Here are four questions you may have regarding this subject of eternal rewards—with the answers attached. J. Dwight Pentecost’s book Things To Come was a great help to me in this study.
1. When are we rewarded?
In Revelation 22:10 Jesus says to us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” From this verse we believe believers will be rewarded shortly after His coming for the church (the rapture) at the judgment seat (or the bema) of Christ.
2. What will we be rewarded for and what will be our rewards?
Each believer will be rewarded for works that are proven to endure God’s testing. In the New Testament five categories of works are mentioned that have rewards attached to them.
(1) For those who exercise self-control over the flesh, they will receive an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25).
(2) For those who are soul winners, they will receive a crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
(3) For those who endure trials, they will receive a crown of life (James 1:12).
(4) For those who love His appearing, they will receive a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).
(5) For those who have been willing to feed the flock of God, they will receive a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
I don’t really think this is a complete list. I think there are numerous works that we will be rewarded for—if they are found to be pure.
3. What determines whether my works will be rewarded or not?
All our works will be tried by God to see if they pass His test. 1 Corinthians 3: 12-15 describes this testing process.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
So here we see that if our works are found to be valuable as gold, silver, and precious stones, then we will receive a reward, but if they are found worthless as to be burned up in the testing fire, we will not be rewarded. But how can we know now if our works will endure? On the outside we may not be able to tell. Our works may appear to be very enduring; however, in the end they may be found to be a cheap imitation and will not last in the testing fire.
I think the answer is found in our motives. If we did works for self-gain and to look good to others, those works will not pass His test, even if they are works such as sole winning and preaching. But works that are done in the strength of the Lord and for the glory of God, these works will endure, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.
4. Will my rewards make me proud and arrogant?
No, the believer will not become proud. We were redeemed in order that we might glorify God (1 Cor. 6:20). That is our eternal destiny and will be forever a part of our new nature. Therefore any reward we receive we will give back to Him (Rev. 4:10), or use it to reflect His glory. Pentecost writes,
Inasmuch as reward is associated with brightness and shining in many passages of Scripture (Dan. 12:3; Matt. 13:43; 1 Cor. 15:40-41, 49), it may be that the reward given to the believer is a capacity to manifest the glory of Christ throughout eternity. The greater the reward, the greater the bestowed capacity to bring glory to God. Thus in the exercise of the reward of the believer, it will be Christ and not the believer that is glorified by the reward.