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Crowns, Prizes, Compensation, & Rewards

 

Php 3:10-14 ...I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What is Paul saying there? That he was worried about his future? Well... if true, then that would be pretty amazing coming from an apostle who's entire premise for a sinner's future safety from the wrath of God included the epistles of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians, where he preached that one's rescue from Hell and eternal suffering is based solely upon their proxy participation in Christ's crucifixion and resurrection rather than upon their own personal righteousness.

If true, it would mean that his own personal testimony to his friends Titus and Timothy was false because he spoke of his own salvation in the past tense, indicating it was already a done deal.

2Tim 1:9 ...It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began— to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.

Titus 3:4-7 ...God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out The Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us acquitted because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life.

(A man who doubts his salvation could never honestly say: "we know that we will inherit eternal life")

If true, it would also mean that Paul didn't trust his own Lord and Master's personal testimony that believers are in the present tense possession of eternal life and in absolutely no danger of eternal suffering.

John 5:24 …I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

If true, it would imply that Paul's unbelief in his own Lord and Master's testimony insulted God's personal integrity; and insinuates that Paul suspected himself to be a Christless Christian.

1John 5:8-12 …We accept human testimony; but God's testimony carries more weight because it is the testimony of God; which He has given about His son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has The Son has the life; he who does not have the life, does not have God's son.

No, Philippians 3:10-14 has absolutely nothing to do with Paul's salvation, and everything to do with rewards and the quality of his apostleship.

1Cor 9:24-27 ...Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? So then, run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I subdue my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

What Paul was describing in 1Cor 9:24-27 was not training to win his salvation, but rather, training to win a prize.

Using Paul's boxing illustration, to be "disqualified" in the fight game means that a fighter isn't good enough to qualify as a contender, but it in no way means he loses his right to go on fighting. He won't get a shot at the Title in his weight class, no, but that doesn't mean he can't go on earning a living in professional boxing.

The Title is a boxer's reward for excellence. In the same way, people who serve Christ in a Christian service capacity as Paul did, will be evaluated, and if their service produces something that The Lord can applaud, they will be compensated. However, if their service was of poor quality as per 1Cor 3:10-15, they will be disqualified and receive no reward; but they themselves will still be saved,

It's easy to see from 2Tim 4:6-8 that Paul entertained no doubts whatsoever about his future destiny as a redeemed sinner. It was the merit of his ministry as an apostle that was in question in passages like Php 3:12-14 and 1Cor 4:1-5. Are you an apostle? Are you a Sunday school teacher? Are you a deacon? Are you a pastor? Are you a missionary? You see, believers in a Christian service capacity are coming under a different degree of scrutiny than the rank and file. Their future destiny as a Christian is perfectly secure; however, their reward for faithful service isn't.

It is precisely on this very point where many a poorly-trained Christian gets confused. They're simply unable to distinguish between salvation and service so they blur the two together and subsequently place themselves under the false impression that the plan of salvation is essentially a merit system based upon performance.

Objection: In verse 24 of 1 Corinthians 9, he is telling everyone at the church in Corinth to run in such a way that they may receive the prize, not just the leaders.

Some Christians are content to sit on the sidelines and heckle the players, never once considering actually getting out on the playing field themselves.

Every born-again Christian has the potential to benefit Christ in a service capacity of some kind (Rom 12:4-8, 1Cor 12:1-11, 1Cor 12:27-31). According to 1Cor 3:10-15, sideliners will be disqualified and receive little, or no, compensation; but they themselves will still be saved. However; they do not risk being lost, no, only being permanently shelved (John 15:1-8).

Regarding serving Christ; Paul made these comments:

1Cor 4:1-5 ...So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be trustworthy. What about me? Have I been faithful? Well, it matters very little what you or anyone else thinks. I don't even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that isn't what matters. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. When the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.

No, Paul wasn't in doubt of his salvation in either Php 3:10-14 or 1Cor 4:1-5. What he was unsure of was the quality of his apostleship since only The Lord can be trusted to make an accurate assessment of the value of one's life's work to God.

People in Christian service capacities need to be conscientious, and careful not to let their activities turn them into celebrities. They just might have to eat crow some day.

