Since eternal life is free and can never be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord?

In John 10:28-29, we discovered that believers in Jesus are secure forever because eternal life is a gift which can never be lost. But someone may say, “Since eternal life is free through believing in Jesus and cannot be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord? What is to keep me from living like the devil since I know I will go to heaven after believing in Jesus? There are several incentives for living a godly life after believing in Jesus for the gift of eternal life. We will look at four of them:

1. GRATITUDE: When a sinner believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of eternal life, the most natural response is a heart full of thanksgiving.  The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). When you are convinced God loves you no matter what and that His arms of grace are always open for you no matter how badly you fail or fall, you will want to do what He tells you to do out of gratitude and because you know He wants the best for you (2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20).

For example, let’s say you are drowning in the ocean, and a man on the seashore hears your cries for help and swims out to save you from certain death. After he brings you safely back to shore, you ask him, “How can I ever thank you for saving me?” He replies, “You would have done the same thing for me,” and then he drives off on his motorcycle. Two weeks later you are driving your car down the highway and you notice the same man standing beside the road next to his motorcycle which has two flat tires. The man is frantically waving his hands to get you to stop, but you just wave at him and keep going. That, my friends, is no way to thank the man who saved you from drowning. Likewise, when we fail to live for the Lord, we are still saved, but that is no way to thank our Savior who saved us from an eternity burning in the lake of fire.

2. GOD’S DISCIPLINE: Just as an earthly father disciplines his wayward children, so God will discipline His disobedient child (Hebrews 12:5-11). It is possible for a believer to be more miserable living outside of God’s will than it would have been to remain a non-Christian. If a believer continues in sin long enough, God may even take his or her physical life (cf. I Corinthians 11:29-32). Knowing the price of sin in a Christian’s life ought to be a strong motivation for godly living. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

3. YOUR NEW IDENTITY: When a person believes or trusts in Christ for the gift of eternal life, God’s grace gives him a new identity or capacity to overcome sin and live for the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; I John 3:1-9). Romans 6:14-18 says, 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

When we become Christians, we are under a new authority. We are now under God’s grace, not the law. When we realize and submit to Christ’s rule over us, regardless of our feelings, our sinful flesh progressively loses its domination over us, and the grace of God is activated in our lives. We then obey because of our relationship with Jesus. Some immature Christians might think that living under grace means they can go on sinning. But Paul refutes this thinking. If you are living under grace, you will actually keep the law. And if you don’t keep the law, it only proves you’re not operating under the grace of God. Christians obey the standard, but the motivation isn’t the standard. The motivation is God’s grace. The more believers experience the grace of Jesus, the more he or she wants to live in way that is consistent with his or her new identity in Christ.

At this juncture, I believe it is important to talk about sanctification. Sanctification is being “set apart” or made holy to God. The Bible alludes to pre-conversion sanctification whereby the Lord sets apart the unbeliever for salvation and/or service (Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 7:14; Galatians 1:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2).

For the Christian, sanctification is realized in three ways. All believers are positionally sanctified when they first believe by virtue of being in Christ (I Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  That is, they are completely and permanently set apart from their sin and shame, and placed into the body of Christ. God totally accepts the believer at the moment of faith in Jesus regardless of how much or little they manifest His holiness.

Christians are personally or progressively sanctified as they allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives, and begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 14:25-33; John 8:31-32; 15:1-8; 17:17; Romans 6:12-23; 8:1-17; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 5:13-14; I Peter 1:15- 16; 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18).  Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining everlasting life, is the essential responsibility of each Christian to grow in the Christian life (Romans 6:12-23; Hebrews 5:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested in all believers. If a believer does not yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his experience, failure will result, evidenced by sinful acts or even prolonged disobedience (1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 10:1-13; Galatians 5:16-21).

Christians will be ultimately sanctified when they become completely conformed to the image of Christ in His presence (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; I John 3:2-3; Jude 24- 25).  There will be no more sin in their words, thoughts, actions, or motives.

For example, the apostle Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, says, “To those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (hagios).” (I Corinthians 1:2). Paul calls them “saints” which means, “set-apart ones” (I Corinthians 1:2). He was not referring to their behavior because they were acting very immature and disobedient (I Corinthians 1:11-6:20; 11:17-32; et al.). He was obviously talking about their identity or their position in Christ, which was sourced in their spiritual birth. Paul calls them “saints”(positional sanctification) in chapter 1 and then challenges them to act like the saints they really are (progressive sanctification) in the remaining chapters of the book.

