How shiny will your crown of life be?

Christ suffered God’s wrath to reconcile us to him. Gratitude is our response; greater striving to love him ever deeper with heart, soul, mind and strength as our “priceless treasure, source of purest pleasure.”

In theology it’s called sanctification. At the end of our sanctification road, God will judge each of us according to our works, then will assign us our place in his heavenly Kingdom, and on the New Earth after the Judgment, based on those works. Does it seem unfair that God doesn’t reward every Christ-believer the same gold star, so to speak? Some serve Christ more steadfastly and far longer than others; some endure torture; some give their lives for him. We get “paid” accordingly. Jesus confirms that in his parables of the minas/talents (Matt. 25/Luke 19) and the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20). Perhaps the Reformed tradition downplays this because the Reformers were so afraid of “works righteousness.” Our works can’t save us; but God judges and rewards us “according to what we have done” (Rev. 20:12).

At the Last Day “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). We will be forced to give account “for every careless word we utter” (Matt. 12:36). Paul warns the Corinthians that they must “build with care” on Christ our foundation, lest they barely get their reward: “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Paul also warns them they must leave behind lives of sin if they want to inherit the Kingdom of God at all: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” Then he lists sins that, if not repented, will keep us out of the Kingdom. Paul later reiterates, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 3:12-15).

Prepared by the Father

When the mother of the Zebedees asks Jesus that her sons be rewarded with seats at his right and left hand, he says she doesn’t know what she’s asking – not because that special honour won’t be given, but because “these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matt. 20:23). When Jesus tells the unrepentant towns that rejected him despite the miracles they witnessed that it will be more bearable for Tyre/Sidon and Sodom/Gomorrah at the Judgment than for them, he is acknowledging the converse: degrees of punishment for the ungodly. Among the last things Jesus himself says in the Scripture canon is this: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Rev. 22:12).

How should this truth affect how we live? In Making Sense of the Future, Wayne Grudem makes a good case that such mindfulness holds blessings for us, now and ever: Rather than making us competitive with one another, it would cause us to help and encourage one another that we all may increase our heavenly reward, for God has an infinite capacity to bring blessing to us all, and we are all members of one another. […]  We would more eagerly heed the admonition of the author of Hebrews, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . . ,  encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” . . . .  It would also make us long for [Christ’s] approval rather than for wealth or success. It would motivate us to work at building up the church on the one foundation, Jesus Christ.”

      There’s a full reward awaiting us in glory;
      ‘Tis for service given unto God’s dear Son;
      It will make the joys of heaven all the brighter;
      We’ll receive it when the victory is won.

      There’s a crown of life for humble service
      There’s a crown unfading given for our zeal;
      Crowns of joy and glory for the hosts
      And thro’ faith we all may have them if we will.

From an anonymous 19th c. Mennonite hymn


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One Comment

  1. The fact that the reward for converting and getting by with minimal effort is infinite pleasure in heaven, and that the reward for converting and full dedication to God is also infinite pleasure…
    Then the fact that the reward for graceful and loving service to God through the wrong church is infinite torment in hell, while the reward for genocide, torture, and shaming infants is also infinite hell… and that is is mathematically proven that infinite duration of any degree or intensity of torment is equal,
    These doctrines infinitely outmatch any concept of “reward” or “justice” on God’s part. Since God amplifies the sins of the unbeliever infinitely against himself so the unbeliever is given immortality in hell, and since God ignores the believer’s evils so long as they slip in that deathbed conversion before dying, there is no point whatsoever in doing any act of virtue that isn’t to/from maintaining one’s salvation.

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