Objection: Yes they will be saved, but through fire, or Purgatory

I do not see a purgatory in 1Cor 3:10-15 because according to Paul, the fire of 1Cor 3:10-15 will try every man's work, which includes Paul's work and all the other apostles' works too. Do you really believe that the apostles went to a purgatory instead of going directly to a Heaven?

No, what I am seeing in 1Cor 3:10-15 are believers leaving this life with absolutely nothing to their credit in service to Christ. It's like a family suddenly wakened in the middle of the night with their house so badly on fire that there is scarcely enough time for them to exit the building. Their entire life's collection of mementoes, furniture, paintings, valuables, photographs, clothing, and such, go up in smoke and they escape with nothing but their lives and the clothes they wore to bed.

I've heard it said by pastors that quite a few Christians are so useless to Christ down here that when they get up there, they are going to smell like they were bought at a fire sale.

An additional point that should be addressed is that the fire of 1Cor 3:10-15 is not intended to injure believers, but rather, to test the quality of their work; specifically what they built upon the one foundation. The doctrine of a purgatory, as I understand it, is just the opposite— a purgatory is intended to injure believers in order to purify them of their venial sins. However, sins are nowhere in view in 1Cor 3:10-15, only what believers built upon the one foundation. If what they built was useful to Christ, they will be compensated. If what they built was of no use to him, they will get nothing for it; but they will absolutely not lose their salvation nor suffer in purgatorial fires. Their works are tried by fire, not them.

Judgments                      

In the New Testament, there are two major judgments. One is the Great White Throne of Rev 20:11-15. That one is for the Dead, and it is only for punishment, not for rewards. The other major judgment is the Judgment Seat of Christ at 1Cor 3:12-15, and 2Cor 5:9-11. That one is for the Living; and it's purpose is only for rewards; not for punishment. A quickie definition of the Dead is those who do not have eternal life. The Living are just the opposite: they are all in current possession of eternal life (John 3:14-18, John 5:24, Eph 2:1-6).

There is a world of difference between the Throne, and the Judgment Seat. The New Testament Greek word for Judgment Seat is bema; and it is the very same kind of judgment seat(s) that are set up at all the Olympic games. The judges at Olympics are not there for criminal justice, nor do they determine who becomes an athlete; no, they're only there to determine who wins the medals. Competitors are already athletes when they arrive at the games to compete. Thus Paul said (1Cor 3:9-15) that although a Christian's entire life's work might go up in smoke; he himself shall be saved (1Cor 3:15) because he was already saved when he walked up to the Judgment Seat; just as athletes are already athletes when they go to the games. You see, bema seats are only for awards and prizes, they don't decide upon a competing athlete's future career nor do they decide whether or not an athlete can come back in four years to try again.

The Throne, however, is a whole other word (thronos) and a whole other animal entirely. It's the very same kind of throne that Caesar himself sat upon in Rome. The full power and authority of Almighty God sits upon the thronos, and in that scenario no one is evaluated for rewards; no, their lives are evaluated for eternal suffering, and to it they will go (Rev 20:11-15).

Laboring For Compensation                               

1Cor 3:9-15...For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Sometimes when people are awakened at night by their dwelling burning down around them, they have only barely enough time to get out alive; and take nothing with them but the nighties and underpants they wore to bed; because there just isn't time to rescue anything else. They escape the flames, but all their worldly goods are lost. I cannot over-emphasize that although it's very possible for a born again Christian's entire life's work to go up in smoke, resulting in no reward whatsoever, "he himself will be saved" (verse 15).

Today, in our twisted world, and especially saddled with human nature, it's tough to live a righteous life. But God will make it worth our while if we give it a go. That passage is an outstanding one to teach the doctrine of rewards rather than a doctrine of suffering for sins in a Purgatory.

I know positively, from the whole third chapter of Galatians and the whole fourth chapter of Romans, that redemption cannot be earned or merited by anyone in any way at all. That is an absolute fact and cannot be confuted. If you have never taken the time to read those chapters in the Bible; do it today while we're on the subject.

1Cor 3:9-15 teaches that born again Christians, after they're saved, can earn compensations for loyalty to Jesus Christ in a Christian service capacity of some kind. If a believer's Christian service is unacceptable, he will receive a reduction in compensation; or quite possibly no compensation at all. But please notice very carefully that they themselves will not have to pass through fire; only their works do, and even that is merely a metaphor regarding scrutiny. That passage absolutely does not threaten the Lord's sheep with bodily harm.