When the Corinthians were committing sexual immorality with prostitutes he questions their knowledge about their new identity in Christ, not their salvation (I Corinthians 6:13-20). Paul describes believers’ future resurrection bodies which will be “raised in incorruption” and “put on incorruption” (ultimate sanctification) to encourage Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in the present (I Corinthians 15:42, 53). Because Christians will receive future resurrection bodies that no longer yield to sin, they are to abound in the work of the Lord now knowing He will reward them for their faithfulness in the future (I Corinthians 15:58; cf. 3:8-15; 9:24-27).

4. ETERNAL REWARDS AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST: The last book of the Bible (Revelation) provides an outline of future events (see picture) beginning with the current church age to the eternal state…

1. We are living in the Church Age which began at Pentecost (Acts2) and will end with the rapture or removal of the Church from the earth which could take place at any moment (John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4-5). Knowing that Christ could come for us at any moment motivates Christians to live faithfully for Him so they are prepared to face Him as their Judge.

2. Soon after the Church is taken in the Rapture, seven years of Tribulation begin on the earth.  This period begins when the Beast of Revelation makes a covenant with the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:26-27). This will be an awful time of death, disease, hunger, famine, earthquakes as never seen, warfare, entire seas turned to blood, darkness, scorching of the sun and multiple other judgments (Revelation 6-19). It will end when Jesus returns to earth with His Church and Christ will destroy His enemies (Revelation 17:12-14; Revelation 19:11-21). At that time, the Antichrist and False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) and the Devil will be bound for a 1000 years (Revelation 20:2-3).

3.  Then Jesus will reign as King over the entire earth for a thousand years from the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14; Revelation 20:4-6). This period is called the Millennium which means “one thousand.”

4. At the end of the Millennium God will destroy the entire creation (2 Peter 3:10). Every person who did not believe or trust in Christ alone for the gift of salvation will stand before God as He sits on the Great White Throne to judge each unbeliever according to their works to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Satan will receive his final judgment in the Lake of Fire at this time.

5.  Then a New Heaven (Universe) and New Earth are created which are perfect and beautiful (Revelation 21-22). This will be the eternal home of believers in Jesus.

Knowing the future should motivate Christians to live for what is eternal and not what is temporary. Why? Because there is another Judgment. During the Tribulation, in heaven, Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ. While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21).  This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12). Every Christian must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” things he has done since becoming a Christian. The word “bad” (kakon) means “worthless, wicked, and evil.”

Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient  motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Knowing that we can earn eternal rewards should motivate believers to live for Christ now. Christians can earn heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21) by giving a cup of cold water to God’s servant (Matthew 10:42), doing a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3- 4), praying in private (Matthew 6:6), and fasting in private (Matthew 6:17-18).

Christians who remain faithful in their service to Christ to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing special white garments (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

Christians can also earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.

Knowing we have eternal life which can never be lost does not give Christians a license to sin or live like the devil. God did not save us to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15). We have looked at several motivations to live for Jesus untill we go to be with Him in heaven.

I will close with some thoughts from Dave Breese in Living for Eternity said, The child of God is a creature of eternal destiny. For him no day is without consequence, and no fleeting moment can be called incidental or unimportant. The hours he spends and the decisions he makes have implications that carry on into eternity. What he does today will matter a thousand years from today.” (Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], pg. 145).

Why do some unbelievers remain with Jesus?

“Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ ” John 6:70

When Peter answered the Lord’s question about whether they also wanted to leave Him, he said, “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69). But Peter was wrong about one thing. He said, “We.” By that he meant the Twelve. But Jesus corrects him, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). Jesus is saying, “No, Peter, there is one here who has not come to know and believe I am the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In these last two verses Jesus exposes the one who “is a devil.”

Here we see the third group of disciples in this whole passage. This group is comprised of unbelievers who remain with Christ (John 6:70-71). Why do some unbelievers remain with Jesus?

