Robert Jeffress - Rewards In Heaven - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Many Christians assume that when we die, heaven will be exactly the same for every believer. Well, you might be surprised to learn that is not true. In fact, the Bible describes a type of judgment during which every Christian will be evaluated and hopefully rewarded for his or her good works on earth. And today I'm going to explain what we should be doing right now to receive rewards in the next life. My message is titled "Rewards in Heaven" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
My mentor, the late Howard Hendricks, used to tell the story about the downhill slalom racer who made it to the bottom of the ski course and he was greeted by his ski coach. His ski coach said I've got some good news and some bad news for you. The novice skier said, "Well, what's the good news"? The coach said, "Well the good news is you made it to the bottom of the hill in record time. In fact, you may have set a worlds record". The novice skier said, "Well, what's the bad news"? And the coach said, "The bad news is you missed every one of the flags and are therefore disqualified," to which the skier said, "Flags, what flags"?
An expert skier knows that the route he takes to get downhill is just as important as crossing the finish line. A good basketball player knows that even more important than making the goal, the basket, is making sure you're aiming toward the right basket. Yet, many Christians fail to understand a similar truth. While it's true that every genuine believer in Christ is going to cross the finish line and be welcomed into heaven, the fact is, some Christians are going to be surprised when their works are disqualified by the judge, and they end up forfeiting rewards. And the result of that forfeiture of rewards is going to be real loss, and eternal regret.
Wait a minute pastor, are you saying there's a possibility that I could make it to heaven, and actually experience loss and regret? Absolutely. And one of the greatest myths about eternity is that all Christians will experience the same heaven, and all non-Christians will experience the same hell, that's a myth. Such a belief is neither logical, nor more importantly, is it biblical. And we're going to see that truth in our passage today.
Today, as we continue our series on Bible prophesy, "Perfect Ending", why your eternal future matters today, we're going to talk about the truth of rewards in heaven. If you have your Bibles, turn to Acts 18, Acts 18. Now, in our study of Bible prophesy, remember last time we looked at the judgment that awaits all unbelievers. There's not one final judgment that encompasses both Christians and non-Christians. There is a judgment and it's this judgment for unbelievers. John says at that time death in hades gave up the dead which were in them, this is the second resurrection. There is a time in the future when all unbelievers will be raised for the purpose of judgment. The subjects of the judgment will be unbelievers, the basis of the judgment, remember we saw in Revelation 20, will be the works of unbelievers.
John said, "And I saw a book was open," that is the Lamb's Book of Life, Revelation 13:8, "And then I saw the books were open, the books that record the deeds of the unsaved. And the dead," that is the non-Christians, "Were judged according to the things written in the books, according to their deeds". Why are they judged by their works? Because listen to this, a non-Christian, by definition, is one who has rejected the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, he's the one who has said my works are good enough to merit eternal life. And so God says, "Fine, if you want to be judged by your works, we'll judge you according to your works". And the books will be opened, every man will be judged by his works at that judgment. The problem is, no man's works are good enough. Our judgment is based not on our relative righteousness, compared to other people, but by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. And according to that standard, we all fall woefully short.
The result of the Judgment Seat of Christ is this, John said, "If any man's name was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire". That lake of fire, where the dragon and the beast and the false prophet are. And we're going to talk next time in depth about what that lake of fire is. That is the Great White Throne judgment for unbelievers. But what about Christians? Do we ever have to be concerned about God's evaluation of our lives? Do my words, my thoughts, my actions, my motivations count at all, after I become a Christian? Does how I obey God in this life have any impact on the kind of future I enjoy? The question, the answer to all of those questions is yes, and that's what we're going to talk about today as we talk about the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Last June, we took a trip to the city of Corinth, and we visited the ancient ruins there, and you'll remember that Paul was in Corinth on his second missionary journey. And during the 18 months he was there, Paul experienced many people being saved and baptized. But remember, there were also a group of people who were unhappy with Paul, agitated by him, and so they trumped up some charges and they hauled him before the Roman proconsul of Corinth, Gallio. Look at Acts 18:12 and let's see what happened when that happened. You may say, "Well, what does this have to do with rewards in heaven"? You'll see in just a second.
"But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and they brought him before the judgment seat". Underline that in your Bible, the judgment seat. The Greek word there is bema. It literally means a raised platform. When we were in Corinth, we saw the raised platform, the bema that is being described here on which Gallio sat. It was a place of judgment, it's a place that the government official would sit and issue his edict. And so Paul, and I asked our group to imagine Paul standing before that judgment seat. We stood in the very spot, probably, where Paul stood as he faced Gallio at the judgment seat.
