Heaven: A Reward
Reward. It is a word that immediately captures our attention when we see it. It is a word we become familiar with early in life. Even as children, we learn that if we are good, if we eat our vegetables, if we make A's on our report card, etc., we will be rewarded. The high school student learns a high paying and enjoyable occupation are the rewards for the long hours of studying and the expense of a college education. Reward motivation is a principle that even follows us into adulthood. Why do adults get up early each Monday morning and go to work? Some may love their jobs. Many, however, will go to boring and tedious jobs in order to obtain the reward, the paycheck, on Friday evening. It doesn't take us long to realize that if we want the paycheck we must go to work.
In each of these cases decisions are made. One must decide if the reward is worth the effort necessary to obtain it. This is exactly the idea of Jesus in regard to spiritual matters in his statement in Luke 14:25-33. He talks about the sacrifices necessary to be his disciple and counting the cost, deciding if the reward offered is worth the requirements. Paul answered this question for himself in Romans 8:18, where he said, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Paul was motivated to endure the suffering of this world in order to obtain the "crown of life." He had counted the cost and as willing to pay the price. The shipwrecks, the stoning, the beatings, he hunger and thirst, and all else that he endured for the cause of Christ were not even worthy of being compared with the reward to e conceived. The idea is, the reward far exceeded in value that which he had to endure to obtain it. Notice his statement in 2 Corinthians :17, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Even though his suffering was far greater than that which you and I have were endured, Paul calls it a "light affliction," as if all these terrible things he went through were just minor difficulties. It is not so much what he endured was easy or nothing; it is that the reward is so great and everlasting. The sufferings and trials of a Christian, no matter how severe, are temporary. Paul says they are "but for a moment. hey may seem to be eternal when we are experiencing them. However, when compared to the reward, everlasting life in heaven, even years of suffering are as nothing in comparison. The motivation for the Christian to endure and "not grow weary while doing good" (Gal. 9) is the greatness of the reward (Matt. 5:11-12). Without faithfulness and endurance on the part of the Christian, the reward will be lost, as Paul taught in 2 Timothy 2:11-12. "This is a faithful saying: For we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us."
In 2 Peter 3, Peter is writing to those whose faith is being severely tried. He is reminding them of the fact that the "day of the Lord will come" and this world will come to an end. For the righteous, Peter said, "Nevertheless we, according to His promise look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet. 3:13). In 2 Peter 3:11-14, Peter is reminding them of the kind of persons they should be if they wish to receive the reward. Receiving an eternal home in heaven with God and the redeemed should be our greatest motivation for faithful service to God. This is certainly a thought which should thrill the heart of us all. The reward is worth more than any sacrifice required of man.
At the command of God, in some future time, this earth shall be no more (2 Pet. 3:10-11). Where do we go from here? This is the question that really should concern all of us. Matthew 7:13-14 and Matthew 25:46 teach us that we have only one of two choices. The righteous shall enjoy eternal life in heaven. They are the ones who count the cost and determine in their heart and by their life that the reward is more than worth the cost. The unrighteous will be rewarded with "everlasting punishment" in hell. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Each of us will determine his own destiny based on what he does in this life (Rev. 22:14; Matt. 7:21). However, even with all of our efforts to obtain the reward, if it were not for the fact that eternal life is the "gift of God" we would never receive it. All of our efforts, even though essential to receive the reward, never earn the reward. It is the grace of God that makes the reward possible for us and reveals to us the way to obtain it (Rom. 6:23). In Ephesians 2:8, Paul said, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Near the end of his life Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the Day; and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing." If we are to some day receive heaven as our reward it will be because we, like Paul, counted the cost. After considering all the suffering nothing in comparison to the reward, we were willing to fight the battles, run the race and finish the course. In order to make it, we need to follow the divinely inspired advice of Paul in Colossians 3:1-2, "Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 609, 631