THE BREVITY OF LIFE
All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field . . . the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:6-8).
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14).
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro; He bustles about, but only in vain: he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you (Psalm 39:4-7).
Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death (Eccles. 8:8).
From everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn men back to dust . . . For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. . . . The length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. . . . Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . . May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90).
I have plenty of good things laid up for many years. I’ll take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God (Luke 12:19-21).
Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. — Apostles Creed (250 AD), Nicene Creed (325 AD), Athanasian Creed (400 AD)
Built into every person, society and religion is a sense of accountability, a fundamental belief that good will be rewarded and evil will be punished. God has written his moral law on human hearts. There is an inborn sense that everyone will be judged in light of that law.
When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (Romans 2:14-16).
Scripture confirms this inbred expectation of judgment:
Far be it from you to do such a thing . . . treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the Man he has appointed (Acts 17:31).
RECOMPENSE AT THE JUDGMENT
I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve (Jeremiah 17:10).
Does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:12)
They will be paid back for the harm they have done (2 Peter 2:13).
But they will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5).
It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day. Matthew Henry
GOD’S JUDGMENT OF ALL MEN
1. God is fully aware of every aspect of our lives and will overlook nothing in our judgment. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13); “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
2. Our accounting to God will be detailed and extensive: “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
3. God knows the motives of our hearts, and will judge us in light of those motives: “Therefore 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 Corinthians 4:5).
WHAT ABOUT HELL?
1. Jesus spoke of Hell as a literal place, using graphic terms (Matthew 10:28; 13:40-42; Mark 9:43, 44).
2. Hell is as literal as Heaven (Psalm 11:4-6) and as eternal as heaven (Matthew 25:46).
3. Hell is a place of punishment designed for Satan and the fallen angels (Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 20:10)
4. Hell will also be inhabited by people who do not accept God’s gift of the Savior (Revelation 20:12-15). Because of man’s sinfulness, he deserves to spend eternity away from the presence of God, in Hell. The opportunity to spend eternity in heaven because of God’s grace is undeserved by men but offered freely by God. 5. Hell is a horrible place of suffering and everlasting destruction (Matthew 13:41, 42; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).
6. In Hell people are fully conscious and retain all their capacities and desires with no hope for any fulfillment for all eternity (Luke 16:22-31).
7. Because God is fair, Hell will not be the same for everyone. The severity of punishment will vary with the amount of truth known and the nature and number of the sins committed (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 20:45-47, Romans 2:3-5).
WHAT ABOUT HEAVEN? (See Heaven articles)
1. Heaven is an actual place, to and from which Christ (John 1:32; 6:33; Acts 1:2), angels (Matt. 28:2; Rev. 10:1) and in rare circumstances people, even prior to their deaths, have traveled (2 Kings 2:11; 2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 11:12). Heaven has light, water, trees and fruit (Rev. 21:1-2), as well as animals (Rev. 6:2-8; 19:11).
2. Heaven is described as a city (Heb. 11:16; 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:12). A city is a place of many residences in near proximity, the inhabitants of which are subject to a common government. City normally connotes varied and bustling activity, education and arts. Heaven will be a place of great pleasure, characterized by magnificent beauty, including streets of gold and buildings of pearls and emeralds and precious stones (Rev. 21:19-21). Heaven will have all the advantages we associated with cities on earth, with none of the disadvantages.
3. In heaven, the city’s gates are always open, and people will travel in and out, some bringing treasures into the city (Rev. 21:24-25; 22:14). Travel outside the city shows that the city is not the whole of heaven, but merely its center.
4. In heaven we will worship God (Revelation 5:11-13), serve God (Revelation 7:15) and rule with God (Revelation 22:5). Service and ruling involve responsibilities, duties, effort, and creativity to do work well. This will be work with lasting accomplishment, unhindered by decay and fatigue, and enhanced by unlimited resources. Heaven will be a place of meaningful activity, not boredom.
