Future Rewards, part 6

Error 4: Christianity as Democracy. Jurgen Moltmann would like us to think of heaven as a place of undifferentiated equality, but that is not the theology of the Bible. As Jesus said in Matthew 19:28, the twelve apostles will “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” and there will be varying levels of responsibility based on the faithful completion of earthly responsibilities. Some raise the biblical argument of Matthew 20:1-16. In this parable of a landowner and workers in a vineyard, the laborers who began working at the last hour received the same wages as those who began in the morning. John MacArthur says, though, that “the subject of the parable of the landowner is not personal rewards that will determine the nature and scope of our ruling and serving in eternity, but rather the common blessedness of eternity that will belong to all believers. Here the Lord is not teaching about differences of rewards but the equality of salvation.”[1]

Some might ask, wouldn’t it diminish the perfection of heaven if some had more glory than others? Jonathan Edwards responds,

It will be no damp to the happiness of those who have lower degrees of glory that others are advanced above them…Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others…Those who are not so high in glory…will see it to be fitting that they who have been most eminent in works of righteousness should be most highly exalted in glory…[They] will have the greatest love for those who are highest in happiness because they will see most of the image of God in them. …On the other hand…the highest orders of saints, who know most of God, see most of the distinction between God and them, and consequently are comparatively least in their own eyes… Such will be the union in their society that they will be partakers of each other’s happiness.”[2]

Error 5: “Rewards” that Fail to Capture Interest. In many cases, when the topic of rewards is addressed, it is done so briefly, in a way that dispels interest. “It doesn’t matter what ‘crowns’ are, because we will just lay them back at Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:10).” Or, “The reward is just the satisfaction you feel from doing the right thing.” This is like telling a child to eat their vegetables so they can feel good about it. We cheapen the doctrine of rewards when we make it sound boring, because reward is intimately tied to knowing and loving Christ, to our own glory and happiness, and to dominion in the new creation.

Perhaps the problem begins when believers think they will be redeemed from creation. “Heaven” becomes a nebulous place utterly unconnected with the reality that they know. Joseph Ton says we need a better grasp of the human destiny of dominion and dynasty. When we see that “God’s final purpose with men and women is to give them…functions of ruling and responsibility over the entire created universe, then what Jesus taught about ranks in the kingdom of heaven based on the way people…discharged their duties in this present life” will become meaningful.[3] Because creation will be redeemed, there is overlap between this life and the next. Our treatment of small, temporary possessions in this life shows how we will handle the true riches that are to come: the possession of the whole world.[4]


[1]MacArthur, 214.

[2] Edwards, 302.

[3] Ton, xiii.

[4] Ibid., 432-433.

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Posted on February 27, 2010, in Theological Studies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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