ten of his servants and told them to do business with the money. Later, when he called them to account to him what they had done with the money, he rewarded each one a degree of ruling authority in proportion to what that servant had earned with the money. He put one over ten cities, another over five, and so on.

This passage clearly indicates that one day we are going to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom. But the responsibility that is assigned to each of us in both the Millennium and the Eternal State will be directly related to how faithful we are right now in this life. The more you do for Christ now, the more responsibility He will give you then. It really does matter how you live today.

God’s Memory

The Bible says in Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work, and the love that you have shown Him as you have helped His people and you continue to help them.” This passage is saying, “God has not forgotten anything you’ve ever done for Him.”

Well, some of you have been believers a long time. Many of you gave your life to Christ as a child. I gave my life to Him when I was eight years old. I don’t remember a whole lot of the things that I did for Christ when I was eight, nine and ten years old. I remember serving Him as best as I knew how. I remember as a teenager trying my best to serve the Lord in what understanding I had of what it meant to live a Christian life. But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember a great deal of it. But the Bible says God remembers every bit of it.

The Bible says in Malachi 3:16 that there is a Book of Remembrance in which God has written down all of the things that you have done for Him. All those times you prayed for someone, but you’ve forgotten about it. God says, “I haven’t forgotten.” All those times that maybe you walked up to somebody who was poor and needy, or somebody on the street walked up to you, and because you are a follower of Jesus you gave them something, and you don’t even remember it. But Jesus remembers it.

And one of these days you are definitely going to stand before your Savior, but your sins are not going to be thrown up on the screen. Rather, what is going to be brought to light are all the things that you did for Jesus in that secret place, in that closet where the Father saw you praying and nobody else knew you were praying. He will remember all those donations you made to advance His kingdom. He will remember all those times that you were kind, you were sweet, you were encouraging to someone.

Like the time you cooked a meal and took it to someone to comfort them. Or you went to a hospital to visit and encourage someone. All the things you did because you’re a follower of Jesus and because you’re motivated by love for Him and love for others. These things will be remembered and rewarded. The Lord will not forget even one of them.

In Matthew 10:41-42 Jesus tells us: “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Jesus is setting the bar really low. He is saying, “I’m going to remember every cup of cold water that you gave someone because you were a follower of Me, because you were trying to bless someone else because of your walk with Me.” He is promising that everything you do for Him will one day be rewarded. This means that what you do to serve Jesus really matters.

Service Rewards

The last passage I want to share with you is Ephesians 6:5-6. In these two verses Paul is talking to slaves in the Roman Empire who are believers, and he’s telling them how they ought to live and respond to their earthly masters. He wrote: “Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect, and fear, with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from your heart, serve wholeheartedly.”

Now, Paul is talking about our work — our occupations. He’s telling us, “Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one of you for whatever good you do, whether you be slave, or free.”

Maybe some of you have become bored with your jobs. Maybe you are no longer motivated to go to work because you feel like what you are doing is inconsequential. If so, you need to keep in mind you’re serving the Lord when you go to work. So, serve your employer as if you were serving Jesus. If it’s making widgets or making beds, whatever it might be, do it wholeheartedly as unto the Lord your Savior. He will not forget it, and on that great day when He hands out those rewards, you’ll be fully rewarded from the Lord for your faithful service.

A Plea

If you are a person reading this who has never given your life to Christ, then you’re not prepared for eternity and you are not a candidate for rewards. But you can get prepared right this moment by giving your life to Jesus Christ. How do you do that? The Bible says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Just call, “Lord, save me!” But in order to call out properly, the Bible says you have to believe and repent. You have to believe and have enough faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that you’re willing to call out to Him and say, “Lord, Jesus forgive me of my sins and save me from them.”

And so, if you are reading this and you’ve never given your life to Christ, then right now, wherever you are, just call out, and God will hear your prayer. The record book of your sin will be cancelled, and you’ll begin a brand new life. You can start living your life for something that will matter for all of eternity.

To the Saints of God who are reading this, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to remember that your labors in the Lord are not in vain. Keep on keeping on. Live your life for Jesus, because what you do now has a profound impact on what you will have and what you will do for all of eternity.

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