5. In heaven, we will experience rest from our labors on earth (Rev. 14:13). Heaven’s labor will be refreshing, productive and unthwarted, without futility and frustration. Perhaps it will be like the Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), before sin brought the curse on the ground, with its thorns (Gen. 3:17-19).
6. In heaven, we will celebrate, fellowship, eat and drink (Revelation 19:9; Luke 22:29, 30). Communication, dialogue, corporate worship and other relationship-building interactions all take place heaven (Rev. 1-22). Saints and angels and God Himself will interact together, building and deepening their relationships.
7. Between our entrance to heaven and our resurrection, we may have temporary pre-resurrection bodies (e.g. Luke 16:19ff.; Rev. 6:11). Unlike God and the angels, who are in essence spirits though capable of inhabiting bodies (John 4:24; Heb. 1:14), man is in essence both spiritual and physical (Gen. 2:7). Hence, between our earthly life and our resurrection, a temporary body would allow us to retain the qualities of full humanity.
8. Jesus described heaven as having many rooms or dwellings, and promised that he himself would go there and prepare a place there for us (John 14:2-3). Heaven contains for believers a permanent inheritance, an unperishable estate specifically reserved for us (1 Pet. 1:4).
9. When we are in heaven, it may be possible for us to welcome others into our dwelling places. After speaking of the shrewd servant’s desire to use earthly resources so that “people will welcome me into their houses,” Jesus tells his followers to use “worldly wealth” (earthly resources) to “gain friends” (by making a difference in their lives on earth), “so that when it is gone [when life on earth is over] you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). Our “friends” in heaven appear to be to those whose lives we’ve touched in a significant way on earth. They will apparently have their own “eternal dwellings.” Luke 16:9 appears to mean literally these eternal dwelling places of friends could be places to fellowship and/or reside in as we move about the heavenly kingdom.
10. Some believers will receive a “rich welcome” when they enter heaven (2 Peter 1:11). It seems likely those who on earth have impacted and/or been impacted by the arriving believer (perhaps including family members), and who have gone to heaven before him, may participate in the welcoming committee at his “rich welcome” into heaven.
11. Heaven is the place and time when all righteous acts—many of which will have been disregarded and some punished on earth—will be finally rewarded. There is a “proper time” for the harvest, a time that normally follows our life on earth—“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). The Christian’s works done for God’s glory will have eternal significance—of those who die in Christ, God says “their deeds will follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Our rewards in heaven will link us eternally to our service for Christ while on earth. There is a radical change in our location, but no essential discontinuity between our lives here and there.
Heaven marks the beginning of eternal adventure, but the end of earth’s window of opportunity. As Scripture gives no opportunity for the unbeliever to go back to earth and live his life again and this time to put faith in Christ, so there is no opportunity for the believer to go back and relieve his life, this time for Christ.
TWO JUDGMENTS: FAITH AND WORKS
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29.
1. Scripture teaches first a judgment of faith, then a judgment of works, both for believers and unbelievers.
2. All true believers will pass the judgment of faith in Christ-their names are written in the Book of Life.
3. All unbelievers will fail the judgment of faith at the Great White Throne, since their names are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15).
4. The judgment of works follows the judgment of faith. Scripture states all men, not just unbelievers, will be judged for their works (Prov. 24:12; Eccles. 12:14).
5. The unbeliever’s judgment of works comes at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:12).
6. The believer will not be condemned at the Great White Throne, but nonetheless still faces a judgment of works himself, at the “Judgment Seat of Christ.”
THE JUDGMENT OF WORKS FOR CHRISTIANS
1. Jesus watches and evaluates the churches, keeping score, giving grades (Revelation 2-3).
2. To Christians Jesus says, “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds” (Revelation 2:23).
3. At the end of our lives all believers will give an account of their lives to their Lord. “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).
4. We will be judged by Christ according to our works, both good and bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
5. The result of this judgment will be the gain or loss of eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10; Romans 14:10-12).