And I asked our group to imagine what it was like to be Paul, shackled in chains, standing before this judge, knowing that with one word, he could extinguish your life. Would you be tempted to back down, to waiver a little bit in your commitment to the Gospel, when facing death? Paul didn't waiver one bit. You know why he didn't waiver? Why he had not fear about standing before Gallio at the bema, the judgment seat? Because Paul understood that one day he was going to stand before another judge at another judgment seat. And this judge had the ability to not just to extinguish his physical life, but his soul. And that's why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 10, therefore we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent. That is whether with Christ or here on earth, we have as our ambition to be pleasing to him.
Why is our one goal to please God? Verse 10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat", the bema, "of Jesus Christ. That each one of us may be recompensed for what he has done in the body, whether it be good or whether it be bad", literally that word, fallon, means worthless. Notice what Paul says about this judgment seat. He doesn't say they must all appear before the judgment seat, Paul was writing to Christians, the Corinthians. He said, "We must all appear before this Judgment Seat of Christ that each one of us may be recompensed for our deeds, whether they are good or worthless". That is every one of us who is a Christian is going to stand before God and we're going to have our lives evaluated by God, our words, our thoughts, our actions, our motivations.
Now some people have difficulty with this idea of the Judgment Seat of Christ. But let me be very clear, this judgment, unlike the white throne judgment, is not a judgment of condemnation, it is a judgment of commendation and the evaluation of our lives. And there's a big difference. Let me try to illustrate that for you.
Some years ago I went to a very popular clinic here in town to have a physical. And it was a very complete physical. For hours they pinched and probed and prodded every part of my anatomy. But the worst part of that exam was a part of it, that was affectionately called the fat tank. Have any of you been in the fat tank before? What they do is they have you strip down, you're completely in nature's own, you get into this basket, they suspend you over a pool of water and they lowered me and submerged me in the water. Not to get baptized, but to get evaluated. And while I was under the water, they had a way of measuring my body fat. And then, if that were not humiliating enough, I got out of the basket, stood before the technician and he had this little torture device, is the best way I can describe it, and he pinched, grabbed different parts of my anatomy and measured the body fat again.
Finally, he told me to get dressed. I went in to sit down with the doctor and the doctor walks in. He sits down with you and he has a big notebook. And he opens up the notebook and he said, "First of all, Robert, I want to commend you on some things you're doing well". He said, "Those bran flakes every morning, that's great. Your exercise program, that's great. You did great on the treadmill test". He commended me. But then his smile turned to a frown, 'cause he opened the next page and he said, "Now, we've gotta get that cholesterol lowered. We've gotta shave a few percentage points of that body fat and we've gotta do something about all that coffee you're drinking".
Now what was his purpose in saying that? Was he condemning me? No, he was evaluating me, because he cared about me. The Bible says that one day we're going to stand before God and we're going to be evaluated. We're going to be commended for the good things that have happened in our life, but we're also going to be evaluated. And yet the fact is many Christians have a difficult time accepting that truth. They say, "Doesn't becoming a Christian mean that God has forgiven me of all of the bad things in my life? And when God forgives, doesn't he forget? How can he dredge these things up? And aren't my good works actually worthless before Christ"?
Now I promise I'm going to answer each of these questions in just a moment. But what I want to look at first is the reality, the certainty of this Judgment Seat of Christ. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 3. Probably no passage in the New Testament explains this judgment better than 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. I want you to notice, for example, in 1 Corinthians 3:13 what Paul says. He says 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. And then in 2 Corinthians 5:10 he says, for we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, whether they be good or worthless.
What I want you to see is the completeness of this judgment. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:13 it is for each man, that is for every Christian. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says it encompasses all of our works. You know, there's a lot of concern right now about the internet and the security of the internet. We've heard stories that yahoo and Google, somewhere, have a record of every internet site we've ever visited, every article we've ever read on the web, every email that we've ever sent, that puts some of you in an absolute panic to think about. That somewhere there is that record of all of your internet activity. But ladies and gentlemen, do you realize we know with an absolute certainty that God has a record of our every word, our every thought, our every action, our every motivation. And the Bible makes it clear that one day we're going to give an account for our lives, not for condemnation, but for commendation and evaluation.
