Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 12, taking a look this morning at verse 3. The title of our message this morning is Resurrection Unto Reward. There should be, if you haven’t gotten one already, a free copy of a book I wrote recently called Ever Reforming, on the name tag table. It’s just kind of taking a Sunday School class I did recently here on the Protestant Reformation and making that available in book form. And we kind of did that as an Easter gift for you, something else to put in the basket I guess. And if you didn’t get one we will have some available next week as well. We are sort of asking that it’s one for family, if you don’t mind. You say wait a minute, my brother-in-law lives in another part of the city. Okay, one per domicile.
And we are in the Book of Daniel. You say you’re not going to preach on Daniel on Resurrection Sunday are you? Is this an April Fool’s joke of some kind? Well, you’re going to see today, it’s interesting how the Lord has us in this passage and it deals directly with what we’re celebrating this morning, the resurrected Christ. Daniel, if you’re tracking with us for the very first time, is receiving revelation back in the sixth century B.C. He receives this revelation under great spiritual warfare but finally in chapter 11 the information is given and he has an amazing prophecy that really starts from Daniel’s time period; it goes all the way into the future time period that is yet future from ours, as he begins to see information about the antichrist who is yet future and then the coming tribulation period and millennial kingdom.
So we find ourselves in chapter 12 and we have a description of the end times, verses 1-4. Then we have verses 5-13, the duration of the end times. And we are still sort of working our way through the description of the end times. Verse 1 is a time period of unparalleled suffering for the nation of Israel yet future. You can sort of put the Book of Revelation there into verse 1. Verse 1 is sort of the summary statement, the Book of Revelation adds the details.
And we move from the suffering to the separation and here is where you get the most graphic depiction of resurrection, probably found anywhere in the entire Old Testament. Verse 2, which we read earlier, says this in terms of a prediction: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” And I am always amazed at how the Lord, when we just move through His Word, has us in the right sections of the Bible at the right time. For example, I don’t know if you caught it this week, based on some of the news reports that I read, the Pope denied the reality of hell. Did you all see that? Basically arguing that a person is annihilated if they’re an unbeliever and this idea of eternal damnation, eternal retribution, don’t worry about that. And it’s interesting that all last sermon we covered that issue, didn’t we? Why? Because we were out there to contradict the Pope? We didn’t know the Pope was going to say that. No, because we’re moving through the Word of God.
And here we are, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ (“coincidentally”) in parenthesis, or quotation marks, in verse 2 and verse 3 which describes two great resurrections, a resurrection unto life for the believer and a resurrection unto damnation for the unbeliever. We, in our prior sermon, talked about what a resurrection is. It’s a time period when your soul is placed into a glorified body for the Christian. Those two separate at death but those two are reunited in resurrection. And that is our future as God’s people and had it not been for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, the firstfruits of things to come, this future destiny of ours could not be a possibility.
And we looked very carefully last time at 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 which indicates Paul used language like “firstfruits” and also “each in his own order” to describe the resurrection program. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.”]
Basically what we did is we saw that these two resurrections, one for the believer, one for the unbeliever, you can take the one for the believer and you can divide it into three parts. Christ’s resurrection being the firstfruits. What does that mean exactly? His resurrection guarantees everyone else’s resurrection in the chain. And I think this is the part of teaching on Resurrection Sunday that most people aren’t getting at most churches. We have a tendency to promote the resurrection of Jesus as proof that He is, in fact, God, and He is! It proves that He is who He claimed to be but resurrection is much more than that because what it does is it gives us hope for the future.
We have absolute confidence, as God’s people, that we too one day will receive a resurrected body. Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead. We are going to receive our resurrected bodies at the point of the rapture. Non church age saints will receive their resurrected bodies at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. And then a thousand years will pass and then there will be a horrific resurrection of all unsaved people where they stand before the Lord at the Great White Throne Judgment and as their name is not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life they will be thrown into the lake of fire in resurrected bodies. Wow, that’s the whole teaching of God’s Word on this subject. And had it not been for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate this morning, His bodily resurrection, there is no hope for the others in the chain, including myself, including all of us, all people throughout history.
