Robert Jeffress - Tricked Or Treated?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Christians often wonder, isn't it unfair when a sinful reprobate who accepted Christ at the very end of his life is welcomed into heaven, just in the nick of time? Well, rest assured, heaven will not be the same for every believer. Obedience over a long period of time will be rewarded in heaven. My message is titled "Tricked or Treated"? On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Five seconds after you die, you will know exactly what you should have believed in and how you should have lived. You'll discover if you were tricked by the deceptions of Satan, or you'll discover if you're going to be treated by God for all eternity. Of course, five seconds after you've died, it will be too late. Your future will be fixed for all eternity. Even if you happen to be that small percentage of humanity who will actually be in heaven one day, you need to understand that heaven will not be the same for every Christian. There are going to be degrees of heaven. Our rewards in heaven in the next life will be determined by our faithfulness to Christ in this life, and it's that truth that Paul is going to expound upon in the passage we're going to look at briefly tonight.
If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Corinthians chapter three. 1 Corinthians chapter three. Tonight, we're going to look at the certainty of rewards in heaven, the basis for our rewards in heaven, and the consequences of rewards in heaven. Now, one truth you find throughout scripture is this. No one will be exempt from God's judgment in the end times. Every person, Christian and non-Christian, will face the judgment of God. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed unto every man once to die and then the judgment". It's not just non-Christians who face God's judgment. Christians will face God's judgment as well. There are two very different judgments in the end times. There is a judgment for non-Christians. We looked at it in revelation chapter 20. That judgment is called the Great White Throne judgment.
The subject for those that judgment will be unbelievers. The time of the judgment will be the end of the millennium. The basis for that judgment will be whether the person's name is found written in the lamb's book of life, and the consequence of that judgment will be an eternity of separation from God. The Bible says, "And if any man's name was not found written in the book, he was cast into the lake of fire, and tormented there day and night, forever and ever". That is the judgment for non-Christians, the Great White Throne judgment, but there is another judgment that awaits you and me and all who are Christians, and that is the judgment we are looking at tonight. We call it the Judgment Seat of Christ. We find it described in many places in scripture. One place is 2 Corinthians 5, verse 10, where Paul says, "For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each man may be recompensed, rewarded for his needs in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad".
This is a judgment for believers. When Paul talked about the judgment seat, the Corinthians understood exactly what he was talking about. You see, in Paul's day, there was what was called the bema, the judgment seat. It is a place where the governor or a judge would sit to oversee the Greek games, and at the end of the games, the winner of the game was brought before that judgment seat, and he was given the Stephanon, the laurel wreath, the victor's crown that was symbolic of winning the games. And of course, that crown, that victor's crown was symbolic of some very tangible benefits that would accrue to the person who won the game. He would experience an exemption from taxation. There would be a parade in his honor. A statue would be erected to him. He was the winner, pronounced the winner at the judgment seat.
Now, Paul says Christians will face a similar judgment, not for condemnation, but for commendation. The subjects of this judgment will be every believer who has ever lived. The time of the judgment will be sometime between the rapture and the second coming seven years later. It is the basis of that judgment seat and the consequences that we are going to look at tonight. Now, let's look, first of all, at the description of the judgment that awaits every Christian, and Paul expounds upon it beginning in verses 10 to 11. Paul, first of all, is speaking about the building of a church. Go back to verses six and seven for a moment of 1 Corinthians 3. We saw this last time. Paul was talking about the growth of the Corinthian church. He said, "Quit getting hung up on different pastors". He said, "I planted the church". Remember Paul was the founding pastor at Corinth. Apollos, the current pastor, "He watered, but God was causing the growth. So neither the one who plants or the one who waters is anything, but God is the one who causes the growth".
Now, Paul is using an agricultural example to describe the growth of the church. One plants, the other waters, but God causes the growth. Now he's going to move to an architectural analogy to talk about the growing of the church. Look at verse 10. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds upon it". Paul said, "When I founded this church, I laid the foundation, and the foundation was Jesus Chris and his word". We'll see that in verse 11. And now Apollo has come, and he is building on that foundation, and there'll be one that comes after him, and he needs to be careful that he builds upon the same foundation as Jesus Christ and his word. The only lasting foundation for a church is a commitment to Jesus Christ and his word.
Unfortunately, many churches today don't have that foundation. You look at what is the foundation for their church, the foundation for their church is tradition or allegiance to a particular denomination, or the prejudices of a few members in the church. All of those things are an unstable foundation for any church to be built upon. Now, Paul is going to extrapolate between the building of a church to the building of an individual life, beginning in verse 11. Just as the Corinthians were building a church, each of us is also building a life. We're in a building program in every one of our individual lives. Look at verse 11. "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is in Christ Jesus".