A. BECAUSE JESUS SELECTED THEM (John 7:70a). Jesus admits that He chose Judas Iscariot as He did the others. “Did I not choose you, the twelve…?” (John 6:70a). Out of the hundreds who were following Him, Jesus chose one who would refuse to believe in Him and would eventually betray Him (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. 12:4; 13:2, 10-11, 21-30; 17:12; 18:2, 5). What an amazing picture of God’s grace. He desires all people to be saved – even those who will betray Him. The second reason some unbelievers remain with Jesus is…

B. BECAUSE THEY SERVE GOD’S PURPOSES (John 6:70b). Judas had every opportunity to know and serve Jesus like the other Eleven. Yet in the spirit of the “devil,” he actively opposed Christ. “…One of you is a devil.” (John 6:70b). Eventually Judas would betray Christ and hand Him over to His enemies (John 18:2-5; cf. Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50; Luke 22:1-6, 47-48). This was all a part of God’s plan and purpose for His Son (John 13:18-30; 17:12). Judas stayed with the group; he lived with them, ate and slept with them, performed miracles and preached the kingdom message with them, and yet was not one of them. He never was. The third reason why some unbelievers remain with Jesus is…

C. BECAUSE THEY SELFISHLY WANT TO BENEFIT FROM BEING WITH CHRIST (John 6:71). “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” (John 6:71). Outwardly Judas was a disciple. Judas was privileged to be in Jesus’ inner circle of friends. He was given a prominent position as treasurer and kept stealing from the money box (John 12:6). No doubt he felt important being associated with Christ who brought hope and healing to so many. Even Judas had deceived the eleven other disciples! They did not know that he was a fake, but Jesus knew. Inwardly, Judas was a traitor, an enemy opposed to all that God wants.

My friends, you and I live in glass houses! I cannot see into your heart and you cannot see into mine, but God sees us just as we are. What does He see when He looks at us? We may deceive each other, but we will never deceive God! He knows where we stand spiritually this morning. There has never been a better incentive for us to look carefully at our own hearts.

 We have looked at three groups this in this chapter. No doubt, most churches probably have representatives of each group. Some of you have been under the teaching of God’s Word, but you will drop out. You want entertainment, not expectations. You will not want to be bothered with studying and searching and understanding. You will not want to follow truth when once you see or hear it. You will rationalize it, ignore it, and eventually you will drop out. You will go off in search of a better deal, something more agreeable to what you want instead of what God wants. It happened in Jesus’s day and it will happen again.

But there are some of you who will never leave Jesus. You cannot quit. You have found too much, you have learned too much about life. You have been ministered to and fed by our Lord. You know the comfort of His presence. You can never give Him up.

But there may be others here who want to stay with Jesus for your own purposes. You want to appear to be a Christian, but you are not. You have never believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. Oh, you know the Bible and you sing songs of worship on Sunday mornings. But you do not know the Author of the Bible. You are only out for yourself. You want to use God for your own benefit.

Let’s come back to Jesus question, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Thousands withdrew from Jesus, but twelve stayed, one of whom was unsaved. Not everyone walks away from the Lord. Some people make a total commitment to Jesus Christ and to His will for their lives. I hope that is you. Not everyone walks away, what will you do?

Does your heart say to Jesus, “Lord, to whom can I go? I don’t always understand, I can’t always figure You out, I don’t always like what You do, but Lord, to whom can I go?” That is the heart He is looking for. If you have to say, “I belong to the first group, I’m afraid,” there is still hope. You can ask Him to teach you and open your eyes and lead you forward. You can start right now to obey what He tells you to do. But if your heart is like that of Judas, centered on yourself, all you can hear, I’m afraid, is the word of Jesus, “There is one who will betray Me.”

If your heart is like that of Judas, I believe there is still hope for you. It was not Judas’s betrayal of Jesus that made him unsaved. It was his unbelief toward Jesus that caused him not to be saved (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 17:12). Before Judas hung himself after his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts. 1:18), the Bible never says he believed in Jesus for everlasting life.  Therefore, I believe it is a strong argument for Judas being an unbeliever and confined to the Lake of Fire in the future.

