Crowns: Five Eternal Rewards that Will Change the Way You Live Your Life

Eternity: Where God makes all things new and all things right!
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He had stayed on the course God had laid out for him and finished the race, even though it was tough and tedious at times. And he had never lost his vibrant and confident trust in the person of Jesus Christ. He had faithfully done the will of God. He stuck with it to the end. And there's a reward for that: a crown. It's in 2 Timothy It is probably called "the crown of righteousness" because it is given for staying on course and living a righteous life to the end.

And it's promised to all who have loved His appearing, because people who look longingly for the Lord's return usually do stay on course and faithfully live a righteous life to the end. Looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus is a powerful and motivating influence in our lives. It's the thing that's going to keep us on course. That's was Paul did. He was faithful. He finished well. That's important even in the secular world.

Forbes, of the Forbes fortune, said, "How you start is important, but it us how you finish that counts. In the race for success, speed is less important than stamina. The sticker outlasts the sprinter. In America we breed many hares but not so many tortoises. I'm of the opinion that the same is true in the spiritual realm. Some have started the Christian race with enthusiasm, and run well for awhile, only to fall out on one of the final laps.

They didn't stick with it. I hope that's not true of your life. As you know, one of the most grueling of all races is the marathon. It takes its name from Battle of Marathon in B. In it, the Greeks were outnumbered nearly three to one by the Persians, but through superior skill and training they won a spectacular victory that changed the course of history.

A Greek soldier ran day and night all the way to Athens with the news, straight to the magistrates of the city, where he gasped "Rejoice, we have conquered. He had given everything. He had completed his course and finished his work Barclay, He was faithful to the end. And that's what we need to be, whatever it costs us. You probably have some idea what God wants you to accomplish in life.

If you have genuinely yielded your will to His will, and presented your body to Him as a living sacrifice, and programmed your mind with His Word, He has shown you His plan for your life because that's what He promised to do in Romans Are you going to keep on doing the will of God? There's a crown for that. There's a reward. A chaplain ministering to a seriously wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a letter to his former Sunday School teacher.

The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus has stayed with me. Tell her I'll meet her in heaven. Sometime later the Chaplin received this reply: May God forgive me. Just last month I resigned my teaching position in Sunday School because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and lack of faith! I'm going to ask my pastor to let me go back to teaching. I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blesses! And the last thing we reap will be the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to all who have loved His appearing, and have let that love keep them on course.

Will you have this crown of righteousness to wear when crowns are in style? So we have the crown of rejoicing for believers who faithfully share their faith, and the crown of righteousness for believers who faithfully stay on course. There is one more crown in Scripture: the crown of glory for elders who faithfully shepherd the flock.

Read 1 Peter The elders are the leaders of the local church. Whether they are laymen who volunteer their time, or trained professionals whose ministry is the livelihood, elders are the leaders of the local church. And Paul tells us that it is food for a man to aspire to this office 1 Timothy We're going to get down to a crown for elders in verse 4, but let me just say this first: It doesn't say others in other leadership positions cannot earn this crown.

It doesn't say that. Maybe others can; we don't know. Maybe Sunday School teachers, caring group leaders, and others who shepherd God's sheep, can earn it too. But the text only specifically mentions elders, so that's the way I have to deal with it. What are elders supposed to do? Peter mentioned two things in 1 Peter a.

First they shepherd--or pastor. It's the same word, by the way. Shepherds lead their sheep, feed them, defend them, doctor them when they're ill, retrieve them when they stray, and discipline them when they become stubborn or rebellious. And that's what elders are supposed to do for the flock of God. Second, they serve as overseers. Overseers are supervisors who see that needs are met, that people are properly cared for, and that things are done in an orderly manner. And again, that's what elders are supposed to do. But not only are elders supposed to shepherd the flock of God and oversee the flock of God.

They must do it properly. Look at the end of verse 2. Read 1 Peter b There are three things here: First, with the right mind--not because they feel like they have to, but because they truly want to. Second, with the right motive--not for the sake of money or material gain, but simply to glorify the Lord. And third, in the right manner--not with high-handed domination and demands, but by godly example.

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Not being lords over them, but being examples to the flock. All this may require a generous investment of time and a great deal of personal sacrifice. Someday elders will give account to God for how they serve. We're told that in Hebrew And for those who carry out their God-given responsibilities in a way that pleases Him, there is a reward. Every believer is going to share in Christ's glory, but for these faithful and godly leaders in the local church, there will be a very special honor and glory.