This particular judgment, the one described in 1Cor 3:10-15, is only for the Living. It is not the same judgment scheduled for the Dead at Rev 20:11-15. When believers stand before Christ for their final evaluation, it won't be to see if they can go to Heaven. It will be more like an employee's performance appraisal: measuring the quality of their efforts on Jesus' behalf.

Paul repeats the very same theme in his next letter to the Corinthian believers at 2Cor 5:6-10 which goes like this:

So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul's prolific use of the pronoun "we" should tell readers that he's talking to believers only; not to just anybody who happens to be listening in; and in point of fact, the epistles were written only to saved people, not to people working to be saved. No, the recipients of his letters were already saved.

The judgment seat of 2Cor 5:6-10 is the Greek word bema which means rostrum or tribunal. It's a much lower seat of power than the Greek word thronos used at Rev 20:11-15 where the Dead will be judged and afterwards executed in a lake of liquid flame.

The bema will be unnerving enough. But when the Living stand before the bema, it will be much less terrifying than the Dead standing before the thronos because the full regal power of The Potentate himself sits on the thronos of Revelation 20:11-15. No born-again Christian is ever going to have to endure that because that particular judgment is only for the Dead, not for the Living; and redeemed Christians are accounted among the Living, not among the Dead (Luke 20:37-38, John 5:24, Eph 2:1-3).

Peter made a comment that, if a Bible student isn't careful, they might construe to imply a purgatory.

1Pet 1:3-7 ...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Peter's comments regard present possessions as well as future expectations. The believer is already born again, already has a trust fund in heaven, is currently being kept by the power of God, and is enduring troubles in this life in order to reveal both the strengths and the weaknesses in his faith. The believer's spiritual possessions— which include his security and his trust fund —are supposed to be causes for rejoicing, not causes for concern about doing time in a place of suffering called Purgatory.

Jas 1:2-4 ...Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

No Need For Penance Nor Purgatory.       

We know positively from Rom 3:21-30, and 1John 1:7, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all sin, not just some sin. So there really is no need for any additional atonement for sins in a fiery washing machine.

And I should point out that if Jesus Christ didn't suffer and die for all of your sins, then he didn't suffer and die for enough of them because we know from Jas 2:10, and Gal 3:10-13, even one single infraction against the law of God brings a curse that cannot be deleted except only by Christ's crucifixion. That is very obvious in those two chapters we recommended in Romans and Galatians. So we're confident that all sin was dealt with at Calvary. There is just no need for a place where redeemed people go to suffer a limited time for sins that somehow escaped Christ's crucifixion.

Rom 8:1-2 . .Hence now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.

Rom 8:31-34 ....What shall we then say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. (Catholic Bible)

I love the Catholic Bible's text because it's scholars used a word that is my very favorite word above all others. That word is "Acquit"

Just think of it! Those of us who believe that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again from the dead, are acquitted. Justice has been totally satisfied.

Rom 3:21-26 . .But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are acquitted freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God; to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and acquit the one who has faith in Jesus.

Isn't that too cool? God, in the past, forgave people on credit because Messiah was not yet crucified. The basis for all pardons, even in the Old Testament, has always been Jesus' death, and his blood, even before he shed it. And now today, we have even greater assurance of forgiveness because his death is accomplished. Don't you see it? Where an acquittal is granted, there is no more pending punishment. That's the whole point of an acquittal; to let the guilty party off.

Again, we want to repeat this, the believers' judgment at the bema is not a legality because justice for them has already been satisfied at Calvary. They are going to stand before Jesus for a whole different purpose. And the notion of a Purgatory where people are reformed through suffering is not truly biblical. Reformation is accomplished through the new covenant. and its procedures are completely harmless.

Ezk 11:19 ...I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the stony heart from their bodies, and replace it with a natural heart, so that they will live according to my statutes, and observe and carry out my ordinances; thus they shall be my people and I will be their God.

It is through the new covenant that people are obtaining a second birth.

