DEGREES OF REWARD IN HEAVEN
There is much talk today about degrees of reward in heaven. Even men who claim to believe the doctrines of grace seem determined to give something to human works. But, the gospel of the grace of God allows no place for human merit. God is no man’s debtor. That which he gives to men and does for men, both in this life and in the life to come, is the reward of pure grace, not of debt.
In order for something to claim merit before God, it must be perfect. God’s infinite holiness, righteousness, and justice will accept nothing less than perfection.
Where is the man who has ever done anything that is perfect in the sight of God? Where is the man who has been perfectly faithful in any area of life before God? Who among us would be so brazenly self-righteous as to desire God to judge and reward him upon the grounds of his own works? Our tears, our faith, and the very best of our good works are so full of sin that, were they not washed in the blood of Christ, they would demand our eternal damnation!
Our only acceptance before God is Christ. He perfectly fulfilled every requirement of God’s law as our Representative, and satisfied every demand of Divine Justice as our Substitute. Now, being clothed in his righteousness and washed in his blood, everything that God can and will give to men is ours, because we are in Christ. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” In Christ, “All things are yours.” When the Lord Jesus Christ presents us faultless and without blame before God, we shall be perfect having no spot of sin or blemish of infirmity; and no good thing shall be withheld from us.
I read of no secondary joys in heaven. None of God’s elect shall be placed in the back settlements of Canaan. Whoever invented the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven knew nothing of the gospel of the free-grace of God in Christ.
There is as much foundation in Holy Scripture for such a doctrine as there is for the papal doctrine of purgatory, and no more. The dying thief had no good works, no life of faithfulness, and no mighty deeds of self-denial by which to claim anything from God. Yet, he entered heaven, was accepted and rewarded by God, in exactly the same way as the apostle Paul, through the merits of Christ, our Substitute; and his reward was just as full. Both the thief and the apostle have all they wanted and all that God can give – They had all of Christ! Who wants more than that? Who can settle for less? Christ is our Reward; and God does not give him by degrees!
~ Don Fortner ~
A quote by Tony Warren ~ “Those who claim Christians will receive rewards in heaven for imperfect “good” works are deluding themselves. While they insist the works are necessary to prove the genuineness of professed faith, but are not required for earning heaven, they fail to understand that works are an evidence of genuineness of professed faith, not a proof of it. I’m sorry to say I believe the whole doctrine is contrived and contradictory. As in saying that post-justification works have sin in them, and yet also saying that they still can merit reward because the guilt of sin has been removed. But what they fail to address is that if the guilt of sin is removed, the works are then ‘perfect.’ So how could one’s work merit more than another, when they are both perfect? It is vain and circular reasoning in confusion and contradiction, because it’s not true.”
Thank you for this post about “Degrees of Rewards in Heaven”. However, I still have questions about it.
I think the Word of God is our light in all issues of faith. What does it say about this issue? According to my Berean attitude about the Bible I find the following scriptures supporting the degrees of rewards in heaven:
a) Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever”
b) Matth.10:41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward”
c) Matth.16:27 “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His Angels, and then He will reward each according to his works”
d) Rev.22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work”
Would anyone apply the correct “hermeneutics” and explain to me the above scriptures in relation to the degrees of rewards in heaven? As per now I support the degrees of rewards, but I’m open to learning. God bless
Thank you for your comment. Have you listened to the sermon, if you are unable to watch the video, let me know I also have the audio version.
Let me know 🙂
Also note that crowns will be given for various things, and not everyone will get all of these crowns:
2Ti 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
2Ti 4:8 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.
Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
2 Ti 4:8 (crown of righteousness given to those who have eternal life in Christ), Jas 1:12 (crown of life, given to those who have the righteousness of Christ), Rev 2:10 (crown of life, given to those who have the righteousness of Christ).
These all signify the same crown, that crown which will be given to all those who are saved by Grace. These are not different crowns. What teaching could possibly lead you to such a strange conclusion?