And what we’re moving into now is no longer talking about the separation but the shining. What is the first thing that you can expect to experience from God the moment you are placed in your resurrected body? Have you ever asked yourself that? I mean, this resurrection is very physical, it’s very real, therefore Christ’s resurrection is just the same as my resurrection yet future. We talk about it being a physical event, we talk about it being a real event but what do we experience exactly? Well verse 3, in the shining gives us the very first thing we can anticipate.
Notice, if you will, as we move away from verse 2 into verse 3, notice what it says: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” It’s interesting that when you look here at verse 3 it talks about people “shining brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven.” People “shining brightly” like the stars forever and ever. And yet when you look at this verse very carefully it doesn’t indicate that everyone will shine that way. It’s very clear, it says, “Those who have insight will shine” that way. Not everyone has insight. It says, “those who lead the many to righteousness” will shine that way. Not everybody led “the many to righteousness.” And what you find being introduced here is not just the concept of resurrection, verse 2, but it is the concept of what the child of God can anticipate immediately following their resurrection. It’s not just resurrection, it’s rewards.
And here is the way that it works: all children of God, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, will be resurrected but only some will be rewarded. Resurrection is for all, reward is for some. And you say well why does God make a distinction in that way? It’s very simple, some believers have been faithful in their lives to God, others have not. And so immediately following resurrection there will be parceled out rewards, some receive rewards, others do not. Some shine brightly, others do not.
Now when we apply this concept to the age of the church, sort of backing up and factoring in some things that we studied last week, what we discover is we, as members of God’s church, the body of Christ, anyone who has trusted in Christ since the day of Pentecost to the present, receive their resurrected bodies at the point of the rapture. And we went into a lot of detail last week explaining that, explaining why that resurrection is yet future, explaining that where are the souls, what do they do until they receive those resurrected bodies, and I’m not going to repeat all of that, I would encourage you to listen to last week’s sermon to get all of that information.
My simple point this morning is you can anticipate receiving your resurrected body at the point of the rapture. If you die before the rapture then your soul will descend and as it descends it receives its resurrected body. If we are fortunate enough to be the generation that experiences the rapture we will receive our resurrected body right then and there as we are transformed from mortality to immortality. This is part of what I like to call the grace package for the child of God, the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ all of it would be an impossibility had Jesus not done what He did two thousand years ago on the cross and had He not did what He has accomplished victoriously through His resurrection from the grave three days later.
That’s why Paul calls Jesus the “firstfruits.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a lot more than simply proving that He’s God. That all is true and we preach that and teach that and argue that and believe that but it adds another dimension to the life of the child of God, the issue of hope. The issue how we, in a decaying body, and you are decaying, you know that don’t you? There are some people, they call themselves the beautiful people, and they sort of think like they’re not decaying. The reality is the beautiful people are decaying, they’re just decaying at a slower rate than the rest of us; it just hasn’t caught up yet.
But because of original sin, “from dust you are to dust you will return” we are in decaying bodies. How do you live in a fallen world in such a hopeless condition? You live based on an understanding of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus which guarantees everyone else’s resurrection in the chain. But when that resurrection happens, which will be for the believer at the rapture of the church, what can you expect to happen? Well, Daniel has given us the pattern, hasn’t he? First comes resurrection, verse 2, then comes reward for some, verse 3.
So using that as a model, using that as a template what I’d like to talk you through this morning, on Easter Sunday, is what is this future state of rewards all about. In fact, your Bible is very clear that as resurrected children of God we will stand before the Lord in heaven at what is called the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. What is that all about? When will it occur? Who is involved? Why is it happening? What can it be analogized to? How will the judgment take place? So to help us with this the very next event that we experience following our resurrection and the judgment seat of Christ is we’re going to try to, this morning as the Holy Spirit enables, ask and answer these six questions about not just our future resurrection but the future state of rewards, because Daniel has given us the blueprint, resurrection–verse 2, rewards–verse 3. How does that work for me? How does that work for you?
So notice first of all the first question—when? When is this future judgment of rewards going to transpire? You have an answer to that in 1 Corinthians 4:5. It says this, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man will receive praise which will come to him from God.” Notice it mentions judgment for the Christian, and then it connects that judgment to the coming of the Lord. The judgment is the very next thing that takes place when you receive your resurrected body at the coming of the Lord, at the point of the rapture.