John 3:3 ...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

John 3:7...You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

A second birth is a must because although Jesus' crucifixion buys sinners an acquittal, it doesn't prepare them to live in his Father's world. Acquitted sinners are still sinners and they will go right on thinking like a sinner, feeling like a sinner, and continue doing the things sinners do. In their natural state, the way they are born the first time, sinners are not fit to live in Heaven; nor are they fit to associate with God, nor to associate with any of His friends. People who work for their salvation tend to overlook this very important aspect; and they are working towards the wrong goal. They should be working for a reward; not for salvation.

Christians trying to earn themselves a rescue from the wrath of God via piety aren't thinking far enough ahead. Okay, suppose they make it. Suppose it were possible to do enough in this life to appease God's wrath and escape the Lake Of Fire. Then what? Can they keep it up for eternity? How long can they fight against human nature until they crack up? You see, to earn your way to Heaven means fighting against nature, against human nature; and so long as human nature is in someone, they are basically evil at their very core (John 3:6, John 6:63). They may win a few victories over the flesh now and then, but they still have that evil nature resident inside them. And that resident evil is precisely what's keeping people separated from God (Jer 17:9-10, Rom 7:14-25, Eph 2:3).

So it's not so much what people do that counts; no, it's what's on the inside that counts. How many of us haven't bitten into a beautiful apple only to find its flesh black under that facade of yummy looking, shiny skin? That is precisely the condition of pious flesh. It's beautiful on the outside; but inside, under that façade of piety, it's black.

Matt 5:8 ...Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Oh yeah! There it is! Pureness of heart. How in the h_ll are the do-gooders ever going to accomplish that one while shackled to human nature? I guarantee you they won't; and they can't, because it's against nature to produce pureness in a heart of flesh— in a heart that is by nature carnal at its core. Is it any wonder then that Jesus said no human being can neither enter nor see the kingdom without being born from above? (John 3:3-12)

Merit vs. Kindness & Generosity                       

Eph 2:8-10 ...For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

Rom 11:5-6 ...And if they are saved by God's kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God's wonderful kindness would not be what it really is— free and undeserved.

Gratuities and wages are as different as apples and oranges. Wages are earned, gratuities are free of charge with no strings attached. Rescue from the wrath of God is a gratuity, not a wage; ergo: there's no way either to earn it or to merit it.

Eph 2:8-10 ...God rescued you by His kindness and generosity when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gratuity from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Titus 3:4-5 ...He rescued us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy.

The New Testament Greek word for *save is sozo (sode'-zo); which means to rescue and/or protect.

It's complimentary noun is *savior, which is soter (so-tare'); and means: a rescuer and/or a protector.

You've seen examples of rescuers— firemen, cops, emergency medical teams, Coast Guard units, snow patrols, and mountain rescue teams. Rescuers typically save people from imminent death and/or grave danger who are utterly helpless to do anything about it on their own.

Have you ever once heard of firemen, cops, emergency medical teams, Coast Guard units, snow patrols, and mountain rescue teams taking rescued people back to their former positions of imminent death and grave danger, and leaving them there to die because they failed to practice good citizenship after they were safe? No, it doesn't work that way. Rescuers never, ever do that because it would be uncivilized and inhumane; yet people like yourself somehow think that is exactly what God does to sinners who fail to straighten up and toe the mark after once He himself rescues them from the wrath of God. You know, rescued sinners weren't toeing the mark to begin with when they were rescued from the wrath of God in the first place.

Rom 5:6-11 …You see, at just the right time, when we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated His own concern for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

...Since we have now been pronounced acquitted via his blood, how much more shall we be rescued from the wrath of God through him! For if we were God's enemies when we were reconciled to him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be protected by his life!

The only way anybody can possibly put rescued sinners back into danger again is by finding some way to remove them from Jesus' protection. But that can't happen because he already promised that no created thing can take rescued sinners out of either his Father's protection, or his own.

John 10:27-29 …My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and nothing is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Objection: But often those who have been rescued do, of their own will, plunge themselves back into the thick of danger.

The New Testament Greek word for *savior defines not only a rescuer, but also a protector. So that Christ doesn't rescue people from the wrath of God only to then go off and leave them to themselves to get in mortal danger all over again, but rather, he sticks around like a body guard to insure that they never endanger themselves ever again.

John 10:27-29 …I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and nothing is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Am I a thing? Yes, I am a thing. So then, since no thing can remove me from my savior's protection, then neither can I.

