True followers of Jesus will be rewarded; they will receive the inheritance Jesus promised. But works-based levels of heavenly reward are not the focus of the parable. Furthermore, the parables on either side—The Ten Virgins (25:1–13) and The Sheep and the Goats (25:31–46)—confirm this conclusion. There are no degrees of readiness, faithfulness, or service—those in the kingdom are ready, faithful, and serving. They will hear: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (25:34; cf. 25:10; 21). The motivation for faithfulness focuses on pleasing God and the fulfillment of his word of promise.
WON’T EACH RECEIVE A REWARD FOR SOMETHING?
In 1 Corinthians 3:8, Paul says, “each will receive his own reward” according to the work each is given. Paul’s point here is not about varying degrees of reward but how God will judge and reward each person’s work according to whether it was founded in Christ (3:12–14). Note that Paul speaks specifically of Christian ministry here, and rewards are not held out as motives for faithfulness. In Colossians 3:24, however, Paul speaks more generally of “the reward of an inheritance” to all who do everything “for the Lord and not for people.”
Another text that mentions heavenly rewards is 1 Timothy 6:17–19:
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share, storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life.
As in the Sermon on the Mount, “storing up” describes a life marked by service, generosity, and doing good to others—the kind of life that reflects and partakes in the life to come. If we ask, “So, what will we get?,” it means we don’t get, as in grasp, the text.
Finally, the word “crown” appears with some frequency in the New Testament. This term is often associated with heavenly rewards. The believer’s crown, however, is a metaphor for the glory of eternal life (e.g., 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10). The promised reward of eternal life exhorts believers to persevere in faith.
FOCUS ON THE GIVER, THE REWARD WILL FOLLOW
The Bible holds out a future reward for God’s people, but it doesn’t teach that we earn rewards by obedience. Neither does it hold out rewards as the motivation for obedience. Doing so would pass over the one who gives and is the reward in favor of the rewards themselves—namely, God himself.
Christians should never think of obedience, love, or service in terms of earning some future pay-off. Though evangelicals will continue to disagree on the nature of heavenly rewards, we must all take care that in our preaching and teaching we don’t give the impression that heaven in the presence of Christ is glorious, but rewards will make it even better. Christ, through whom we have forgiveness and eternal life, is all the reward we need.
This article on are there levels in heaven originally appeared here.