Contrary to popular belief, heaven will not be equal for all. Heaven will not be a communistic dream where everyone receives the same, no matter what they did on this earth. I would like to examine a couple of Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of heaven. After that, we will take a look at what Paul teaches about the rewards that await us after this life is over.
If you will take a look with me at Paul’s writing to the church in Ephesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2)
As believers, we are not saved (rescued) from our sin nature by our good works. Our good works are like filthy rags when compared to God’s standard of correctness. Instead, we are saved by the work of Jesus Christ. It is by grace through faith. Grace means getting something that we do not deserve. Faith is taking God at His Word and bowing your knee to Him as the Ruler of your life. Good works follow salvation. They are not separate from salvation and good works are not bad. God’s plan is that we walk in those good works from the time of our salvation until our death or, the rapture takes place. What are those good works? I’m glad that you asked. Let’s take a look at what Jesus says that our good works are to be. They will determine the reward.
I. Jesus’ teachings on different rewards in heaven
I would like to take a look at the most famous sermon preached by our Lord, the “Sermon on the Mount”. If you are a follower of Christ, this sermon must be in your heart because it contains the clearest, practical teachings on what it means to be a follower of Christ.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5)
Christ explains that the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in during our lifetimes as believers is to keep the Word of God. As we apply the Word of God to our own lives, we are motivated and moved to teach the Word of God to others. If we do this, we will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, if you annul the Word of God, which means to separate yourself from the Word of God and teach others about God using something other than the Word of God, then you will be called least in the kingdom. The rewards are different depending on if you taught the Word of God to others or not. Both teach but one uses the Word of God while the other separates his teaching from the Word of God. This should strike fear into a lot of preachers and teachers in the modern church because there are many conferences, seminars, and sermons when the Word of God is not even opened. Are you a follower of Christ? Are you teaching others to follow God? Do you teach others your thoughts and ideas about God or, do you teach them to understand the Word of God for themselves, to study the Word of God for themselves? It could make the difference in being least or great in the kingdom of heaven.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Christ shares what the good works are that have been prepared by God for us to walk in. It goes along with Christ’s teaching about the importance of investing the Word of God in others. Christ wants us to remain in Him and for His Words to remain in us. God is glorified in Christ’s followers when the followers produce much fruit. That fruit is to remain and produce more fruit. In other words, when we invest the Word of God in people, they become disciples (followers) of Christ who remain in Christ and who have the Word of Christ remain in them. They invest the Word of God in others, to make more disciples (followers) of Christ.
This is capped off by the final command that Jesus gave to His disciples. It is found in Matthew 28:19-20:
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.”
We are to go and make disciples. In order to do that, we remain in Christ and His Words remain in us. We invest the Word of God in others, teaching them to remain in Christ, remain in the Word, and invest the Word in others.
The final piece that I would like to share from Christ is found in Matthew 13, the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus had the crowds following Him and His disciples were with Him. He began teaching and He shared the parable of the sower and the seed. At the end of the teaching, not one person understood what He taught. The crowds, for whatever reason, did not ask Jesus to explain. Jesus says that they did not understand, nor ask, so that the Prophet Isaiah could be fulfilled before their very eyes. The disciples came to Jesus afterwards and admitted that they had no clue what He was talking about. They asked for an explanation. Jesus interpreted the parable of the sower and the seed. Only the 4th soil produced fruit. Among the 4th soil, there were three different amounts of fruit produced. One produced 100 fold, the other 60 fold, and finally, the last one 30 fold. I believe that there is a direct connection between understanding the Word of God and the amount of fruit produced. The more understanding that you have, the more disciples you will make. The less you understand, the fewer disciples you will make. The better understanding you have of the Word, the more likely you are to invest the Word in the lives of others. The less understanding that you have of the Word, the less likely you are to invest the pure Word of God in others when you teach them about God. Are you deepening in your understanding of the Word of God every single day? What keeps you from spending time devouring God’s Word on a daily basis? Is that thing worth it?
Finally, Daniel also spoke of the good works that God has called us to walk in. He did it about 500 years before Christ’s preaching of the Sermon on the Mount. Read what he wrote:
3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12)
Daniel calls this process leading people to righteousness. Are you leading people to righteousness?
II. Paul’s teachings on different rewards in heaven
As we saw in the beginning of this article, Paul wrote about the fact that God has prepared good works for us to walk in upon our salvation. He writes on this same subject from a different perspective in I Corinthians 3. Paul, the wise master builder came to Corinth and laid the foundation of faith, Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Word of God. Others came behind Paul to build on that foundation. Paul warns that we as believers must be careful how we build. There are two types of materials mentioned by Paul. Things that burn when they pass through the fire and things that are refined when they pass through the fire. If you choose to build on the foundation of Christ with anything other than the Word of God, then all of your work will be burned up and you will enter heaven empty handed. If you choose to build on the foundation of Christ with the Word of God, when your works are tested by fire, they will remain. Some will have more rewards than others in heaven, according to Paul, who was taught directly by Jesus Christ, Himself, and whose teachings line up perfectly with Paul’s teachings.
Paul further echos Jesus’ teaching when he writes to the Thessalonian Christians.
For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.(I Thessalonians 2:19-20)
When we invest the Word of God in people and they begin to follow Christ, they are going to be with us in heaven. In fact, there are only two things on this earth that are going to be with us in heaven; people and the Word of God. That’s why Jesus teaches us to invest the Word of God in people. That is what Jesus had in mind when He taught, “store up treasure in heaven . . . “.
Are you living to store up treasure in heaven? Are you investing the Word of God in the lives of the people around you? Are you making disciples? Will your reward in heaven be great or will you be called least in the kingdom of heaven? May the Lord help us to live in such a way that we hear, “well done, good and faithful servant . . .”!