Rom 8:38-39 …For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I've heard well-meaning Christians respond with a "yeah, but" to Rom 8:38-39; but there are no yeah buts when you consider that Paul said that nothing in all creation can separate the rescued from God's love. Am I a thing in creation? Yes, I am a thing in creation. So then, not even I myself can extract me from my savior's protections.

But the real capper is Rom 5:9-10.

Since we have now been acquitted by his blood, how much more shall we be protected from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

What Paul is telling me is: since I was rescued from the wrath of God while Jesus was dead, just think how much safer I am now that he's alive to watch over me!

Phil 1:6 …Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ

Fruit Bearing                         

John 15:1-7 ...I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

We think it's very important to point out to new and/or inexperienced believers; that while it's certainly true that believers are rescued from the wrath God unto works (John 15:16, Eph 2:10, Philip 2:12-13) rather than by works; there's no guarantee that every believer will live up to God's expectations in this lifetime. Lots of believers have made ship-wreck of their faith, and their entire life's work will go up in smoke (John 15:6, 1Cor 3:11-15).

When non-producing branches are pruned from the Vine, they don't become the branches of some other plant. No, even though they're severed, and withered, they're still vine branches. Unfortunately, as Jesus said in John 15:6, withered branches become dried up yard debris. So as far as usefulness to God is concerned; believers in that condition are washed up— yet according to 1Cor 3:15, they won't lose their rescue from the wrath of God. No, far from it. Too high a price was paid for their redemption to let them go to Hell for something as minor as barrenness (1Pet 1:18-19). I mean, after all, they were barren to begin with (Rom 5:6-11, Eph 2:1-10).

There's a whole eternity out ahead where every one of the branches will eventually do very well because Jesus' sheep are destined to be stripped of their Adam-likeness and transformed into totally Jesus-type personalities (Ezk 11:19-20, Heb 8:8-10). Jesus said; "I always do those things that please Him." (John 8:29). So, in eternity, the branches will always do what pleases Him too. Far too many Christians have nothing like that to look forward to. They will always be Adam-type human beings and never be anything else; no, not for all eternity.

The Living And The Dead           

We know from John 5:24 that all believers have eternal life right now, in this life; and no waiting period.

...Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.

So all true believers currently own eternal life, and they are reckoned as *the living* because all believers are said to be alive at John 5:24, Rom 8:10, and Eph 2:1-3. No redeemed person will be at the final judgment because all those who appear at that one are said to be *the dead* in Rev 20:12.

Rev 20:6 ...Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

If anybody misses the first resurrection, and is instead detoured to a Purgatory for suffering and attitude adjustment, then it will be for the worst because the next resurrection that occurs after the first; is only for the dead, not for the living.

The Believer's Final Evaluation.              

Too many believers are unaware that their lives are going to be evaluated for their usefulness to Jesus Christ. And they are also unaware that their loyalty to God's son is being scrutinized by his Father all the time. This is the one area of my greatest frustration with Christians because too many of them just don't have any interest in training to win a performance award.

We know from Phil 3:7-16 that Paul never fooled himself into thinking he was competent enough to stop striving for perfection, nor that he had done so much for Jesus already that he could start slacking off.  He continually tried very hard to better serve Jesus and therefore receive a better award at his resurrection.

1Cor 9:24-27 ...Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

The Olympics go through a series of pre-competitions called eliminations to qualify the best athletes for the finals. Those who make it to the finals are the ones who get to compete for the medals. In the Pythian Games of Paul's day; only one athlete per event won a prize; there were no silver, bronze and gold medals. In fact, there weren't any medals at all. The winner won a wreath made of braided laurel; which in time, deteriorated.

Some have missed the point of 1Cor 9:24-27 and concluded that Paul was crossing his fingers that Jesus would count him worthy to be raised from the dead. That's ridiculous. Paul's resurrection was already in the bag. He had nothing to worry about in that respect (John 5:24-25, Rom 6:3-11, Col 3:1-4).

I love the way Paul applied his knowledge of sports to the principle of rewards. You know, Olympics officials don't execute athletes who fail to win the events; nor do they strip them of their athletic status. No, though they lost, they still get to keep on being athletes and they still get to keep on competing. Paul looked forward with anticipation not to a resurrection; but to his prize. And he didn't cross his fingers for one; no, it was his; viz: he won it, and he knew it.

