Rewards, when will we get them?

When will we receive our rewards?  I hope I don’t sound childish here.  If a child knows that a reward has been promised for a certain act of obedience, there is very little patience on their part in waiting for the reward once he/she has accomplished the point of obedience.  I’m not talking about that aspect of our rewards, I’m talking about the timing for our rewards from an eschatological point of view.  That’s just a fancy way of saying, "When Jesus comes back, exactly when will we be presented with those rewards that He and the apostles spoke so often about.
 
First off, if you have not been forgiven for your sins, if you have not been saved from your sins, if you haven’t placed your faith in Christ and His work on the cross, then you will not be receiving any rewards in the sense that I’m talking about.  Our sin separates us from God.  The only reward that sinners will receive is to be sentenced for all eternity to the lake of fire to suffer the wrath of God.  But, oh glory, for those who have been washed by the blood of Christ from their sins.  Those who have been saved by God’s grace when they believe in Christ are born again into the family of God.  Now God treats you as one of His own children.  God is your Father and as a Father, He promises you rewards for obedience to His commands.
 
This is a study which stems from a conversation I had with someone who was trying to tell me that the church cannot enter the Great Tribulation because we need to be in heaven receiving our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  First off, this is a very weak argument.  So why take the time to deal with this?  The reason is that so many believe that rewards are something that are to be presented in heaven, when the Bible actually explains over and over that our rewards will be presented here on earth when Christ sets up His Kingdom.  Let’s just do a little study and see what Jesus and the apostles taught concerning the time, place, and setting for the presentation of our rewards.
 
First off, let’s examine the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.  In verse 12 we read that our reward is in heaven.  But in the previous verses we have read that the meek will inherit the earth.  So the reward is heavenly, but the final destination of the meek is to inherit the earth.  Also, note that the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake actually possess the kingdom of heaven.  Just a little bit further in the Sermon on the Mount, we have the verses which tell us to lay up treasure in heaven, Matthew 6:19-21.  So one thing is sure, whatever God is going to present us with, it’s not here on earth right now.  But, will the presentation of these rewards be in heaven, or will Christ establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth first, and then present us with heavenly rewards?  Look at Matthew 16:27:
 
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
 
In this verse, our rewards are not presented until the Son of Man comes in the glory of His Father with His Holy Angels.  This is the second coming whereby Christ comes to establish His Kingdom (the Kingdom of Heaven) here on earth.  It is at this time when we receive our rewards.  Some might say that this passage refers only to the reward that Christ will give to sinners, but the context is one of saving your life (being rewarded with it) because you lose it for the sake of the LORD.  Jesus also continues with thoughts for those who will join Him in His Kingdom, showing that He was speaking not to those being shut out of His Kingdom, but to those who would participate in it.
 
The Story of the Rich Young Ruler, Matthew 19:16-30:  This is a great story and notice I included some verses at the end that most people pass over.  Let’s zero in on Jesus’ words to the young man with great possessions.  "Sell what you have, give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven."  Again, the reward for obeying Christ, loving God more than the world, and for doing service in His name is a heavenly reward.  But let’s examine verses 27-30.  Peter’s question is, "Hey, what about us?"  They indeed had forsaken all to follow the Messiah.  What would their reward be?  And when will they receive it?  Of course it will be a heavenly reward.  But look at how Jesus says their reward will be fulfilled.
 
…ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
 
The reward for the disciples will be claimed when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory.  Notice that the twelve tribes of Israel are established and the apostles raised to a place of prominence to judge them.  And notice especially that reward is equated with authority in the kingdom.  Jesus continues His words by saying that anyone who forsakes anything for Him will receive one hundred times that amount (in the world to come Luke 18:30 adds) and eternal life.
 
Let’s look at another parable.  In the Olivet Discourse, after explaining that He will come again from heaven to earth, Jesus tells the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:14-30.  After the "long time", the lord of those servants comes to them and reckons with them.  Here we have the analogy of Christ coming from heaven to earth and reckoning with those to whom He had entrusted His goods.  Here is what He said to the first two servants:
 
Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
 
Our rewards are based on our faithfulness.  Again, rewards are equated with authority in the kingdom.  And again, the rewards are presented when Christ comes to earth to establish His Kingdom.  (For those who wish to look it up, Luke’s similar parable agrees completely with these comments, Luke 19:12-27.  The nobleman receives the kingdom, returns, then rewards his servants with positions of authority within the kingdom.)  Notice a bit later in the Olivet Discourse what Christ has to say.  I will simply post the scripture since you already know the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom and the presentation of rewards.
 
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory
 
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
 
Jesus goes on to explain that the inheritance of the kingom is their reward for their treatment of Himself vicariously through the least of these.  The righteous claim their inheritance as they enter the Kingdom of Heaven which has been established on earth.  Moving on to Luke, there is a passage in 14:12-14 which seems to be unique to the physician’s gospel.  Here the rewards which we receive will be presented at the resurrection of the just.  I have already written at length about the resurrection back in February, so to sum up, we have another passage where the rewards are presented at the physical presence of Christ on the earth as He raises the righteous dead.
 
