What does your eternal future hold? For most Christians, the blessed hope is that once the rapture occurs or they depart from this world after death, they will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ. For those who trust in Him, this is true.
However, few Christians realize they will also face judgment before Jesus Christ. Not judgment for our sins, which were cleansed by Christ’s blood on the cross. But judgment for our works here on earth. Jesus will hold each of us accountable for the deeds performed in our earthly lives, and although our eternal destiny is never in question, the size and scope of our reward is.
Jesus Christ as the Ultimate Judge
The scriptures are filled with references to the ultimate judgment of our works, yet somehow many Christians have either failed to understand, or have chosen to ignore, what the bible says. Nevertheless, we will be judged. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Corinthians:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 (KJV)
Jesus confirms Paul’s assertion, revealing that each of us will be held accountable for every idle word we speak!
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36 (KJV)
and Jeremiah says the same:
“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10 (KJV)
Think of some of the terrible things we’ve said in our lives. In the years and months since, we hope others have forgotten them. But the Lord hasn’t! Even worse, try to remember some of the horrible things you’ve thought. Even our thoughts have condemned us! Who then can stand before Christ blameless? Only those who have washed themselves clean of sin from the blood of the cross:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:17-18 (KJV)
The fate of those who reject Christ is eternal separation from Him. But for those who embrace Him, we can face His judgment with fearless confidence:
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17 (KJV)
We can face Him with confidence because have lived our earthly lives like Jesus.
Judgment is Reserved for Christ
When Jesus walked among the crowds of Israel, he never attempted to build Himself up by knocking other people down. Instead, He attempted to lift others up and to encourage them to live godly lives. He knew that praise from God was a far greater reward than the often insincere and fleeting praise of humans. As such, He never looked down on others or proclaimed Himself superior to them. He humbled Himself, and although He had all the power of God, He expended His life to serve others – preaching the Gospel, healing those in need, washing His disciples’ feet, and giving His life on the cross in order to save all.
If we truly wish to live our lives like Christ, we should not be like the Pharisees who condemned others for small infractions of their own created laws and traditions. We should not be like the Pharisees who viewed themselves as morally superior to others. The arrogance they exhibited is the same arrogance that brought on the fall of Lucifer, and left to fester, that same arrogance can bring about the fall of any Christian.
Ultimate judgment of others belongs to Christ, so don’t make personal judgments of others in regard to God’s approval. For He alone knows all the facts. And the day will come when many who are looked down on today, who are rejected and ridiculed and labeled immoral by their own Christian brothers and sisters, will receive great reward from Jesus Christ. And many who are viewed as experts, saints, and holy men in this world will be given lowly positions in God’s Kingdom, while many who are viewed as outcasts, kooks, or poorly educated will be rewarded with the highest positions.
So listen to Paul when he tells us to reserve judgment for Christ:
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 (KJV)
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:10-12 (KJV)
Knowing this, we should encourage those around us, building them up with ample praise, careful rebuke, and all the respect deserving of those God has chosen to call His children. We should approach everyone with the same humility Christ exhibited, because we never know what role others will play in the eternal kingdom. The one you look down on today, might be your superior in heaven!
Not Everyone Will Have the Same Status in Heaven
This leads us to another myth which has taken hold of the Christian community – that everyone will enjoy equal standing in heaven. This is not true. Although God loves each of us without end, some will be given positions of higher status, authority, and responsibility than others. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus reveals this truth:
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19 (KJV)
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Matthew 19:30 (KJV)
If everyone is equal in heaven, then how can some be “great” while others are “least”? This is not a contradiction, but an indication of the true nature of heaven. Whether or not our earthly deeds are deserving of gain or loss is completely dependent upon what we do in our earthly lives. Heaven will simply be a place where true justice will reign.
Eternal Treasures in Heaven
Jesus, knowing the nature of heaven and the rewards that await us, discouraged us from becoming captives of this world and its fleeting pleasures. Instead, he encouraged us to focus on the accumulation of heavenly treasures:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV)
Our treasures in heaven are eternal. Why then do so many of us spend a lifetime hoarding earthly treasures – cars, houses, stocks, and bonds – when everyone of us knows they are only temporary in nature? We can’t take our earthly treasures to heaven, but we can take our heavenly rewards. And if any doubt persists as to how the treasures of heaven compare to the treasures of this world, listen to what Paul has to say on the subject:
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)
Despite this knowledge, millions aspire to live in earthly mansions, while Jesus continues to prepare for us our own heavenly mansions – eternal abodes that will never catch fire, flood, get termites, or experience any of the headaches of earthly dwellings:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 (KJV)
Why then, are so many of us concerned with where we live?
Christ Will Award Us with Crowns
Some of our heavenly treasure will take the form of rewards we receive from Jesus Christ.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (KJV)
For the Christian, belief in Jesus Christ is only a beginning. This is the foundation of our holy existence, and no one can lay a foundation other than Christ. Upon this foundation, we are expected to build a portfolio of works which benefit the Lord. Not one of these works is necessary for our salvation, but if we truly believe in Him, it will be our pleasure to perform such works. On the day of judgment, each work will be tested to see if it has eternal value. Only that which has everlasting value will result in reward.