The Bible treats this judgment with great sobriety. It is not a meaningless formality, but a monumental event in which things of eternal significance are brought to light and things of eternal consequence are put into effect.
THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF JUDGMENT FOR WORKS
1. Some Christians will and others will not hear Christ say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
2. Some Christians will be ashamed when they meet Christ—”Dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
3. Some Christians in heaven will “suffer loss” when their lives on earth are evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ.
If any man builds on this foundation [the foundation of Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood hay or straw, his 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. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
4. Christians at the judgment seat will experience certain consequences of good they have failed to do and bad they have done:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism (Colossians 3:25).
The believer’s judgment is of works, not sins. But apparently the commission of sins results in the omission of righteous works. Hence, the loss of reward that we would have had if we hadn’t lived in sin. There is no indication that rewards missed by virtue of lack of service on earth (1 Cor. 3: 13-15) will be later achieved in some other way. In heaven, how we have lived on earth will have eternal effects.
DOES GOD CARE ABOUT OUR WORKS?
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
The wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7-8)
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.… You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17-26).
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13).
If you do these things [then] you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Let us live, then, in the light of eternity. If we do not, we are weighting the scales against our eternal welfare. We must understand that ‘whatsoever a man soweth’ must be taken in its widest meaning, and that every thought and intent of the heart will come under the scrutiny of the Lord at His coming. We can be sure that at the Judgment Seat of Christ there will be a marked difference between the Christian who has lived his life before the Lord, clearly discerning what was for the glory of God, and another Christian who was saved in a rescue mission at the tag end of a depraved and vicious life, or a nominal Christian saved on his deathbed after a life of self-pride, self-righteousness, self-love, and self-sufficiency. All will be in heaven, but the differences will be eternal. We may be sure that the consequences of our character will survive the grave and that we shall face those consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ. — Donald Gray Barnhouse
It is my happiness that I have served Him who never fails to reward His servants to the full extent of His promise. – John Calvin
Consider, to provoke you to good works, that you shall have from God, when you come to glory, a reward for everything you do for him on earth.
Whatever good thing you do for Him, if done according to the Word, is laid up for you as treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before both men and angels, to your eternal comfort. — John Bunyan
He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever. — John Tillotson
There are two days on my calendar—“Today” and “That Day.” — Martin Luther
It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day. — Matthew Henry
GOD REWARDS HIS CHILDREN
1. God promises great reward for those who have served him faithfully.
The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-and for destroying those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).
2. God will reward every servant for this life’s labor.
At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
3. God will reward generously.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:29).
This is a promise of infinite return—a return far out of proportion to the amount invested.
4. God rewards what we do, not what we believe.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done (Matt. 16:27).
God will give to each person according to what he has done (Romans 2:6).
Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free (Ephesians 6:8).
5. God rewards us for kindness to the undeserving.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35).
6. God rewards us for caring for our brothers in need.
I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).
7. God rewards us when we care for those too poor or incapacitated to pay us back.
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
8. God rewards us for wise and productive use of the resources and opportunities he has given us.
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:20-21)
9. God rewards us for being persecuted for Christ.
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets (Luke 6:22-24).
10. God rewards us for identifying with those suffering for Christ, and for taking material loss.
You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:34-36).
11. God rewards us in the right time. (Deferred comp—God doesn’t settle all his accounts in October.)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
THE REWARD OF RULERSHIP
1. God will reward greater service on earth with greater responsibility in heaven.
His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).
2. God will reward faithfulness in the “small things” of this life with leadership over big things in heaven.
“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17).
3. God will make Christians rulers over the earth.
They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
4. God will make Christians rulers over angels.
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Corinthians 6:3)
5. God requires certain conditions be fulfilled in order for us to serve as rulers.
If we endure, we shall also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne (Revelation 3:21).
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations . . . just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28).
