Normally people will not spend time and effort on things that are not worth it to them. Why would an athlete impose difficult regimentations on themselves if they did not see it all as important? Why would a father rise early and work hard all day to take care of his family if he did not see that as something that had powerful consequences?
One day Peter observed that the apostles had given up everything to follow Jesus, and he asked Jesus what they would get out of it (Matt. 19:27). The attitude may not have been the best, but the question was good. And Jesus did not rebuke Peter for the question (though He did address the attitude later in a parable).
Years later, Peter would speak of these matters. He spoke of an “abundant entrance” into the kingdom of Christ that would come to those who lived well for Christ (2 Peter 1:5-11). In these verses, Peter declares that we are to add seven virtues to our free salvation. He states that believers are to apply “all diligence” (1:5, 10) to make sure that these virtues are both present and are abundantly growing in our lives. He reveals that if we do this then two things will be true. First, our present lives will be useful and fruitful (1:8) as well as avoiding some very negative things in our lives (1:8-10). And second, this diligence will produce future great reward. Entrance into the kingdom of Messiah is by faith, but an “abundant entrance” comes from a life of faithfulness. The abundant entrance pictures the victorious Olympic athlete triumphantly returning to his home city where he might be honored uniquely. He would not come through the usual gate of the city but an entrance would be created in the wall just for him. He would enter through this special gate because of his great success. Using this imagery, Peter makes it clear that those diligent believers will someday be honored in a special way by Christ at His judgment seat.
This study will look at some specifics of the believer’s payday and will try and answer the question: “just what are those rewards that will be given to faithful believers?” Now we need to acknowledge that no matter how hard we try to describe accurately the rewards that will be given, we will undoubtedly not do justice to that which our generous, creative God will give. Certainly, Paul’s words found in 1 Corinthians 2:9 about future glory apply here.
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.
Our brief investigation will look at four areas of rewards that the New Testament speaks of regarding our rewarding.
#1 – The Commendation of the King
Most every believer wants to hear King Jesus say to them, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17). Of all the rewards, this is the most significant of all. We can hardly imagine what it would be like to have the Lord of glory say this to a believer. To have the commendation of the King of kings will make any sacrifice made or any suffering endured to fade away to nothingness. The pleasure of the King will make it all worth it. We should remember, however, that this will not be what is heard by every believer. The three servants in Luke 19:11-27 reveals an important reality. It is only the first one who receives this praise from the King. The second servant receives no word at all and the third servant receives the depressing word “you worthless slave.”
#2 – A Special Relationship with the King
When Jesus came the first time, it is quite apparent in the gospels that He some people were closer to Him than others. Some disciples He did not reveal Himself to in any significant way (John 2:23-25), while others such as the Twelve were particularly close to Him. Even among the Twelve, it appears that three were closer than the rest and were given special opportunities. So, it should not be too surprising that at His second coming when He sets up His kingdom that there will be some who are closer than others.
Faithful servants are invited to enter “His joy” (Matt. 25:21, 23). While we cannot detail this, it is clearly an invitation into a relationship because they were faithful in this life to the Master. Also, Hebrews lets us know that a believer who faithfully endures will be a “companion” of the king (Heb. 3:14). When we look carefully at the verse in Hebrews, we see that there is a condition for one being a companion or “partaker”. The correct translation is to be a partaker “of Christ” (NASB) not a partaker “in Christ” (NIV). The NIV suggests that the verse is focusing on our position in Christ and this has spawned some interesting interpretations. But “hanging in there” is the condition for being a partaker. A partaker (Gr. metachos) refers to someone who is a sharer or companion of another and is habitually in the company of that individual. Clearly, this is speaking of a close relationship that some but not all will have. We can only imagine what this will look like in the wonderful kingdom of Jesus the Messiah.
#3 – Significant Responsibilities in the Kingdom of Messiah
In the creation account found in Genesis 1 and 2, it was God’s original plan to have Adam and Eve rule (along with Him, of course) the planet. This was mankind’s uniquely wonderful position. This privilege was lost that fateful day when the two chose to disobey God. Rulership of the planet was taken by Satan. And so, one of the key future matters yet to be settled is the taking back of the planet. This is why there is such an emphasis on Jesus, the son of man, coming to defeat Satan and to rule. Psalm 2:6-8 summarizes it wonderfully.
But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, Thou art My son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
And to that, Daniel 7:13-14 adds the following.
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him (the son of man) was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion was an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
It will be this Man, from the line of David, that will come and rule. This coming King offers to faithful believers the opportunity to rule with Him. Those believers that do will experience that unique role originally given to Adam and Eve. Paul states that “if we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12). Once again it is impossible for us to know exactly how this will work out in the coming kingdom. But what is clear is that faithful believers will rule under King Jesus. Remember that Jesus specifically promised the Twelve that because they had left all to follow Him that they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel when He returned (Matt. 19:28)
#4 – The Crowns that will be Given
Familiar to most believers is the idea of “crowns” being given. The crown (Gr. stephanos) was used of the wreath that was used to honor individuals in ancient times. It is different from the crown of a king. The crowns most likely represent the kinds of things that will merit honor at the judgment seat. It is also likely that the four specifically mentioned in the New Testament are not a complete listing.
- THE CROWN OF LIFE – James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
This crown is given to all those who faithfully endure the tests, trials and persecutions experienced in this life.
- THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS – 2 Timothy 4:8
Paul said that because he had faithfully served Christ that this crown would be his. But he also noted that anyone who “loves His appearing” will receive it as well. The Lord will definitely honor those who honor Him and have a desire to be with Him.
- THE CROWN OF GLORY – 1 Peter 5:4
This crown is given to those elders who have faithfully led Christ’s church. It is evident that leading a local church is not an easy task and the Lord acknowledges that with a special crown.
- THE CROWN OF JOY – 1 Thessalonians 2:19
This if often referred to as the soulwinners crown. It seems to be for those who have faithfully shared the gospel.
“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus” is good theology. The generous Lord Jesus who loves to give good things to His children. We can only imagine how absolutely incredible will be His rewards to His faithful servants.