You’ll notice 2 Timothy 4:8 connects the dots in the same way. [2 Timothy 4:8, “In the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.”] It talks about a crown that Paul will receive for his faithfulness; it’s going to be rewarded “on that day.” What day? At “His appearing.” This is the future for the child or God. And this is why when the church, who has been with the Lord for at least seven years following the rapture, returns with the Lord back to the earth, she is portrayed as already rewarded.
Revelation 19:8 says, “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Here comes the bride who is now the wife of the Lamb returning with Jesus Christ to the earth in splendor and glory fully rewarded. When did this reward take place? The only place you can fit it chronologically is some point between the rapture, which took us into heaven, and our return with the Lord to the earth seven years later. So the answer to the when question, when is this judgment of rewards going to take place, it is number one, going to take place immediately following the rapture of the church.
Which takes us to a second question, where is this going to happen? I mean, we talk about a resurrection, we talk about a judgment of rewards, where is this judgment going to take place exactly? Well notice, if you will, 1 Thessalonians 4 which describes the rapture, and verse 17. It says this: “Then we who are alive and remain will be” what? “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord” where? “in the air,” not on the earth at all, “and so we shall always be with the Lord.” We will be where He is.
So what has happened is He has not come back fully to the earth, He apparently has descended to some extent but we are caught up; His feet actually never touch planet earth at the point of the rapture, we’re caught up in the air and since our future judgment is always connected with the coming of the Lord for His church and He comes for His church at the point of the rapture and the rapture is a heavenly event, we can expect this judgment to transpire immediately after the rapture in heaven. See, this is your future if you don’t know what your future is you don’t know where you’re going in the present. This is not some opinion that I have, this is the teaching of the Word of God; resurrection is yet future for us and immediately following resurrection is the state of rewards (which we’ll explain in just a minute) in heaven.
Number one, when does the judgment happen? At the point of the rapture, immediately following. Number two, where does this judgment happen? It happens in heaven. This is the first thing we experience in resurrected bodies, which takes us to the third basic journalistic question, who exactly is going to be judged at this judgment of rewards, this resurrection unto rewards that we’re talking about. Daniel has revealed for Israel a resurrection, verse 2, then rewards. How does that work for the child of God? Who is involved in this? And the answer to that is all church age believers. Anyone who has placed their personal faith in Christ from the day of Pentecost until the rapture of the church is going to be part of this group and they are the ones that will experience this judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10 is very clear, it says, “For we must” not might, not could, maybe this will happen maybe it won’t, the probability 80/20, it doesn’t say anything like that, it says “we must” what? “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that” what? “each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the” what? “body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The answer to the who question is all church age believers. Paul, in the Book of Romans says virtually the same thing. Romans 14:10, “…For we will” not might, “all stand before the judgment seat of God” so that each one of us may give an account of himself to God.” See, we talk about resurrection, we talk about what Jesus did, what I’m talking about here is what are we going to experience when we receive that inherited resurrected body? What is the game plan? What is the blueprint? And why does it matter?
The game plan, the blueprint, the end game as far as God is concerned is resurrection happens first, just like with Israel, then rewards. That’s God’s pattern for Israel; that’s God’s pattern for the church. It’s interesting that we’re not able to opt out of this one. I can’t get a note from my doctor and get some kind of excuse. It’s very clear that we all as Christians must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. And isn’t it interesting how knowledge of a future exam changes the way we live in the present. I’ve shared this example before, when I was going through Dallas Seminary getting my… what they call a terminal degree, which I never liked that because it made it sound like I had cancer or something, they put you in a room and essentially you’re questioned there for two hours by four professors about your knowledge that you’ve been studying. And they could ask you anything. And then they leave the room and determine whether you passed or failed and they come back in and said you passed or failed. I was fortunate where I was happier to get out of there than to get in.
