One day very soon, you and I will finally meet our wonderful Lord and Savior face to face. This is a very sobering reality for me personally because while I know that I will be accepted as one who has put their complete faith in Christ’s blood for my salvation, I often wonder what He will say to me. Will I hear, “Well done”? Will He be pleased with my life? Will I be rewarded or will I be ashamed when I stand before Him?
The doctrine of eternal judgment is one of the six foundational/elementary doctrines of the Christian faith (see Hebrews 6:1-2) yet very few Christians understand this powerful truth. Yes, the Scriptures are very clear that not every Christian will be rewarded by Christ on that day! Are you really ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ?
In Romans 14:10 the Apostle Paul tells the Christians at Rome, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” He goes on to say in verse 12; “So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.”
There are three final judgments listed in Scripture. The first one is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, found in 2 Corinthians 5:10. This judgment occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation where every Christian will stand before Christ to receive their eternal reward. I will deal more about this later on.
The second judgment listed in the Scriptures is the Judgment of The Gentile Nations, found in Matthew 25:31-33. This judgment also occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation when Jesus will physically return to earth and separate the goat nations from the sheep nations. It is important to note that Christians and Jews will not be a part of this judgment.
The final judgment to take place is called The Great White Throne Judgment, found in the book of Revelation 20:11-15. This judgment takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ and is the judgment of all unsaved people who have ever lived throughout eternity. Amazingly, the Scriptures tell us that the unbeliever will be raised from the dead and stand before God in their physical bodies before they are cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. Thank God that by the grace of Jesus Christ we have been spared this terrible fate!
THE ETERNAL REWARD OF THE BELIEVER:
The Scriptures are very clear that salvation is a FREE GIFT that cannot be earned but that is received solely by faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9). However, there is another side to the eternal story that too many Christians have not paid attention to and that is what the Scriptures teach concerning ETERNAL REWARDS.
Yes, it is true that our salvation is based upon faith in Christ. However, our rewards are based upon our works for Christ. Here is a truth that you need to grasp. Jesus loves every Christian the same but He does not reward every Christian the same. Jesus clearly teaches this principle in such places as Matthew chapter 25 and in Luke chapter 19.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Paul deals with the issue of eternal rewards. He makes it very clear that it is possible to be saved and make it into heaven but not receive any rewards. Here the Scriptures teach that the Christian will stand before Jesus to be judged for their WORKS.
Now it is important that you understand what WORKS will be judged. Obviously our sin cannot be judged because God doesn’t even remember them (see Micah 7:18-19)! Our sin completely and eternally under the blood of Jesus! Instead, we will be judged for our obedience to His specific will for our life. Our rewards will be based upon how faithful we were to His call upon our life.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment of condemnation (“there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”– Romans 8:1) but a judgment for receiving eternal rewards. Heaven is NOT the eternal reward for the believer! As a matter of fact none of the Christians who have died have even received their reward yet! Rewards will not be handed out until the Judgment Seat of Christ, which will not occur until the end of the Great Tribulation.
I wonder what kind of rewards await you? Are you prepared for that day? Scriptures such as 1 John 2:28 reveal that there will be believers who will be ashamed when they stand before Jesus on this day. I hope and pray that you will not be one of them.
5 CROWNS FOR THE BELIEVER:
In Revelation 3:11 Jesus said to the church at Philadelphia, “Behold I come quickly: hold thou fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Here Jesus reveals that heaven is not all that awaits us after this life. There are CROWNS (rewards) that we can earn.
We know that the “crown” that He speaks about here refers to our rewards and not to our salvation because He says that man can take it away. In John 10:28 Jesus said regarding our salvation, “And I will give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, NEITHER SHALL ANY MAN PLUCK THEM OUT OF MY HAND.” No man can take our salvation, but we can lose our CROWN/eternal rewards.
A careful study of Scripture reveals that there are 5 crowns that a believer could earn. It is important to remember that these crowns are eternal rewards and do not pertain to our salvation, which is only received by faith.
#1 CROWN OF LIFE
James 1:12 declares, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (persecution, trials): for when he is tried, he shall receive the CROWN OF LIFE, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”
Some Bible teachers call this the Martyrs Crown. While those who die for their faith will definitely receive this crown I believe that the Scriptures teach that all those who endure persecution and trials for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded with the crown of life. I encourage you to read what Jesus said about this in Matthew 5:11 & 12.
#2 INCORRUPTIBLE CROWN
I call this the crown of self denial. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 the Apostle Paul tells us that if we run our race with self discipline, keeping the flesh under, we will be rewarded with this crown. I would like to note that the only way to keep the flesh under is through prayer AND fasting (see Matthew 26:41).
#3 CROWN OF REJOICING
This is called the soul winners crown. In 1 Thessalonians 1:19 Paul ask a question, “For what is our hope, or joy, or CROWN OF REJOICING? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
This crown is reserved only for those who win the lost. Daniel 12:3 tells us that in eternity you will be able to tell the difference between a Christian who won souls and one that didn’t because those who win souls will shine brighter than all other believers.
#4 CROWN OF GLORY
This crown has been called the “pastors crown” because it is given to those ministers who are faithful shepherds over the Lord’s flock. I believe that it is not available exclusively for pastors, but can be received by all those who Jesus has called to the five-fold ministry according to Ephesians 4:11.
This crown is discussed in 1 Peter 5:1-4. One thing that I would like to emphasize regarding this crown is the fact that one must FINISH their race and remain faithful to their calling all the way to the end in order to qualify to receive this crown. 2 John 1:8 admonishes us by saying, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a FULL REWARD,”
#5 CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 the Apostle Paul discusses the crown of righteousness. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,: Henceforth there is laid up for me a CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not me only, but unto all them that love His appearing.”
According to this portion of Scripture there are three requirements to earn this crown. Number one, you must fight a good fight of faith (see 1 Timothy 6:12). Number two, you must finish the race that God has set before you. A lot of people start but few finish! Lastly, you must keep a steadfast faith in Christ eminent return to earth.