That's why it is called a crown of glory. And it will never lose its beauty or attractiveness. They will have this wonderful crown to enjoy throughout eternity, when crowns are in style. That should be all the incentive a man needs to grow in his relationship with the Lord and aspire to this high and honorable office, and serve faithfully if called upon to do so. And of course, it should be a challenge to all those who have any kind of shepherding responsibilities.

Maybe this crown will be given to all who faithfully shepherd the flock, whether it's your own children in your own home, or in a 2-year-old's Sunday School department. A crown of glory. In the Summer Olympics, year-old Shun Fujimoto competed in the gymnastic competition for Japan. In a quest for the gold medal, Fujimoto suffered a broken right knee in the floor exercise. Our joy in the presence of our Lord and Savior will be complete for all eternity.

We will be rewarded differently depending upon what we have or have not done, but everyone will be fully happy on the New Earth. There will be no frustration over any of these differences. Extremely important is that we all stand on common ground at the foot of the cross totally dependent on grace.

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Check out the Ripple Effect he is making in this world! When Mark reaches out to sinners, the guys who led him to the Lord receive a portion of the blessings. What are you doing of significance today that will matter then? Other Crowns are designated for those who have served well and suffered much for Christ, but the Crown of Righteousness is especially designated as the reward for those who have "Loved His appearing".

Loving His Appearing means you love His presence, you are open to His presence, your life is one of constantly saying "Come on in and look at everything". Receiving a Crown has nothing to do with salvation, it is a reward. We are his workmanship saved by His grace, created for good works so that after salvation we are to abound in good works.

We are not saved by our good works, but we are created to do good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. This means that God has marked out for each of us His purposes beforehand, the particular good works He has chosen for us and also the time and way in which He sees best. God makes ready by His providence the opportunities for us to do the works, and if we abide in Christ, we will be made ready to perform them. Works do not justify us, but the justified Christian is called to do good works. Just think, God not only provides the works for us, but He loves us so much that He then rewards us for doing them!

Feed the flock of God And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a Cr own of Glo ry that fades not away. But, not just those who are the anointed God appointed leaders over a local body of believers. God also has raised others up in the body who have the love of Pastoring. Christians with this love are needed, particularly for the new lambs of God. Christians will give an account for every careless, thoughtless, foolish word spoken.

We should think and consider the effects our words may have, before we speak. So run, that you may obtain it. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate self controlled in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible perishable crown; but we to obtain an incorruptible [Crown]. I Paul therefore so run, not as uncertainly; I fight, not as one who beats the air: But I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway disqualified.

This is very severe talk. There is a prize, there is a race to be run, there is a discipline to be exercised, and there is a possibility of being disqualified. This has nothing to do with salvation, but it has to do with the end of the Law, the inheritance, the goal of the Lord. Paul has finished the course, he has fought the fight, and he has kept the faith. There is a race to be run and a course to be finished, there is a prize to be won, and apparently not everybody obtains the prize.

The Judgment Seat of Christ closes your opportunity to accumulate any of the commodities of Heaven. Jesus made it clear; you lay up treasure in Heaven. Christians read over these verses so quickly, barely noticing that the person being spoken about is themselves! The most significant treasure we can lay up in Heaven are the people we take with us.

You will create friendships that will last for Eternity with every person you have invited to Heaven or to the Wedding Feast! Jesus said. Again, He sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner But they made light of it, and went their ways Then said He to His servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go you therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, bid invite to the marriage. Various ways that you can build up treasure in Heaven are by praying for others, providing for the poor, helping the sick, being a friend to lonely people, forgiving everyone who has hurt you and saying you're sorry when you hurt someone.

Keep tracts near your door, in your purse, in your shirt or pants pockets, and. The decisions that are made at the Judgment Seat are " Eternal Judgments ". That means that the decisions that are made at the Judgment will never, never, ever be changed! You can never go back and repeal it! For the believer, it's not where we will spend eternity, it's how we will spend eternity.

The rewards you receive or the loss you suffer, will endure forever, and ever, and ever. Many believers are going to be shocked at the Judgment. Whether a person receives great reward or no reward at all, the verdict at The Judgment Seat is unchangeable and it is going to happen! As already mentioned, the position of service we will hold in eternity, and how we will serve God forever will be determined by the choices we make and how we live in this life now!

The fire will reveal what has real value and what is worthless. Christians who are useful to God here will be given greater opportunities to be useful to Him throughout Eternity. Those who will be rich in heaven are those who do not live to impress people, but they live to bless others here on earth, and in so doing they delight the heart of God. The hour is coming when every unsaved person must stand before a Holy God for a complete examination of their entire life. When the books are opened listing every detail, there will be no excuses.

