CHRISTIANS SHALL BE REWARDED ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS!
Copyright 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved


There is a widespread belief among Christians that they will not be rewarded according to their works. The Scriptures do not support this confidence. The Apostle Paul never taught that Christians are not judged and rewarded according to their works, nor did Jesus, John, Peter, James, Jude, or the writer of the Book of Hebrews. This teaching is a Christian tradition. It is not found in the Scriptures. It is not of the Holy Spirit of God.

If the Christians of today had any idea of the terror of the Judgment Seat of Christ, if they had any concept of the humiliation, pain, and loss of reward facing them in the near future, the churches would be on their face in an agony of repentance and confession of sin.


CHRISTIANS SHALL BE REWARDED ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS

There is a widespread belief among Christians that, unlike the remainder of mankind, they will not be rewarded according to their works. According to the Scriptures, this belief is not true.

Let us go to the Word of God and see what is written there.

Notice in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation that the Lord Jesus walks among the Christian churches. His eyes are as a flame of fire. To every church He says: "I know thy works." Not, I know thy creeds but "I know thy works."

To the Christians in Thyatira, Christ says: 

And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)

"I will give to every one of you according to your works."

"Your works."

Will the members of the Christian churches be rewarded according to their works? Apparently so.

The emphasis on our works is stressed in Revelation 3:2: 

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. (Revelation 3:2)

"I have not found thy works"!

Does the Lord Jesus Christ judge and reward the saints according to their works?

The rewards to the overcomer are based on what he does, according to Revelation, Chapters Two and Three. His theological positions are not mentioned.

Evidently our thinking is backward from that of Christ. We place emphasis on theological beliefs and little emphasis on works. Christ places great emphasis on works and little emphasis on theological beliefs, or so the Scriptures from Matthew to Revelation appear to teach. 

For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Corinthians 5:10)

The above verse is quite plain.

This passage is being treated today as though it is describing an awards ceremony at a sports banquet in which some of the participants receive a large cup and others a blue ribbon or honorable mention.

But the Greek term translated "judgment seat" is used consistently to mean a court where accused criminals are tried. Our tradition that no believer will experience serious consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ is preventing the believers from perceiving correctly what the verse is stating.

If the Judgment Seat of Christ poses no threat to the professor of faith in Jesus, why does the Apostle Paul reflect on this judgment by saying immediately, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men"?

The context of II Corinthians 5:10 reveals that Paul is not implying that if people make a profession of belief in Jesus they then have no more fear of the Judgment Seat. Rather, Paul is speaking to believers and exhorting them to live unto Him who died for them and rose again and not to receive the grace of God in vain, that is, not to receive the Divine grace and then live in unrighteousness and uncleanness (II Corinthians 5:15; 6:1; 7:1).

If the Christians of today had any idea of the terror of the Judgment Seat of Christ, if they had any concept of the humiliation, pain, and loss of reward facing them in the near future, the churches would be on their face in an agony of repentance and confession of sin. 

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)

Where did we ever get the idea that Christians are not rewarded according to their works?

From Paul? Not at all, for Paul taught consistently that we shall reap what we sow.

To the "churches of Galatia" Paul wrote: 

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7,8)

Paul follows this up by saying, "And let us not be weary in well doing [in behaving ourselves as Christians should]: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."

We Christians reap the good we sow, and also the evil we sow unless we confess our evil to God and turn away from it with His help.

The Apostle Paul never taught that Christians are not judged and rewarded according to their works, nor did Jesus nor John nor Peter nor James nor Jude nor the writer of the Book of Hebrews. This teaching is a Christian tradition. It is not found in the Scriptures. It is not of the Holy Spirit of God.

Many Christian people were quick to declare that speaking in tongues, which is scriptural and of the Holy Spirit of God, is of the devil. Yet they themselves have gone into error in their understanding of the grace of God, of the nature and purpose of the Christian redemption.

Speaking of Christians receiving the consequences of their behavior, what does Paul teach us concerning the Communion elements? 

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (I Corinthians 11:28)

Examine himself in terms of what? In terms of his attitude and behavior as a believer, as a member of the Body of Christ. 

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (I Corinthians 11:29)

The above verse means we are required to partake of the Communion in a proper attitude. If we do not, the elements of the Communion bring condemnation on us.