But for the sake of illustration, let’s say Judas did believe in Christ for everlasting life before he betrayed the Lord by turning Him over to His enemies and then committed suicide by hanging himself. Would Judas be in heaven? Absolutely, because he would “have everlasting life” (John 3:16) which by definition cannot be lost because it has no end. Judas would be in heaven because no one can snatch him out of God the Son’s and God the Father’s hands (John 10:28-29). He would be in heaven because Christ died for all Judas’s sins including his betrayal and suicide (Colossians 2:13-14). But Judas would not have eternal rewards in heaven which require faithfulness to Christ to the end of one’s life (cf. I Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10, 25-27; 3:11-12).

On the other hand, let’s say Judas did not believe in Christ for everlasting and betrayed the Lord. But instead of hanging himself, he looked to Jesus in faith to forgive all his sins and give him everlasting (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). Would he be in heaven? Absolutely. And if he lived faithfully for Christ to the end of his life, he would receive eternal rewards in heaven (cf. I Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10, 25-27; 3:11-12).

Where does that leave you? If you are not sure you have everlasting life, then take Jesus at His Word when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It does not matter how you have lived in the past. Perhaps you have pretended to be a Christian. You may have betrayed Christ outwardly or inwardly, but Jesus still loves you and wants to save you from an eternity separated from Him. Simply come to Him in faith just as you are, and He will give you everlasting life and come to live inside of You forever! He can transform you from a fake into a faithful follower of His.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, like the crowd in the synagogue in Capernaum two thousand years ago who heard these wonderful words from Your lips, we, too, fall into one of these three groups. Lord, make us those who love You, who cluster around You, who cling to Your words, who are willing to search them out and understand them and obey them, and believe that they alone are the words that give life. Lord, some of us may be following You from a distance, uncertain and uncomfortable. Help us to give up control and surrender to Your love which never fails. Some of us may find ourselves to be like Judas. We have pretended to be a believing disciple. We know how to look, speak, and act like a Christian, but we do not know for sure that we have everlasting life. So Lord Jesus, we come to You now as broken sinners, trusting You alone to forgive our sins and give us everlasting life. Thank You for the immense grace you have shown to us. Help us to cling to You and Your unchanging Word regardless of how the world responds to You. We ask this in Your matchless name. Amen.

Frequently asked questions about eternal rewards

The Bible teaches that during the seven-year Tribulation period (Rev. 6-19), Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ in heaven (Rev. 4:1-4). While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21). This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12).

Every Christian must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” (kakos means worthless, wicked, and evil) things he has done since becoming a Christian. Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about eternal rewards and their corresponding answers:

Q: Won’t all believers be equally rewarded according to Matthew 20:1-16?

A: The point of Matthew 20:1-16 is that all Christians will be rewarded equally for faithful service to Christ. What this means is that the person who faithfully served Christ for the one day he was a Christian will be equally rewarded with someone who served Christ faithfully for eighty years. The amount of time you were a Christian before death or the Rapture does not limit the amount of rewards you will receive, assuming that you wholeheartedly served the Lord during that time. Other passages of Scripture indicate that there will be varying degrees of reward in eternity (Matt. 16:27; Luke 19:11-26; I Cor. 3:8; Rev. 22:12) because each believer will be “rewarded according to his works.” This means that rewards will vary according to varying degrees of good works among believers.

Q: Won’t varying degrees of reward promote jealousy among believers in Christ’s eternal kingdom?

A: Jealousy will not exist among believers in the Lord Jesus’ eternal kingdom because sin will not exist there. Glorified believers will never be jealous because they will never sin (I Cor. 15: 42-57; Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:1-3). Contentment will characterize their lives in eternity. Therefore, they will be satisfied with what the Lord awards them at the Judgment Seat of Christ. For example, will believers be jealous of the Lord Jesus who will rule over the entire world and possess the wealth of the universe? Will we be jealous of King David who will serve as Jesus’s right-hand man as the prince over the nation of Israel (Ezek. 34:23-24)? Will the apostles be jealous of David who will have more authority than them? Will the citizens of Israel be jealous of the Twelve apostles who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28-29)? No, because everyone in Christ’s eternal kingdom will be content. However, they may have regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ if they fail to rule with Christ or they rule to a lesser degree because they squandered the opportunities they were given to serve Christ more in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 22:11-13; 25:24-30; 2 Peter 1:5-11; I John 2:28).

Q: How can there be any sense of regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ since the Bible says there will be no more sorrow or pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4)?