But it is interesting that all the way through my studies I knew that this judgment was coming, I knew that this examination was coming and let me tell you something, that changed the way I thought as a student, it motivated me. If a professor said something was important I would write it down and make sure I knew it. And my knowledge of the future judgment altered my study habits as a student in the present. You see that? This is what a knowledge of future examinations and future judgments do, when you know that it is in your future and God says it is, immediately following the resurrection, it changes how we think, it changes how we live, it changes our priorities which is the reason that God has disclosed the future to us.
He has disclosed the future to us not to just fill our minds with more facts but to alter our lifestyles and our priorities as God’s people in the present.
Number 1, when does this happen? At the point of the rapture. Number 2, where does it happen? In heaven. Number 3, who is judged? All church age believers. Now let me get to the question that you’ve probably all been asking is why? If I am a blood-bought saint, if I am a blood-bought child of God, if God has already taken my sins and thrown them, as Psalm 103 says, and by the way you might want to know that the youth in this church have memorized Psalm 103, did you know that? Just ask my daughter about that, she can sing off the whole Psalm 103 from memory in the form of a song. And one of the clauses in Psalm 103 is “the LORD has taken our sins and thrown them as far as the” what, “east is from the west.” [Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”]
If that has already happened then why do I need to be judged? And I’m glad you asked that question. I’m going to try to answer it. Let me talk about, first of all, what this judgment following our resurrection is not for. What will not happen at this future judgment of rewards following the resurrection? We will, number one, not be judged for sin. Why is that? Because of what Jesus said and we just celebrated it on Good Friday, “Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine He said, ‘It is’” what? 99% done? “It is finished!” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” [John 19:30] The soul or spirit and body separated at that point and He died. The King James says “He gave up the ghost.”
And He only died after the final words came out of His mouth, “It is finished!” Which is all a translation from the Greek word tetelestai, which is an accounting term found all over the Greco-Roman world. It literally means paid in full. When somebody’s bill was paid in full a stamp was placed on it saying tetelestai. That’s what Jesus did for us. That’s what the communion service was about as we reflected upon what He did for us. One other quick thing is tetelestai there, translated “It is finished!” is in the perfect tense. You say why does it matter? The perfect tense is a one-time action with ongoing results. This is something that happened once in history with the results reverberating throughout history. The blessings are perpetually ours because of the singular act of Jesus Christ. And if you are “in Christ” by way of faith you can’t be judged for sin because your sin debt has been paid because He said “It is finished!”
Number 2, this judgment is NOT to determine salvation; it’s not to determine if someone makes it into heaven or doesn’t make it into heaven. Why is that? Because Christ made you a promise the moment you trusted in Him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me,” which is the only condition that must be satisfied for a lost sinner to receive eternal life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death unto life.” “…has eternal life” is in the present tense in Greek. Receiving eternal life is not something you might get down the road, it’s something you have right now, as a child of God the moment you fulfilled the condition of trusting in what Jesus did. It’s a present tense reality.
And not only do you presently have eternal life but you have already, at the point of faith, “passed out of death unto life.” Now “passed out of death unto life,” what tense is that in? That’s the perfect tense again which means when you trusted in Christ the passing from death unto life is something that already transpired. It’s something that already took place. You’re not gradually passing out of death unto life, it’s not some kind of process, it is a one-time reality, perfect tense. So this judgment of rewards in your resurrected body that you will experience is not to judge sin, it’s not to determine salvation. Well then what is it for? It is essentially to give or not give rewards. This is the pattern that Daniel is speaking of here, resurrection, verse 2, for everyone; verse 3, rewards for some.
Now this is a pretty lengthy chart, isn’t it. I would encourage you to get this off our website; we post all of our power points on our website for all of our sermons. This judgment that I’m talking about is not the sheep and goat judgment, and the judgment for the Jews. Those are judgments upon the earth for tribulation survivors, which we are not a part of, to determine which are believers and which are unbelievers. They’re called the sheep and the goat judgment and the judgment of the Jews. That is NOT the judgment we’re talking about here.
Nor is it the judgment on the far right, the Great White Throne Judgment, which is only for the unbeliever. I’m talking about this judgment that we have there embolden and underlined, a judgment of rewards or lack thereof that every church age believer will experience in their resurrected body. It takes place in heaven, it’s after the rapture of the church, it’s either to reward or not reward the church age believer as their works (not them, their works) are taken through a fire which I will explain in just a minute.
