To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
This verse continues the theme that was introduced in the previous verse: we will be rewarded for our actions. This is an important truth and must be explored and investigated. Yesterday we made it clear that in terms of going to heaven it is grace alone, but in terms of our reward in heaven it is according to what we have done. Romans 2.7 in the NIV says: To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Now as we have established: persistence in doing good does not give eternal life in the sense of whether we are saved or not, but this verse is talking about the amount of life we will have – it is talking about our reward in heaven.
This is vital to understand so let us look at a number of Scriptures that back this up. The first is this: 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 Cor. 5.10)
All Christians are going to have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, sometimes called the bema seat. Now, this is not the judgment of whether you go to heaven or hell, but the judgment of our works so Christ can determine with fairness and justice what reward we should have in heaven.
Your reward in heaven depends entirely on what you do on earth. In Revelation 22.12 Jesus says He is coming quickly with His reward: to give to everyone according to their work. Jesus is going to reward everyone – reward you – according to your works.
Let me say again because it is so true: you cannot get eternal life by your works. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, these two verses make it abundantly clear that you will be rewarded in heaven on the basis of your works.
Eternal life can be used in Scripture to mean the rewards we have for service on earth. Look at Mark 10.29-30:
So Jesus answered them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or land, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
The more you give and invest your life into God’s kingdom on earth means the more reward you have in heaven (also see 1 Cor. 3.8).
Now one of the ways rewards are talked about in the New Testament is as crowns. The New Testament talks about 5 crowns that are given to people for 5 different tasks. Let us look at these 5 crowns and ensure that we are working as hard as we can to achieve maximum reward in heaven.
Crown 1: The Crown of Righteousness
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
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 Tim. 4.7-8)
This is the crown of righteousness – given to people who love the appearing of the Lord and finish their course. Some Christians get weary of doing good, tired of helping others, and end up letting their walk with God and their destiny and calling fall by the wayside. They will still get into heaven, but they will not receive the crown of righteousness.
That is not what I expect of you – I expect you to continue to do all you can to serve God, I don’t expect you to have a moral failure half way through your ministry. I am praying for everyone reading this to have the wisdom to choose God and choose life and be finishers and not just starters and receive a crown of righteousness from heaven.
Crown 2: The Crown Incorruptible
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 Cor. 9.25)
This crown is for people who strive for the mastery. In this passage, Paul is comparing being a Christian to being an athlete – only the most focussed athletes can win a prize. Paul is saying treat your destiny and your calling as a Christian in the same way an athlete treats a race: everything else must be sub-ordinate to the race. If a TV programme is in the way of the race, stop watching it. If a relationship is in the way of winning the race, end it. If an attitude is in the way, change it now.
This crown is for people who seek to live for God and fulfill their destiny with all their heart.
Crown 3: The Crown of Life
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. (Rev. 2.10)
This crown is for people who endure under testing and persecution. If you maintani your walk with Christ, your integrity, your love for others and your spiritual zeal when people attack you, call you names, persecute you then you will in heaven receive the crown of life. Some commentators think this crown is only for people who actually become martyrs for Christ, but I believe that it is for anyone who is faithful unto death – anyone who is faithful no matter the consequences whether they throw you into prison, try you, tribulate you or martyr you.
Crown 4: The Crown of Rejoicing
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? (1 Thess 2.19)
This crown is lovely. Paul says what is our crown of rejoicing when Christ comes, and the answer to his question is the Thessalonian church. Your crown of rejoicing reward in heaven is the people that you have led to the Lord or helped come to the Lord. When you get to heaven, all of those people are going to make you so happy, and in addition to the sheer joy of those people being in heaven, you will receive a reward from Christ as He is more pleased than you are that the people are there!
Crown 5: The Crown of Glory
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 Pet 5.2-4)
This crown is for feeding the flock of God out of pure motives – not for money or because you feel guilty or forced – but because you love the church of God. Every time you teach another Christian, every time you show another Christian how to develop in their walk with God you are adding to the size of your crown of glory.
When Jesus returns He is coming with His rewards. He is not coming to blast Christians and find out what they have done wrong – He is coming to find out what we have done right and give us rewards for those things. Use your time wisely, it is short. Ensure that you are living right, witnessing to the lost, building up and teaching the church and run to win.
You could be in for some major rewards in heaven!