What are the rewards that each believer will receive in heaven? Should we do God's work here on earth with these in mind so that we can obtain many rewards in heaven one day?
Recently, an agnostic shared his point of view when he said that he would “‘improvise, adapt, and overcome’ if it turns out that there is an afterlife” (Arizona Daily Star, June 10, 2001). That is a view not shared by the vast majority of people in the world. Every major religion teaches that after we die something good or something bad will happen to us. We sense there is a judgment to come. Why? God put it in us. Some of us can suppress it, but inside we can sense there is coming a time of “review for what we did in this life.” That is even true for Christians. Listen to these words.
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (NASB) Rom. 14:10-12
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (NASB) 2 Cor. 5:10
The non-Christian’s review is a time of sentencing – a verdict that sends him or her to hell.
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (NASB) Matt. 25:46
But for the Christian, our review is a time for receiving rewards. What a difference! The first and best reward that God gives us is the reward of eternal life with Him in heaven. Christians do not need to fear going to hell. This reward is enough reason to seek to please Him.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. (NASB) Col. 3:23-24
There are other rewards that God gives us in addition to heaven. He gives rewards for the holy things we do.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. (NASB) 1 Cor. 3:11-15
We will receive rewards and not judgment for what we did.
Degrees of Reward
Scripture never tells us what the rewards are or how they are different. The prophet Daniel seems not only to tell us that God gives different rewards to different Christians but to say, that the rewards may be visually different.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (NASB) Daniel 12:2-3
Are the rewards how we will look in heaven – our appearance?
Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. (NASB) 2 John 8
The concept of rewards is difficult for all of us to understand. God tells us in Revelation that there will be no sadness in heaven (Rev. 22:3). So how can one person receive many rewards and another receive few and there not be sadness in heaven? The answer is, “This cannot happen since there will be no sin in heaven.” This means we do not really understand the concept of rewards.
Rewards are mentioned in scripture to motivate us to serve Him. Yet when we arrive in heaven, there will be no pride, honor, or self-glory for things we have done. There will be no competition. What we do know is that before we were forgiven we could only do bad works (Rom. 3:12). But after we believed in Jesus things changed and we could do good works (Eph. 2:10). God calls us to be a living sacrifice. To die to ourselves in serving Him.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (NASB) Rom. 12:1-3
He also asks us to not think highly of ourselves. Our rewards are not for self-glory, but appear to require self-sacrifice. So what is the purpose and benefit of the rewards? We do not really know, but we will find out when we receive them in heaven.