“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”
False and True Rewards
It is hard to have a godly understanding of God’s rewards without having paid any cost. On the Earth, our understanding of rewards is dominated by physical possessions or consumables. Promotions, winning the lottery, and other kinds of worldly favor usually expose our desire for increased comfort or physical pleasure.
Heaven’s rewards are mostly about being honored by God for our cost. He honors before others the tears and blood sacrificed by his people. He shows by the specific blessings he distributes that he has seen and understood our earthly suffering. His “Well done” is true praise. It is absolutely that we understand what it is to find our recompense in his “well done” if we are going to understand the nature of Heaven.
The bible gives us various warnings on the topic of rewards, as we prepare for the fullness of Heaven.
Do not let your reward be other’s approval. Allow God to define your work.
Do not let yourself be distracted. Do not give yourself over to despair.
One day we will stand before Jesus in the flesh, and he will show each of us the effect our sacrifices had. We will see the portion we surrendered and the many baskets of loaves and fishes that it produced through his multiplication power. We will see our talents, every resource from gifting to finance to ones we may not even we aware that we have, and we will see the exact measure of what it earned for the Kingdom of God. May we be those that bring Jesus the full measure of his inheritance through our costly choices to give him everything. We know that the result of great giving is great joy, for him and for the Kingdom.
We will see the fullness of God’s perfect redemption and glory over all curses and loss. Every tear will truly be dried from the people’s eyes when they see the perfection of his justice, his triumphant goodness, and his unimaginable creative wholeness. On this side of heaven, we cannot possibly imagine the fullness of what God will do with our surrendered lives. It will be story after story building the story of God himself, of great courage, great redemption, and unimaginable plot twists.
On that day, the people will reflect the glory of his inheritance.
Heaven is Ultimately About Jesus’ Reward
One reality that should give us utmost delight is simultaneously simple and mind blowing: Heaven is actually not about us.
Heaven is actually both a picture and a reality of the ongoing reward of Jesus. In Heaven, Jesus’ longing for recompense will be fulfilled.
Instead of being a sojourner, Jesus will receive his land and territory. The recreated Heavens and Earth is the renovated Holy land Jesus died for.
Instead of his years of abandonment and isolation, Jesus will receive an inheritance of people (Isaiah 60:4, Psalm 87:5, John 4:35, Isaiah 49). On earth, this is what it means when people are born again into the Kingdom of God and receive his Holy Spirit as a proof.
Instead of premature death and lost time, Jesus’ premature death will be repaid by eternity.
Instead of mockery, Jesus will receive endless honor and endless praise.
Jesus’ full measure of torture will be repaid by the fullness of his joy. I don’t actually believe we have a verse in the Bible that shows fully what the fullness of this joy will look like. I think to some degree, it will be a surprise.
In his Eternal Kingdom, the Holy Trinity will go from glory to glory for eternity. Because we are in Christ, we will be caught up in his glory and brought from glory to glory for eternity too.
Christ, Our Crown
Since Heaven belongs to Christ in all of its fullness, it gives me great joy to share that our ultimate reward is Christ himself.
The elders prophetically enact this truth, for they cast their crowns at his feet.
In the bible, Crowns signify Honor. In the bible, we see that Jesus will give crowns to his people as a way to honor them.
Isaiah 28:5 says, “In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown
And a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people.”
Revelation 12:1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. This woman symbolizes the Church.
In the bible, EVERY SINGLE CROWN that God’s people receive relate to who Jesus is to us, and Jesus’ own identity. Each crown is a symbol of being marked and defined by Jesus, for those who have let themselves be so marked.
Our truest rewards as the people of God will be in 1) being honored by Christ and 2) being defined by him.
“Christ” is the new name is new name by which we will be defined, not just in part, but in our entire substance. This is what it means to be past the point of decay, because he has overcome it.
All of the crowns for believers mentioned in scripture directly relate who Jesus is. I am going to give just four examples of how these crowns connect to Jesus’ character, and leave room for my readers to search out the rest.
Christ Our Glory
1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Christ Our Life
James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Christ Our Righteousness
2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Philippians 3:8-9 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Christ our Joy
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
John 15:11-13 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Some Reasonable Questions
Does that mean that I cannot expect a nice place prepared for me in Heaven?
No! Jesus said in John 14:2-4,
“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Instead of asking whether your heavenly mansion has a hot tub, it might be more edifying to ask God to help you trust that he is the author of all good gifts, and will not give you something awful.
Does this mean that Heaven will be less awesome than I had hoped?
Our experience of Heaven will doubtlessly be more awesome than any of us can rightly imagine. God is the giver of good gifts, and he knows how to take us from glory to glory for all of eternity. You will hardly be bored.
However, the ultimate aim and the ultimate prize of Heaven is already the person of Jesus Christ, who came down to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. Eternity has already started.
A bit overwhelmed? Sometimes we need to spend more time reflecting and processing information, using other senses to help us align to what God is saying. Check out this song by Josh Yeoh that will help your heart internalize Christ as our Greatest Reward.
Even More Good News: God makes the Church his Crown
Just as being honored by Jesus is our highest reward, God glorifies the Church in an even greater way: He makes her his own crown.
Do you realize that you serve a God who is proud of you, who delights in you, and even glories in you? That should blow our entire minds. If there was ever a reason to be spontaneously delivered of all insecurity, it is our realization that God glories in us.
Zephaniah 3:17, The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
God’s infinite capacity indicates that he has many names (aspects of his character) that only he knows and many crowns already. But in Isaiah 62:1-3, he promises and delights to make the Church his crown. We are that important!
How pleased and in love the Lord must be to make his Church his own crown!
Ending on a Prayer
Lord, it is utterly beyond our comprehension how much you delight in us. We are so grateful that it occurred to you to make yourself our reward, and crown us with the glory you earned for yourself. It goes without saying that we could never have earned the gifts you give us, and so we simply delight in them.
Lord, along with you we look forward to the eternal day of the fullness of your joy, your life, your righteousness, and your glory. Display your glory in us King Jesus, and rid us of any other pursuit.
Help us to know you as our truest reward and to define our lives by the honor that comes from God and not people.
Lord, we want to bring you glory and we long to be honored among your assembly. Give us the grace to live lives that honor you and bring the full measure of your inheritance, through us, into your storehouse.
With grateful longing, Amen!
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