Eternal reward in the Next Age

We understand that when building a home for ourselves we should use better and more expensive materials so that the house can stand for many years, weathering the elements and whatever may arise. If we use cheap materials, the home may look good outwardly. But it might not last and withstand what may come.

In the same way, every disciple is building something for the Lord. This is their ministry for His kingdom. Look what the apostle Paul taught about this.

1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 

13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Building God’s house

Let’s say that in our ministry we are teaching God’s word to His people—we are “building His house.” Are we using expensive and lasting materials like gold, silver, and costly stones? Or cheap materials like wood, hay or straw?

Paul teaches that before the Day of the Lord it might not be obvious from the outside what kind of materials we are using. But on the Day of the Lord the quality of our work will be tested with fire. If our work survives the test because we have used lasting and expensive materials, we will receive our eternal reward in the next age. But if we have used cheap materials our work will be burned up and we will suffer loss of our eternal reward. However, we ourselves will still enter eternal life.

The discussion here therefore does not revolve around salvation so much as it does around eternal reward apart from and in addition to salvation.

When building God’s house, what constitutes expensive materials?

The writer of Hebrews offers some insight into this.

Hebrews 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.

You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

If a child lives on milk and is never given solid food, it will not mature physically into a healthy adult. By solid food the writer of Hebrews is referring to “the teaching about righteousness.”

What is “the teaching about righteousness”?

The New Testament teaches two types of righteousness. One is the kind which is imputed to those who have faith in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

This is the righteousness imputed to a new believer—an infant in Christ.

The other is actual righteousness in terms of personal holiness lived out in the day-to-day life of a maturing believer.

Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

This is the actual righteousness which should be attained by a maturing believer through the process of eating solid food and personal discipline. Therefore, “the teaching of righteousness” refers to the second kind of righteousness which is actually lived out in the personal life of a mature believer. He or she has come to obey the command found in 1 Peter 1:

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 

In such mature believers is fulfilled God’s promise of partaking in the divine nature.

2 Peter 1:4 through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (MKJV)

Solid food

When we give solid food to God’s people, then, we are helping them to grow up in their salvation to become mature disciples who are living holy and productive lives for the kingdom of God. According to verse 14 of Hebrews 5 above, such disciples have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil by constant use. They constantly refuse evil in their lives and choose to do good. By doing so they are fully trained. They are eating the necessary solid food which strengthens and nourishes them.

Unfortunately, teaching today can be sometimes likened instead to “milk.” Can some analogy be drawn from giving God’s people milk to building a house with “wood, hay and straw”? Let’s see what the writer of Hebrews says about “milk” or what he calls “elementary teachings” in the following chapter.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God…

“Elementary teachings” include repentance from acts that lead to death, and faith in God. We are taught to stop sinning (drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality, etc.) so that God can bless us. We are taught to have faith in God. This is considered milk by the writer of Hebrews.

Have some milk!

“We have faith in God and He pours His abundant grace on us. He loves us and forgives our sins whenever we confess them to Him (but of course it’s better if we don’t sin). He gives us eternal life. He freely blesses us and restores our lives and our families. He provides for our needs. He makes us successful and prosperous in everything we do. So we will continue to trust God.”

This, while of course desirable to most believers, is but milk. Unfortunately teaching today often revolves around having faith in God who will bless us on earth in every which way. If all we give God’s people is milk, could this be analogous to building on the foundation of Jesus Christ with “wood, hay and straw”?

Teaching on God’s grace and love resulting in earthly blessings and success in this life certainly draws the crowds and their offerings. In a sense it’s marketing the Church to the world at its best. But it can be building a huge house with cheap materials, and it may not stand the test of fire on the Day of the Lord.

Fearing the LORD

We must give God’s people a balanced and healthy diet by stressing the “teaching about righteousness.” It teaches us not only to love God, but to fear and obey Him and to live holy and productive lives in view of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Luke 3:8 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. …9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

But it’s still grace

Only when we build with expensive materials will our work stand the test of fire on the Day of the Lord and we receive our eternal reward. Solid food or the teaching about righteousness might not draw the big Sunday crowd or sell many books. The question is: are we building our own little kingdom here on earth, or seeking His kingdom and His righteousness and after our eternal reward in the next age?

Teaching on blessings, success, and prosperity in this life on earth should not only be balanced by, but given in light of teaching on maximizing our eternal reward in the age to come. Desiring the maximum reward is not at all “unspiritual” or carnal, but encourages us to love and serve the Lord in this life with all diligence and fervency. Was it not God who designed man in such a way that he responds properly to reward as well as punishment? (Don’t many of us come to Jesus initially because we don’t want to be punished in hell?)

This does not at all contradict or nullify God’s grace. By grace through faith we are saved. By obedient good works we receive an eternal reward from the Lord. But the heavenly reward is completely out of proportion to our humble good works on earth. In the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19, the nobleman entrusted one mina to the first servant. While he was away, the servant earned ten more minas with the one. Upon his return the master rewarded him with authority over ten cities—completely out of proportion to the mere ten minas he had earned for his master. According to, ten minas today would be worth about $650. Such production could in no way justify the awarding of authority over ten cities to the servant—a reward beyond the pale. The Parable of the Talents taught by Jesus in Matthew describes a similar principle.

Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

In the same way, the Lord has prepared an inconceivably glorious and disproportional reward for His servants who love him and therefore obey him faithfully and fruitfully in their lives on earth.   

1 Corinthians 2:9 “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him.

And in John 14:15 Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” God has prepared not-yet-seen and unheard-of things in the next age for those who love Him and obey His commands in this life. We believe it will involve the awarding of authority and reigning with Christ in his glorious kingdom. Is this not completely beyond what we deserve for our obedience and humble good works—is this not GRACE?