CROWNS AS REWARDS
Crowns are a common symbol of ruling authority. Five crowns are specifically mentioned as rewards:
1. The Crown of Life—given for faithfulness to Christ in persecution or martyrdom.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
2. The Incorruptible Crown—given for determination, discipline and victory in the Christian life.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
3. The Crown of Glory—given for faithfully representing Christ in a position of spiritual leadership (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
To the elders among you, be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:1-4).
4. The Crown of Righteousness—given for purifying and readying yourself to meet Christ at his return.
The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
5. The Crown of Rejoicing—given for pouring oneself into others in evangelism and discipleship.
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
. . . my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown . . . (Philippians 4:1).
There may be innumerable crowns and types of crowns, and rewards unrelated to crowns. They are all graciously given by the Lord Jesus, and earned through the faithful efforts of the believer. Our rewards are given not merely for our recognition, but for Christ’s eternal glory:
The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:10-11).
Though God’s glory is the highest and ultimate reason for any course of action, Scripture sees no contradiction between God’s eternal glory and our eternal good. On the contrary, glorifying God will always result in our greatest eternal good. Likewise, pursuing our eternal good, as he commands us to, will always glorify God.
LOSING OUR REWARDS
1. We can forfeit rewards from God by seeking them from men.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).
“How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)
2. We can have rewards taken from us because of our unfaithfulness.
Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him (Matthew 25:28-29).
3. We can become disqualified for rewards because of moral and spiritual compromise.
No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).
4. We can lose rewards because of an unproductive life.
If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:15).
5. We can lose rewards by carelessness and waste.
Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully (2 John 8).
6. We can have our rewards taken from us because of lack of attention to the obedient life.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (Revelation 3:11).
MOTIVATION BY ETERNAL REWARDS
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:9-10).
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:26).
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt. 6:19-21).
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35).
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:13-14).
Slaves, obey your earthly masters . . . not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism (Colossians 3:22-25).
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. . . if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us (2 Timothy 2:5, 12).
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
WHAT MOTIVATES US TO FOLLOW GOD?
Fear of consequences:
But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (Genesis 2:17).
Hope of short term rewards:
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Hope of long term rewards:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20).
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him (Deut. 7:9-10).
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:32-33).
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it (2 Cor. 5:9).
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).
MOTIVATION: WHY SHOULD WE OBEY GOD?
1. Out of our love for him as Father and Redeemer (Deuteronomy 7:9; 11:1; 30:20).
2. Out of our fear of him as Creator and Judge (Genesis 2:17; Deuteronomy 28:58-67; Hebrews 10:30-31).
3. Out of our hope in him as Rewarder of those who serve him (Deuteronomy 28:2-9; Hebrews 11:6).
Example of Motivations: WHY SHOULD WE EVANGELIZE?
Out of love for God, gratefulness to God, desire to please God, love for men, fear of their destination without Christ, hope for their fulfillment, hope for their service to God’s glory, fear of our disobedience, hope for our eternal reward.
Each of these motivations is legitimate, and each compliments the other. In God’s universe, what is right is always smart. Sometimes we need the combined persuasiveness of all these incentives to do what is pleasing to the Lord.
GOD’S APPEAL TO POWER, POSSESSIONS & PLEASURE
1. Power in his kingdom
“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17).
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager? . . . he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Luke 12:42-44).
2. Possessions in his kingdom
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy (Matthew 6:19-21).
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).
Peter answered, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said, “. . . everyone who has left houses or brothers . . . or mother . . . or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:27-30).
3. Pleasures in his kingdom
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalms 16:11).
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven (Luke 6:23).
The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29).
A woman giving birth to a child has pain, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:21-22).
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Hebrews 12:22).
God appeals to our natures as people, not as sinners. Power, possessions and pleasures are legitimate desires he has instilled in us, and by which he motivates us.
HOW TO GAIN ETERNAL POWER, POSSESSIONS AND PLEASURE
The temptation is to try to grasp onto power, pleasure and possessions here and now, in the present world. The way of the Lord is to gain them in the future not by clinging to them in the present, but by forgoing them in the present!
