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ThinkOnItDevotions
12-15-2006, 04:48 AM
Some time ago friend of mine told me she hoped there were varying degrees of rewards in heaven, for those who were “more good” than others. I wondered why she hoped that. Does she not believe God is fair? How could a good God, not be fair? Perhaps she doesn’t understand the extent of God’s love for her for if she did, the idea of rewards becomes irrelevant – God’s magnificent love is sufficient!!

What do you think? Are there different rewards or levels within the Kingdom of Heaven? Let’s take a look at God’s Word. Jesus gave us a clue when he said the following in Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205:17-19;&version=50;) “17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Did you notice verse 19? If someone breaks one of the commandments and teaches others to also, they are called “least in the kingdom”. Likewise, if someone does and teaches the commandments, they are called “great in the kingdom”. Jesus is addressing believers who have already put their trust in Him to save them. It’s not a discussion of how one is saved, but rather one of rewards for the work we do here. Interesting, I never noticed that before. I’ve even quoted this verse before, but not in this context. Don’t you love God’s Word? It reveals new levels of understanding each time you read it.

There are two other verses relating to rewards that come to mind:
Revelation 20:12 NKJV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2020:10-20;&version=50;) “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.”… “And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Here we have the topic of rewards based on our works. Whatever we did that’s written in these books will be the basis of our rewards.


1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NKJV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%203:11-13;&version=50;) “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” The “Day” is the Great White Throne Judgment, where believers’ works are judged to see whether they receive a reward or not as recorded in the “books” mentioned in Revelation 20:12. As Paul describes in this verse, if you build with gold, silver or precious stone, when that work passes through the fire it will be refined and not destroyed – therefore, a reward to the believer. On the other hand if your work was built with hay, wood or straw when it passes through the fire it is destroyed – therefore, no reward, although you are still saved.


How do I know whether my work is built using gold vs hay? I’m no authority here, but I would suspect that anything we’ve done from a pure motive, aligned with God’s will, prompted by His Spirit is probably a work built using gold. On the other hand, anything done out of selfishness, greedy for gain, manipulation, evil intents or our own will instead of God’s, that particular work is probably the wood, hay and straw type.


So, what do you think now after reviewing God’s Word? Are there different rewards in the kingdom of heaven? I would say so! How are your works? Are you checking them to see what type they are? If not, you might want to start now – it could mean big rewards in heaven!

citymouse
12-15-2006, 05:11 AM
Perhaps the notion springs from the phrase from The Gospel of John, "In my Father's house there are many mansions." While this may lend to the idea that there are levels of bliss, it doesn't hold. Those who are called to the presence of God in a transfigured state behold the God-head face to face and enjoy the ecstasy of joining with him in full glory. There cannot be a parceling of God's glory. As has been observed God loves all his creation as he created it. Personally I believe God's greatest feat of love will be in the final days when he reclaims the heart of his brightest creature--Lucifer. How's that for a plot line?
C

Roger J Carlson
12-15-2006, 06:24 PM
I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of rewards in heaven, especially greater and lesser rewards. Granted, there is a lot of biblical references to rewards and treasures in heaven.

But here on earth, why to we have rewards and different levels of rewards? Ambition, selfishness, competition, pride; these are the reasons we work for rewards...none of which are attitudes we associate with heaven.

The bible says that in heaven we will not be as we are now. There will be no sin. There will be no sorrow (Revelation 21:3-4: "And God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.") There will be no striving (Matthew 11:28 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.")

If I cannot experience pride in heaven, if I will not be sorrowful over having fewer rewards than another, if there is no striving or ambition in heaven, what is the purpose of rewards at all? Or to put it another way: if heaven is perfect and my reward is perfect, it will be just right for me.

Let me give an earthly analogy. Suppose my parents are fabulously wealthy (not) and my brother and I are "rewarded" in their will. I love reading quietly at home and he loves adventure and outdoor activities. In their will, they leave me their entire collection of literature, but to him they give their sport car and boat collection. Whose reward is greater? Certainly the boats and cars have greater monetary value, but since I hate activity, it is not the greater reward to me. Our rewards are perfectly suited for each of us and the concept of "greater" and "lesser" is meaningless.

No, I believe the idea of rewards in heaven was designed to encourage imperfect humans, with an imperfect understanding of heaven, to strive to do their best. But I think the reality will be far different than we can ever understand.

allenparker
12-15-2006, 06:38 PM
Our rewards in heaven are those things that are not of this earth. They will be things that will not rust, a thief can not take, and are those things that mean the most to us.