Is the crown of righteousness, which is the crown which was laid up for the Apostle Paul and for all those who love Christ (2 Ti 4:8), not enough crown for you? Is the crown of eternal life, bought for you by the Blood of Jesus Christ, too little reward for you, Robert?
As the article states and I repeat “Can there be degrees of holiness, degrees of perfection, degrees of faultlessness, degrees of glorification? Nonsense!”
There is one text of Scripture, which both destroys the doctrine of degrees of reward and assures every believer of an everlasting fulness of joy in glory. The text to which I refer is Revelation 21:4. — “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
To expect degrees of rewards , if Jesus completed His work on the cross, and paid the ultimate price for His redeemed , is outright arrogant to expect to receive more than Jesus as our redeemer. Think about it !!
As the article states :
‘Will you be among the blessed company of the redeemed? Will you be with Christ in glory? You will only enter into glory if you are worthy of heaven. You can only be made worthy by the merits of Christ. If you are worthy of everlasting glory, you shall have all the glory of heaven itself, without degrees, perfectly. The very glory that God the Father gave to the God-man Mediator, that great Mediator has given to his people (John 17:5; 22). Trust Christ and all the glory of Christ in heaven is yours. All who believe on the Son of God are heirs of God, and more. – We are joint heirs with Christ!”
Thank you so much for this post. This concept/teaching has always troubled me…it just didn’t seem right. I appreciate this pastor and his clear teaching of the Word. I look forward to partaking of more of his teachings. This is answer to prayer. Again, thank you.
Thank you for commenting. You are very welcome. It is an honor to be able to share with other like minded sisters and brothers.
Among my thoughts regarding the assumed degrees or different levels of rewards, are the following.
There is no Biblical evidence whatsoever to support the belief that there will be degrees of rewards for God’s elect, to the contrary, it is in opposition to what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace. If one were to believe that there will be such rewards for things done in the flesh, it would stand firmly against Scripture.
It is, at best, a confused and dangerous false man-made doctrine, which could not serve the saved believer in any possible way. At worst, it is a demonic doctrine which defrauds the Gospel, devalues the atonement of Christ and defiles the Heavenly abode of God.
The Bible tells us that we will be joint heirs with Christ, we will be co-owners of His glory.
We cannot be saved by His grace, but then still be expected to earn our rewards by means of our works. The two doctrines are simply at complete odds with one another. If we are to earn rewards according to our deeds of faithfulness or obedience, then our position in salvation, is determined by our works, not by grace.
All rewards, although nowhere does Scripture speak of such a variance of rewards for different saints, will not be according to our works, but according to His Will.
A reward system based on our works, robs Christ of the glory of His grace and makes it possible for human flesh to boast before God.
Let’s assume that you are more capable than me of pleasing God by what you can do by your own strength, faithfulness and obedience, then surely you are entitled to feel great pride in your capabilities and boast about your achievements?
If, by what we do, we can make God indebted to reward us, then we can manipulate God’s sovereign will. If even our BEST deeds are regarded as filthy rags before God, how can we even begin to consider that we should be rewarded for any of them?
In conclusion, I can find no Biblical mandate to support this doctrine of rewards, but I can find much which firmly denounces it.
I respectfully disagree with Grant and Don Fortner on this issue.
You cannot deny that Christ promises specific rewards in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation. If Christ says it is so – it is so. These rewards are not earned like you earn wages. These are rewards for doing what God expects of you and not because of any merit of your own.
It is also not true that that the Bible does not speak to the issue elsewhere – it does. I honestly believe that these scholars are confusing separate issues. The great gift of eternal life that is the same for all believers and secondly the special rewards for some. Separate issues. There are even more references than quoted by Bill Issa. Matthew 7:2, 1 Cor 3:12-14, Eph 6:8 etc. Now Grant, please help me understand your position in the light of the Word of God – do I deny these verses – including some by Christ – and follow your opinion or do I believe the Word of God? Another thing to remember is not to confuse salvation by works with rewards. That would also be to confuse two separate issues. We have a number of separate thematic Biblical doctrinal points confused in much of what is taught. We have just three that are relevant in this debate.
