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 4 (Video)

This is the fourth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the most significant event on God’s Prophetic Calendar – the Second Coming of Christ to earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, The music and video scene in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Secure Forever in Christ

When a person believes in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:16) he or she is secure forever in Him. Here are thirty-three reasons why this is true:

1. The Great Commitment. Matthew 28:20. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus Christ gives His disciples the Great Commission, which is to make disciples of all the nations. Along with this Great Commission, Jesus also gives His disciples the Great Commitment, “…and lo, I am with you always (lit. “the whole of every day”), even to the end of the age.” In Matthew, the phrase, “the end of the age,” refers to the church age (cf. Matt. 13:39, 40, 49). Since Christ is guaranteeing His presence with believers until He returns at the end of the age, it is impossible for believers to lose their salvation.

2. Always Family. John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 6:37; Galatians 3:26; I John 5:1. The moment a person believes in Christ, he becomes God’s child forever. He is born into God’s family and he cannot ever be born out of it. In John 6:37, Jesus declares that those who come to Him “will by no means be cast out.” In John’s Gospel “coming to Christ” is a metaphor for “believing” (John 6:35, 37). Just as an earthly father’s son will always be his son no matter what the son does, so too, a believer will always be God’s child because Christ will never cast him out of His family.

3. The Simple Look of Faith. John 3:14-15. Just as the afflicted Israelite could look in faith at the bronze serpent lifted up on the pole and “live” (Numbers 21:8-9), so too, the one who looks in faith to Christ who was “lifted up” on the cross will “live” eternally.

4. Secure from Perishing in Hell. John 3:15-16; 10:27-28. Faith alone in Christ alone secures the believer from ever perishing in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15). The moment an individual believes in Christ he has the assurance that he “shall never perish” (10:28).

5. The Eternal Gift. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; Romans 6:23. At the moment of faith in Christ, the believer can know that he or she possesses eternal life, “he who believes…has…” The gift of eternal life cannot be lost because that would be inconsistent with the nature (i.e. perpetual/eternal) of the gift. For if the gift can be lost, it would not be eternal, but temporal.

6. Permanent Thirst Quencher. John 4:10-14; 6:35; Revelation 22:17. Whoever drinks of the living water that Christ freely offers will “never thirst” again. The phrase “will never thirst” is highly emphatic in the Greek language (John 4:14a; 6:35b). The need which this water meets can never reoccur. Christ calls this “living water” eternal life in John 4:14b. Therefore, eternal life can never be lost because a believer can never thirst again for it.

7. Free from Judgment. John 5:24; Romans 8:33-34. When a person believes in Christ for eternal life, he or she possesses “eternal life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). For the believer, assurance is available at the moment of faith because Christ guarantees that there is no judgment. That is to say, there is no judgment to determine whether a believer goes to heaven or hell because the believer already has eternal life. He has passed from death to life already. When an individual trusts Christ, he is translated from the sphere of death (where a non-believer has nothing in him which is acceptable to God – John 3:18; Rom. 3:9-20; 8:8) to the sphere of life (where the believer is totally acceptable to God – John 5:24; Heb. 10:10, 14). In the sphere of life, God has no charge against the believer (Romans 8:33-34). The believer is justified (declared totally righteous) of all things on the basis of his faith (Romans 3:21-26; 4:5, 8; 8:33-34). Therefore, no one is able to threaten a believer’s eternal destiny!

8. No More Hunger. John 6:35, 48-51. Whoever eats of the Bread of life shall never hunger again. The need which this bread meets can never reoccur. Christ identifies Himself as the Bread of life in John 6:33, 35; 6:48, 51. “Eating” and “believing” are synonymous in John’s Gospel because both are the means for obtaining eternal life (John 6:47, 50-51, 58). Hence, believing in Christ satisfies an individual’s spiritual hunger forever. Therefore, a believer cannot ever lose eternal life because he can never hunger for it again.

9. Guaranteed Resurrection. John 6:37-40. Every believer in Jesus not only has eternal life, but will still belong to Christ when he or she is resurrected on “the last day.” 