Notice how Paul's going to change from talking about the church to every man, each man. He's talking about our individual life. He says nobody can lay another foundation other than that which is laid in Christ Jesus. You see, every Christian has the same foundation if he's a true Christian. The foundation of his life is Jesus Christ. He is depending upon Jesus Christ for his salvation. He has committed himself to following the commands of Jesus Christ. That is the foundation of every believer. We share a common foundation. However, each one of us as Christians, having laid that foundation, decides what kind of life we're going to build on that foundation.
God gives every one of us a certain amount of time on this planet. He gives us certain financial resources, he gives us certain gifts and abilities, he gives us certain opportunities, and he says, "Now here's the assignment. With that money, with those gifts, with those opportunities, you have one assignment while you're here on earth. Go and make disciples. See how many people you can introduce to a saving faith in Christ, and help them grow in their faith to become faithful followers of mine". That is the assignment. What we build for God determines the kind of rewards we will receive. Have we spent our lives pursuing God's agenda or our agenda?
And that leads us, secondly, to the basis for our judgment. How will we be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ? First of all, the durability of our life. Look at verse 12. The durability of our life. "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw". Paul says there are two kind of building materials. There's gold and silver and precious stones. That represents a life that is durable, something that is valuable. And then the second kind of building material, there's wood, hay, and straw. That represents that which is cheap and that which is temporal. Now look at verse 13. Paul says, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, "Each man's work will become evident, for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire: and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work".
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, God is going to review your life to see how durable it was. Was your life invested in the eternal or the temporal? Let me be real specific here. A life that is squandered, that is spent on building a portfolio, that is built spending, or is spent building a career, a life that is spent on recreational pursuits, that is all wood, hay, and straw in the eyes of God. I'm not talking about evil things. I'm talking about temporal things, and the fire of God's judgment will reveal the kind of life that we have built. On the other hand, a life that is spent loving and serving God, a life that is spent winning as many people to Christ as possible, that is a life that will be judged to be gold, silver, and precious stones. I might point out something to you from 2 Corinthians 5:10.
When Paul says, "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one of us may be rewarded for what we've done in the body, whether it be good," your translation says, "Bad," but the Greek word is phaulos. It's not referring to moral bad. The word phaulos means worthless. That's the basis of our judgment. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, is our life valuable and durable, or is it cheap and temporal? But there's a second basis for our judgment, and that is the motives of our life. Not just the durability of our life, but the motives of our life. You see, why we do something is just as important to God as what we do, many times, and you see that in 1 Corinthians 4, verse five.
Paul says, "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness, and that he will disclose the motives of men's hearts: and then each man's praise will come to him from God". God is not only going to judge our actions, but he's going to judge the motives behind those actions. For example, if I preach a sermon in order to exalt Christ, that's gold. But if my motive in preaching the sermon is to exalt myself, that's wood. If I win somebody to Christ out of a genuine concern for their eternal wellbeing, that's silver. But if I witness to somebody in order to brag at prayer meeting about what I've done, no, that's hay.
If I give a gift to the Lord's work in order to see the Kingdom of God expanded, that's a precious stone in God's sight. But if I give in order to be applauded by other people, that's nothing but straw in God's sight. Proverbs 16, verse two says that, "The ways of a man are always clean in his own sight, but the Lord is the one who weighs the motives". Now, let me give you a little warning here. Sometimes people can use motives as a cop out for disobedience to God. They'll say, "Well, you know, if my heart's not really in it, why should I give my offering this week? Why should I go to church? Why should I witness? My heart's not really in it". Could I suggest to you that one of the best and purest motivations for obedience to God is the motivation of rewards in heaven. That's not a bad motivation. That's the best motivation there is, because when you work in order to earn rewards, what you're saying is, "I believe what God has said in his word. I believe that God is one day going to reward faithfulness".
Remember Hebrews 11, verse six? "He who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek after him". The motivation of rewards in heaven, even if you don't feel like obeying God, can be one of the greatest motivations for obedience to God. Now, we've talked about the certainty of this judgment. It really is going to happen. We've talked about the basis of this judgment. We're going to be judged by not only what we do, but why we do it. Let's look now at the consequences of rewards in heaven. First of all, let's look at the positive consequences. Verse 14, "If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward".
Now, the Bible often refers to rewards in the New Testament, describes them as crowns. What are those rewards we're going to receive? They are going to be very tangible rewards. Let me just mention three of them that I believe we're going to receive in heaven. First of all, the Bible says some Christians will receive special privileges in heaven. For example, 2 Peter 1, verse 11 talks about a special entrance into the Kingdom of God. You know, every time I read that, I think about going to Disney world. You know, you all pay, you pay a basic price to get into the magic kingdom, but there are certain levels of experience in the magic kingdom, too. I mean, everybody pays one price and everybody gets in, but you know, if you pay a little bit more, there's a special entrance into the magic kingdom you get to go through. Not only that, you get to go a little bit earlier than everybody else, and beat the crowds.