If a saint is not at peace with his brothers and sisters in the Lord, the body and blood of Jesus may make him physically weak and sickly. Some of the believers in Corinth had died prematurely because they had not come to the Lord’s Table with a right attitude toward the Lord or toward their fellow believers, an attitude demonstrated by their selfish behavior.

We must judge ourselves as to our attitude and behavior. If we do not, God will judge us and we will receive back the consequences of our behavior. God will chasten our flesh so we do not come under the condemnation that always abides on the world.

Perhaps Paul’s clearest explanation of judgment and rewards can be found in the second chapter of the Book of Romans. The subtle doctrine of justification by faith (Romans, Chapters Three through Five) is surrounded by two chapters, Two and Six, that show that God does not excuse or overlook Christian conduct on the basis of grace. All men, Christians and non-Christians alike, will reap what they sow. Romans 6:23, for example, is addressed to Christians.

The following passage from the second chapter of Romans is a case in point: 

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (Romans 2:6)

Does this mean every man, or every non-Christian, or every Christian? We have these three choices. God will render to every man according to his deeds. This we know; but what does the Spirit mean by "every" man?

Let us read on and see if we can determine to whom "every man" is referring. 

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (Romans 2:7)

According to the above verse, how is eternal life attained?

Eternal life is attained by perseverance in doing good; by stedfast endurance in well-doing.

What do those who persevere in doing good hope to achieve?

Glory, honor, immortality, eternal life.

What does God give to such people on the basis of their patient continuance in well doing?

Eternal life.

How do they gain eternal life?

By persevering in good behavior, according to the Scripture.

But we thought that we gain eternal life by believing in Jesus. We do. We just do not understand that there is no true belief in Jesus apart from righteous, holy, and obedient behavior toward God. We do not truly accept or understand that "faith without works is dead."

Precisely who is it that gains eternal life by doing good? We only have three choices: the Christian, the non-Christian, or every person.

What does the Scripture teach? The Scripture teaches that "every man" receives eternal life on the basis of his patient continuance in well-doing.

Does that not raise some serious questions concerning the current Christian position?

We could press this point from several other passages of Scripture, particularly from the Gospel accounts. But we are using Paul because he is the one whose teachings are used as the basis for the current misunderstanding.

It may be difficult for believers to accept that "every man" receives eternal life on the basis of his perseverance in well-doing. That would mean a non-Christian could gain eternal life by perseverance in well-doing. This indeed may be true for those who never have had an opportunity to hear the Gospel (although in any case they could receive eternal life only through Christ, for He alone is the Resurrection and the Life). However, the concept of how God deals with people who never have had an opportunity to hear the Gospel raises issues we will not address at this time.

The point we are making is that Paul as well as all the other writers of the Scriptures associates eternal life with righteous conduct. To depart from this concept in favor of eternal life coming to godless individuals on the basis of a profession of belief in Jesus is to change God’s purpose in bringing forth the new covenant.

If we cannot accept the scriptural "every man" because this would signify that a non-Christian can gain eternal life by patient continuance in well-doing, we are forced to conclude that Paul is speaking to Christians.

The Christian gains eternal life by patient continuance in well-doing.

If it is true that the Christian gains eternal life by patient continuance in well-doing, then our thesis, which is that Christians will be rewarded according to their works, is strengthened.

The confusion has arisen because of a misunderstanding of the Kingdom principle, the just (righteous) shall live by faith.

The confusion is centered on the difference between the current Christian definition of faith and the scriptural definition of faith.

The popular Christian definition of faith has to do with our acceptance and confession of the facts of the atonement and the resurrection This is close to the philosophy of Gnosticism, an ancient heresy presenting specialized knowledge as the key to salvation..

The scriptural definition of faith is found in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. If we assemble the behavior of all the people mentioned by name in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we have the scriptural definition of faith. These people are all from the Old Testament, revealing to us that no person ever was saved by the Law of Moses or by any other program of works. The saints, whether of the Old Testament or the New Testament, always are declared righteous on the basis of their faith.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a record of people who by patient continuance in well-doing were seeking for glory and honor and immortality. What did they gain? They gained eternal life in the Presence of God.

