Rewards In Heaven?

Based on a few conversations I’ve had recently, I’d say that there is quite a bit of confusion about the biblical concept that Christians will be rewarded in heaven based on their life on Earth. If there are rewards, what will they be? How do you get them? Is it wrong for rewards to be motivation? Is the appeal to rewards compatible with grace or does it compromise it? These are just some of the questions that I’ve encountered and hope to answer here over the next several days.

Will Christians Be Rewarded in Heaven?

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

In Roman cities the governor sat on a judgment seat to hear court cases. Paul had personally experienced this when he stood before Gallio (Acts 18:12) and Pilate sat on the judgment seat when talking to the crowds about Jesus (Matthew 27:19). Now Paul states that at some point in the future every person will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We know that Christians are not excluded from this as Paul, himself, expects to share the same experience. Looking back at the verse, it is clear that when we stand before Christ, he will judge our works in this life so that how we live now has eternal consequences. This reality motivates Paul to seek to please Christ. In other words, he lets us know that he is quite comfortable with rewards being one motivation for his obedience to God.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his 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 man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

While this passage directly addresses church leaders, there is plenty to apply to every Christian. On the day of judgment, each Christian will be judged based on how he built on the foundation of Christ. Although in this life it may be difficult to discern, the fire will reveal whether specific words, thoughts, and deeds were pleasing to God. Then note that a person is rewarded or suffers loss depending on how they lived their lives on Earth.

In Matthew 6:19-20 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

We will revisit these verses when we ask whether it is right to be motivated by heavenly rewards, but for now notice that Jesus assumes that people will have more or less heavenly rewards based on how their earthly life. Some people will store up more on earth and others will store up more in heaven. If there are not heavenly rewards or if everyone receives the same reward regardless of how they live, then these verses just don’t make any sense.

For space reasons, I’ve only given you three passages that show that there are rewards for the Christian in heaven based on how he/she lived their life on Earth. But as we answer the rest of the questions in this mini blog series, more verses will come to light and the evidence will steadily accumulate showing that Christians will receive rewards based on their life on Earth.

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