Session 1: The Blessings of Eternity
God promises lavish blessings for us in eternity, He wants us to connect how we live now in this present age to the impact this has for us in eternity. Gaining perspective on this relationship has a powerful effect on what we decided to give our affections to in this life. When we have an eternal perspective it causes us to live with focus instead of aimlessness; when our minds are full of eternity we pay attention to how we are spending our time and energies now. This series gives an overview of what is promised in the next age as well as provides us with the path that the Word of God defines as how we can attain those rewards.
Prominence of Eternal Rewards in the Scriptures:
The Bible is full of exhortations about the saints of God seeking after eternal things; in fact the subject is a common theme throughout the scripture. God has many (Ps. 62:12; Pr. 19:17, 25:22, 28:10; Da. 7:18, 22, 27, 12:13; Is. 32:1, 40:10, 49:4, 62:11; Je. 17:10, 32:19; Mt. 5:5, 12, 19, 46, 6:4, 6, 16-20, 10:41-42, 11:11-12, 16:27, 18:1-6, 19:21, 29, 20:16, 20-23, 26-28, 23:11, 25:13, 34-40; Mk. 9:33-37, 10:21, 30, 35-45; Lk. 1:14-19, 6:23, 32-36, 9:46-48, 22:24-30, 12:33, 14:11, 13-14, 16:10-12, 18:14, 22, 30, 19:17, 21:1-4, 22:30, 36-38; Jn. 13:12-17; Ro. 2:7-8, 8:17-18; 1Co. 2:6-7, 3:14, 4:5, 6:2-3, 9:17, 24, 15:58; Eph. 6:8; Php. 3:14; Co. 3:23-24; 1Ti. 4:8, 6:6; 2Ti. 2:12; Ja. 1:12, 2:5; He. 2:5, 6:10-12, 9:15, 10:35-36, 11:24-26, 35; 1Pe. 3:3-4, 5:4; 2Pe. 1:11; Re. 2:26-27, 3:21, 5:10, 22:5, 12). In this series we will look at many of these passages to see what kinds of blessings are promised and how we are to go about pursuing them.
Introduction to Eternal Things:
We have an eternity of life before. Far more than this current life of 80 years, we will actually be living for eternity to be lived to the fullest. That life is real, as real as our current life and even far more real; we must begin to understand this “life” we are talking about is actual. When the Bible talks about life it’s not speaking of some intangible far off unreality that can’t be related to or defined. To talk about a life that goes on forever is to speak about real time, real life with real activities, it includes the tangible realities of life.
Misconception About Eternal Life:
The misconception that we have somehow bought into is that upon our entrance into the Eternal Kingdom we all just adopt a carbon copy lifestyle where all of us do the exact same thing with nonstop worship and singing, where we continue on in this manner for the rest of eternity. We tell ourselves that it’s going to be good (because that’s what we’ve been taught), but we don’t really know why it’s good and secretly we think that our life is over (for this reason there is much out of place at our funerals). We don’t become praisebots with programmed responses limited to only one place to do only one thing; we have real lives with real choices and real things to do. This makes eternal life an entirely different thing.
What Exactly are Eternal Rewards:
Our rewards are what make life in the next age (and ages to come) more full. They are the things that we gain from a godly life in this age that will be waiting for us at the threshold of eternity when we cross over either at our death or at His coming. Many of these rewards are tangible, varying in the way they will impact us and diverse in the way that we interact with them. All of them however are permanent once received. Below I have listed out just a handful of categories of rewards the scriptures speak about.
Attributes pertaining to our resurrected body.
Clothing and equipment in the next age.
Details related to our eternal dwellings.
Roles in the eternal city.
Responsibilities on the Earth.
II. Getting a Vision for a Eternity:
There are drastically opposing world views even within the Church. Whether we know it or not our world view greatly impacts how we live and make decisions because we are constantly processing our circumstances through the lens of what we believe about life. The issue of what we think about the age to come can either have significant bearing on our lives or none at all depending on what we believe about it.
