Could you explain the difference between Heaven for the saints versus Heaven for the martyred saints? There seems to be a distinction, yet we claim all believers will be given a white robe and their tears will be wiped away. Your book on Heaven doesn’t seem to distinguish between the two different saints that I can tell. Also, a third group would be the overcomers. What I am asking is, do all Heaven descriptions apply to all of us?
That’s a great question. Let’s look at some of the verses you mentioned.
Revelation 6:11 says of the martyrs, “Then they were each given a white robe.” The ESV Study Bible says these robes represent victory and purity and seem to be a special reward for their faithfulness even unto death. Revelation 7:13 talks about those coming out of the tribulation, and says they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”
We’re also told in Revelation 19:8 that Christ’s bride (collectively) is “given the finest of pure white linen to wear. For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people” (NLT).
Randy writes in Heaven, “Will we all wear white clothing? The white clothes may depict our righteousness (Revelation 7:9), as they did Christ’s in his transfiguration. The emphasis on white may relate to cleanliness, which was extremely hard to maintain in that culture.”
Also in Revelation 7, God promises to comfort those who come out of the great tribulation and says He will wipe away their tears. Later He makes a blanket promise to wipe away all His people’s tears in Revelation 21:4. It’s a repeat of His promise in Isaiah 25:8: “and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.” Notice it says “all faces.” Our tender Father will comfort each of His children for their suffering.
Scripture is clear that there are special rewards given to saints for their faithfulness in certain situations, and we see that throughout Revelation. Revelation 2:17 talks about Christ’s rewards for those who conquer, including hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it. The ESV Study Bible says, “The manna and the white stone suggest differing types of eternal blessings and rewards, as appropriate in each situation.”
We shouldn’t take this to mean, though, that there will be an us vs. them mentality in Heaven. There won’t really be “two different types of saints” in Heaven. We will all be part of Christ’s bride, united under Him. We will all enjoy the blessing of living on the New Earth, with Jesus as our King. So outside of those special rewards promised in certain situations, what we read in Scripture about Heaven applies to all of God’s people. And we will all be filled with joy to be in His presence.
Randy writes about eternal rewards in his article Will All People Be Equal in Heaven?:
Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven… Scripture is clear that we’ll have different rewards and positions in Heaven, according to our faithful service in this life. Since everyone will be happy, what could be the nature of these differences? Jonathan Edwards said, “The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled. But after all ’tis left to God’s sovereign pleasure, ’tis his prerogative to determine the largeness of the vessel.”
…A pint jar and a quart jar can both be full, but the larger jar contains more. Likewise, in Heaven all of us will be full of joy, but some may have a larger capacity for joy, having been stretched through their dependence on God in this life.
And as Randy also writes in Heaven, it’s encouraging to know that our generous God desires to reward all of His children:
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.
(By the way, some people question Randy’s interpretation that since the martyrs know what’s going on down on earth, at least they know that those who killed them have not yet been judged, therefore other believers in Heaven know what some of what’s happening on earth. Randy says, “I just think that’s a fair conclusion. Scripture tells us that some of the saints of God in Heaven are aware of some of what’s going on down on earth. I see no reason that only the martyrs would know and no one else would.”)
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.