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 ~