Now how about the epistles?  Do we read something different?  Or will everything here agree with the words of Christ?  I Corinthians 3 is a classic passage that many will quote regarding our rewards.  It’s a great passage to meditate on.  One verse I would like to focus on is verse 13 which states:
 
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.
 
Exactly what day is Paul writing about here?  And what is this fire?  The subject matter continues into chapter 4 since Paul continues writing about judgment.  Let’s look at verse 5.
 
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
 
Here, the judgement of believers is at the time when the Lord "comes", that’s erchomai, as in, comes from one place to another place.  Our praise of God for righteous deeds is at the time when the Lord comes, and the day of fire reveals what sort of work we busied ourselves with during our brief stay here in this world of sin.
 
The Judgement Seat of Christ:  Here is the crux of the argument that I hear so often.  The Judgement Seat of Christ (Messiah) is something completely separate from the judgement which sinners will face.  I would agree with that.  But when will the Judgement Seat of Christ or Messiah occur?  Will it happen during the seven year marriage feast while the church is in heaven missing out on Daniel’s seventieth week?  No.  The church will enter Daniel’s seventieth week and the Great Tribulation.  The wedding feast is at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week.  The Judgement Seat of Messiah is an event that occurs in the Kingdom of Heaven after it has been established here on earth.  The phrase "The Judgement Seat of Christ" only occurs two times in the Bible.  Let’s examine both of them.
 
First, the more ambiguous reference, II Corinthians 5:10.  It is difficult to ascertain from this verse alone when exactly this event will occur.  But if we look a bit earlier in the text to verses 1-4, we can see that Paul was referring to our new resurrection bodies which we will receive when mortality is swallowed up by life.  This reminds us of I Corinthians 15:51-55 which quotes two OT passages; both are fulfilled at the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, see this post here.  Simply read Isaiah 24:7-9 to examine the context of what Paul was quoting when he wrote concerning the resurrection of the righteous in I Corinthians 15.
 
Second, the passage in Romans 14:10 is quite a bit clearer as far as establishing a timeline.  Paul understood the Judgement Seat of Messiah or Christ to occur at the same time as Isaiah 45:23, since that is the verse that he quotes in the verse immediately following.  Let’s read the passage in its context.
 
But why dost thou judge thy brother?  or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
 
When Paul writes, "It is written", he is quoting from Isaiah 45:23 which has a very specific context.  Back in verse 17 Isaiah had prophesied, "Israel shall be saved with an everlasting salvation".  That’s a big clue.  Then when we come down to verse 21, it is prefaced with a presentation of the LORD alone as Saviour, then continues as such:
 
…there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.  Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.  I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.  Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
 
Isaiah’s original context in writing this was the salvation of Israel at the time when all the ends of the earth would look unto the LORD for salvation.  This is a willing submission to God by bowing the knee before Him and swearing an oath to Him.  What is meant by the oath is explained in the next verse.  They will swear, or confess, that only in the LORD do they have righteousness and strength.  The Apostle Paul places the Judgement Seat of Christ at this point in time.  Why?
 
This agrees completely with the rest of our study.  PreMillennial Basics tells us that Messiah will come again to establish His Kingdom here on earth.  Israel will be saved, the nations will be judged with wrath, and those who remain will be allowed to enter into the Messianic Kingdom which will last for 1000 years.  They will be allowed to bow the knee before the LORD and confess Him as the only Saviour.  Paul was saying that we would be right there as well entering the Kingdom of Heaven based on our submission to Christ by bowing the knee and our confession of Him as the only Saviour.  This is the time when we will appear before the Judgement Seat of Messiah (which means Christ, John 1:41) and give an account of ourselves.  We will be presented with our place of authority (which is our reward) as Messiah judges us based on our faithfulness.
 
Lastly, the book of Revelation:  Without going to the passages concerning the New Jerusalem, I would just like to be succinct about this last section.  Is there evidence in the book of Revelation that agrees with our previous findings?  Is the establishment of the Kingdom of the Messiah here on earth linked with the rewards that will be presented?  Revelation 11:15-19 gives us an affirmative answer.  The kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of our God and of His Christ (Messiah) in verse 15, then in verse 18 we have the statement that a certain time had come.  This is the time of the dead that they should be judged in order to give rewards unto your servants the prophets and to the saints.  Conclusion: the rewards for the saints are not given until the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of the Messiah.
 
Scripture is united on this point.  While our reward is a heavenly reward, it will be presented when heaven breaks forth to the earth.  The Judgement Seat of Christ is an event that will occur when Christ establishes His Kingdom here on earth.  It has very little to do with the timing of the rapture which must be established independently of this study.
 
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
 
-The Orange Mailman
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