We are told to lay up our treasures in heaven, an extension of this principal. Things that will not rust, decay, or die. What we are talking about is our loved ones. Wife, children, family, and friends.

What greater reward can we receive than to be in God's presence than to have our family and friends by our side.

Perhaps our rewards are tied directly to our obedience to the great commision.

just a thought...

ThinkOnItDevotions
12-15-2006, 09:00 PM
Excellent comments all! Thank you Roger and Allen I especially liked and agreed with your comments. Thanks for the prespectives!

BruceJ
12-16-2006, 01:48 AM
I've always viewed 1 Cor. 3:10-15 a bit quizzically with regard to rewards in Heaven. Certainly seems to point to something like that, but what greater reward could there possibly be than spending eternity with Christ? I really don't care whether I'm in the back row of the auditorium or the front row. (That's not an apologetic for "fire insurance", by the way...)

One of those things we'll have to ask about--or obviously will find out about--when we get there.

Look forward to seeing you AWers there, too, by the way! That will be an additional treat. (Maybe that's what Paul meant! Hmmmm).

Merry Christmas, all, and may Christ come back this year for the celebration!

Jenny
12-17-2006, 10:30 AM
I've just started reading Milton's Paradise Lost (thanks to Teddy and Medievalist who inspired me to brave it) and he mentions how Mammon used to walk through heaven with his eyes cast down because his interest was in the gold that paved heaven! [not quite on topic, but when it comes to imagining heaven, I'm chucking those gold paving stones overboard!]. My reward in heaven is going to include meeting all those wonderful people I didn't get a chance to talk to on Earth. Top of the list is Teresa of Avila - now there was a writer!

I'm assuming here that I go to heaven - maybe I should ask for extra prayers from y'all;)

Arisa81
12-19-2006, 11:55 PM
I have to first say that I am new to bible study.
I am sure that God is fair, firstly. Although, I've always wondered about God's forgiveness. For instance, if someone committed a horrid crime and were sorry afterward, will they still be treated the same as someone who lived the best life they could?
I read this book called "The Purpose Driven Life" that states that God determines our responsibility in Heaven by how we treated our responsibility on earth. How well did they take care of themselves. How did they treat money. Did they put their all into every task? If they didn't, then He would not exactly trust them with more than what they did here, up there. Makes sense, I think.
Something I just read about in my bible study was about Lucifer and how he was an angel who went bad. But God did not destroy him, if He did, the angels would begin to serve Him out of fear and not out of love. I think it's a great thing to be able to choose our path and get what we "deserve."
That's just a few of my thoughts, like I said, I am new to bible study, but I found this an interesting thread.

BruceJ
12-20-2006, 12:37 AM
I have to first say that I am new to bible study.
I am sure that God is fair, firstly. Although, I've always wondered about God's forgiveness. For instance, if someone committed a horrid crime and were sorry afterward, will they still be treated the same as someone who lived the best life they could?
I read this book called "The Purpose Driven Life" that states that God determines our responsibility in Heaven by how we treated our responsibility on earth. How well did they take care of themselves. How did they treat money. Did they put their all into every task? If they didn't, then He would not exactly trust them with more than what they did here, up there. Makes sense, I think.
Something I just read about in my bible study was about Lucifer and how he was an angel who went bad. But God did not destroy him, if He did, the angels would begin to serve Him out of fear and not out of love. I think it's a great thing to be able to choose our path and get what we "deserve."
That's just a few of my thoughts, like I said, I am new to bible study, but I found this an interesting thread.

Great to have you in the thread, Arisa, and thanks for your thoughts. I have two ideas on the questions you've raised.


I am sure that God is fair, firstly. Although, I've always wondered about God's forgiveness. For instance, if someone committed a horrid crime and were sorry afterward, will they still be treated the same as someone who lived the best life they could?
I believe God showed the highest degree of love for us by the Cross. His Son paid the ultimate price one time for all. There is no greater love. He extends His love to us through grace; that is, unwarranted favor ("You are saved by grace, not by works, lest any man should boast.") Therefore there is nothing at all we can do to gain His esteem or add to His love because it's absolute. Neither can we do anything to detract from it (we can grieve the Spirit, but not adulterate His love) because it is His to bestow as He wills. Christ showed immediate acceptance and love to the thief on the cross and someday I fully expect to see this thief sitting at the same table feasting with Peter and Paul. Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard also provides insight into this (Matt. 20:1-15). Works are made efficacious through our salvation, never the other way around. So, yes, I believe God's acceptance and love for the one who has heinously sinned is equal to those who have sinned less. In this way, He really isn't "fair", is He? And praise God He isn't!


