Rewards in Heaven? Part 2

If we are going to understand what the Bible teaches us about heavenly rewards, we are going to have to gain a better understanding of how “works” fit in to the Christian life. To most people, when you start talking about earning heavenly rewards based on how one lives their life on Earth, it sounds a lot like legalism. Over and over we preach to ourselves and others that our good works won’t get us to heaven. We rail against “works righteousness” (see Philippians 3:1-10) and warn people that their good works are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

As a result of all this, people begin to think that “works” are evil and have no place in the Christian life. To prove their point, they turn to passages like Ephesians 2:8-9…

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.

Clearly, these verses contrast faith and works as two different ways to gain salvation. Paul’s point is that it is only by faith that a person is saved from judgment and wrath because no amount of works can earn you a right standing with God.

But what most people ignore is Ephesians 2:10…the very next verse.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So right after saying that a person can’t be saved by works, Paul says that we were saved for good works.

James affirms the goodness of works when he says…

James 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Considered within the context of the chapter, James is saying that the genuineness of our faith is proven by our works.

Here is one more passage on the subject of “works.”

Revelation 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to weaher.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Just to be clear the words in the parenthesis above are in the Bible not mine. I didn’t add them. You might expect the fine linen to stand for the faith of the saints but it doesn’t. It stands for their works.

To summarize: God opposes works that are done to earn his acceptance but he honors (and even rewards) works that are done as evidence that we have been accepted in Christ. Our works don’t make us deserving of heaven but they do demonstrate that Christ has rescued us from sin and that we are now his children. No person will be in heaven because of their good works and yet no one will be in heaven without good works.

Next time we will look at some of the specific rewards the Bible speaks of.

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