At this particular judgment there will five crowns given or not given. This is not a judgment that banishes people into hell; that’s not its purpose. It is a judgment for crowns or rewards that will either be given or not given. All believers will be in heaven but not all believers will receive a crown. Why is that? Because some have been faithful in the Christian life, others have not.
1 Corinthians 3:15 says this: “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” You see, I wish I could teach this doctrine that everybody gets a trophy for participation. I mean, isn’t that interesting how our society, as it moves into more of a socialistic, collectivistic model is getting rid of championships, winners and losers, because we’re all equal. So we’re now into these awards we give people just for participating. God is not that way! The benefit for believing in Christ is being in heaven; the crown though is for the faithful believer.
1 John 2:18 says, “Now little children, abide in Him so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him at His coming.” Why in the world would God’s people, they’re called “children” there in the verse I just read, “shrink away from” God at His coming? Because they’re embarrassed. They’re happy to be in heaven but their life in Christ has been squandered and so they’re un-rewarded. 2 John 8 says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” Jesus, in Revelation 3:11 says, “I am coming quickly, hold fast to what you have so that no one will take your crown.”
You look at these verses, I have many of them at the very top of the screen, it never gives the impression that all Christians are rewarded. All Christians are resurrected as part of the grace package but not all are rewarded, certainly not all are equally rewarded. God wants us to understand this. This is information that He has given to us about our future.
You say well, crowns schmowns, I mean, I don’t really care about a crown. Why would I care about a crown? I’ll just be glad to get there. Revelation 4:10 says, of our crowns, that we will cast their crowns before the what? “the throne.” [Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne,”] What is a crown? It is a capacity to glorify God throughout all eternity in a heightened way that one Christian has and another one doesn’t. That’s why Daniel, when he was describing this reward, talks about the firmament and the brightness following the resurrection but it’s only for those that were wise. If a crown is in your hand and you have some sort of capacity to glorify Jesus… pay Him back…NO, buy off salvation… NO, but a capacity to glorify Him for what he’s done for you. One Christian has it, the other one doesn’t. It will be sort of embarrassing, you know, we throw our crowns before His feet, here we all are in heaven taking these crowns that we’ve been given at the Bema Seat Judgment, casting them before His feet and they get to you and there’s nothing in your hands. Isn’t that sort of embarrassing? And this is why the Bible wants us to be aware of these crowns following our resurrection.
John 12:3 says, “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” And she was so enthralled with being in the grace of God and what Jesus had done for her, the only thing she knew how to was to take what she had of value and to just start pouring it all over Christ. That, in essence, is what a crown enables you to do. This idea that I don’t care about crowns, I mean, I don’t even know if people know what they’re saying when they make statements like that. You ought to care about it for the reasons I’ve explained. You ought to care about it because God has revealed this future judgment to us following resurrection.
So what are these crowns? Number 1, and I have all the Scripture references, you can look up those on your own, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the crown of incorruptibility given to the believer that gains mastery over the flesh or the sin nature. It’s not a believer that is sinless but sins less under God’s empowerment through progressive sanctification. That believer gets a crown. [1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”]
Crown number 2 is the crown of rejoicing for the soul winner, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. [1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?”] Are you a soul winner? Are you interested in the lost? Do you get behind missionary programs? Do you evangelize? Do you share your faith? There’s a crown in it for you.
And then you have the crown of life, spoken of in James 1:12, Revelation 2:10, for the believer that endures trials. Wow. Anybody in that category? You go through a trial and you accept what God has for you in that trial, you don’t become bitter but you become better through it and God, in the next life following resurrection puts a crown on you for that. [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.” Revelation 2:10, “’Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”]
And then you have the crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:2-4, who faithfully shepherd God’s people. And you say well, that’s just for the pastors. No it’s not, it’s for anybody that is guiding, grazing and guarding in any way, whether it’s a mentoring relationship, one on one relationship, guiding the people of God, counselling pastoring, youth pastoring, someone calls you on the phone and says I’ve got a problem, can you help me with this and you don’t dismiss them, you take time to try to guide them through the maize that they’re in as God gives you wisdom. There’s a crown in that for you . And then lastly, 2 Timothy 4:8, there’s a crown of righteousness for longing for His appearing.