I read this book called "The Purpose Driven Life" that states that God determines our responsibility in Heaven by how we treated our responsibility on earth.

I can't comment directly here because I haven't finished reading the book. I don't know the context of what the author was saying here, so it would be wrong of me to qualify it. It will be interesting to see how he derives this conclusion and how he's applying it. I hope he's not applying it in any way to salvation--doesn't sound like it. I will approach cautiously any notion that God is driven by our behavior until I see it qualified. Too easy to slip into a "works" mentality.

Maybe someone else who has read the book can comment.

Evaine
12-23-2006, 04:12 PM
My take on this is that God is infinitely generous. None of us, however well we have tried to live, deserve to go to Heaven - but God will welcome us in anyway. So to have "varying degrees of reward" sort of makes my flesh crawl to think about. I don't think God works that way.

Reference the parable about the workers in the vineyard, who all got the same pay even though they hadn't worked the same hours.

Pat~
12-23-2006, 05:57 PM
I've just started reading Milton's Paradise Lost (thanks to Teddy and Medievalist who inspired me to brave it) and he mentions how Mammon used to walk through heaven with his eyes cast down because his interest was in the gold that paved heaven! [not quite on topic, but when it comes to imagining heaven, I'm chucking those gold paving stones overboard!]. My reward in heaven is going to include meeting all those wonderful people I didn't get a chance to talk to on Earth. Top of the list is Teresa of Avila - now there was a writer!

I'm assuming here that I go to heaven - maybe I should ask for extra prayers from y'all;)

Teresa of Avila is great reading! You're the first AWer I've heard ever mention her. Her writings greatly encouraged me 7 years ago. She can be a bit rabbit-traily, but I'm a bit ADD myself, so I could follow.

Your assurance about heaven can come from God's promises themselves--it doesn't require our prayers for you...(For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16). A wonderful thing to celebrate in this season of giving!

Pat~
12-23-2006, 06:20 PM
I love thinking about heaven. There is so much we don't know, but it is sure to all be wonderful. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

Regarding rewards, etc....

In 2 Corinthians it mentions that believers will be rewarded at the Bema seat of Christ (the Great White Throne is a place of judgment for nonbelievers only). At the Bema our rewards or crowns will be for the things we did here on earth that had eternal significance. On the surface this might appear to be 'good works'--but if we did those things with an eye to being praised by men, or other false motives, these would be worthless in God's eyes. The things that have eternal significance are acts of love towards God--specifically OBEDIENCE. In other words, it's not enough to 'do good', but we must strive to do what God wants us to do when He wants us to do it. This requires prayer and constance dependence on the leading of His Spirit to guide us in our daily choices and activities.

God's rewards, as mentioned in the Bible are crowns and positions of leadership in heaven, as far as I can tell (see Revelation 20:4-6). These are NOT for our own glory, but for our service to God. That is why Christ was a Servant-King here on earth, and why He is our role model. (micah 5:2, Isaiah 49:7) Earth is practice for heavenly living. Those who served (obeyed) God well on earth will be given greater responsibility and leadership in heaven as we continue to worship and serve our King up there (Rev. 20). I'm reading Revelation right now, and the purpose of our crowns is not for our own glory or enjoyment, but for us to have something to cast at the feet of the Lamb (Rev. 4:10). I'm hoping for a crown of sorts only in that I'm hoping I'll have something to give Him--in response for all He has given to me here on earth. He gave me back my life--and I can't wait to cast my crown at His feet, along with myself.

Jesus told His disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you...in my Father's house are many mansions..." etc. It's not beyond the scope of my understanding of God to imagine that He, as a deeply personal God, is preparing a place specifically suited to us and our worship of Him. I often joke about my heavenly mansion as having an ice rink--but sometimes I seriously wonder if it will...I think all of earth is practice for heaven, and that we will exercise our gifts up there in perfect worship of Him. Those who sing will sing without missing a note, those who write poetry will compose the music, those who dance (or skate!) will do so with perfect grace, etc.

Just my thoughts. I'll come back with references for some of this!

