I have a friend who does my taxes. It’s not that I’m not good with numbers, but with our Amazon business I need help figuring out my assets and my liabilities. In this study we’re thinking about our blessings, our spiritual assets, as it were. And I’m inspired to think about this list because of my unsaved friend Mike who doesn’t yet enjoy these blessings.
One of the blessings that I’ve heard very few Christians talk about is the blessing of future rewards. I don’t know if they think it “unspiritual” to talk about such things, but I’m pretty sure my unsaved friends don’t —
20. THEY DON’T HAVE THE BLESSING OF FUTURE REWARDS!
Our culture is a “what’s in it for me?” environment. Frequently people will only do things for others if there is some kind of payback or reward or financial incentive for any acts of kindness. The follower of Jesus might overreact to this attitude and minimize or overlook the clear biblical teaching of future rewards for faithful service.
Because my lost friend isn’t right with God, he has no reason to expect any rewards from God at the judgment. And that is sad. For the believer, there ought to be a healthy expectation of the Lord’s commendation when he or she stands before Him after this life.
Two biblical texts leap out to me when thinking about one’s good works and the possibility of future rewards. In Matthew 7 we read of those who did good things but did not know the Lord: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Entering the kingdom of heaven is based on a relationship with Christ — not on one’s good works.
However, we do have the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. We read as follows:
Several observations about this passage:
1. This parable is all-inclusive. We read that “all the nations will be gathered before him” (v. 32).
2. All of humanity is divided into two and only two groups: the sheep and the goats.
3. The sheep are commended by the Father for caring for the needs of others, even though the sheep weren’t aware that the good works they were doing were being done unto Christ (vv. 37-39).
4. The sheep are called “blessed by my Father” and are given the inheritance of the kingdom which has been prepared for them since the creation of the world (v. 34).
5. The goats are told by the King to depart from him, are cursed, and are banished into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41). Why? Because they did not do any of those good works (v. 45).
6. The parable is summarized with the somber words: “Then they [the goats] will go away to eternal punishment; but the righteous [the sheep] to eternal life” (v. 46).
So the Bible teaches that we don’t earn salvation by our good works. But our good works (after conversion) show our relationship with Christ.
There are many texts that talk about the believer’s receiving rewards for faithfulness, such as: Colossians 3:23-24; Romans 2:6; I Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; Matthew 25:21; James 1:12; Matthew 6:1-2, 20; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 22:12; I Timothy 6:17-19; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 16:27; Jeremiah 17:10; Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 11:18; Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:38; 2 Timothy 4:8; Mark 9:41; 2 John 1:8; etc. [Psalm 17:14 speaks of the wicked as: “those of this world whose reward is in this life.”]
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I don’t hesitate to talk about how I want to live in such a way that I can anticipate the Lord’s approval and rewards. I will pray for my friend to think about the final judgment and how he needs to be “in Christ” to receive any rewards. (to be continued)