When Paul said we, he was talking about himself as well as all other Christians. The purpose of this judgment is not to determine the moral goodness or evil of our earthly deeds, but whether each deed is acceptable or worthless to the Kingdom and Glory of God. That is why 1 Corinthians says that: "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. The works that survive the fire are the deeds for which believers will be rewarded.

Here God tells us that the people of Israel are to Him as valuable rare gem stones set in gold. They are precious to Him; important and beautiful in His sight. And we can apply these same words to all of the children of God. We are His jewels, and trophies of His grace. The treasures of God are the sanctified lives of His saints. He who owns the universe, cares about the souls of all of His children! If you love Jewels, you are not alone, God has a love for the beauty of dazzling gems and minerals. This can be seen in the beauty of the New Jerusalem. Some Christians are disturbed when they first learn that Heaven presently includes grief, remorse and tears.

However, we need to understand that our happiness in Heaven is not a matter of holy amnesia or ignorance, but of perspective. We will be with Jesus, see all things accurately and live in a sinless environment. God is very happy and content in Heaven and He knows exactly what is happening on earth.

When Crowns Are in Style)

The angels are happy in Heaven and they know what is happening on earth. Angels see the torment of those being held in Hades, but it does not minimize their joy in Heaven Rev. If one can see people in Hades without ruining Heaven, surely nothing he could see on earth could ruin it. This passage is not a valid argument for tearlessness in the present experiences of Heaven, but only in the New Heaven and Earth.

Certainly those in Heaven are not frail beings whose joy can be maintained only by sheer ignorance of what is going on in the universe. Heaven is not in its final state. For instance, Jesus grieved for people on earth Matthew ; John Or does He still hurt for His people when they suffer? Acts gives a clear answer. Going into the presence of Christ surely does not make us less compassionate, but more. Hence, it is possible that even with the predominant joy presently in Heaven, in light of the fact there is still so much evil and pain in the universe, there could be periodic expressions of sadness in Heaven until the evil and pain are permanently gone in Revelation How could they participate unless aware of the cause for celebration?

We know the Apostle John wept bitterly in Heaven. This will certainly be a cause for tears of remorse and regret. In conclusion, we have far too long believed Heavenly happiness is based upon forgetfulness or ignorant bliss. Colossians : Christ Blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it sin out of the way, nailing it our sin to His cross. Those that claim that Christians need only be concerned with a loss of rewards never consider that the Bible clearly points out that we will receive for the bad and the wrongs we do too.

Ephesians : Not Colossians : And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men; Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward. But he that does wrong shall receive for the wrong which he has done. The wrong being spoken of here is not sin. Something to disturb the unity of the body of Christ. Some Christians are astonished to learn that God also keeps that record. Our God is faithful to keep a perfect record of all accounts.

Romans : Avenge not yourselves… for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Those who have borne the heat of the battle following their Lord, will not stand on the same plane as those who avoided the battle. Every prayer, every tear, every trial suffered, every service rendered, every tract passed out, every time you spoke to someone about the Lord, all these things will all be taken into account at The Judgment.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done for you. Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love.

This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments of righteousness , lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. James : Blessed is the man that endures temptation trials : for when he is tried, he shall receive the Crown of Life , which the Lord has promised to them that love Him. The goal of the Christian life is servant hood and usefulness. The Great White Throne Judgment, which is the final judgment after the thousand year Reign of Christ, is where the unsaved will be judged.

The degree of their penalty will be determined by their works. But to whoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask even more. The rewards they received were for things the Lord had done through them, so they realize their rewards should go to Jesus! Just as no branch can bear fruit apart from the vine, we cannot bear good fruit apart from Him.

Therefore, these rewards bring continual honor to Jesus Christ. In the light of The Judgment Seat of Christ, there may be things in your life you want to change. Get rid of any bitterness towards anything or anyone, change some habits, reconcile with people, write letters or make phone calls, and take full responsibility for your actions, knowing they will count for Eternity.

Strive to transform your life. Make your life more effective, more fruitful, more meaningful, more joyful. Purify your motives and follow the commandments of God. Grief, though He loves me still? He would have made me rich, and I stand there poor, stripped of all but His grace While memory runs like a hunted thing down the paths I cannot retrace. Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break with tears that I cannot shed; I shall cover my face with my empty hands, I shall bow my uncrowned head.

Lord, of the years that are left me, I give them to Thy hand; Take me and break me, mold me to the pattern Thou has planned. Martha Snell Nicholson.