ETA:

Bema Seat and Rewards

Paul, speaking in his letter to the Corinthian church (believers) wrote this:

“So we make it our goal to please Him…for we must all appear before the judgment seat [“Bema” in Greek] of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:9, 10)

And this, in his first letter to them:

“8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his 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. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Cor. 3:8-15)
“1So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:1-5)

The Great White Throne

11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life…14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

And this ties it all together, in 1 John 5:

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God...10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

BruceJ
12-24-2006, 01:33 AM
Reference the parable about the workers in the vineyard, who all got the same pay even though they hadn't worked the same hours.
True, Evaine, it's not a perfect reference, but it does impact on the notion of rewarding works. Those who produced less (due to having worked a shorter day) received the same pay as those who produced more. It doesn't support the notion of rewarding those who have done more. However, the 1 Cor. 3:10-15 reference clearly shows that our works will be examined. The question is to what end. Pat's got some well supported thougts on that.

Agree wholeheartedly on God's infinite generosity. Just accepting anyone into His Heaven certainly displays that, based upon what we deserve.

limitedtimeauthor
12-28-2006, 11:42 AM
My take on this is that God is infinitely generous. None of us, however well we have tried to live, deserve to go to Heaven - but God will welcome us in anyway. So to have "varying degrees of reward" sort of makes my flesh crawl to think about. I don't think God works that way.

Reference the parable about the workers in the vineyard, who all got the same pay even though they hadn't worked the same hours.



The context of the parable is in reference to the disciples asking Jesus what reward they would have in heaven for forsaking all and following him. Just read the last several verses of Mt. 19 to see this. Jesus told them they would sit upon 12 thrones, judging (presiding over) the 12 tribes of Israel.

That in itself shows clearly that there will be varying degrees of responsibility. And other scriptures clearly show that the works we do will either be rewarded or not.

Salvation is by grace - that is, unmerited Divine favor. But rewards are of works, as clearly indicated in the many verses quoted in this thread. That doesn't mean God isn't fair. What could be more fair than allowing everyone an equal opportunity to obey His commandments and receive for the good they've done?

No matter what we may want to think or not think about how God works, we have to get to the place where we look closely at what His Word says about how He works. Sometimes it isn't immediately clear. When you referenced the workmen being paid the same wages, it gave me pause. It did seem to disagree with the verses in 1 Corinthians and the others noted. That's why I went and looked it up, reading the context and weighing it with other sections of scripture.

We have the opportunity for a lifetime of learning. Learning will often involve changing our previously held beliefs. Well, that's okay. We seek to understand. If some aspect of what we hear doesn't fit with the God we know and love, we should seek to understand. Could be that you are right in the first place, or could be you just didn't understand fully yet.

Hope that helps somehow.

ltd.

BruceJ
12-28-2006, 06:25 PM
No matter what we may want to think or not think about how God works, we have to get to the place where we look closely at what His Word says about how He works.

We have the opportunity for a lifetime of learning. Learning will often involve changing our previously held beliefs. Well, that's okay. We seek to understand. If some aspect of what we hear doesn't fit with the God we know and love, we should seek to understand. Could be that you are right in the first place, or could be you just didn't understand fully yet.

Well put, ltd. We do this in so many ways--individually and as denominations. Creeds are important in articulating the basics of what we believe, but they aren't comprehensive and the more we read the Bible, the less we find God dropping neatly into any single box. And that frustrates the order in us. Alistair McGrath put it well when he noted that we never superimpose our theological framework over Scripture, but always the other way around.

Robin Bayne
12-29-2006, 03:34 AM
Interesting discussion! Anyone here read Tim Stevenson's novel, "The Bema?"

Ralyks
03-22-2007, 02:55 AM
The belief in degrees of reward (and punishment) based on what you have done in life is based on various Biblical verses, and it seems to be also logically satisfying. Christ could not say "the first shall be last" were there no degrees. And of course that is all that talk of crowns.

Matthew 16:27--For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Luke 12:47-48: Luke 12:47-48 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

2 Corinthians 5:10--"or we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what He has done, whether good or bad.

1 Corinthians 3:8--"... and each one will receive His own reward according to his own labor."

Revelation 22:12 -- "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work."

Revelation 2:23--"... I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works."

Festus
04-01-2007, 02:06 AM
It was really neat reading all of these comments.

I've never dwelt too much on the rewards aspects of heaven. Just being there would be enough for me.

The lowest position is heaven would suit me to a "T", I figure that it would far surpass a high position in hell!

Something I've given a lot of thought on lately is judgement, if there is to be one or not, since our Lord's blood paid our price in full. The thought of judgement used to frighten me when I was small. It no longer does. The thought of an absolutely, 100% fair judgement is now comforting to me.

But I've gotten off the track. To return to the point, I think the best reward in heaven would be to simply serve Him, in whatever capacity he deemed.