[ Peter 5:2-4, “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  2 Timothy 4:8, “in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.”]
Have we become so comfortable in the world that we’re no longer looking for eagerness and expectation for the next world. If you’re yearning, maybe today, maybe He’s coming back today, then there’s a crown in it for you. And so this would answer the why question; we’re not dealing here with salvation. We’re not dealing here with health. What we’re dealing with is the giving or not giving of rewards. And they’re all very well described, at least five that I’m aware of, in the New Testament. Now people like to ask different questions, well can you get more than one? Or one guy asked me, could I have a crown and there could be one of each side around my head? I don’t know the answer to that, how am I supposed to answer a question like that? I’m dealing with the Scripture just like you are, the same limited data. And besides that, it’s not the things in the Bible that I don’t understand, those aren’t the things that bother me. The things in the Bible that bother me are the things I do understand, and I understand this much: following resurrection, which will be just as real as Christ’s resurrection, will be a very real judgment of rewards, where we are either rewarded or not rewarded based on faithfulness now.
This takes us to question number five, do you have some examples of that this future judgment is like? What, from the natural world could we analogize it to? And your New Testament gives you three examples: Number one, an athletic contest. Number two, a stewardship. Number three, a building. Let’s take these one by one.
An athletic contest: notice, if you will, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified,” for the prize. I think Paul was a sport’s fan is what I think, because there was something that took place very near Corinth called the Isthmian Games, a very similar pattern to our modern day Olympics, going back to Greco-Romans times where athletes would compete in great contests and the winners received crowns. And Paul says here’s the difference, their crowns are going to fade; the one you’re going to get, should you get it, will endure forever.
And by the way, in those Isthmian games only one person could win a particular athletic contest. Paul says every child of God has the potential of gaining a crown. And it is so sad to watch interpreters misinterpret this and they say when Paul buffets his body (by the way, it’s buf-fet, not buf-fay our bodies. I know we’re getting ready to go out and have a big Easter meal, not to put too much guilt on you, but Paul says “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” And people say well, that’s salvation. How could that be salvation? If that’s salvation Paul would be contradicting everything else he ever taught, which he taught salvation is by faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone. This is not a salvation verse; this is a progressive sanctification verse. This is rewards verse.
And so the first illustration that he uses to describe this future judgment of rewards is this athletic contest. The second one he uses is the example of the steward. 1 Corinthians 4:2, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” What is a steward? A steward is not an owner but a manager. A steward is one who has been given things from God and because they come from God, God one day is going to settle reckoning and He’s going to want to know what you did with what He’s given you. That’s stewardship.
The third example that he gives is the example of the building. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 says this: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Paul gives the example of this building to describe this future judgment and rewards and he says here the foundation has already been laid, it’s Jesus Christ. We’re all building, as children of God, on the same foundation, but Paul says be careful how you’re building because some are building with wood, hay and stubble. By the way, what do those all have in common? They’re combustible, flammable. You apply a fire to them and they incinerate and they’re gone.
And yet we have the ability to build with gold, silver and costly stones. What do those have in common? They’re not combustible. The only thing a fire can do is to purify them. The wood, hay and stubble would represent things that we do in our life in Christ of a carnal variety, things that glorify ourselves, fleshly pursuits, things we try to do through our own energy, all of that goes into the fire; we’re not in the fire, what we did is in the fire. And the fire is incinerating all of this to such a degree that some people get into heaven and they smell the smoke on their garments.
And yet Paul says it need not be this way. You can build with gold, silver and costly stones, things that will survive the fire, things that you do with right motives, things we do under God’s empowerment, and those things go through the fire and they survive the fire and by the time the fire finishes whatever is left is part of your reward. You’ll either have it or not, you’ll have some or you’ll have little. But be careful how you’re building. That’s his whole point.