2Tim 4:7-8 ...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 to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Though only one finalist in Paul's day won the prize, that doesn't mean only one Christian out of all the millions of Christians in existence will get *the* prize. No, prizes are awarded in respect to degrees of faithfulness, accomplishment, and self-sacrifice; so that everyone can win— from the altar boy to the missionary, from the bus driver to the President; all can win. Your prize may be as simple as a brownie pin, or as whopping as a land grant; but everyone has a chance at something so long as they stay within limits.

2Tim 2:5 ...And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

A shot-put competitor may throw the farthest toss on record, but if he stepped out of the circle, it won't count. For some suggestions at playing by the rules; please Click Here.

Resurrected From The Dead.          

Right here is where many, many Christians have totally missed the boat because they aren't aware that every single born again Christian is already raised from the dead. Not their bodies yet, no— but them; their spirits.

John 5:25 ...Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is here now when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Rom 8:10 ...But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Rom 6:2-4 ...How can we who died to sin yet live in it? Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him through baptism unto death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

Col 3:3-4 ...For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Every born again Christian, just like Paul, is already on the books as died and risen from the dead. It's as good as a done deal.

The Eyes Of The Son Of God.                         

Heb 4:12-13 ...Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Rev 1:13-17 ...and in the midst of the lamp stands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest. The hair of his head was as white as white wool or as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame. His feet were like polished brass refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing water. In his right hand he held seven stars. A sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, and his face shone like the sun at it's brightest. When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.

It's going to be very unnerving to appear before Jesus Christ. Some Christians seem to think that Jesus is a really neat guy and he'll let them slide. But I've got news. When they meet Jesus Christ they're going to be surprised to find that he is a total stranger and they are not going to like his attitude. I guarantee that many of them are not going to like him at all because he is going to be all business when he takes his position on the bema.

I often surprise believers when I tell them I'm in no hurry to meet Jesus. And I am certainly not in any hurry to stand before him at the bema either.

2Cor 5:15 ...He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Rev 22:12 ...Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds.

We need to be thinking about the future. And especially about the awards we can win while we're still down here in a sinful world; coping with our sinful natures, and meanwhile trying to accomplish something that helps Jesus in his efforts to get people saved and rehabbed. Wouldn't you like to hear him say, after it's all over, "Well done, you good and faithful servant"

But I firmly believe that many, many Christians are going to hear him say something like this instead: "You and I have very little in common and we have nothing to talk about. Stand over there. Next!"

Wasted Life                  

There will be believers who will end up just like those Jews who were rescued from Egyptian slavery. You know which ones I mean; the ones whose carcasses fell in that awful desert and never got to spend even one single day in the promised land.

Modern believers run a very similar risk. You can see it at Heb 3:7-4:16. Here's the scenario.

Believers today are risen from the dead. They've been given eternal life and their bodies house God's spirit. They've been made beneficiaries of the new covenant. And they have the potential to experience the power of a new life and accomplish something for Jesus. We know that's all true. And Peter emphasizes it at 2Pet 1:3-11. But some don't care about it. They got redeemed and that's all they wanted and now they would like for God to just leave them alone so they can do as they please. Well, that's just not the game plan.

John 15:16 ...You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and appointed you, that you should go, and bring forth fruit.

Eph 2:10 ...For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

That's the game plan. Now that they are redeemed and acquitted there are bigger fish to fry. Believers are expected to get the show on the road and get with the program. They're expected to put on the new self they got from God when they were born again, and they're expected to do something useful for Jesus with it after they get it up and running.

Peter said believers have the potential to experience the divine nature. Just think of that. We can actually receive from God attitudes that are very similar to Jesus' own. Through those divine attitudes, which God is anxious to download into our hearts, we can have lots of stuff in common with Jesus so that when we meet him, he will seem like a kinsman instead of a dread potentate and a complete stranger.

Tons of believers are missing out. They are living the Christian life dominated by their human nature and have never yet experienced the new nature that God imparts to every one who conscientiously seeks it.

2Pet 1:3-4 ...His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

Let me ask you something. Are you doing anything in your life out of loyalty for Jesus? Are you working on something for him that he can applaud? Your behavior? Your Christian service? Those are the things we all need to consider because now those things have the highest priority. Judgment for sin is over and believers need to get past it and go on to bigger things now.

