Service as a Reward
Those coming out of the Great Tribulation will be specially rewarded by being given a place “before the throne of God,” where they will “serve him day and night” (Revelation 7:14-15). Notice that the Master rewards his faithful servants not by taking away responsibilities but by giving them greater ones.
Service is a reward, not a punishment. This idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded by a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different: more work, more responsibilities, increased opportunities, along with greater abilities, resources, wisdom, and empowerment. We will have sharp minds, strong bodies, clear purpose, and unabated joy. The more we serve Christ now, the greater our capacity will be to serve him in Heaven.
Reigning over cities will certainly not be “having nothing to do.” I believe that those who rule cities on the New Earth will have leisure (rest) and will fully enjoy it, but they will have plenty to do.
Dallas Willard suggests in The Divine Conspiracy, “Perhaps it would be a good exercise for each of us to ask ourselves: Really, how many cities could I now govern under God? If, for example, Baltimore or Liverpool were turned over to me, with power to do what I want with it, how would things turn out? An honest answer to this question might do much to prepare us for our eternal future in this universe.”
Will everyone be given the opportunity to rule in the new universe? The apostle Paul said that eternal rewards are available “not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). The word all is encouraging. “The Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8). The word everyone is again encouraging. It won’t be just a select few rewarded with positions of leadership.
Should we be excited that God will reward us by making us rulers in his Kingdom? Absolutely. Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).
God will choose who reigns as kings, and I think some great surprises are in store for us. Christ gives us clues in Scripture as to the type of person he will choose: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth....Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, 5, 10); “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Look around you to see the meek and the humble. They may include street sweepers, locksmith’s assistants, bus drivers, or stay-at-home moms who spend their days changing diapers, doing laundry, packing lunches, drying tears, and driving carpools for God.
I once gave one of my books to a delightful hotel bellman. I discovered he was a committed Christian. He said he’d been praying for our group, which was holding a conference at the hotel. Later, I gave him a little gift, a rough wooden cross. He seemed stunned, overwhelmed. With tears in his eyes he said, “You didn’t need to do that. I’m only a bellman.”
The moment he said it, I realized that this brother had spent his life serving. It will likely be someone like him that I’ll have the privilege of serving under in God’s Kingdom. He was “only a bellman” who spoke with warmth and love, who served, who quietly prayed in the background for the success of a conference in his hotel.
I saw Jesus in that bellman, and there was no “only” about him.
Who will be the kings of the New Earth? I think that bellman will be one of them. And I’ll be honored to carry his bags.