New Vision for Our Lives:
At the end of this series I don’t just want us to just know a bunch of Bible verses on eternal rewards I want for us to have a life vision for it and a strategy for how to attain them. That said, we need to identify a common but wrong perspective. Our default in eternity is a fraction of what it could be because of our sinful nature. If we never learn to tame that nature then we will miss out greatly in the life to come, or worse. We want to see how our sin relates to eternal rewards.
Freedom from Sin not Freedom to Sin:
A common approach to God in our culture is to try and retain our life while still claiming Christ. There are those that say that “we don’t need to work hard for God, Christ died for our freedom so we are under grace now.” In deed our freedom was bought with the cross, but that freedom was so that we no longer have to live in the bondage and death of our former way of life; which we formerly lived our lives all for ourselves. Those that promote their right to keep their life forget that we are clearly taught to crucify our old life and embrace a new one of service to Christ.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt. 10:37-39).
Loosing Our Life for Christ’s Purposes:
The other approach to the Kingdom of God is one of devotion to Christ and to His purposes instead of to ourselves. This life of self-denial, turning from our sin and offering up our whole lives to Him in bond service to Him is the one He wants for us to live and it is one that He promises to reward.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Ga. 2:20).”
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Co. 3-3-4).”
III. God’s Logic Behind Offering Eternal Rewards:
Since we can see at a glance that the concept of eternal blessings is a major part of our Bibles it is helpful to gain a snapshot of why God has included it.
Primary Motivational Tool:
Jesus saw something in making promises about eternity that would touch the human heart in a unique way. Knowing the power of this teaching He spoke on the subject of eternal rewards more than any other person in the Bible.
Perspective of the Son of God:
Christ came with an interesting perspective, having come from Heaven He knew all about eternity, knew about the life to come and about the realities of Heaven.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:3).”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Mt. 5:7).”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:10).”
Christ primary used eternity:
Though He had many tools at His disposal Christ used His teachings on eternal rewards to motivate His disciples toward holiness more than any other method. Christ utilized all the tools listed below but to a far lesser extent than His repeated motivation of eternal rewards.
Because God is Holy (Mt. 5:48)
To avoid Hell (Mt. 5:29)
Because it’s just (Lk. 18:7-8)
That men would praise God (Mt. 5:16)
That we may be forgiven (Mt. 6:14)
Keep us Focused in this Life:
By having in mind the relationship between eternity and how we live now has a powerful effect on what we give our attention to. A major benefit of living with an eternal perspective is that we live focused instead of aimless. We keep in mind how we are spending our time and energies now.
Call us Higher:
When we rightly perceive the promises of there being an eternal payoff for our actions and thoughts we are far more willing to put aside certain things in this life and pursue a higher calling. Through this process Christ effectively gets us to walk in a greater measure of holiness, to come up higher with Him in our pursuit.
Avenue to Experience God Forever:
God really likes us. It is His will that we would be able to experience Him at the deepest levels possible and in the greatest measures imaginable. He does not just give out access to these deep places arbitrarily however, He has an established system called living in righteousness and faithfulness (1Sa. 26:23). For those who follow this system there are eternal promises of depth of interaction and nearness to His throne.
Way to Make Sense of Our Difficulties:
With a perspective on eternal realities we can make sense of the many hardships that we are promised in this life. Long-term benefits motivate us to temporary inconveniences. If we understand that there is real reward on the other side of this life it grants strength for the journey, enabling us to endure, even embrace difficulties.
Enduring end time persecution.
Living a sacrificial lifestyle.
Persevering in prayer.
Studying and preparing for the last days.
Building the House of Prayer.
IV. The Lord Promises to Reward:
The concept of rewards is not man made or determined by man, the entirely of the concept all comes from the Lord. He is the one making promises to us about what He will give and about how He makes assessment.
The Lord Pays Meticulous Attention to Detail:
The rewards we will experience forever are proportionate to how we live in this life. The Lord watches our every move, even every unseen move of our hearts. Each will be awarded for His efforts.
He sees our faithfulness:
Faithfulness is our life in God over the long haul, this is something that God cherishes very close to His heart. He promises that is paying attention to our lives and the hidden areas of righteousness as well as the long standing areas of obedience in small things.
“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness (1Sa. 26:23).”