And a lot of Christians, again, reject this idea because they have been erroneously taught that once we become a Christian, neither our sins nor our goods works make any difference to God. God doesn't care about our works once we become a Christian. But that's not true. I want to be very clear here that this Judgment Seat of Christ in no way invalidates God's forgiveness of our sins. Remember the illustration last week of the two books and what happens when God forgives us of our sins? He takes my sin and he wraps it around Jesus Christ and he takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ and he wraps it around me so that when God looks at me, he no longer sees my sin, but the righteousness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. And that is absolutely true. But that does not negate the truth of God's evaluation of our life.
Listen, when we become a Christian, we're exempted from God's future condemnation of our life, we are not exempted from God's evaluation of our life. The fact is, you can look all throughout the Bible and see instances where God evaluates the life of his own children, all of the time. And that evaluation results in consequences in this life and the life to come. For example, think about David, man after God's own heart. He was certainly a part of the family of faith. And yet what happened with his sin, after he sinned with Bathsheba? He suffered consequences, God evaluated his actions and he spent the rest of his life experiencing the results of a dead baby, a disloyal son, a divided kingdom. It's not that he lost his forgiveness from God, but God evaluated his life.
But now some of you Bible scholars say, "Well that was the Old Testament, that was before Christ, God doesn't do that anymore". Oh really? Turn over to the New Testament, to Acts 4 the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Look, there's no evidence that they weren't genuine believers in Christ, they were part of the church there, they were numbered among God's people. But because they lied to the Holy Spirit of God, God struck them dead. The fact is God evaluates the life of his own children with consequences in this life. And those consequences extend to the next life as well. I think it's important to make a distinction between works before we're a Christian, and works after we are a Christian.
You know, before we trust in Christ as our Savior, our works are only sufficient to condemn us, that's all that matters before God. Our works condemn us. But after we become a Christian, our works mean a great deal to God. Remember our passage in Ephesians 2:8-10? For by grace you have have been saved through faith. And that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. But then in verse 10 Paul says, "For we are his workmanship created in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we might walk in them". We are not saved by good works, but we have been saved for good works. Another way to say it is our works cannot secure our place in heaven, but they do secure our rank in heaven. How we behave, after we become a Christian, has a great impact on the kind of eternity we experience, the reality of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Notice here, though, in verses 11 to 13 of 1 Corinthians 3, Paul tells us about the basis for the Judgment Seat of Christ. Okay, if this judgment really is going to happen and it has eternal consequences, I want to know how God is going to judge me. What is the basis? We'll look at verses 11 to 13. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one that is laid, which is in Christ Jesus. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 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.
I want you to imagine a father who is a multi, multi billionaire. And he calls his two sons together. And he says, "You know I won't be here forever, and I'm making some important decisions about my estate and how I'm going to divide your inheritance, and so we're going to have a little contest and this is the way it's going to work to see who's really worthy to manage my money. I'm going to give each of you a 10 acre tract of land, and I'm going to give each of you a cheque for $10 million. And I'm going to pour a foundation", but over the next year, "I'm going to see which one of you can use that money and your creativity to build the most magnificent home imaginable. And at the end of the one year period, I'm going to judge each one of your homes, and whoever has the finest home, I'm going to award a double inheritance to".
Well, the first son takes the challenge seriously, he begins to work that evening. He enlists an architect, he begins to develop the plans, he hires a contractor, he comes up with the schedule to make sure everything is done on time, and at the end of the year, he has a home that rivals the Taj Mahal. It is a magnificent palace. But the second son is not that industrious. He has other things that is preoccupying his mind, he has family responsibilities, he has hobbies, he has a career to think of. And not only that, he has some immediate needs for that $10 million his dad gave him, his children's education, exotic vacations around the world, luxury automobiles. And so he takes the year and never once begins work on the project and he squanders the assets.
The night before the contest is over, he thinks, "You know, I better do something. Dad's coming by tomorrow". The only problem is, he's out of time and he's out of money. So all he can do, on that concrete slab foundation, is build a grass hut. All he can do. The next day the dad comes just as he promised to evaluate each son's actions. He goes around the first son's home, looks at this magnificent palace and says, "Congratulations, I'm going to award you twice your normal inheritance". And then he goes to see the second son's grass hut, doesn't take long to look at it, and he expresses great disappointment.
Now, does he kick him out of the family? No, the second son isn't kicked out of the family. But he forfeits his inheritance. Now, that is the illustration Paul's using in 1 Corinthians 3. He said, "When we become a Christian, we enter the family of God and nothing will change that". Romans 11:29 says for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. When we become a Christian, we are adopted into God's family. And we all are given the same foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ, that's 1 Corinthians 3:11. We all had the same foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ. But you and I decide what kind of life we're going to build on that foundation. What are we going to do with the time, the gifts, the resources that God has given to us?