Eternal reward in the next age
Many believe that we are now in the last days before the Second Coming of Christ. Christians assume that the event will be a wonderfully glorious event for them. But Scripture teaches that this may be a false assumption for some. Let’s examine this very important matter.
Paul the apostle speaks of “loving the appearing” of the Lord Jesus Christ. On that day he would receive his eternal reward—a crown of righteousness.
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. (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV)
He is likely not referring to salvation here, but rather to eternal reward which is apart from and in addition to salvation. According to Scripture, eternal reward is based on good and fruitful works in obedience to God’s commands in this life. Those who love the Lord’s appearing will have lived fruitful lives pleasing to God on earth up until His glorious appearing.
Eternal reward is based upon fruitful works and personal holiness
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.
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. 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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 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. (1 Co 9:24-27)
By doing fruitful works and living holy lives such disciples are laying up treasure for themselves for the coming age after the Second Coming of the Christ.
But not the case for another class of disciples
Scripture however also teaches about another class of disciples—those who will be asleep when Christ returns. For these disciples, according to Malachi, the coming of the Lord may be “great and dreadful.”
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. (Malachi 4:5)
These disciples will not be ready for that great and dreadful Day, and they will regret it. Let’s see what Scripture teaches in Luke 12 about the two classes of disciples.
Luke 12:35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.
“Dressed ready for service”
These are the servants of God who show that they “love his appearing.” How do they show it? They are “dressed ready for service and keep their lamps burning.” What does this mean?
Luke 12:41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Faithful and wise managers will give the Lord’s servants their food allowance at the proper time. We will be diligently serving and feeding God’s people the pure, unadulterated word of God when Christ returns. However, many ministers and teachers today under the guise of “ministry” are doing little more than tickling people’s ears in order to get the crowds to come to church to give their offerings.
Luke 12:45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Loving one’s life in the world before destruction
“Eating and drinking and getting drunk” refer to loving the world and the things of the world—loving one’s life in the world. This is what people were doing before the great Flood and before the dreadful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Luke 17:27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.
John 12:25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Today under the pretext of a theology which holds that God wants all believers to be materially rich, many servants of God and believers have become entrapped by the love of the world and of money—the root of all evil. But Paul the greatest of the apostles was not a wealthy man. (“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13) What will happen to servants of God who are found to be “eating and drinking” in the world at the appearing of the Lord?
Luke 12:39 “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Luke 12:47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
These are the servants of God for whom the appearing of the Lord will be “great and dreadful.” It will be clear from their deeds and lives that they do not love His appearing, but rather love their lives in this world.