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Scriptures such as: 1st Corinthians "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. If one is lacking in these areas, they will have no materials to build their home. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? As you read through this article, the truth is, it will not convince anyone either that there are degrees of rewards, or there are not degrees of rewards.

And when the thousand years are expired. I saw a Great White Throne, and Him that sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. He had a beautiful and powerful body that masked radiant glory. All of His brothers and sisters will be like Him. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. We should not be surprised that John motivates us to pure lives in light of such a prospect. He continues,. Far from giving us license to sin, the grace of Christ should drive us to holiness. We should want to be like our Savior and brother. Our famous brother does not keep us at a distance. He invites us to share His throne in the coming kingdom and beyond. We will be His bona fide partner, His judicial equal.

Eternal Rewards

We who are a gift from the Father to the Son, we who are the bride and eternal companion for the Son might well be startled by this promise:. Let's take this slowly. As a reward for the Son's faithfulness, He was invited to sit on the throne of the Father. If we are overcomers, we are invited to sit with Christ on the Father's throne He rightfully inherited.

So if the Son sits on the Father's throne and we sit on the Son's throne, are we not sitting on the throne of God? At this point we have reached the limits of our comprehension; we cannot grasp what the text means. We understand the words, but the implications elude us. We can only listen with John, who heard these words from the throne:. Rev NASB "He who overcomes will inherit these things, [new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem - all things new, water of life, etc. Surely we are in awe of the generosity of God. Of course, we should never think that we shall either become God or take His place.

There is no room in the Bible for the 'potential divinity of man. We shall forever be the creature and He the Creator. This is not proof of man's greatness and potential, but rather an example of God's love and undeserved grace! It has nothing to do with what we have been able to make of ourselves, but everything to do with what God has chosen to make of us!

Angels, bless them, are not qualified to reign with Christ. For one thing they are not brothers to Christ, and therefore do not share in the family inheritance. For another, they were not chosen to be Christ's eternal companion. They do the will of God with joy and holy obedience, but they are not participants in God's plan for the Son to purchase a bride for Himself.

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Let me say again: We shall be as much like Christ as it is possible for the creature to be like the Creator; as much as the finite to be like the infinite. We shall be co-rulers with Christ, sitting on His throne, bought by Him, loved by Him, and honored by Him. What this might mean is discussed in more detail in chapter 9. Does the Bible teach that all believers will get to reign with Christ?

Does it matter whether we train for heavenly rule? Will everyone inherit the kingdom equally? Will all the saints share an equal honor at the marriage supper of the Lamb? God has always reserved special rewards for those who are most faithful. When Israel left Egypt, the nation had been redeemed by God. At least a remnant of those who died in the desert, as far as we know, will be in heaven. They were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; they experienced redemption from Egypt. And yet they died without entering into the fullness of God's promise; they missed Canaan. The land was a promise of additional blessing for those who were faithful.

Of the older generation, only Joshua and Caleb qualified. Even Moses was excluded from the land of Canaan because of his disobedience. He will be in heaven, but he forfeited his earthly inheritance. In the Old Testament it was possible to be regenerate, belong to God, and still miss out on the extra blessing of inheritance.

Salvation was a gift through faith, but the added blessing was dependent on obedience. Today, we are not concerned about entering into the land of Canaan, but the same principle applies. Just as some did not enter into the land and yet made it to heaven, even so some will be in heaven but without experiencing the fullness of reward. Rewards are always dependent on faithfulness. Paul made it clear that slaves were to serve their masters as they would serve Christ. If they were devoted, the Lord would give them the reward of the inheritance.

Some would accept his challenge; possibly others did not. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Col NASB For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Slaves could accept unjust wages with the assurance that Christ would personally reward them for their faithfulness. Of course, if they could better their position, that would be acceptable, but they lived in a culture where there was no opportunity to redress the wrongs.

But if slaves served their masters as if they were Christ, Christ would reward them. Their reward was dependent on their works. All believers have God as their inheritance, but there is another inheritance, an additional one given to those who are faithful. All believers will get to be heirs, but they will not inherit the same things. Christ made the same point to His disciples. Mt NASB "And Jesus said to them, 'Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Mt NASB And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. Imagine the payback! To leave father and mother for the sake of Christ is to receive 'many times as much' and 'inherit eternal life. It refers to a richer experience of being appointed by Christ to be in charge of the affairs of the cosmos as a ruler or judge. Salvation is guaranteed to those who accept Christ by faith; rewards or not. Entering heaven is one thing; having a possession there is quite another.