A: The Judgment Seat of Christ will most likely take place during the Tribulation (Rev. 4-19) which is over a 1,000 years before the eternal state begins (Rev. 21-22). So the believer’s sense of regret and shame will be temporary and pass away by the start of the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:4).

Q: How long will rewards last?

A: Some Bible students think rewards will be given back to Jesus immediately after they are received. They base this on Revelation 4:10-11. Revelation 4:10-11 does not teach that believers will have to return their rewards back to Christ immediately after receiving them. Notice the word “whenever” in verse 9. The crown-casting in verse 10 is repeated again and again and again. Every time the living creatures say, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8b), the twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the throne. And according to Rev. 4:8b, the living creatures or angels “do not rest day or night…” Casting crowns is an ongoing event throughout eternity. Others insist that our rewards will only last as long as the Millennium, referring to Revelation 20:4-6 where faithful believers will rule for a 1,000 years with Christ. But nothing in this passage suggests that ruling with Christ and other rewards are limited to the Millennium. Instead, the emphasis of the New Testament is that rewards are “imperishable” (I Cor. 9:25) and never fade away (Matt. 6:19-21; I Peter 1:4). If our rewards lasted only a few seconds or even 1,000 years, they would be “perishable.”

The Book of Revelation makes it clear that Christ’s rewards will last beyond the Millennium. Revelation 21 speaks of kings ruling on the earth and honoring Jesus with their rewards (Rev. 21:24, 26). Revelation 22:14 says overcoming Christians will be rewarded with the right to the tree of life and special entrance into the New Jerusalem, both of which will not be on the earth until after the Millennium.

Q: Is it selfish to seek eternal rewards?

A: No, because Jesus commands us to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). Why? Because wherever our treasure happens to be, that’s where our hearts will be focused. And God wants our hearts to be focused on heaven and that is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. Certainly rewards play a significant role in this. It is actually selfish not to obey God’s command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a Christian cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal reward he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (James 2:1-13)!

Q: Do Revelation 2:11 and 3:5 speak of rewards or salvation?

A: The apostle John writes, “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11) and “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5). These two verses use a figure of speech called litotes which makes a positive affirmation by denying its opposite. For example, a mother may say to her children, “If you do your chores, you won’t regret it.” In other words, their reward will be the opposite of regret. Throughout Revelation 2-3, John has been addressing rewards to overcoming Christians. So Jesus is saying that the rewards of faithful Christians will be the opposite of being hurt by the second death or losing an eternal name! It will include wearing special white garments (Rev 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:14).

This does not mean if Christians do not overcome, they will be hurt by the second death or lose their eternal name. For example, if I said, “All mothers are women,” that does not mean that the opposite is true, that all women are mothers. There are women who are not mothers. Likewise, the opposite of our verse is not true. God will not allow the non-overcoming believer to be hurt by the second death or have his or her name blotted out from the Book of Life! Once a person has everlasting life by believing in Jesus, it can never be taken away or lost (cf. John 6:37-39; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Tim. 2:13; 1 John 5:12-13).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than people. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.

A Look into the Future – Part 8 (Video)

This is the eighth and final video in a series about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The video scenes in this video and most of the music are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Living life with an eternal perspective

“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” John 4:36

How many times do we go on a diet, lose some weight, and then put that weight right back on? It happens a lot, doesn’t it? But with God’s diet plan, the results are eternal, not temporal. Jesus said to His disciples, “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (John 4:36). Jesus says that “he who reaps receives wages” or rewards for his labor. The word “wages” (misthos) is commonly used for rewards in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 5:12; 10:41; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23, 35; I Corinthians 3:8, 14; 2 John 1:8; Revelation 22:12). The work of evangelism reaps eternal rewards regardless of whether you sow or reap.

The good seed of Jesus’ word had already brought forth fruit in the heart of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26). And now, the seed of her words to the villagers was about to bear even more fruit (John 4:28-30). This mass of people from Sychar were approaching Jesus and His disciples, ready to be harvested into God’s barn (John 4:30-41).

Some of us are involved in sowing the Word of God in a non-Christian’s heart. We pray for them and live the Christian life in front of them to prepare them to believe in Christ. But then another Christian comes along and does the reaping when they share the gospel with them and they believe in Christ alone for eternal life. Both are equally important. “Eternal life” in this verse refers to the spiritual harvest. Eternal life is like a big, spacious barn, where people who believe in Christ alone are gathered, like grain, for eternal preservation. The “fruit” refers to the new believers that have been won to Christ.