10. Johannine Metaphors or Figures of Speech. The Gospel of John uses metaphors to describe the instantaneousness of saving faith and conversion: to receive (John 1:12); to be born (John 1:13; 3:3-8); to take a look (John 3:14-15); to ask for a gift (John 4:10); to take a drink (John 4:10-14); to be raised from the dead (John 5:25-29); to come (John 6:35, 37); to eat bread (John 6:50-51); to eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-54, 56-58); to follow, as in a sheep committing his safety and well-being to His Good Shepherd (John 10:1-5, 25-29); and to be bathed once for all (John 13:10). Conversion takes place at a point in time. It is not a process. Therefore, a believer can know he is secure forever at the moment of faith in Christ alone for eternal life.

11. The Secure Grip. John 10:27-29. The believer is securely held by both God the Son’s and God the Father’s hands and they will never let him go. Nor is anyone, including the believer, strong enough to escape God’s grip. So the believer’s eternal security is not based upon his or her grip upon God, but upon God’s forever grip upon him or her.

12. Guaranteed Destiny. John 11:25-26. Christ guarantees the eternal destiny of every person who believes in Him. He promises a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him.

13. The Eternal Comforter. John 14:16-17. Jesus promised that the “Comforter” (lit. “called to one’s side, called to one’s aid”), the Holy Spirit, would personally take up residence in the believer’s body “forever.” Therefore, there is never a time when a believer is without the God of the universe living in him or her.

14. Finished Work. John 19:30. Immediately prior to His death, Jesus referred to His finished work on the cross when He said “It is finished” (tetelestai). This verb is in the perfect tense, which denotes existing results to the present from a completed action. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present. Therefore, a believer’s salvation is just as complete and secure as the work upon which it rests.

15. The Promise of God. I John 2:25; 5:9-13. Believers can know they are saved forever because they have God’s promise of eternal life. Remember, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:17-18).

16. God’s Love. I John 4:9-10. God manifested His love toward us when He sent His Son so that we may possess eternal life through Him. This love was not a response to man’s love, but was God’s initiative. God’s Son became the “propitiation” (lit. “satisfaction”) for our sins. Therefore, eternal life cannot be lost by the believer because Christ has satisfied God’s holy nature forever by taking the punishment for our sins. Because of Jesus’ death, God’s holy character is free to pour out His love (His best) on those who believe in His Son.

17. The Irrevocable Gift. Romans 11:29. The gifts of God, including eternal life, are irrevocable, i.e. incapable of being recalled or taken back by the Giver.

18. It is Logical. Romans 5:8-10, 15, 17, 20; 8:32. God did the most for us when we were His enemies and will do much more for us as His beloved child.

19. The Inseparable Love of God. Romans 8:35-39. No one and nothing and can separate a believer from God’s love in Christ. Remember, “any other created thing” includes “you.”

20. Fruitless Believers Are Secure for Eternity. I Corinthians 3:11-15. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, a believer’s works will be tested by fire to determine what, if any, rewards the believer will receive (I Cor. 3:11-15; Romans 14:9-12; 2 Cor. 5:10; I John 4:17; Revelation 22:12). A believer whose works (“hay, wood, straw”) are all burned up does not lose his salvation from hell, “but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (I Cor. 3:15).

21. The Body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12-27. The Head of the body, Christ (Ephes. 1:22-23), cannot ever say to any member of His body (believer) He does not need him or her. He cannot reject His own body.

22. Unlimited Forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 2:13; 3:13; Hebrews 10:17-18. Christ’s death provides unlimited forgiveness for the believer. All sins we have ever done or will do were future looking from the cross – everything is forgiven.

23. Sealed Until Delivered. Ephesians 1:13-14. When an individual believes the truth of the gospel, he or she is “sealed” by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. There is no power greater than God who can break the seal (not even Satan or the believer himself). Something that is sealed by God is as secure as God’s promise, and in the case of the believer His promise is to keep the believer until he is safely and securely delivered in to the presence of God forever.

24. Seated with Christ. Ephesians 2:6. Believers are described as being made (by God) to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The aorist indicative of the verb sugkathizo, “to cause to sit down together,” portrays this event as taking place in past time. So from God’s viewpoint, believers are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Therefore, the certainty of a believer’s eternal destiny is underscored by the fact that they are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places.

25. Completed Salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9. The use of the perfect tense verb conveys existing results to the present from a completed action (“you have been saved”). Therefore, a believer’s salvation exists in a finished state which cannot be altered or taken away.