We do not think enough, as Christians, about the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. I like what Samuel Hoyt writes, “The judgment seat of Christ might be compared to a commencement ceremony. At graduation there is some measure of disappointment and remorse that one did not do better and work harder. However, at such an event the overwhelming emotion is joy, not remorse. The graduates do not leave the auditorium weeping because they did not earn better grades. Rather, they are thankful that they have been graduated, and they are grateful for what they did achieve. To overdo the sorrow aspect of the judgment seat of Christ is to make heaven hell. To under do the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential” [Samuel Hoyt, “The Judgment Seat of Christ in Theological Perspective,” Part 2, Bibliotheca Sacra, electronic media.”]
I can’t think of a better balance on this subject, because there are some that will turn through this doctrine heaven into hell. There are others that don’t talk about the doctrine at all. If you don’t talk about the doctrine at all you make faithfulness in the Christian life irrelevant. Why be faithful, I’m saved, I’m going to heaven, it doesn’t matter. There are some that will place such an emphasis on this doctrine that they actually teach that perhaps some of your sins are being punished. That’s not the point of it at all. We’ve documented very clearly that this is not a judgment for salvation nor eternal life. But there are some that so underplay this that people have the idea well, I’m going to heaven, it doesn’t matter what I do in the here and now. And so we need today great balance.
Three analogies: an athletic context, a stewardship and a building, which takes us to number six, how exactly are we going to be judged? And I see here four ways. Number 1, we are going to be judged as individuals, what does Paul say in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that” what? “each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” It’s individualized. I’m not there with my church, I’m not there with my family. If I sing in the worship team and you can praise the Lord that I don’t, I’m not there with the worship team, I’m there all by myself. And God is looking at me. Romans 14:10, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”
These are passages, folks, not aimed at unbelievers; these are aimed at church age blood-bought saints of God. We’re judged as individuals. Secondly, we’re judged for our stewardship. Whatever God gave you He wants to know what you did with it. And you say to yourself well, I don’t have anything. I don’t have any special gifts, I don’t have any special abilities. Let me tell you something, that is a lie right out of the pit of hell. Every person within the sound of my voice has three things and they all begin with the letter “T”. Number one, Time. Number 2, Talent, there are things that you can do that no one else in this room can do because that’s the way God has designed you. And the third thing you have is treasure, earthly possessions.
And so when God calls… and by the way, these things aren’t ours, they’re loaned to us to manage, and one of these days God is going to say were you trustworthy with what I gave you or were you not trustworthy? By the way, your Bible doesn’t say well done my good and successful servant. What it says is “well done my good and” what? “faithful servant.” The only thing God asks you to do is be faithful to what you have. He doesn’t ask you to be somebody else. He doesn’t ask you to reinvent yourself. He wants you to be faithful with what you possess in the area of the three T’s: Time, Talent and Treasure.
We’re judged as individuals, we’re judged as stewards and this is the one, to be completely frank with you, number three, that probably bothers me more than anything else, we’re judged on motivation. Not what you did but why you did it. Recall 1 Corinthians 4:5, which says at this time God will “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and God will “disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” [1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”]
Do you realize that it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Do we understand that? You say well is that in the Bible? Look at Judas, who was upset that Mary had poured the expensive ointment on Christ’s head and face and he said, when he saw this happening this perfume is expensive and we should have given it to the poor. And most people would look at Judas and say what a generous man, until you read verse 5. “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” [ John 12:6] He did the right thing for the wrong reason.
Paul, in Philippians 1:15-17 talks about a people who preach Christ, they preach a clear gospel, they preach a correct gospel, but they do it out of envy and strife, trying to make a name for themselves. [Philippians 1:15-17, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.”]
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “…Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the” what? “heart.” WOW! It’s troubling because I know that my heart is wicked.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful more than all else, it’s desperately sick, who can understand it.” I can get my motives mixed up, I can actually think that I’m doing something for God when it’s really all about self. All of that comes out by an omniscient God who can see not to us but through us. May God help us to understand this.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heat with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Motivation is evaluated. Is it going to be gold, silver or costly stones or wood, hay and stubble. It depends on the motivation. I mean, if you feel that you’re going to step out for God and serve Him in any way you’d better ask Him, as I do for myself regularly, is my depraved heart right about this? Has my depraved heart been made pure on this? Or else it’s just wood, hay and stubble.