Part of our reward when we get to heaven is seeing the people there that we helped win to Christ (cf. I Thessalonians 2:19-20). Think about this. As you follow Christ as His disciple, you will have more opportunities to sow and reap for eternity. You may be a sower by praying for the unsaved, getting together with them for Starbuck’s coffee, inviting them to an evangelistic service, or giving financially to an evangelistic ministry. You may be a reaper by sharing the gospel with the lost and seeing them believe in Christ alone for salvation. Either way, when you get to heaven, those people who come to Christ, may come up to you in heaven and thank you for having a part in helping them come to faith in Christ.

A child may come up to you and say, thank you for praying for me to come to Children’s Church, because I came and heard the gospel and got saved. Someone else may thank you for working in the nursery while they sat in the worship center and heard the gospel without distraction. Others may thank you for the music or the food that motivated them to come and hear about Jesus. Everything that you do for the Lord here on earth can make a difference in someone’s life for eternity. And God will reward you for this.

From 1996-2000, there was a TV show called Early Edition. The main character, Gary Hobson, is startled to open his door one day to find a cat sitting on a newspaper, a newspaper that has a publishing date of the next day. It wasn’t today’s newspaper, it was tomorrow’s newspaper distributed today. Every single day, Gary Hobson would receive the newspaper for the next day. So the TV show was called Early Edition because he received tomorrow’s news today. The point of the show was Gary trying to save people from the tragedy that was going to happen tomorrow because he received news about it today. So every day he was rescuing people and changing the destinies of people because he had received the Early Edition.

God has given us the Early Edition in Bible Prophecy. He is telling us today about what is going to happen tomorrow, so we can change the destiny of our tomorrow and the tomorrows of other people today. The tragedy is for us to receive the Early Edition and keep it to ourselves. God has given us the Early Edition about the world we live in, so we can influence its direction by how we choose to live today. You cannot know someone’s house is going to burn down tomorrow and then keep silent about it today.

God has told us that people who do not believe in Jesus Christ will spend eternity burning in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). He has also told us that we will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for the things we did for Jesus in this life, including sowing and reaping in evangelism (John 4:36-38; cf. Matthew 16:27; Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelations 22:12). God wants us to have this eternal perspective because it will influence the decisions we make today.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for telling me what is going to happen in the future so I may change the destiny of my tomorrow and the tomorrows of other people today. I am so excited to know that You will reward me in the future for what I do for You today. The rewards I receive from You on earth will enable me to bring more honor and glory to You throughout eternity. Please show me how I may sow and reap the seed of Your Word in the lives of non-Christians today. Thank You for all the Christians who are also doing this today. Please give boldness, wisdom, and favor with others so Your gospel message may spread around this world and reap an incredible harvest before it is too late. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

What is the purpose of trials?

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved,  he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

James, the half-brother of Jesus, is writing to Jewish believers who “are scattered abroad” by persecution (1:1). He wants to encourage them to patiently endure “various trials” as a means of developing spiritual maturity (1:2-4). James informs his readers that a man is “blessed” (makarios) or fortunate when he “endures temptations.” The word “endures” (hypomenō) literally means “remaining under or bearing up under the load” of difficulties.  The word “temptation” (peirasmos) is the same word translated “trials” in verse 2. When Christians are facing trials they can also be enticed to sin (tempted) perhaps to escape the pressure or pain they feel when facing a difficulty.

Believers who successfully endure a trial without yielding to the temptation to sin out of “love” (agapaō) for the Lord, will be “approved” (dokimos) by Christ both now and at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1:12; cf. 2:12-13; 5:7-9). This word for “approved” denotes passing the necessary test and thus being approved or pleasing to the one doing the testing. All believers will stand before Christ at His Judgment Seat after the rapture of the Church to give an account of themselves before the Lord. Those who lived for Christ and endured trials and temptation to the end of their lives on earth will be approved by Jesus and “receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (1:12).

The word for “crown” (stephanos) refers to a circular garland awarded to the winner of an ancient athletic game like the Greek Olympics. Believers who faithfully endure trials out of love for the Lord will receive something much greater than a temporary reward. This “crown of life” refers to a greater capacity to enjoy life with Jesus both now and in the world to come forever.

