I was enjoying my afternoon walk ‘n run along the path of a nearby park when I came across an old cemetery dating back to the mid-1800s nestled between the woods and a grassy area.

Affixed to the wire fence enclosing the cemetery was a faded cast iron plaque. It told of a community of Methodist immigrants who came from Germany and settled in the US in the nineteenth century. Their leaders were buried in the enclosure.

A thought immediately surfaced. “What am I doing in this life?”

Only the Lord knows how much time I have in this life. Standing before the graves I was struck—in a vivid way never before—that someday I will also leave this life for eternity, and my earthly remains will also be surrendered to the dirt to decompose.

What will eternity be like? What do I want to be doing in eternity?

We who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have by grace been given eternal life through His death and resurrection. This should be a settled issue for believers who have been properly discipled. Sadly, however, the emphasis in most teaching available today is on receiving salvation simply in order to get to heaven—and not on our specific individual calling in eternity.

So exactly what will we be doing for all eternity? Although I’m sure we won’t be floating around on a cloud with an angel hovering over us popping grapes into our mouths, neither will we all be standing before the throne worshiping the Lord for all eternity.

Some will be rewarded with authority to reign with Christ over His unimaginably vast kingdom throughout the universe throughout all eternity. The level of authority given to faithful servants to reign will vary and will depend on how much and what kind of fruit they have produced for their Lord while on earth. Let’s look at what Jesus told us to expect.

Luke 19:16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

So the quantity of our production for the Lord counts in the determination of our eternal reward.

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!’

Revelation 2:26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 

What if we fail to bear any fruit at all? Let’s return to the parable of the minas in Luke 19.

Luke 19:20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 ”‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.”

The mina was taken away from the third servant and given to the servant who had the ten minas. In the economy of the kingdom of God, indeed “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” This should spur committed disciples to bear as much fruit as possible for the Lord in this life.

Matthew 25:30  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Uh oh…..)

The quality of our work for the Lord will also be considered in the determination of our eternal reward. Look below.

1 Corinthians 3:12 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.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Later we will see what “bad” might mean and how it might affect our eternal reward.

Standing in front of the neglected burial plots that sunny afternoon in the park, a realization hit me. The life I’m now living is the only opportunity I have to determine what I will be doing in eternity after I depart from my lifeless remains now in the ground.

Yes, in the West we are preoccupied with the concerns of this life: paying bills, making a comfortable living, and taking care of our families. Just as the German immigrants who came to the USA were, our culture has taught us to hope for and expect “the good life”. Our primary concern with regard to heaven is mostly getting there and thereby avoiding the lake of fire. 

But Scripture tells us that there is much more to eternity than just getting to heaven. Yes, by grace we will all enjoy the same salvation in eternity. However, eternal reward will vary from believer to believer.

We expend so much effort in this life storing up and maximizing our retirement benefits so that we can enjoy ourselves after our working days are done. But retirement in this life will only last for a few decades, if that. Eternity, however, is timeless and lasts forever and forever and forever. The determination of our reward there is in our hands—to be determined by the quantity and quality of our fruit for the kingdom of God while on earth.

So how can we resolve the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between meeting our pressing earthly needs on the one hand, and storing our treasure in heaven on the other?

Matthew 6:33 But seek FIRST 1) his kingdom and 2) his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Jesus promises that all of our needs on earth will be provided for us if we FIRST seek his kingdom to be realized in our personal lives. If God is indeed our king, we will obey his commands with all of our heart. We will obediently produce much good fruit for Him. Secondly, if we first seek his righteousness, we will live righteously as He is righteous. We will be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). By the authority and power of the Holy Spirit in us we will subdue the desires of our flesh, and sin will not reign over us.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 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 appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…

But what if despite this we on occasion give in to world passions, and sin against the Lord? Paul provides some understanding.

1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  24  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25  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. 

A king wears a crown, symbolic of his authority to reign over his kingdom. Therefore Paul is likely referring to the eternal reward given to faithful and fruitful believers consisting of authority to reign with Christ in his Kingdom.

26  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  27  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

This prize therefore refers to eternal reward. Even though sin in this life can be forgiven, a believer might suffer loss in his eternal reward due to the sin. Recall the consequences of David’s sin of adultery and murder. Although he was forgiven, he later suffered from witnessing the tragedy which later unfolded with his children. 

  • David’s son Amnon slept with his half-sister Tamar.
  • Tamar’s brother Absalom had Amnon killed.
  • Absalom conspires and leads a rebellion against David.
  • Absalom sleeps with David’s concubine in the sight of all Israel.
  • Fearing Absalom, David flees for his life.
  • In the ensuing conflict, Joab kills Absalom.
  • “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

That is why the promise of divine provision in Matthew 6:33 is conditional upon seeking first God’s kingdom and also His righteousness as well.

But seek FIRST 1) his kingdom and 2) his RIGHTEOUSNESS…

The second condition for divine provision above is that we live a life of righteousness and holiness out of obedience to God’s commands. Even though a sin can indeed be forgiven, there could very well be earthly as well as eternal consequences. Even though our salvation might be intact, we might suffer loss in our eternal reward: disqualification for the prize.

My wife and I have personally experienced the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of divine provision in Matthew 6:33. In our lives we have prioritized first seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. In our personal lives, we resist sin and the temptations of the flesh with the help of the Holy Spirit. We aren’t at all concerned about retirement. We don’t ask for or require any honorarium when asked to teach or minister. We leave that entirely up to the Lord. We don’t take offerings at our events, urging people to “give and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38) or citing “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18). No, freely we have received; freely we give. 

In 1978, by faith we gave up everything and left for primitive regions of Indonesia where over nearly nine years we preached the gospel to those who never heard. We went by faith without asking for or receiving any support—financial or otherwise—from any church or mission organization. We lived by faith in the Son of God who gave himself for us. And we continue to do so.

And He has indeed been faithful to provide for all our earthly needs according to his promise in Matthew 6:33…and even beyond that.

We have only one life to live, only one opportunity to determine not only where we will spend eternity, but HOW we will be spending it. We are making the most of the opportunity the Lord has given us—this one life on earth. His wonderful promise to provide for all our earthly needs is absolute—and has been proven.

Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their DEEDS will follow them.”

Psalms 62:12 “…and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have DONE.”

Sign posted over cemetery of German Methodists

But our eternal souls are the property of the Kingdom of God, and how much more the enemy does not trespass. Immeasurably far beyond that, we will reign over the nations with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 

Revelation 22:12  “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done

2 Timothy 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. 

Revelation 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

With this in mind, let us set our sights firmly on the next age. What we do in this life will be for the sake of pleasing the Lord and storing our treasure in heaven.

This life on earth is our ONE LAST CHANCE.


If you want to know more about Eternal Reward in the coming Kingdom…