One is the result of faith; the other, the reward for faith plus obedience. The Bible is a realistic book. It does not assume that all believers will be faithful. Indeed, there are many examples of unfaithfulness of believers. History itself proves that many true Christians have buckled under persecution and have even denied Christ to save their lives or the lives of their families. In fact, many deny Christ just to save their jobs or their reputations. Others are seduced by the temptations of this world.

The Bible nowhere expressly says that some believers will not reign with Christ. However, the promises of reigning with Him are almost always explicitly tied to obedience, faithfulness, or being an overcomer. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy ,. In the Revelation it says,. Either some Christians will not get to rule with Christ or they will rule over a lesser territory.

If we remember the parable of the talents, we will keep in mind that one unfaithful servant had his talent taken from him and given to another. While others reigned over cities, he did not. All that he could hope for was to be admitted into the kingdom; he could not inherit its most prized positions. Earlier I mentioned that we are engaged to Christ, but someday we will be married to Him. We have in the Bible a rather detailed description of the 'marriage supper of the Lamb:'.

At every wedding in which I have participated, the attenders are always interested in what the bride is wearing. The style of the dress and the choice of flowers and veil are all the focus of attention. We read:. Rev NASB It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The Rewards Christians Can Gain or Lose

The righteous acts of the saints! What are these righteous acts? Certainly not the acts that declared us justified before God; we cannot stress too often that we did not work for the garments of righteousness that Christ gives us. These are different garments. In order to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, we need two different suits of clothes. The first is the righteousness of Christ, the gift which admits us into heaven. This is a free set of clothes, the garments by which we are ushered into heavens courts. But the second suit of clothes is a wedding garment for the marriage supper.

This suit is not the righteousness of Christ, but rather the deeds we have done for Christ on earth. Christ has made us ready for heaven; we must make ourselves ready for the wedding feast. We must distinguish between what only God can do and that which we can have a part in doing. What are we doing today? We are sewing the garments that we shall wear at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are making sure that we will not be so scantily clad that we shall be ashamed. John warns,. If you ask how these garments became so 'white and clean,' I reply that many of our imperfect works are made perfect in the sight of God through Christ.

God takes what we do, and if it is done for Him, these deeds are made white and clean. Just recently, a woman died who was faithful to Christ throughout her long life. Many years ago I stopped by her house to run an errand, and as she came to the door, her face was flush with tears. She apologized for crying, explaining, 'You caught me in the middle of my prayer time for my family. The purpose of our trials and temptations is to train us for ruling with Christ.

We are learning the laws of the kingdom, responding in faithful obedience. We are given the opportunity of becoming overcomers so that we might inherit the promises. Place all of your trial on one end of a scale and the eternal weight of glory on the other, and it will go 'plunk'! It is the weight of a feather versus a cubic foot of gold!

A family I know lost both of their children to prolonged and severe battles with cancer. And now, as I write, the father himself is down to pounds, expected to die at any time of the same disease. What is God's purpose in all of this? It is to increase the eternal joy of the saints. Not the present joy, to be sure, for the moment seems to be utterly devastating, but we can only become overcomers when there is something that must be overcome!

We want life to be smooth, secure, uninterrupted. God has a different agenda. He is purifying us, testing us, training us so that we might be presented to Him as a pure church, ready to take our place sitting next to Christ on His throne. The English preacher Spurgeon wrote: 'O Blessed axe of sorrow that cuts a pathway to my God by chopping down the tall trees of human comfort.

Our desire to pass our test and receive Christ's approval is not prideful; rather, it motivates us to worship a God Who would be so generous with His undeserving children. We can only wonder at Christ's gracious words:. Let me repeat that the idea that we should reign with God's Son is not ours, but His. God's desire is to display His wonder and grace throughout all of eternity,. Eph NASB even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved ,. In the next chapter we shall discuss in more detail what it means to 'suffer loss.

We shall learn that if we are unwilling to suffer loss for Christ in this life, we shall surely suffer loss in the life to come.

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Let us examine our hearts lest we be among those who do not hear Christ's 'Well done. The author develops the concept that the ultimate goal of our trials on earth is that we be trained to eventually reign with Christ. Some of the ideas of this chapter were generated by the reading of this challenging book. There is a story about a man who was trudging through a blistering desert. He was faint with thirst, and to his delight he came across a well with a pump.

Next to the pump sat a small jug of water with a sign, 'Please use this water to prime the pump. The well is deep so you will have enough water for yourself and your containers. Please fill the jug for the next traveler. Should the man play it safe and drink the jug of water, assured that his parched lips would at least get some relief? Or should he take the risk of pouring the water down the pump in hopes of getting all he could need? Do we believe God's promises that He will repay us if we take the risk of serving Him with a whole heart? Or do we live as if this is the only life that matters?