Now, there's some special privileges. You get to eat, you know, lunch with mickey and Minnie and all of their friends. You know, there are some special privileges. Disney world is not the same for everybody. Now, the Bible says heaven's not going to be the same for everybody. There are special privileges that are a lot better than lunch with mickey and Minnie that await us in heaven. Secondly, there's a special praise that awaits people who do well at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Matthew 25:11 says Jesus will have special words of commendation for those who succeed at that judgment. "Well done, good and faithful servant".
Thirdly, there'll be special positions of authority. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, "If we endure with him, we will also reign with him". Folks, I don't know what these rewards are. I don't begin to understand the ramifications, but what I do know is this. The New Testament says these rewards are going to be so magnificent, they are definitely worth working for and sacrificing for. Now, notice the negative consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Verse 15, "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss: but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire".
Here's the person who's done very little to advance the Kingdom of God. He's a Christian, yes, but his life has been centered totally on life in this world, his family, his career, his reputation, his enjoyment of life, and he stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ. God reviews everything that he's done, and it goes up in a puff of smoke. Notice what Paul says about this person. He affirms this person will be saved, "Yet so as through fire". Here's a picture of a person who makes it into heaven just barely. He escapes the flames of hell, but his clothes actually still stink of smoke. That's the idea here. He just barely makes it. If Paul were saying it today, he would say something like, he makes it by the skin of his teeth.
Now, some people say, "Well, that's enough. That's enough. Just as long as I make it to heaven, it'll be okay. Maybe I don't have the rewards, but so what? I've had the best of both worlds, so to speak. I got to live it up here on this earth. I got to do the things I wanted to do. I didn't sacrifice. I didn't deny myself. I enjoyed myself, and now I'm in heaven. Maybe it's not the best level of heaven. Maybe I'm not experiencing everything that Orville Rogers is experiencing in heaven up there, but you know, I had the best of both worlds. It's not that big of a deal". You know what? You better think again. I listened to one commentator, in fact, he likened the Judgment Seat of Christ to a high school graduation. This is what he said. "Those who achieved the most are rewarded with special honors, and while those who did not win the honors might have some remorse over not having worked harder, the overwhelming emotion is one of joy for having made it, and for what they did achieve".
Now, that explanation really appeals to me, but I don't think it's accurate. I think the remorse we're going to feel at the Judgment Seat of Christ is a lot more than not being named valedictorian at our high school graduation. You see, the reason I know that is because of what Paul says here. He says, "If any man's work is burned up, that man, that woman will suffer loss". If you're a Christian and you stand at that Judgment Seat of Christ and God determines that your life has been nothing but wood, hay, or straw, Paul says you are going to experience real, measurable loss. Perhaps I could illustrate it to you this way.
Let's suppose your insurance agent drops by your house or your office one day, and says, "You know, I've been looking at your policy. You are woefully underinsured. In fact, you're about $100.000 underinsured. If this house were to burn down, you'd have a $100.000 deficit to make up. You need to up your insurance. It's going to cost you another $1.000 a year in premiums".
You say, "Well, I'll think about it. I'll think about it". You never get around to upgrading your insurance policy. One night, you awaken to the smell of smoke in your house, and you suddenly realize that your house is on fire. You wake up your mate, you try to gather your children together, you grope through the darkness and the smoke, trying to find a way out. All the entrances are blocked by flames, and in a panic, you go into your bedroom, and you crash through one of the bedroom windows, and you crawl through the broken glass, and you pull your children through and your mate through, and you're standing on the front lawn, watching your house going up in flames.
Now, let me ask you, what is your emotion at that moment? There's probably mixed emotions, isn't it? Certainly there's a sense of gratitude and relief that you made it through the fire, that your life has been spared. There's no way to quench that kind of joy and gratitude, but at the very same time, don't you think there would be some remorse that you felt? Remorse in not having made that investment that would have saved you from this catastrophe.
Now, ladies and gentleman, the Bible says we're going to experience those same mixed emotions at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Grateful, certainly, that God has saved us from the flames of hell, that we're going to spend eternity with him, but for some, there will be sorrow. Some will experience great, measurable, palpable loss, as they realize what could have been theirs had they not only made the right investment. A friend of mine said it well. "To overdo the sorrow aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to turn heaven into hell, but to understate the sorrow aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to make faithfulness inconsequential". For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ that each one of us may be rewarded for what we've done in the body, whether it be good or worthless.