The last thing that I think we’re going to be evaluated on, number 4, is reliance upon divine grace when we did what we did for God. Is this something that I went out and did through human power, human ingenuity, human effort, and the flesh can accomplish a lot but that is not how God calls us to live. He calls us to live and serve through the enablement that He provides. I wish we had time to read the vine and the branches, John 15:5-6 and other passages which talk about branches in the vine bearing fruit, branches out of the vine and not bearing fruit and everybody says that’s a difference between a believer and an unbeliever. That’s nonsense, when Jesus spoke those words He was talking to eleven (Judas having already left the room) saved people. [John 15:5-6, “am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”]
And He says here’s how God is going to work guys, you’re either going to go out and try to do this thing called Christianity on your own power or you’re going to simply, as a branch, abide in the vine. And isn’t it interesting what happens when a branch just abides on the vine, I mean, an orange branch doesn’t sit there and say oranges, oranges, oranges, let’s produce oranges. You just abide where you’re supposed to abide and the source of nourishment and the source of power and the oranges start coming spontaneously. They start coming naturally, they start coming organically.
And what is he saying in John 15 about branches that are out of the vine? They go into the fire. Didn’t we just read about the fire, the Bema Seat Judgment, wood, hay and stubble? I don’t know everything there is to know about God but I do know this: God does not recognize works that we do on our own. They are unrecognized. How do I know that? Because Abraham and Sarah just got tired of waiting, poor God, we need to help Him out. So they come up with this plan and you know the story, Abraham and Hagar and the Ishmael line comes, and then finally the child of promise, Isaac, is born. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Genesis 22.
Have you read Genesis 22:2? “He said, ‘Take now your son, your” what? “only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” Why would he say that Isaac is his only son when Ishmael was also his son. Here’s the answer: God never recognized Ishmael because Ishmael is the product of human scheming, human effort, human works, human manipulation. How much of Ishmael is in your life exactly? All of that is wood, hay and stubble at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. God is not recognizing Ishmael; He’s recognizing the child of faith, Isaac.
And so we need to be careful that when we serve the Lord, we need to ask ourselves not only is my motive right am I doing these things through His power or my own strength. And we need very strongly to be reminded of Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh.” You started the right way, in the Spirit, but your whole Christian life is self-effort. You’re not relying upon the same Spirit that brought you to saving faith in Christ, for daily life, and consequently it’s unrecognized. And yet the things we do under God’s power are recognized. Wow!
This is the future, resurrection is part of it but what about the event after the resurrection? Resurrection unto rewards, when is this going to happen? Following the rapture. Where is it going to happen? In heaven. Who’s going to be involved? All church age believers. Why is it going to happen? Not to determine salvation but to either give or not give rewards. What’s it like? It’s like an athletic contest, the stewardship and a building. Well how are we going to be judged? We’re judged as individuals. We’re judged as stewards; our motivation is judged and whether we relied upon divine enablement is judged as well. Wow! A lot to think about, isn’t it. And yet resurrection leads to rewards. And we need to understand these things.
It’s possible you could be here within the sound of my voice never having even entered the picture to begin with because you never trusted in what Christ has done. A gift if of no value to anybody until it’s received. Jesus, as we have looked at today at the communion table, has done everything that can be done, not just through what He did on Good Friday but what He did on Sunday morning. That’s the package… complete! The only requirement that God gives to us as lost people is to trust in what He has done in our place. It’s something you could do right now even as I’m talking. You don’t have to walk an aisle to do it, join a church to do it, raise a hand to do it, give money to do it. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where the Lord puts you under conviction and you respond by receiving a gift. And the only way you can receive a gift from God is to trust in the provision.
But after a person is saved then they need to be aware that choices matter. Just because you can’t lose your salvation doesn’t mean you can’t lose other things of value, one of those things being a potential crown. And so maybe walk out this week the full provision of Jesus Christ reflecting on what He’s done and living under His divine power to become all that we are supposed to be in God. If someone has question marks in their mind concerning eternity I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we are grateful for resurrection and what it means but we’re also grateful for what You’ve revealed there in verse 3, reward. Help us to be conscious of these things as we live them out this week in our choices. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.