A Judgment of Reward
DG Blog #26
“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.”−Revelation 11:18
“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
I once saw a movie about an army general who was betrayed and became a gladiator. In one of the pre-battle scenes as a general, he said something along the line of this, “What we do on the battlefield today will echo in eternity!” Such a fitting statement also applies to God’s disciples. We are on the frontline in the battlefield for lost souls. A battle in which we might lose our lives in the fight. We serve at the pleasure of King Jesus, just as that general served at the pleasure of his king. What he said to his men, what he implied to his men, was if they died in battle that day, their deeds of courage would be recorded and follow them into the afterlife for an eternal reward.
The Bible is clear about God judging the dead with a reward that corresponds to their deeds in this life. Two separate moments for this judgment will come—i.e., the first for the righteous at the Second Coming, the second for the unrighteous at the end of the Millennium. The first is called the Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10); the second is the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The first judgment is for compensation of the saints. The second is for condemnation of the wicked who rejected God.
What you and I do during our pilgrimage, as disciples, will be examined. Our stewardship, obedience, faithfulness, talents, words, attitudes, fruit, motives, thoughts, and deeds will all be revealed by fire at the Second Coming and the beginning of the Millennial Era. Whatever is done faithfully and humbly in this life—to the glory of God—will be rewarded. Whatever is done in this life for self-glory, greed, or selfish ambition in our motives, will be burned up. Paul described this in his letter to the saints at Corinth:
“No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation 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 3:11-15
It’s important as disciples to not be enamored with ourselves over any acts of righteousness. Jesus told his disciples not to give alms, pray, or fast for personal ambition. The hypocrites in the synagogue did so to be honored among men (Matthew 6:1-18) and, therefore, all the reward they received because they were motivated by self-glory. Such deeds will not be rewarded in heaven.
Jesus coached his disciples to do the opposite—to do their acts of righteousness in secret so that the Father, who sees in secret, would reward them openly in heaven (Matthew 6:4). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).”
At every turn, Jesus led his disciples away from self-righteousness—i.e., to not celebrate their successes above the greater reward of their names being written in heaven, to rejoice over the one rather than the many. To decrease so that He might increase. To not be served but to serve. Christ’s life and teachings reveal that the less conscious we are of our good deeds, the more apt those deeds will fall onto the piles of gold, silver, and gemstones. The more we serve and love others as a dutiful privilege for what Christ’s love has done for us, the less we’ll see our good deeds fall onto the piles of wood, hay, and straw and burnt up.
When Jesus returns in a blazing fire, that fire will test the quality and motives of our deeds. In his mercy, he will not punish us for our deeds of wood, hay, and straw—he will merely incinerate them and remember them no more. He will, however, scoop up from the ashes of our wood, hay, and straw those molten clumps of gold, silver, and costly stones—i.e., the good deeds we paid no attention to. He’ll blow off all residue from the ashes and shape for us a crown of gold, silver, and gems. That crown will determine our reward for all of eternity.
Will the saints be judged for their deeds in this life. Absolutely! The Bible is clear on that. But it will be a judgment of reward where God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Grace and Peace!