Eternal Life is a Gift.
What is a reward? It is something that is received for work well done. We may also call it a prize. When an athlete competes in the games he does so for a prize. But eternal life is not a reward. It is not earned or merited. Bible makes this clear. It is the GIFT of God Rom 6.23. Titus 3.5. Salvation/eternal life is a gift. Gifts cannot be earned – only received. We receive God’s gift of eternal life by believing on His Son Jesus Christ who died for us so that this free gift of eternal life might be offered to all.
Rewards Gained for Christian Service
However, once we are saved, the Lord gives us the opportunity to gain rewards for our service. These rewards are not given for our success or polish and professionalism. It is our motives that the Lord Jesus Christ will judge in that day. 1 Cor. 4.5 and 1 Cor. 3.13-15.
When and where will this judgement take place and what kind of judgement is it?
The Judgement Seat of Christ Rom. 14.10c
Firstly, we should say that it is not a judgement of sin. The believer’s sin has already been judged once for all in Christ. For us, judgement is passed. Christ Himself bore the judgement of our sin. We can say Rom. 8.1. However, a day is coming when the Lord will judge His own people for the works that they have done in service to Him. This will happen when we appear before the judgement (or BEMA) seat of Christ. The BEMA seat was well known in Paul’s day as the place where the master of the Olympic games awarded the prizes to the competing athletes. When will this happen? It will be when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again for His own, He will come into the air and call His church up to meet Him.(1 Thess. 4. 16,17). It is generally accepted that it is at this time that He will give out rewards for faithful service an that this will take place in the air/clouds. Christ will display in front of the whole universe exactly how much He thinks of our service to Him.
What are the Rewards which will be available?
The Bible speaks of a number of crowns (or wreaths) that can be won. Whether they are literally crowns of some sort we do not know, but we doubt that they are. What are they?
The Crown of Life. Rev 2.10
This reward is for all those who have remained faithful to the Lord Jesus in spite of difficulties, trials or persecution. Jms 1.12. In these days we need to hold on to the faith and to the truth of the gospel. Col. 1.23; Heb. 12.1,2; Jude 3; Heb. 2.1. Will the Lord find us FAITHFUL? Will we be able to say with Paul 2 Tim. 4.7
The Crown of Righteousness 2 Tim 4.8
To those who have loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus. We love Him now although we do not see Him. 1 Pet. 1.8. And we long for the day when we shall see Him face to face, for then we shall be like Him 1 John 3.2. It is this hope that keeps us pure, and that enables us to endure and remain faithful in our Christian trials. Titus 2.11-13
The Crown of Rejoicing. 1 Thess. 2.19
This is the reward of the evangelist. Souls won to Christ by our ministry are so precious that they are regarded as being a reward in themselves – a crown. These are the “wages” that Christ speaks of in John 4.36. The reaper joins with the sower in his work, shares the same hope of harvest, and so rejoices with Him in the harvest. The harvest is Christ’s reward. Isa. 53.11 We are workers together with him. John 4.34.
But this is not only so for those that are called of God to be evangelists. We can all have a share in the work of soul winning by bearing witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in many different ways, and we can all share in the reward and joy of the harvest.
The Crown of Glory 1 Pet 5.4
This crown will be given to those that have faithfully looked after Christ’s sheep. They have tended them and fed them with the word of God. They have endeavoured to live out their lives as examples to the flock for Him. They will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Even a gold medal won at the Olympic Games will eventually wear out and fade away, but Paul tells us that the rewards which we receive from Christ will never pass away. 1 Cor. 9.25
Can a Crown be lost?
We may have already done much which is deserving of reward. But if we then neglect our duty, become slack in our service for the Lord or even drift away from holding on to the truth, then John warns us that we can forfeit our reward and that someone else who is more deserving may receive it instead. 2 John 8; Rev. 3.11.
There may only be a little time left. Some of us may have worked hard for the Lord for many years. There are those who are now unable because of age to do as much as they once did or as much as they would like to do. But God looks at the heart. He knows what you would still do for him if you could. All he asks is that we remain faithful and true to Him. We must HOLD FAST. STAND FIRM. We need to remain faithful in the little things. And when he comes we will receive a full reward.