26. Citizens of Heaven. Philippians 3:20. The apostle Paul gives a positive reason why believers should follow his example of spiritual progress (3:12-17) and it is because their citizenship already exists in heaven. Since Philippi was a Roman colony, its residents were “citizens” of Rome who enjoyed the same rights and privileges as if they were living in Rome. So Paul is arguing that just as the believers were Roman citizens even though they were not living in Rome, so too, they were citizens of heaven even though they were living on earth. This citizenship is not future, but it already exists for the believer because the copula verb “is” (huparchei), stresses actual existence. The believer’s eternal destiny is so certain that their citizenship in heaven already exists.

27. Certainty of Future Not Based Upon Morality. I Thessalonians 5:9-11. Whether believers live watchfully (“we wake,” gregopeo is defined as moral watchfulness in 5:5-7) or unwatchfully (“we…sleep,” katheudo is defined as moral unwatchfulness in 5:5-7), their future with Christ is certain.

28. God’s Faithfulness. 2 Timothy 2:13. If we don’t believe in Christ any longer (“we are faithless”), God “remains faithful” to His promise of eternal life. He “cannot deny Himself” including believers who are members of His body.

29. Unfaithful Believers Are Still in God’s House. 2 Timothy 2:17-21. Although some believers’ faith may be overthrown by false teaching, their eternal destiny is not endangered, “the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His.’” God “knows” intimately all those who have a relationship with Him, including believers with faltering faith. For God’s house is composed of both faithful (“vessels of … honor”) and unfaithful believers (“vessels of … dishonor”).

30. Disobedient Believers Who Are Assured of Their Salvation. The apostles Peter and Thomas, who denied knowing the Lord or doubted His promise to rise from the dead (John 13:10-11). The Corinthians, who were factious, immoral and prone to drunkenness (I Cor. 1:2, 4-9; 6:11, 15, 19-20; 15:1-2, 11, 51-58). The Galatians, who were lapsing into the worst form of legalism (Galatians 1:2-5, 8-9; 3:1-5, 26-29; 4:1-9, 19; 5:1). The audience of James, who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous, and temperamental (James 1:1-2, 16-18; 2:1; 5:7-9).

31. Unconditional Acceptance. Hebrews 10:10, 14. Christ’s completed work on the cross makes believers unconditionally and completely acceptable (“perfect”) to God forever. To be “sanctified” means to be “set apart” from our guilt and shame forever. Note the perfect tenses (“have been sanctified,” in verse 10 and “has perfected” in verse 14).

32. A Permanent Helper. Hebrews 13:5-6. Believers are to be content with what they have because they will always possess the permanent assistance of the Lord: “I will never leave (lit. “abandon or desert”) you nor forsake (lit. “to leave helpless”) you.” Since the Lord will never turn His back on the needs of believers, it is impossible for them to be without God’s security forever. 

33. Eternal Names. Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23. When the world was created, God wrote the names of those who would receive eternal life in the Book of Life in anticipation of Christ’s death (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). Every believer’s eternal identity rests on the fact that his name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Revelation 3:5 affirms that an overcoming (victorious) believer will not have his name erased from the Book of Life. Since this phrase is a figure of speech called a litotes (i.e. a positive affirmation expressed by negating its opposite), John is saying that an overcoming believer’s eternal name is supremely secure. It is not logical to conclude that a non-overcoming believer will have his name erased from the Book of Life because a litotes is not making a negative affirmation, but rather a positive one. The overcoming Christian’s honored name will never be erased. For the overcoming Christian, his reward is anything but the loss of his eternal name. This relates to his or her eternal reward as seen before and after this part of the verse: “they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 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. 3:4b-5). Revelation 3:5 is not commenting on whether some name will or may be erased, but rather that certain names shall in no way be erased, but confessed or recognized for faithful service before God the Father and His angels. Revelation 3:5 is not talking about salvation, but rewards for discipleship. This can be seen in Revelation 3:4 as only the worthy ones will walk with the Lord in white, and so in 3:5 only those who are worthy will have their name publicly recognized before God the Father and His angels.

Conclusion: The security which God provides believers forever is intended to motivate them to faithfully live for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit until they go to be with Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20; 5:16-26; I John 4:19).