Christ warns,. If we think of heaven as a theme park, we must emphaize that the entrance ticket is free. Christ must be received by faith; we are saved 'not as a result of works, so that no one may boast:'. But if we want to go on some of the rides, if we want to be rewarded and not be embarrassed at the sadness we cause Christ, we must be faithful on earth. The entrance is free, but some additional benefits are based on merit.

Perhaps the most vivid picture of the Judgment Seat of Christ is Paul's metaphor given to the church at Corinth. He pictures a building with a strong foundation, capable of holding the weight of the walls and roof, but these materials must be tested. What kinds of substances were used in the building? Can this structure withstand the test of time? Only when the building is set aflame is the answer made clear. And yes, some builders will suffer loss. Unfortunately, this passage has often been interpreted as a reference to carnal Christians who supposedly believed on Christ but lived lives of open fleshly rebellion.

And yet, when they die, we are told they will be in heaven, 'saved as by fire. His point, I believe, lies in another direction. He begins by saying that he cannot speak to the believers at Corinth as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ:. But keep in mind that these believers were learning how to exercise their gifts, they were supporting the church and interested in spiritual growth.

They were not modern carnal Christians who made a commitment to Christ in their youth, then wasted their lives in wanton sin. Their carnality revealed itself in the immaturity of putting their favorite man on a pedestal; some followed one leader, others another. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? To address these petty jealousies, Paul uses two metaphors. The first is agricultural :. And what is Paul?

Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. The praise is given to God's part in the work, namely, the miracle of life, the marvel of growth. Rewards are never far from Paul's mind, so he adds,. Then, second, he presents an architectural metaphor. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.

He is speaking about the leaders who build churches; he is giving both warning and encouragement to those who have responsibility within the congregation. Now we come to the crucial verses:. Paul's point is that some leaders are trying to build the church with poor materials; they gather a congregation quickly, but there is nothing transforming about their ministry.

They might work hard, but because their energy is misdirected, they will have nothing that lasts in glory. Others are trying to build with precious stones; they have a ministry based on the Word of God, prayer and the Spirit. They value character, which D. Moody defined as 'what a man is in the dark.

As veteran missionary to India Amy Carmichael used to say, 'The work will never go deeper that we have gone ourselves. The person who is 'saved so as by fire' is indeed a Christian, but his leadership has been flawed. He has relied too heavily upon himself, his techniques, and his training. He did not approach the work with a spirit of dependence and faith; he did not do the work with Spirit-directed faithfulness.

He will be 'saved so as by fire. Though Paul's point is intended for the leaders of the church, it can be applied to all of us. We are all building our lives, day by day; each of us will be tested, and each life will reveal a mixture of precious stones and stubble. Imagine for a moment that all of our deeds were turned into either precious metals or trash, and then torched. The kind of life we lived would become evident by the size of the fire. The question would be: What was left when the flames died out?

The more carnality and selfishness, the more 'wood, hay, straw' and the less 'gold, silver, precious stones. Will we actually see our sins at the judgment seat? Perhaps Hoekema is right when he suggests that the sins and shortcomings of believers will be 'revealed as forgiven sins, whose guilt has been totally covered by the blood of Christ. What we do know is that Paul taught clearly that we will receive the consequences of our wrongs at the judgment. He reminded slaves to serve their masters as they would Christ,. It is the Lord Christ Whom you serve.

Col NASB "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Even if our sins are represented as forgiven, we cannot escape the conclusion that our lifestyle is under judicial review, with appropriate rewards and penalties.

We will suffer for our 'wrongdoing. The respected theologian John Murray, when speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ, says that God will leave nothing at loose ends; in fact, since believers will be fully sanctified, they will desire such a judgment: 'Besides, it is against the gravity of their sins that their salvation in Christ will be magnified, and not only the grace but the righteousness of God will be extolled in the consummation of their redemption. We should not think that the loss of rewards means that Christ takes from us something we once had.

As Woodrow Kroll says, 'We are not stripped of rewards as an erring soldier is stripped of his stripes. But the absence of rewards is serious indeed. If we do have rewards coming to us, no one can take them from us. Christ warned the church at Philadelphia,. He did not mean that someone can steal our reward. Indeed, Christ said that those who have treasures in heaven will not have them stolen. Christ warns, however, that we can forfeit our reward by default and by failing to use the opportunities God gives us.