Each of the topics are clearly explained in the Word. To use a reference to one to comment on another is bad theology. These themes co-exist beside each other. The three that are pertinent here are:
1. There is no salvation by works. We are saved by grace and faith alone.
2. There are specific rewards for specific believers in eternity.
3. These rewards are secret and will only be revealed in eternity. You cannot “aim” for a specific reward because Christ never revealed what they are in detail. See Psalm 62:12, Jer 17:10, Rev 2:17, 3:17 as examples.
How is it possible to come to any conclusion that is contrary to this clear teaching in the Word on these three facts?
Finally just one thought again from Revelation. It is true that all we do we do as born again sinners. However, the principle of praise for labour is again clearly stated by Christ in Revelation. Read Rev 2:2-3, 2:8-10, 2:13, 2:19, 2:24-25, 3:4, 3:9 etc. To deny Christ’s love and appreciation of believers doing their best for Him is also to deny a Biblical fact. To jump from Revelation to the Old Testament – Abraham was called the friend of God. The same principle.
You can be so fundamentalist in your views that the character and nature of the love of God is lost, the relationship. You can also take this to the opposite Pentecostal/Charismatic extreme that is disrespectful to God. The truth is in the middle, a perfect balance, and the Bible teaches it. Salvation by grace does not cancel the possibility of reward or we are sitting on a massive contradiction in God’s Word.
Why can the one not exist with the other in a perfect God as the Bible teaches? Who decided that this was a contradiction? The Bible says it is so and therefore there is no contradiction. Accept and believe – I don’t have to understand it. I say again – God says it is so – then it must be so – that ends the debate for me.
Peace – Shalom
Thank you for commenting.
You say that rewards will be on offer for those who do what God expects them to do, but at the same time you say that the rewards are not earned by merit of their own. That statement is in itself, contradictory and also indicates that we should expect rewards for deeds soaked in sin. God is a perfectly Holy God, and therefore cannot reward any deeds by men, whether pre– or post- justification. Our reward is Jesus Christ in us, which is all that can be rewarded by the Father. Surely you cannot expect to bring added value to that by means of our obedience.
If we do what God expects us to do, by necessity that takes place as a result of our own decision; alternatively we could have decided not to do it. There is no difference between what you proffer, and works based merit. If points 2 and 3 that you make were Biblical, then your point 1 cannot be true. You cannot marry two diametrically opposed truths. Truth is either absolute, or truth cannot exist. You are employing circular reasoning, you start out with grace and end up again back at the law, or works, which denies the efficacy and perfection of Christ’s atonement.
It is not a question of you having to deny the existence of the verses which you refer to, in order to accept what I, (or the article), says. It is a grave error to deny any part of Scripture, or to twist it in order to make it say what we would like it to say. That would be equally as relevant to your position as it is to mine. Scripture also does not contradict Scripture. No, it is by no means a question of denying what Scripture says, it is a question of understanding what it says as a whole.
Here again, is another opinion, which addresses the matter:
“Those who claim Christians will receive rewards in heaven for imperfect “good” works are deluding themselves. While they insist the works are necessary to prove the genuineness of professed faith, but are not required for earning heaven, they fail to understand that works are an evidence of genuineness of professed faith, not a proof of it. I’m sorry to say I believe the whole doctrine is contrived and contradictory. As in saying that post-justification works have sin in them, and yet also saying that they still can merit reward because the guilt of sin has been removed. But what they fail to address is that if the guilt of sin is removed, the works are then ‘perfect.’ So how could one’s work merit more than another, when they are both perfect? It is vain and circular reasoning in confusion and contradiction, because it’s not true.”
Nevertheless, as you say, I suppose you don’t need to understand it.