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. To earn the crown of life from Jesus, we must faithfully endure trials and temptations for Him to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21). Like an athlete who visualizes himself winning a race, visualizing ourselves remaining faithful to Christ and receiving this reward from Him will actually create new neurologial pathways in our brain. And our brains respond the same way to mental rehearsing of a task and actually performing the task.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, by Your grace I commit to following You and focusing on the surpassing joy of being approved by You at the Judgment Seat where I can receive the crown of life which enables me to enjoy eternal life with You even more. Please help me to mentally visualize remaining faithful to You now and receiving the crown of life from You in the future. Oh how I long to hear You say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Thank You Lord Jesus for hearing my prayer. In Your name. Amen.

Will King David be in Heaven?

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

The writer of Chronicles records detailed genealogies from Adam to the family of King Saul in the first ten chapters of I Chronicles to encourage his original readers to remain faithful to God following their Babylonian captivity. Instead of being like King Saul whose family dynasty experienced a tragic end due to his disobedience and unfaithfulness to God (10:13-14a), the Chronicler wants his readership to be the opposite of King Saul. He is admonishing his readers to be “committed” to the Lord and “keep the word of the Lord” more like King “David, the son of Jesse” (10:14b-29:30).

When some of us read that God wants us to be more like King David, we may ask, “Why would God want us to be more like a man who committed adultery and murder (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1-27)!?! The Chronicler presents David as a strong model of a king by recording the crowning of David as king which reveals God’s choice of David (11:1-3); David’s capture of Jerusalem (11:4-9) and his desire to build a temple there (even though his son, Solomon, would eventually do that – 17:1-27) which shows his heart for God (13:1-14; 15:1-17:27; 22:1-29:30); David’s mighty men which revealed the impact of David’s character on others and the power he had (11:10-12:40; 14:8-17; 18:1-21:30); and the gathering of the multitudes behind his leadership which showed his influence on the nation (14:1-7, 17; 16:36; 18:14-17; 29:30).

Some Christians would go so far as to say that King David will not be in heaven because he committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. They think that such sins are unforgiveable. But what does the Bible say about this?

Even though David had committed adultery and murder, the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:7“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14). 

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So when a person in Old Testament or New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son ( Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe, she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness.(Romans 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!” 

Knowing that King David was justified and forgiven because of his faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, not only assures us that he will be in heaven, but it can also assure us that we will be in heaven if we have believed in Jesus for everlasting life no matter what we have done in this life before or after our faith in Christ (cf. John 6:35, 37-40; 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:13). 

But the Bible also tells us that even though King David was an adulterer and a murderer, God still assessed his life “as a man after My own heart” because he did the will of God (Acts 13:22). God did not let David’s moral failure blemish his entire life. For example, God showed patience toward evil King Abijam because of David’s godly life. We read, “4for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (I Kings 15:4-5). God can say this about David because even though he did fail miserably, he confessed that sin and continued to do God’s will. He trusted and obeyed the Lord as he faced the severe consequences of his own sin.

From God’s assessment of David we learn that if we do not give up, we cannot fail in God’s sight! David continued to trust and obey the Lord the remainder of his life after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. Was it easy? Not at all. But David did not give up on God. He was not perfect, but he was honest with God as seen in his writings in the Psalms. David is very honest about his sin (cf. Psalms 32; 51) and his feelings of abandonment (Psalm 6; 13; 22), anger (Psalms 4; 13; 38), anxiety (Psalm 37; 119), awe (Psalm 8), betrayal (Psalm 10), despair (Psalm 3; 9), dismay (Psalm 30), distress (Psalm 6), exaltation (Psalm 18), fear (Psalm 3; 55), guilt (Psalm 32), hate (Psalm 31),  heaviness (Psalm 32), hopelessness (Psalm 12),  joy (Psalm 4), peace (Psalm 37), sadness (Psalm 6), and thanksgiving (Psalm 26; 100). And as a result, God could say that David was a man after his own heart. 

From this study of Saul, David, and Solomon, we see three types of believers:

King Saul represents an immature or carnal believer (I Sam. 10:9; 28:19; cf. I Corinthians 1:10-16:17; James 1:21-5:20) whose persistent disobedience invites God’s severe discipline now (Hebrews 12:5-11) and the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15; Revelation 2:25-27). Since Saul committed suicide he will forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God to the end of one’s life (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27), but it is possible that he will receive some rewards that cannot be lost once earned (Matthew 6:19-21). 