So how do we know what works will have everlasting value? We must remember it is not our deed alone the Lord will judge, but the motive which caused us to perform the deed in the first place. The Lord, who knows the deepest secrets of our hearts and minds, will know the motives upon which our earthly lives were built. And the only motive which will result in a reward is one that desires glory for Jesus Christ.
Among the many rewards we’re eligible to receive, the bible specifically mentions five crowns:
The Crown of Victory
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 (KJV)
This crown is reserved for those who, through careful discipline, have overcome the desires of the flesh. Through means of the Holy Spirit, they have managed to gradually wane themselves from the power of the temptations of this world. Just as an athlete trains to perfect his performance in an athletic contest, Christians must train themselves to overcome the desires of the flesh.
If you want to win this crown, make sure to listen to and abide by the Holy Spirit within you. Train yourself so that your every thought, feeling, and action is measured and judged in accordance to God’s will for your life.
The Crown of Rejoicing
“Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” Philippians 4:1 (KJV)
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 (KJV)
This crown is reserved for those whose efforts have led to others becoming believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul states, this crown will be a source of pride and joy for all of eternity, represented not only in the form of a crown, but in the form of actual fellow Christians who will be a source of joy for the Lord for all of eternity.
If you want to win this crown, make sure to share the Gospel of Christ with others whenever God presents an opportunity.
The Crown of Righteousness
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 (KJV)
This crown is reserved for those who eagerly and patiently await the promised return of Jesus Christ. Throughout the scriptures, Jesus encourages us to be good and faithful servants, prepared for the master’s return. One day, He will come “like a thief in the night” – unexpectedly – and only those who have lived their lives in daily anticipation of this moment will be awarded this crown.
If you want to win this crown, make sure to live every day of your life with the constant expectation that Christ could return at a moment’s notice.
The Crown of Life
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12 (KJV)
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10 (KJV)
This crown is reserved for those who endure testing, temptation, persecution, suffering, and martyrdom for Jesus Christ. Believing in Christ is not a recipe for carefree living in a world which hates Him. For if the world mocked, ridiculed, and murdered Jesus Himself, then why should His followers expect to avoid suffering? We can not. Some will suffer worse than others, but everyone that remains faithful will receive the crown of life.
If you want to win this crown, make sure to love Jesus Christ more than you love your own life.
The Crown of Glory
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 (KJV)
This crown is reserved for those who are placed in a position of authority and responsibility in our earthly lives. With others looking to us for leadership by example, this is a task of enormous importance. Such people must exhibit love and humility, carefully watching over those with whom they have been entrusted. Their motives and hearts must be pure, focused on serving God rather than serving themselves. Those who lead others by example will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
If you want to win this crown, make sure to be a good example to others, especially those who look to you for guidance. And be a good and faithful steward of those God has entrusted to your care.
Our Rewards in Heaven Directly Correlate with Our Efforts on Earth
In addition to the previously mentioned crowns, Christ has a number of additional rewards waiting for those who love Him. But our ability to receive each reward is in direct correlation with how we handle the earthly opportunities he gives us. Jesus clearly illustrates this concept in Matthew 25 with the Parable of the Talents. In this story, each servant is entrusted with a certain number of talents, each according to his ability. In the end, each is rewarded by the master on the basis of how he has invested the talents. In the same way, each of us will be rewarded on the basis of how we have advanced the kingdom of heaven.
Yet another promise of reward from Jesus Christ appears in Matthew 19:
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Matthew 19:29 (KJV)
How many stock market investors would be ecstatic to experience just one 100-fold investment return in a lifetime? Yet the opportunity to receive an everlasting 100-fold return is available for anyone who invests in advancing the kingdom of heaven!
All who trust in Jesus Christ will experience eternity in His presence. In heaven, there will be no sorrow, death, crying, or pain. However, there is no guarantee that we will not experience regret. Despite our greatest efforts on His behalf, each of us will probably look back on our earthly lives and wish we had done more to advance the kingdom of heaven. We won’t look back out of jealousy or envy or pride, but with the simple wish we would have glorified His name to a greater degree. In heaven, we’ll have all of eternity to reflect on what we could have done for the Lord. As such, we should take advantage of the time we have left.
The things of this world should be of little value to Christians. We know that accumulation of wealth, career advancement, and earthly pleasures have no lasting value. Only a life which gives glory to Jesus Christ has lasting value. So don’t waste another moment!
Rearrange the priorities of your life, and look forward to His coming with great confidence. Live your life in accordance with the example set by Christ, and you will experience great reward for all of eternity. The time to do so is now, for we never know when our window of opportunity will close forever:
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Revelation 3:11 (KJV)
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Revelation 22:12-13 (KJV)
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Britt Gillette is the founder of BrittGillette.Com, a website examining the relationship between bible prophecy and emerging trends in technology. For more information or to sign up for his email alerts, please visit his site.