By Nathan Jones
Will good works done on earth receive heavenly rewards?
To answer that question, Dr. David Reagan and I on our television program Christ in Prophecy invited Glenn Meredith, senior pastor for 30 years of Brookhaven Church in McKinney, Texas. Pastor Meredith is a very gifted communicator who is able to present the depths of God's Word in simple to understand language. Last fall he presented a sermon about heavenly rewards that deeply impressed Dr. Reagan, and so he was invited to share some of what he's learned about this topic.
Not By Works
Dr. Reagan: Glenn, the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, and I mean it says that point blank. And yet, the Bible is full of passages about good works. I'm thinking of one in Titus, for example, that talks about how important good works are and how we're going to be judged on them and how we are going to be rewarded for them. How do you reconcile that?
Glenn Meredith: In Ephesians 2:8-9, it says very clearly without any mistake that we are saved by grace through faith, that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God and not of works lest any man should boast. And yet, the very next verse says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He has before ordained that we should walk in."
So, the Bible is very clear when it says that there's not any way in the world that we could ever work our way to heaven. We couldn't in a million years do enough good works to ever merit salvation from God. It is completely and totally by His grace. He gives us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. And, when through faith we receive Jesus into our life, however, Jesus comes in the person of the Holy Spirit and He gives us a brand new heart. He gives us a brand new nature. Jesus transforms us.
One of the things Jesus does is He gives us a desire to do something for Him — a desire to do good works. And so, we are saved by grace, but that same grace which saves us also transforms us into people who want to work for Him. The amazing thing is that God has all these works that He's planned for us in advance for us to do.
Motivated By Rewards
Glenn Meredith: An amazing thing about God is He is so good. Not only does He save us by grace, He motivates us by grace and He empowers us by grace. Then, an amazing thing Jesus says, "I'll reward you for all that I am doing through your life." That's an amazing thing to promise! One of these days we'll have great rewards in Heaven, if we follow the Lord.
Dr. Reagan: I've found in my experience that most Christians who have heard so much preaching about salvation by grace through faith that they are not even aware of the fact that one day we are going to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be judged of our works, not to determine our eternal destiny, but to determine degrees of reward.
I think most people are not aware that there's a day that's coming when we are going to be judged. We'll be judged, for example, on how we uses our gifts to advance the Kingdom of God.
Glenn Meredith: Right. I believe that is so true. I think that's one of the areas where the Devil has really just blinded the minds of believers. He's just lied to Christians. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to Christian people who have done something in the service of Jesus Christ and I say to them, "Boy, great is going to be your reward!" And they go into, "Oh, no, no, no, I won't be rewarded." It's almost as though if they think about a reward they're not going to get a reward. They almost think as though that somehow God doesn't want them to be motivated by a reward. And yet, just the opposite is true. Over and over again the Bible tells us that God is going to reward us. In fact, some of the last verses of the Bible Jesus says, "Behold, I'm coming quickly and my reward is with me." And so, God wants us also to be motivated by reward.
Dr. Reagan: I like to often put it this way — there's good news and there's bad news about judgment. The good news is that we are never going to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be judged of our works to determine our eternal destiny. That's never going to happen. But, we are going to stand before Him and be judged of our works to determine our degrees of reward.
Dr. Reagan: Along that line, the Bible even indicates that there may be some people who will receive no rewards whatsoever except eternal life. Isn't that right?
Glenn Meredith: That's exactly right. It's kind of a scary thing. In1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about how we'll be judged as if by fire. Our works will be judged, and those works that are deemed valuable to God are illustrated by gold, silver and precious stones. Those are the works which will last. Those who have those kinds of rewards will be rewarded. Then it says, others who have works characterized or illustrated by wood, hay and stubble; those are worthless to God in God's sight. It says, "It will be burned up, but they themselves will be saved yet as by fire."
Glenn Meredith: What a tragedy.
Dr. Reagan: It's reminiscent of the image of a guy being saved, but with his tail feathers burning up.
Glenn Meredith: Exactly right. He made it to the end, but that's it. No rewards. Too many Christians I think almost have the attitude that that's all they really care about. If they just make it to Heaven, they think they'll be fine with only that.
Nathan Jones: A lot of them are fearing the Judgment of the Just because they think that there's some kind of punishment involved. You hear from quite a lot of people who are under this impression that as they're going to Heaven they'll find there will be a giant movie screen. On it every sin from their life is projected up there for all to see. Well, that would certainly make Heaven pornographic! You can't have that sin display in Heaven.
When it comes to sin and salvation, Jesus' blood covered our sins. We are forgiven and no longer under judgment. When we go up there, we'll encounter just a judgment for the works we did. It's about how we responded to Jesus working through our lives. I find so many Christians don't know that.
Glenn Meredith: You're exactly right. I remember one time when I was a teenager an evangelist said that very thing. "There'll be a giant movie screen and everything you ever done will be put up there." Well, I'm telling you, I wasn't looking forward to that.
Nathan Jones: Not at all, I'd imagine.
Glenn Meredith: That made me not want to go. I thought, "How humiliating."
In the second part of this series on heavenly rewards, Pastor Glenn Meredith will explain the different crowns the believer in Jesus Christ can expect to receive.