What Waits in Heaven

What Waits in Heaven

• Remember Men’s ministry in the morning at 8am. Bring your own breakfast and coffee but, Lord willing, next month we will sit down at a meal together! ALSO, remember next Friday evening and Saturday morning CPC is hosting a seminar on the geographic settings of biblical events (details on website). Having been to Israel, this is more interesting than it may sound and plays a significant role in how we read Scripture. Join us!

• Several years ago for a sermon series on heaven I had to work through the idea of differing rewards in glory: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Rev 22:12, also 2 Cor 5:10). It was an idea with little appeal. The notion that we are not all going to receive the same recompense in eternity felt like Mormonism or a doctrine that would lead to a mercenary life of self-service disguised as good deeds. But the more I read the more plain it became: “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Cor 3:13).

• You may be (rightly) wondering if this is really orthodoxy. Here’s a short list of those who recognize differing rewards in heaven: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Matthew Henry, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Anthony Hoekema, Louis Berkhof, Leon Morris, Gordon Fee, John Macarthur, John Piper, John Gerstner, and Michael Kruger.

• Rewards feel at odds with the value we place on grace and Paul’s teaching that salvation is a free gift “so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:9). But this isn’t a salvation issue. Whatever rewards come to us, they come after we are in glory, perhaps only after the Great Day of Christ’s return and judgment. And, as Lewis points out, no one will be blackmailed in heaven by what happened, or is happening, on earth. The Confession says all believers who die are “made perfect in holiness” and “behold the face of God in light and glory,” which is why John says, “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13), why Jesus says to the thief, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43), and why Paul says “it is better to depart and be with Christ” (Php 1:23). There are no disappointed or unhappy believers in glory. Still, we will not all be rewarded the same. The trick is imagining a place where there is no envy, no jealousy, no resentment of those who are superior to ourselves.

• The fact that we will receive different rewards in glory means simply this: it matters to God what we do. “Indeed, if anyone gives you even a cup of water because you bear the name of Christ, truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward” (Mk 9:41). Jonathan Edwards writes, “This could not be true if a person should have no greater reward for doing many good works than if he did but few.” The differences in how we live our lives, what we are doing with our time, how careful we are to obey — they all matter to God. Just as God knows every tear you’ve cried in this life (Ps 56:8), so he knows every deed.

• Hopefully this is being read by those of you who are at this moment worn down by well-doing. Remember, “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:10). But I also hope it can be heard by those whose understanding of grace has led them to a place of indifference regarding actions. Canon scholar Michael Kruger says we’re a generation of believers that doesn’t think obedience matters. It would be hard to sell that to Paul, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:9).

• It’s possible to hang out in evangelicalism your entire life and never be truly intentional about, 1) pleasing Christ alone in your actions (Col 3:24); 2) delaying gratification because you trust him more than visible results or present happiness (also Col 3:24); and 3) living like your citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20). You may need to revisit the truth that there is an appointed Day that waits. “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation [of Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:14).