He knows every word we have spoken:
Believers and unbelievers alike are told that the Lord hears every word that we speak and that He is taking note.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Mt. 12:36).”
He sees our every action:
Not one of our actions escapes God’s sight. The Lord knows and sees all things on the Earth and so we can be confident that we will receive what is right.
“For 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 (2Co. 5:10).”
Blessings will Vary Greatly:
Our eternal blessings vary greatly because they are in accordance with how we lived in this life, the actual things we say and do have related rewards. There is a very real and measurable scale for the next age; there are those who will be great in the coming age and those who will not. In between is every imaginable variance all based off of how we lived in this life.
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done (Re. 22:12).”
The Lord Makes His Appeal to Us:
There is so much information in our Bible’s about this subject; it is as though the Lord is making a plea for us to live holy. Jesus longs for us to be great forever, not merely to do well in this life, and so He His primary motivation in the Word is to promise us eternal pleasures for faithfulness now.
“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:19).”
V. Confusion About Eternal Rewards:
The subject of eternal rewards is one that is not much talked about and so there is a good deal of confusion surrounding it. As with all wrong ideas, truth can help to sort things out so that the fog lifts and biblical concepts can be understood and applied rightly.
Eternal Salvation vs Eternal Rewards:
There is unnecessary confusion pertaining the to the issue of how eternal rewards relates to eternal salvation. Those who are redeemed become a new creation in Christ and part of the new order is the call to live a life of service to the Lord.
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (1Co. 5:15-17).”
Salvation the free gift:
Your salvation is a free gift attained through faith in Christ alone. Christ made a way to reconcile us to God through His blood on the cross. It is God’s kindness to draw our hearts to His that we may believe and be saved.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro. 6:23).”
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8)”
Rewards are earned:
All eternal rewards are worked for and these labors are not in vain. The rewards of eternity are not automatic and they will not be apportioned to everyone in the age to come nor will they be apportioned evenly to those whom they are given. These eternal blessings are worked for in this age. We have one life on earth to attain riches for the next, these riches are acquired through our works.
“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Mt. 6:4).”
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done (Mt. 16:27).”
I’m not Doing it for a Reward:
While the above statement sounds like wisdom it is contradictory to what the scriptures teach. Jesus is really wise and He knows the best way to motivate the human heart. He would never suggest something less than perfect, and certainly never promote a concept that was a wrong perspective. The promise of eternal blessings was Jesus; primary, though not the only, tool to motive His disciples into righteousness. He commanded us to build an eternal inheritance.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Mt. 6:20).”
Teaching People to Live Rigorous Lives is Legalism:
To teach people that they don’t need to work hard in this life for Christ is to rob them tremendously of powerful benefits in the age to come. We will all have to give an account not only of how we personally lived but also what we communicated to others about God and eternity (this is commonly called teaching). There will be many in the age to come who will be last because their spiritual leaders told them that they didn’t have to work hard at or spend themselves building the Kingdom of God in this life. Ideas have consequences; we need to be careful which ideas we embrace.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1Co. 15:58).”
VI. Minds Set on Eternal Realities:
The future is glorious. God has planned the most amazing aspects of life yet far into the future. The more that we think about such realities the more that we can understand them and the more we understand the more impact those truths have on our daily living.
Commanded to Meditate on Eternity:
Meditating on eternal things will transform us and prepare us for the life we will live for a much longer season than the mere 70 years of this life.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Co. 3:1-4).”
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2Co. 4:17-18).”
“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18).”
Knowing God’s Supreme Plan:
The Father desires to bring all things together into one. Paul called this the mystery of God’s will. The plan that God has had in mind from the beginning of time is to bring Heaven and Earth together into one glorious reality, no longer separate but together, overlapping and interacting.
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).”
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Co. 1:19-20).”
The Eternal City is Coming to Earth:
The fact that our permanent home is found in the New Jerusalem is a powerful promise. It is where we will forever live. Then the idea that the Eternal City is coming down to Earth to be combined with this present reality for ages to come is quite an awesome thought. Putting this all together is mind blowing.
“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother (Ga. 4:26).”
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Re. 21:2).”
“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Re. 21:9-10).”