Someone else can take our crown only if we let him get in the way of our relationship with God. Three descriptive phrases help us visualize just how thorough this judgment will be. Paul wrote:. The imagery is that of a person who has his pockets turned inside out to reveal every particle of lint. We will watch as Christ does the revealing, the analyzing, the judging. Two kinds of materials are contrasted.

We can find a pile of wood, hay, and stubble almost anywhere, especially in rural areas. Precious gems are quite another matter. Hold them in your hand, and they are of more value than mounds of wood and straw. So it is not how much we do for Christ, but rather what we do and how we do it. Of course, this does not mean that we should do as little as possible for Christ, insisting that we have made up for our slothfulness through 'quality. Why do our works have to be subjected to the flames? The natural eye cannot easily tell the difference between these building materials.

Not even Paul was confident that he could always separate junk from gems. From our perspective, a beliver might have nothing but an impressive pile of combustible material; but when torched, nuggets of gold might be found embedded in the straw. Conversely, what we thought was a gold brick of some notable saint might just be the end of a wooden beam. Only the fire can separate the real from the fake. We who are adept at hiding our true selves from others and even fooling ourselves, will suddenly have no place to hide. The piercing, probing, omniscient eyes of Christ will see through us.

Mt NASB "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. And that which is spoken in a bedroom will be shouted from the housetop:. Lk NASB "But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Lk NASB Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

Obviously, not everything said in our bedrooms will be shouted from the housetops. Christ is speaking of those sins we have covered and refused to bring to Him in confession and repentance. If we should not pass judgment before the time, it can only be because the unresolved disputes among believers will be adjudicated at the Bema.

There the injustices among God's children will be brought to light, truth will triumph, and the righteous will be vindicated. Consider the following:. When the chairman of the European board resigned, a local board member was able to usurp authority, rewrite the constitution of the organization, and declare himself owner. This Christian leader, in effect, stole the property from the Christian organization, expelled its leadership, and put the church and newly built apartments in his name.

There were so many lies, deceptions, and deep hurts that counselors couldn't establish agreement on so much as a single point. The husband eventually abandoned his wife and children and yet used their names as dependents on his income tax forms. It might be tempting to think that these Christians will walk through heaven's gates hand in hand, with old animosities forgotten.

Yes, of course, at that time all believers will have new natures and will not be subject to grudges and bitterness. But this does not mean that what happened on earth will be hidden. Paul taught that the believers in Corinth should not think they have to settle every issue, but wait for Christ to do it. What is the purpose of exposing the secrets of the hearts if it is not to bring final reconciliation to unresolved disputes? See 1 Corinthians quoted above. If you have had your reputation ruined by a vindictive believer, take comfort in the fact that the truth shall some day be revealed.

Is not the Bema the place where injustices on earth shall finally be addressed? Is not this why Paul said we should not take revenge but leave the matter with God? Respect what is right in the sight of all men. Ro NASB But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thristy, give him a drink; for in so doing yhou will heap burning coals on his head. Christ will untangle the disputes that baffled us on earth. He will bring to light 'the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts'. Justice can only triumph if the participants see injustices addressed and resolved.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will be the place where God will satisfy our craving to have masks torn away, lies exposed, and reality prevail. The wrongdoers will finally admit the truth, and the victims will be vindicated; forgiveness among believers will be both given and accepted. Only then will justice prevail. Recently I was told that a known Christian leader is actually a fake, a man who is using gullible Christians to garner funds for himself and his family.

Yet he preaches messages that have biblical content; he is generally believed to have been converted out of an atheistic family. Perhaps people have been converted from hearing him preach. Whether he will be judged at the Bema or the Great White Throne, we can take comfort in the fact that someday the facade will fall and all that will be left is reality. What would it be like to 'suffer loss'?

What would the consequences be if we did see our deeds disintegrate behind a cloud of smoke? What memories might we take with us into eternity? Notice the contrast between the two men. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. He is saved; indeed, he arrives in heaven just as surely as his faithful brothers and sisters. But he has lost the opportunity for a full reward.

What kind of lifestyle might cause us to lose our inheritance? We can lose our reward both by the sins we commit and the opportunities we squander. Certainly all believers inherit heaven with its opportunity to serve Christ and worship at the throne. But there is another inheritance, a special reward given to the faithful. This second kind of reward is sometimes spoken of as 'inheriting eternal life.