King Solomon represents a believer (I Chronicles 28:6; 2 Peter 1:21) who starts out well but finishes poorly (I Kings 11), and will experience God’s discipline on earth and forfeit rewards that require faithfulness to God until the end of one’s life on earth (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27). It’s likely, however, that Solomon will have some rewards that cannot be lost once they are earned (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). 

King David represents a believer (Psalm 32; Romans 4:5-8) who imperfectly (2 Samuel 11) perseveres in a life of faithfulness to God to the end of his life, and therefore will be richly rewarded in heaven (cf. Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

There is no guarantee that a believer will persevere in good works till the end of his life on earth. Otherwise, why would God warn believers of the consequences of failure (I Chron. 10:13-14; cf. John 15:6; I Cor. 10:1-12; Hebrews 4:11-13; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; 12:5-11) and the loss of rewards in the future (Matt. 10:32-42; 22:1-14; 25:24-30; I Cor. 3:14-15; 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:12; I John 2:28) if all “true” believers finished well for God? It makes no sense to conclude this. 

The truth is God is good to those who refuse to give up (Lamentations 3:25-26; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). He will richly reward believers who remain faithful to Him till the end of their lives (Matthew 25:20-23; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:6, 12-14; 4:1-13; James 1:12; I Peter 1:3-12; 2 Peter 1:5-11; Revelation 2:10-11, 25-27; 3:5, 11-12, 21-22). 

Are good works for rewards or for salvation?

“And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’” Luke 19:17

As Jesus was drawing near to Jerusalem, He shared another parable with those who thought He would establish His Kingdom immediately when He arrived in Jerusalem. Christ’s parable here is intended to show them His kingdom arrival would be postponed (19:11). This parable was about a “nobleman” (Jesus Christ) who gave each of his ten servants (disciples) “ten minas” (mina = 3 months wages) to do business for their master while he goes away to a far country (19:12-13). “When he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading” (19:15).

The first servant reported that his “mina earned ten minas,” and he received praise and rulership “over ten cities” from his master (19:16-17). The second servant said his “mina earned five minas,” and his master said he would rule “over five cities” (19:18-19). The third servant reported that he had not earned anything with his master’s mina because his fear of his master kept him from doing so (19:20-21). His master rebuked him, calling him a “wicked servant,” and took away what had been given to this servant (19:22-24).

Zacchaeus, who was listening to this parable, would be encouraged to follow through with his promise to give half of his possessions to the poor and reimburse fourfold those he had defrauded (19:8). By telling this parable, Christ is promising Zacchaeus and all believers, a great reward in heaven if they remain faithful to Him now.

This parable clarifies that the coming of Jesus’ kingdom is postponed. Christ was going away, and He would return later to establish His kingdom (19:12-15). The New Testament informs us that believers who live between Pentecost and the Rapture will receive their rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; I Thess. 4:13-5:11; Rev. 4-5) during the Tribulation period on earth (Rev. 6-19). The judgment in view in this parable, involves Old Testament and Tribulation believers who will receive their rewards when Christ returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation period to start His thousand-year reign on earth (Dan. 12:1-3; Rev. 19:7-20:6). During His absence, Christ’s disciples (“servants”) are to invest what He has given them to expand His interests (19:13). Christ will reward them in proportion to what they produce with what He has given them. The fact that all the servants received “ten minas” (19:13) shows that all believers have equal opportunity to earn rewards for the glory of Jesus Christ.

This parable also shows that entrance into the kingdom does not depend upon our works. Only faith alone in Christ alone and His finished work on the cross is necessary to enter Christ’s kingdom (18:16-17; cf. John 3:14-15). But rewards in Christ’s kingdom depend upon our works (19:16-24; cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; Rev. 22:12). This distinction between the gift of salvation and rewards earned is very important. Many believers confuse conditions for salvation with conditions for rewards which undermines their assurance of salvation and their motivation to live for Christ now. Keeping these two things separate and distinct will lead to greater joy and peace for believers regarding their salvation, and to a greater longing to earn rewards for their coming King.