Scripture refers to Heaven in three different ways: the vast expanse of space that surrounds the earth; the unequaled celestial universe; and the longed-for dwelling place of God. The reality that Christians will one day live forever in the presence of the Lord is a fundamental doctrine of the faith. The Bible only gives us a few glimpses of this Heavenly abode. It is a place prepared for Believers – John 14:1-3. It is a place without sorrow, darkness, or any kind of sin – Revelation 21:1-7. In Heaven, we will be like Christ; yet we will be able to recognize one another – 1 John 3:2. The most important thing about Heaven, however, is the presence of God. We will be forever with Him. Heaven is not meant to be an ethereal concept that we store in some mental safe-deposit box until we feel the need for it. We are to live now in the light of eternity. The values and perspective of eternity should guide our lives in the present – 2 Peter 3:10-12:
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
This is a subject that has been on my heart for some time now because I so wish for more of us to understand that just getting saved is not all there is to going to Heaven. Being saved by the precious blood of Jesus is all that is needed to be able to call Heaven our future home, but I do not believe the “rest of the story” is being taught in our churches today. I believe that there are very many who accept Jesus as Saviour, but that is the end of the journey for them; they have their ticket to Heaven. Salvation is just the beginning of a new life in Christ in which we all need to grow in and strive to be more like Christ each and every day while we are still present in this world. The purpose for that is to so shine our lights for others to want to come along with us. “God would that none should perish.”
I regret to say that not many “Christians” in this day even know what the Bema-Seat Judgment is, or they equate it with the Day of Judgment. The Bema-Seat Judgment is for the Saved in Christ, immediately upon our translation into Heaven. “For we 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.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). This Judgment is not for Salvation, but rather our works – what are we doing with Christ since we received Him as our Saviour? When we are saved, we are led by the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, if we are growing in the Spirit and trying to become like Christ. When we let this world lead us astray, we turn from our quiet times with God in our prayer closets, we turn from searching His Word so that it may mold us to be more like Christ and reveal His will for our lives, we leave God’s church family and the support that can be found there to help us through life’s trials and give us a place to serve the Lord.
Do we not understand that living in and for this world, or sowing to the flesh only leads to a life of sin and corruption? Galatians 6:5-8 “For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. 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.” A life led sowing to the Spirit of God leads to a life of righteousness and holiness. Those who sow to their own flesh do not lose the Spirit, but they lose the fruit of the Spirit. What kind of a testimony do we have for a world of lost sinners if we are living in the flesh? (I struggle each day against my fleshly sin nature that we all have as humans. Some times I win and some times I lose. I usually lose when I try to fight the battle on my own instead of calling on the Lord and His Holy Spirit to help me die to my sinful flesh.) Those who sow to the Spirit experience a harvest of righteousness and peace, the abundant life that God wishes for His children to experience in this world.
“Oh, well,” we think, “it’s okay, I am still going to Heaven, and God will forgive me.” Yes, of course both of those thoughts are true, but too many have forgotten that each and every one of us will stand before Christ at this Judgment and give account of what we did for Christ after He saved us. I have spent times in my life in the world, though saved, and when I came back to a walk with Christ, I felt such great remorse for those wasted years that could have been spent shining for Him. While on my knees crying out to God for forgiveness for those wasted years, I could not help but think how each of us will be so terribly overwhelmed by the remorse of not having done more for the cause of Christ, when we go into His presence, that we will weep uncontrollable tears of sorrow. I believe that those are the tears that the Lord God will wipe away from our eyes.
Every Believer has the choice to build with the valuable and lasting relationship with Christ, or the worthless and fleeting corruptness of this world and its ruler, satan. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
Not only is this Bema-Seat Judgment a time for our works to be held in account, but it is also a throne where Christ will give rewards to His faithful servants. Now, I know that we all love getting recognition for doing good or doing right, but I believe when we received these rewards from Jesus, we will with all our hearts and souls want to turn right around and lay these rewards at the feet of Jesus. We will fully realize that anything we may have earned would not be possible if not for Him-we will not even be in Heaven if not for Him, and it is He who truly deserves all rewards.
Scripture calls these rewards crowns, which comes from 2 Greek words: 1. diadema – a crown worn by a king and bestowed by birthright, 2. stephanos – refers to the crown bestowed an athlete in the athletic games or on the field of battle for personal victory.
Crown of Rejoicing – reward for winning souls to Christ – 1 Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
Crown of Righteousness – given to those who have lived life as if Jesus may return at any moment (our great hope) – 2 Timothy 4:5-8 “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
Crown of Life – awarded to those who have suffered persecution or martyrdom for their faith – James 1:12 “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” And Revelation 2:10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
Crown of Mastery – for those who have disciplined their bodies and have been victorious over them – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Crown of Glory – this is the crown that will be given to those church leaders who have faithfully cared for the Lord’s sheep – 1 Peter 5:1-4 “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
Our Great loving and merciful God richly rewards those who have persevered and lived in obedience: Matthew 5:5,12; 19:27-30; 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27
Can we all just imagine what this world and our country would be like if God’s people would fully understand what comes after the Salvation of Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives? I dare say, it would not be as wicked and corrupt as it is today, and becoming more so every day. Yes, I know we are living in the end times, and satan knows that his time is short. Should we not also realize that our time is short as well, and live a life that makes those lost ones want what we have in Christ? Why do we let the evil ruler of this world be so successful in taking as many souls as he can to Hell with him? God did not create any of us for Hell, nor He did create Hell for mankind! He would that NONE should perish! 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
If we are not living for Christ, we are living for satan.