But the eleventh chapter of Hebrews does not mention anyone’s acceptance and confession of the facts of the atonement and the resurrection. Such acceptance on the part of an individual to whom Christ has granted true faith is only the doorway to the life of faith, the life of humble dependence on God. It is righteous behavior that leads to eternal life, not the acceptance and confession of the facts concerning the Divine redemption.

Hebrews, Chapter 11 does not mention acceptance or confession of theological facts. Rather, it portrays an attitude of heart and mind that causes the faithful to spend their lives in obedience to God and in the single-minded pursuit of the city that has foundations, the new Jerusalem. This is the faith that saves. Saving faith properly can be rendered "faithfulness." Scriptural "faith" is faithfulness to God. It is not an attempt to escape the consequences of sin against the moral law of God by professing belief in Christ.

The just shall live by faith is a way of living, not adherence to specialized theological knowledge.

We must persevere in Christian behavior to the end of our days if we expect to be saved, that is, to be brought into the Kingdom of God at the appearing of the Lord. The righteous are saved with difficulty, according to the Scriptures (I Peter 4:18). The expression "saved with difficulty" means, from the context, that fiery trials save us by purifying our spirit.

Fiery trials save us if we continue in faith toward God. However, if we do not respond correctly to the fiery trials by continuing in faith toward God, but instead blame people or God for our pain, then our suffering produces bitterness in us rather than righteousness and eternal life.

"The righteous shall live by faith" means God will receive the individual who lives his life in humble dependence on God (through Christ now that Christ has come). But Christian tradition interprets this fundamental Kingdom principle to mean God will receive the individual who professes certain facts of theology (facts known to the demons) whether or not the individual lives in faithfulness before God.

The current definition and practice are contrary to the Scriptures. They teach that the righteous do not live by faith in God but will go to Heaven because of their statement of belief. According to this false teaching it is not necessary that we live in humble dependence on God, only that we profess the correct theology.

That may not be what theologians intend to convey but it certainly is being understood this way by a multitude of God’s people. The result of the misunderstanding has been the destruction of the testimony of the Christian churches. The testimony of Christ always must be of righteous, holy, and obedient behavior, not of theological belief divorced from behavior.

Not only has the Lord removed the Lampstand (the Divine testimony) from the churches because of the unrighteousness of the members, but in addition the believers are under condemnation because they are not walking and abiding "in Christ." They will be rewarded precisely according to their behavior. They will harvest what they are sowing. They must be warned of this fact.

Let us continue in Romans, Chapter Two: 

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (Romans 2:8)

Who will receive indignation and anger in the Day of Christ?

The Scripture states, "every man."

Would we say "only the non-Christian"? Not unless we are ready to maintain it is only the non-Christian who can gain eternal life by patient continuance in well-doing (to be consistent with the previous verse—2:7).

Would we say, "only the Christian?" Christians may find it difficult to believe that only the Christians will receive indignation and wrath in the Day of Christ. But this is what we must accept if we claim it is only the Christian who can gain eternal life by patient continuance in well-doing.

Romans 2:6-8 must apply to the same set of people. If it is speaking of Christian people, then it is only the Christian people whose evil deeds will be rewarded with Divine anger and retribution appropriate to those deeds. It would be better to use the scriptural "every man" and let the Lord explain to us at a later time how people who have never heard the Gospel can hope for eternal life because of their patient continuance in well-doing.

If the Scriptures speak so plainly that Christian people will be rewarded according to their works, where, then, does faith come in? The answer is, faith lives in and is made perfect by works. 

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (James 2:22)

There is no such thing as faith apart from works. By works we mean behavior that is godly, righteous, holy, obedient to God, always trusting in the Lord and seeking His guidance in every situation. We do not mean the works of the Law of Moses or of any other religion or scheme of people by which they hope to please God apart from Calvary.

Faith without works is dead. Faith has its life only in works. There is no such thing as an abstract faith, a faith without expression in behavior. Faith causes us to choose to yield ourselves to righteous behavior. Righteous behavior bears the fruit of holiness. Holiness brings us directly to eternal life in the Presence of God. 

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)

Where there is no service to Christ, no holiness of personality and behavior, there is no eternal life. It is as simple and clear as that. A profession of belief in Christ does not waive this principle.