The three-fold disciplines of fasting, giving and prayer are developed by Christ in Matthew 6:1-18, and each is said to offer a reward, either from man in the short term or God in the long term.
1. Fasting is denying the momentary pleasure of eating to gain eternal pleasure in God.
2. Giving is denying the momentary possession of riches to gain eternal possessions from God.
3. Prayer is denying the momentary exercise of one’s own power to gain the eternal power of God.
Eating, accumulating and ruling are not bad—but in these three spiritual disciplines they are temporarily abstained from to accomplish a higher kingdom purpose.
THE THREE VOWS OF MONASTIC ORDERS
1. Vow of chastity (forgoing pleasure)
2. Vow of poverty (forgoing possessions)
3. Vow of obedience (forgoing power of self-determination).
One need not forgo power, pleasures or possessions because he hates them. He may forgo them because he wants them in their purest forms, in another time, another world. Jesus told his disciples they could become great in the next world by being a servant in this one (Mark 10:42-44), and they could become rich in the next world by giving up riches in this one (Matthew 6:19-21).
It’s not a matter of no gratification, but delayed gratification in the pursuit of ultimate gratification. It’s forgoing present temporal gratification to achieve future eternal gratification. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” — Jim Elliot
Given the limitations of sin, we are ill-equipped to handle large doses of power, pleasures and possessions in this life. In heaven we will be sinless, and will not abuse the power, pleasure and possessions entrusted to us.
CAN APPEALS TO OUR DESIRES REALLY BE SPIRITUAL?
The rewards are such as should make us leap to think on, and that we should remember with exceeding joy, and never think that it is contrary to the Christian faith to rejoice and be glad for them. — John Bunyan, seventeenth century pastor and prisoner; author of Pilgrim's Progress
Christianity proposes not to extinguish our natural desires. It promises to bring the desires under just control and direct them to their true object. — William Wilberforce, British Parliamentarian who spent his life working to abolish slavery
The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. — C. S. Lewis, professor at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, author of Mere Christianity
WHY DON’T WE THINK MORE ABOUT HEAVEN?
If there be so certain and glorious a rest for the saints, why is there no more industrious seeking after it? One would think, if a man did but once hear of such unspeakable glory to be obtained, and believed what he heard to be true, he should be transported with the vehemency of his desire after it, and should almost forget to eat and drink, and should care for nothing else, and speak of and inquire after nothing else, but how to get this treasure. And yet people who hear of it daily, and profess to believe it as a fundamental article of their faith, do as little mind it, or labour for it, as if they had never heard of any such thing, or did not believe one word they hear. — Richard Baxter, 1649
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. — The Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:1
Let temporal things serve your use, but the eternal be the object of your desire. — Thomas a Kempis
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. — C. S. Lewis
It has been cited as a flaw in Christianity that it is more concerned with the world to come than with the world that now is, and some have been fluttering about trying to defend the faith of Christ against this accusation. Both the attack and the defense are wasted. No one who knows what the New Testament is about will worry over the charge that Christianity is other-worldly. Of course it is, and that is precisely where its power lies.
Let no one apologize for the powerful emphasis Christianity lays upon the doctrine of the world to come. Right there lies its immense superiority to everything else within the whole sphere of human thought or experience. When Christ arose from death and ascended into heaven He established forever three important facts, namely, that this world has been condemned to ultimate dissolution, that the human spirit persists beyond the grave and that there is indeed a world to come.
The church is constantly being tempted to accept this world as her home, and sometimes she has listened to those who would woo her away and use her for their own ends. But if she is wise she will consider that she stands in the valley between the mountain peaks of eternity past and eternity to come. The past is gone forever and the present is passing as swift as the shadow on the sun dial of Ahaz. Even if the earth should continue a million years not one of us could stay to enjoy it. We do well to think of the long tomorrow. — A. W. Tozer
ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1 Peter 1:17).
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:4).
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:24-27).
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:10-14).
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same. — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. — C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.