Rewards in Heaven
October 2002 by Asher Intrater
The ultimate destiny of every man is either eternal bliss in paradise or eternal torment in the lake of fire. There is no middle ground.
The difference between these two final options is what motivates us to preach the gospel. Everyone will be saved or damned.
Among those who are being saved there are also different levels of reward. When Yeshua taught on prayer, fasting, and charity, he said that if we do these things with a pure heart, then we would receive reward in the world to come. If on the other hand, our motives were not pure, our reward would be canceled.
The people he is talking about here are "believers." This is not a difference between being damned or saved, but rather a difference as to what reward you will receive in paradise. Each time we do righteous deeds with a pure heart, we store up for ourselves reward in heaven. To the degree that we act hypocritically, our rewards are nullified.
Since each action has a cumulative reward, every person will receive a different level of reward in the world to come.
In order to be saved, we must receive forgiveness of sins by faith in Yeshua's sacrifice for us on the cross. Anyone who rejects the saving grace of Yeshua is damned (Mark 16:16). He who does believe in Yeshua passes out of this judgment and receives salvation (John 5:24). God does not seek to damn anyone, but He who rejects the offer of eternal life is in effect damned of his own (John 3:18).
In the sense of being condemned, a true believer in Yeshua is not "judged." However, there is another meaning to the word "judge" which is not referring to damnation or salvation, but to reward and punishment. In this sense every believer will be judged.
II Corinthians 5:10
This statement of the Apostle Paul was made to born-again, spirit-filled believers. He included himself in this judgment when he said, "we."
If all saved people will live eternally in paradise, and if paradise is such a perfect place, how could there be different levels of reward there? Let us examine four areas:
1. Position of
Some people will have authority over thousands (like ten cities). Others will have lesser positions (like five cities). Others will have jobs with no authority at all (like the one whose portion was taken away).
The difference between our bodies now and our bodies after the resurrection will be like the difference between the earth (which doesn't shine) and a star (which does shine). However, there is another difference. "For one star differs from another star in glory (vs. 41)." Just as there is a difference in the magnitude of light coming from each star, so will it be in the resurrection. Each person's body will have a different degree of light shining from it - some more; some less.
3. Proximity to
While Yeshua could not grant her request, He did affirm the fact that there will be a certain "assigned seating" arrangements at events in the kingdom of God. As a citizen of Israel, I have general access to meet with the Prime Minister. However, only those on his immediate staff can meet with him every day. Only those with higher positions in the government can easily obtain an appointment with him. The degree of one's accessibility to Yeshua is considered a great reward in the kingdom of God.
You make a deposit in your account in heaven by giving money to others. I don't know if there is an actual "currency" in the world to come. However, there must be some kind of "treasure" or what Yeshua said would be meaningless. Whatever that "treasure" is, there must be different degrees to which it can be "stored up." There will be different quantitative rewards in the world to come.
When referring to rewards according to our works, we must remember that God looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance. Many things that seem to be great works in the eyes of men are nothing in the eyes of God. And many deeds that seem to be worthless in the eyes of men are of great value to God. Yeshua said of the poor widow who gave two small coins that she gave more than the great sums of money given by the wealthy (Luke 21:3). In what sense did she give more? Her gift was considered greater for its deposit in the heavenly bank because it took more faith and love to give it.
So it is with many other kinds of works. A great evangelist may be motivated by worldly ambition and even though he was used by God to save thousands, he may receive little reward in the world to come (Phil. 1:16). Another may only "succeed" in giving one cup of water, but thereby receive the same reward as a prophet (Matt. 10:41)! If you are just faithful in the very little thing that God has put in your path, you may receive an enormous reward in the world to come.
Some people think that it is unbiblical and selfish to be motivated by rewards in the world to come. But that is not true. It is wrong to be motivated by the honor of man rather than the honor of God (John 5:44), and by the carnal rewards of this life rather than the eternal rewards of the world to come (Hebrews 11:25-26).
In fact, the Bible says that we cannot even please God unless we believe that He will reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Behavioral science correctly teaches that rewards encourage certain behavior and punishments discourage. Yet the very concept of reward and punishment, both temporal and eternal, comes from God.
There will also be certain punishments among those who receive eternal life. How can there be punishments when a person is saved? Any sin that is repented of by a believer is washed by the blood of Yeshua and erased. Yet sin that is not repented of will receive punishment. Five of the seven churches in the book of Revelation received rebukes from Yeshua. He was not speaking primarily of their losing salvation, but of losing their rewards. By punishment here I do not mean damnation, but rather chastisement.
The Bible speaks of Yeshua having a "rod" that comes out of His mouth. By this I understand that the primary chastisement of believers in the world to come will not be torment by fire nor even physical beatings, but rather a firm and honest rebuke by Jesus, which will be witnessed by millions in the Day of Judgment.
Yeshua will not give us false compliments or flattery. If we have disobeyed Him, failed to fulfill our destiny, or simply led a carnal lifestyle, He will speak bluntly and authoritatively to the point. I would rather be burned with fire or receive a thousand lashes than to hear a word of disapproval from the lips of Yeshua on "that day."
This passage is not speaking of the damned. (That is covered in verse 46.) In any case, receiving a few more or less beatings could not apply to someone who would spend eternity in the lake of fire. There are degrees of responsibility and commitment in the kingdom of God. We are held responsible for what we know. The level of punishment is meted out accordingly.
So in the kingdom of God there will be different levels of reward and punishment. Some will receive more. Some will receive less. Some will receive nothing at all.
We are saved through faith in Yeshua. That is our foundation. With that foundation a person builds his life with a quality like gold or silver, wood or hay. According to the life we live, we will be rewarded or not rewarded; we will be praised or rebuked.
There is an urgency to tell unbelievers that a day of judgment is coming where they will face either eternal damnation or salvation. There is likewise an urgency to tell believers that a day of judgment is coming - not for damnation or salvation, but for reward and punishment in the kingdom of God.
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