Earlier I pointed out that some scholars teach that to enter the kingdom is one thing; to inherit the kingdom, quite another. We say that King Hussein inherited the kingdom of Jordan, which he has ruled for many years. But there are many other people who live within the country but are not participating in his rule. To possess eternal life you simply need faith in Christ; to truly inherit the [kingdom], you need faith and obedience. Eph NASB "For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Who are these people who will not have an 'inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God'? In context, Paul is warning Christians about their behavior. He assumes that Christians can be deceived and live like the 'sons of disobedience. We've all known Christians who live with these sins even when coming under God's heavy hand of discipline. The Bible assumes what we know by experience, namely, that Christians can do evil deeds and be caught in terrible sins.

Some die in such a spiritual condition. Covetousness, which is also listed as one of these transgressions, lies deeply buried within every one of us.

Make A Difference

We all can identify with the war for ownership that rages within the soul. If with Christ's help we do not master such sins, they will assuredly master us. If Paul meant that those who practice such vices will not enter the kingdom, our own assurance of final salvation would be in constant jeopardy. Any one of us could be overtaken by such a sin and die in disgrace. Perhaps what Paul meant is this: Those who practice such sins will not be barred from entering the kingdom, but will be barred from inheriting it.

If one or more of these sins characterizes their Christian lives, and they refuse to judge the evil, they will forfeit the honor of kingdom rule. Similar teaching occurs in Paul's instructions to the church in Galatia.

Conclusion

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In fact, here the list of sins that will prevent people from 'inheriting the kingdom of God' is even longer. Gal NASB idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,. Gal NASB envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Again Paul speaks of those who will forfeit certain kingdom privileges because of their sinful lifestyle. Although we must admit that many so-called carnal Christians are not Christians at all, we also must recognize that serious failure is possible for genuine Christians.

And this will be revealed at the Bema. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. In Paul refers to those addressed in as brethren. Furthermore, in Paul again refers to those being warned as brethren, and he gives instructions for the spiritual among them to restore those who become ensnared by the deeds of the flesh:. Gal NASB "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. I'm sure we would agree that when geunine Christians allow such sins to become a part of their lives, their reward will be diminshed.

Faithfulness not only means that we are committed to good deeds, but also that we are free of evil ones. One result of the new birth is a love for God and a dislike for sin. If as a child of God we tolerate that our Father hates, we will incur His discipline in this life and the next. If we ask the question how God evaluates lives that are so mixed with failures and successes, if we wonder how God balances twenty years of faithful ministry with a year of moral failure, we cannot answer. If God spelled out specifically what we must do to 'inherit' the kingdom and the number of failures that we must have on our record before we' forfeit' it, you can be sure that some of us would want to do the bare minimum to balance the ledger!

Certainly, those whose lives were characterized by these sins shall suffer greater loss than those who struggled with such sins but continually judged them through confession and repentance. Indeed, even if the sins we have forsaken and confessed will only be represented as lost rewards, they shall still greatly affect the outcome of our judgment. If we have wasted our lives, we will still suffer loss even if we should repent just before our death. When the church at Corinth was experiencing God's heavy hand of discipline for disrespect at the Lord's Table indeed, some were smitten with sickness and others had actually died , Paul had this admonition:.

The more consistently we judge our sins through repentance and yieldedness, the less severe will be our future judgment. Even if we should lapse into known sin, we must never make our peace with it. Unjudged sin, that is, sin that we presumptively commit, can, I believe, bar us from enjoying the full potential of our rule with Christ.

Don Carson, professor at Trinity International University, says that when he was in Europe he spoke to a student who was cheating on his wife while far away from home at a university in Germany. When Carson pointed out that this would incur the discipline of God, the adulterer responded, 'Well, of course, I expect God to forgive me - that's His job!

In the Scriptures there are many warnings to those who would misuse the grace of God. There are also many encouragements to those who strive against sin but at times lose the battle. The desires of our hearts and the direction of our lives will all be taken into account when we stand before Christ.

Keep in mind that our entire life will be evaluated. The times of spiritual victory will be assessed along with our failures. Because God is generous, He will find more good in our lives than we know is there. Remember, Paul assured us that in that day 'each man's praise will come to him from God' 1 Corinthians :.

A second way we can forfeit our inheritance is by refusing to accept the joys of sacrifice and single-minded devotion to Christ. Rewards are based on our consistent faithfulness to follow Christ, even at great cost. God gives each of us time, talents, and treasure. To squander these, living as though these gifts are ours and not His, is to risk forfeiting our right to rewards.

In the next chapter we will consider more specifically what Christ will be looking for when He judges us. We will list ways in which we can please or displease Him. Not everyone need leave father and mother; not everyone need suffer persecution to have an abundant entrance into the kingdom. But if we neglect our duties we will answer for our negligence. We all struggle with the concept of negative consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Many Christians think that Christ would never reprimand us at the Bema.