I am saying that as a result of recognizing the grace by which we have been saved, we have a "heart change" and desire to reflect God's character, nature, and goodness to the world. We become more like Jesus and continue His work in the world. We will do good works, thereby producing fruit [in our lives] for the Kingdom. That's why Ephesians 2:10 says, We have become His poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny He has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
You see our good works define our destiny, and result in our rewards. You can't state this much plainer than Revelation 22:12, in which Christ says, Behold, I (Jesus) am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to the merit of his deeds (earthly works, faithfulness). So, I don't know about you, but I'm hoping that my righteous works and faith will deem me worthy of rewards. It has nothing to do with earning my salvation; my works are a result of my gratitude for my salvation and my desire to to be obedient to what God has called me. And the prospect of rewards from my Lord is an ever-present reminder to stay focused on Him and set His will before my own. To further expand the understanding of our eternal rewards, I would like to pose a series of questions regarding them that I discovered on the website, Verse By Verse Ministry.
Are eternal rewards Biblical? I hope I have established that I believe our salvation is only by faith alone [in Christ alone] and never by our works. Salvation is not a reward. But God does enjoy rewarding His children, both now and in the eternal life. He even encourages us to seek after rewards: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
There again, is the reference to the condition of our heart; indicating that a heart surrendered to Christ will produce good works which store up treasure [rewards] in heaven. And Jesus presents it as a command ... "Store up".
What are our eternal rewards based on? We know they are based on our good works, which is anything we do in service to the Lord which is from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Scripture reveals this in 1 Corinthians 3:8, Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Enduring persecution for the sake of the Lord's Name will also render heavenly rewards: Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.... (Matthew 5:11-12).
But there are standards to be met for receiving rewards. We must not do good works to benefit ourselves or for show: But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great... (Luke 9:35). And one can lose rewards if he is not repentant: Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what you have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward (2 John 8).
How are our rewards conditional? Our rewards must be earned by being committed to the foundation of our faith, Jesus. Paul tells us that there are works truly valuable to Jesus (like silver and gold); while other works, if done in the flesh and for selfish gain, have no value to Him. They were like wood or straw that would burn in the "fires of testing". Paul makes sure we understand that these kinds of works result in a loss to the believer because it's a missed opportunity to be rewarded. But I want to again stress that it does not affect a person's salvation. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and not denied Him, yet produced no good works in service to Him, you will find yourself standing before His judgment seat, where He will evaluate your works in order to assign your individual reward. If no works, then no rewards. But you will still reside in Heaven. I purposely think this is one reason there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" in heaven; the realization of worthless deeds done in the flesh and missed opportunities will be agony for a believer.
What will our eternal rewards look like? It appears that we are awarded crowns as tokens of our inheritance and responsibility, as a result of our good works. These crowns will be like badges of honor reflecting the glory of God in our lives; how He worked through us to achieve the good works which He predestined we would do. The beauty of it all is that we will acknowledge His sovereignty by casting our crowns at His feet, showing that He is worthy to receive them. The crowns which we have the opportunity to earn are the Crown of Life, the Crown of Rejoicing, the Crown of Victory, the Crown of Righteousness, and the Crown of Glory.
And perhaps the reward that intrigues me the most is the opportunity to rule with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. Scripture says in Matthew 25:21, His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’ And what a joy it will be! No sorrow, no pain, no poverty, no disease, no evil... What a joy to be rewarded for being obedient in the here and now, by being rewarded with more ruling responsibility in the Kingdom on earth!
And here are some of my final thoughts on the subject of our eternal rewards... Every believer is called to serve the Lord faithfully in some capacity until He returns. In fact, the Parable of the Talents reveals that we will be rewarded for our devotion to completing the assignment given to us, regardless of the magnitude of our achievement. If we perform our duties faithfully, according to our abilities, our works will be honored and they will be commensurate with the rewards of others who faithfully served the Lord. The bottom line is that all believers are expected to demonstrate faithfulness so as to receive an equal inheritance. Ultimately, our inheritance in the Kingdom of God will be determined by what we do for Christ in this life. I have no problem imagining standing before my Lord and King and hearing Him ask, "What did you do for my Kingdom?" What a privilege it will be to lay down whatever crowns I have received at His feet.
Next Blog post: There are more than rewards for living a faithful life -- there are extraordinary promises!
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.