Heb 6:1-2 ...Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

See? Gospel stuff is for babies; immature Christians who don't know any better. They just haven't caught on yet that they are already citizens of the Kingdom, and that now there are awards to be earned in the King's service. Today, mature Christians, like Paul (Phil 3:7-16), are busy working for rewards.

The doctrine of rewards is a very difficult subject to discuss with many because they are so paranoid about works and grace. But rewards are a New Testament fact so everybody has to deal with them sooner or later.

Medals Of Honor               

I heard a really good story some years back that goes like this:

A warrior Prince was usually the first one back after a campaign because he led his armies and traveled out in front. Back at the castle he would find a good position on the wall to view his men as they arrived. He did that so he could see their wounds and the looks on their faces. It didn't take long to judge for himself who had sacrificed the most during the fighting. He singled out those soldiers for special consideration.

I don't know if that's a true story or not but it's a pretty good picture of the Captain of our salvation.

Phil 1:29 ...For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.

See that word granted?  Doesn't that suggest suffering for Christ is a gift; a conferred honor? It takes on a whole different aspect when we view it like that. Why do you suppose God would *grant* us to suffer for his son? Well, I think God wants his son's followers to be war heroes and receive medals and recognition when they get home; so He maneuvers them into battles where they can earn them. Gotta love that!

If you have been actively sharing the gospel, walking in the Spirit, and trying to live a life that pleases God, I know your frustration and the injured feelings that you are experiencing. You are a member of the guild of unrequited love. It's the fraternity of those who have been insulted, ridiculed, and mocked. But cheer up; it will probably only get worse.

Heb 12:2-4 ...Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Judgment Day                             

The so-called judgment "day" is not the same for everybody. Like a county fair, judgments will take place at different kinds of exhibits and at different times and locations.

One is an evaluation of each believer's works (1Cor 3:12-15, 2Cor 5:10).

That judgment is not like we might think. It's actually an evaluation for performance awards; hence; only saved people will participate in this judgment and it is very definitely not a judgment for sins because those were already punished for believers by proxy participation in Jesus' crucifixion (Rom 6:3-11, Gal 2:20, Gal 3:14).

Another is the so-called Great Tribulation (Matt 24:1-42, Rev 4:1-19:21).

A frightful period of seven years is in the future in which conditions world-wide will be so bad that people will die with heart failure from mortal panic, while others will gnaw their tongues from pain.

Another is a judgment of tribulation survivors. (Matt 25:31-46)

This is the famous sheep and goats judgment. At the end of the seven year tribulation— a.k.a. the time of Jacob's trouble —Messiah will return to set up his millennial rule over the planet. But before he sets everything in motion, he's going to weed out everybody who was indifferent to the plight of his Jewish countrymen under the awful persecutions of the antichrist. This judgment is very severe. The losers go directly to eternal punishment.

Another is a judgment of the people of Israel, which occurs right around the same time as the sheep and goats judgment (Ezk 20:33-44).

This one is a sifting judgment too. Not every Jew is going to be allowed to return to Palestine under Messiah's auspices. Just as God put down rebellion among the Jews that Moses rescued from Egypt: so also there will be rebels, belly-achers, and stubborn hard-heads in the coming day too. But again, God will weed them out just like he did their ancestors during the forty-year wandering and they will be barred from the kingdom. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 8:11-12)

Another is a judgment of fallen angels (Jude 6).

This judgment will occur at the end of the millennial kingdom and just prior to the final judgment of Rev 20:11-15. Satan and the dark spirits finally get their due in this one.

Another is a judgment of the Dead (Rev 20:11-15).

Believers will only be spectators at this judgment because they are among the Living, and no Living appear at this judgment (John 5:24). The Dead are mentioned four times, the Living aren't mentioned at all. Only the Dead are judged at the Great White Throne. Not one soul goes to Heaven from this judgment because certainly no one Dead can reasonably expect to find their name recorded in a registry of Life. According to the Bible's Christ, the majority of the human race is on track for this judgment.

Luke 13:22-24 . . And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, master, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them: Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Matt 7:13-14 . .For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matt 22:14 . .For many are invited, but few are chosen.

 

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