Let us fervently ask the Lord Jesus Christ to cleanse our minds and hearts of the misunderstanding that being saved by grace means God will not judge us and reward us according to our works. Grace is the Presence of God in action in the lives of the faithful, not the Divine excuse for the sins of the believers.

We want the truth at any cost. Do you?

In this brief article we have spoken only of the consequences of not living faithfully before the Lord. There is another side of the coin and it is of equal importance. The other side is that there are unimaginably glorious rewards for serving the Lord.

The Kingdom of God is a real Kingdom, a realm of authority that includes a king, a nobility, and people who are governed. It will be located in the earth. It will be installed when the Lord appears from Heaven. It is the Kingdom spoken of by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus as they proclaimed: "Repent for the Kingdom of God, of Heaven, is at hand!"

We are not speaking here of a fantasy land in the spirit realm but of a social order on the earth in which people live and move and do ordinary things. The concept of going to Heaven to live in a fantasy land is closely related to Gnosticism, which teaches that matter is evil and spirit is good. We Christians know, however, that God pronounced the material world "very good" and that sin and rebellion came from the spirit world.

When we enter the Kingdom of God, at the coming of the Lord Jesus, we shall have desires. We shall want to do certain things, to be in specific places, to have desirable relationships with the Lord and with people.

How much freedom we shall have to obtain our desires depends on our faithfulness in serving the Lord today. Those who truly take up their cross and follow the Master will have their heart’s desire given to them. Those who walk in righteousness will have need of no good thing—all shall be given to them.

Those who follow the Lord afar off will not only be punished, they will be governed by more diligent people (if they are permitted to enter the Kingdom at all). They will not be free to go wherever they please, to do whatever they want. They will not be permitted to enter the glorious inheritance of the faithful saints.

Right now we cannot see the rewards that will be given to the diligent believers and so we are apt to be careless with the things of God. What our eyes can see on the earth may appeal to us so strongly that we neglect prayer and obedience to God.

But when the Lord comes and we see the possibilities for joy that exist in the Kingdom of God we are going to be in an agony of remorse because we have restricted ourselves to such an extent.

Abraham is an example of a saved person who pleases God by his obedience. Lot is an example of a saved person who lives a careless, self-seeking, self-centered life.

Compare the glorious circumstances of Abraham with the pathetic, threadbare existence of Lot hiding in the cave with his two daughters. Abraham is the father of all who believe, He will sit down with Isaac and Jacob in wondrous glory in the Kingdom of God—a prince among the princes of God.

Where will Lot be in that day? Lot through his incestuous daughters became the father of Moab and Ammon, the cursed of the Lord.

Careless Christians excuse their foolishness by speaking of being saved as by fire. Do they have any idea of what it means to be saved by fire? Do they think to be saved as by fire means they will have a two-story mansion in Paradise instead of a much larger house? Is this what they picture as being saved as by fire?

To be saved as by fire means to have most of our personality burned away in an agony of judgment and then to enter as a naked spirit into the Kingdom of God. No reward! No "well done, good and faithful servant!" No crown of life and righteousness! No closeness to God as a pillar in His temple! No position of authority over the nations as a royal priest! No place in the throne of Christ! The loss of reward will be staggering—enough to cause unbearable remorse for a long, long time.

The rewards for serving the Lord begin in the present world and will continue for eternity. The loss incurred and the lashes given for not obeying God are terrible and we do not know how long the consequences will continue.

We are not speaking now of those who are cast into the Lake of Fire, a fate so frightful as to be beyond human comprehension. Rather we are referring to being saved as by fire--a destiny reserved for those who build wood, hay, and straw on the foundation of Christ.

Satan has successfully persuaded the Christians of our day that the rewards that will be given to all believers are so similar there is no reason to become concerned about possible differences. The sternly obedience, the lukewarm, the careless, the disobedient will all be "saved," meaning they will enter Paradise and perhaps serve God as a king on the earth.

Those who choose to continue in this lie are free to do so. As for me and my house, we intend to serve the Lord with a whole heart. We know that God is to be feared. To not serve Him is to face loss of reward and possibly lashes when the Lord Jesus returns from Heaven. To serve the Lord faithfully throughout one’s lifetime is to gain a certain hope of joy and glory at His coming. Of course, the greatest joy of all is to know in our heart that we have been a true servant of Christ and that God is pleased with us.

Don’t you agree?