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Gaining What You Can't Lose
The eternal rewards that wait us after Christ's return
Rewards are a part of life. From our earliest years, we receive stickers on our homework from our teacher for a job well done and trophies for Little League sports. As we grow older, the rewards become more expensive and more difficult to earn. But if we’re honest, we all appreciate being recognized and rewarded for our successes.
Most rewards are very basic, but some prestigious rewards are coveted and celebrated all over the world: the green jacket for winning the Masters golf tournament, the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, the Pulitzer Prize, a Super Bowl ring, an Olympic medal, the Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar, an Emmy, the Purple Heart, and the Medal of Honor.
As satisfying as it must be to receive one of these earthly honors, they pale in comparison to the smiling face of the Savior as He bestows rewards on His people at the coming Judgment Seat of Christ.
So, what are the rewards God will give His children in heaven? What should we expect in the future? Although the full nature of eternal rewards is something we can never fully understand here on earth, we can discern a few basic categories of rewards from Scripture.
These categories are rewards of Praise, Position and Privilege.
Here are a couple of passages that speak of our future commendation from Christ:
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.—1 Corinthians 4:5
In His parable of the talents, which pictures the judgment and rewards, the Master says this to his first two servants:
“Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”—Matthew 25:21,23
We all know how great it is to be praised by a parent, spouse, or employer for a job well done. Think of what it will be like to stand before the Lord and hear His “well done.” The Creator of the universe, the Shepherd of the stars, will praise you and will praise me for good works done with an acceptable motive. Nothing will match that moment. His praise will be worth whatever it costs to gain it.
A second reward will be reigning or co-ruling with Christ. Faithful service for Christ here on earth will bring positions of rule and authority in the coming kingdom and on into the eternal state:
“If we endure, we will also reign with Him.”—2 Timothy 2:12
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”—Revelation 5:10
“…and they will reign forever and ever.”—Revelation 22:5
The positions of authority we have in the future are being determined now by how we live today. Our stewardship now over our time, opportunities, and resources will determine the degree of our authority in the future.
In His parable, Jesus said that some will rule over ten cities and others will rule over five cities (Luke 19:17-19). Our lives today are training time for reigning time.
The third kind of reward the Lord will give at the Judgment Seat includes privileges and honors. These privileges come in two forms. First, there are five crowns the Lord will give to the faithful:
1. The Incorruptible/Imperishable Crown: Also known as the crown of mastery or discipline, this reward for those who consistently practice self-discipline and self-control in order to master the temptations of the sins of the flesh:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The Lord greatly values self-discipline and self-control over the temptations related to our physical bodies.
2. The Crown of Righteousness: This crown is sometimes called the “Watcher’s Crown.” It refers to the crown awarded for finishing the race of life righteously, with our eyes on Jesus, especially anticipating His return.
The Apostle Paul spoke of this crown in the waning days of his life on earth and looked forward to securing it for himself:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”—2 Timothy 4:7-8
Are you yearning for Christ’s coming?
Do you long for His appearing?
Are you ready for the Rapture?
Is His coming motivating you to live a righteous life?
3. The Crown of Life: Every Christian receives eternal life. The crown of life is the sufferer’s or martyr’s crown, given to those who faithfully endure, persevere, and “hang in there” under the trials and tests of life:
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”—James 1:12
(See also Revelation 2:10.)
Every Christian can receive this reward since we all face suffering, trials, and troubles in life. May the Lord strengthen us to remain steadfast in the face of affliction and receive the crown of life.
4. The Crown of Rejoicing: The soulwinner’s crown is given to those who win people for Christ:
“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?”—1 Thessalonians 2:19
Not every believer has the gift of evangelism, but we’re all called to be witnesses to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. How long has it been since your shared the good news of the gospel with a friend or co-worker?
5. The Crown of Glory: The shepherd’s crown will be given to those pastors, elders, and church leaders who faithfully feed and lead God’s people:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God among you . . . And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.—1 Peter 5:1-4
Having served for over thirty-one years as a pastor of a local church—with many elders and a pastoral staff, in all kinds of difficult situations—I can understand why the Lord would tailor a special reward for faithful church leaders.
Revelation 4:10-11 indicates that these crowns we receive will be cast at the feet of Jesus.
Casting our crowns at the feet of the One who sits on the throne will be an act of supreme worship, as well as an acknowledgement that everything we are and have accomplished is ultimately due to His grace and goodness. He will receive our unreserved glory and praise.
Another way to consider our rewards as honors or privileges is that they will reflect the amount of God’s glory that shines through us:
“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”—Daniel 12:3
All of God’s people together in eternity will be like a dazzling chandelier with many light bulbs. Some will be 25-watt bulbs, some 50-watt and some 100-watt or more. As a whole, these light bulbs emit light into the room. They all contribute, but some shine brighter than others.
That’s the way it will be in heaven. Some of us may contribute various levels of wattage, but we will all shine. The question is this: How much of God’s light do you want to shine through you?
Some will possess a greater capacity and capability to glorify the Lord. Everyone’s cup in heaven will be full, but some cups will be larger than others.
Payday is Coming
Even after we consider what the Bible says about the rewards we will receive, we must admit that we still have many unanswered questions. However, we know enough to motivate us to labor tirelessly for our Savior as we await His coming.
Someday it will be worth it all!