In the last posting, we covered the importance of eschatology, and emphasized the struggle between branches of Christianity on the concept of works and how works are viewed. Scripture could not be clearer in that a Christian MUST interact in the world to spread the Gospel. We also know that spreading the Gospel is not simply learning Bible quotes and throwing them out into a vacuum, but there must be shoe leather behind ones words. Faith without works or actions is meaningless for the common man, as it does not demonstrate any belief in what is being said, and gives no credibility to either the one quoting the Bible, or the whole system being promoted. If a believer is not distinct from those ‘not saved’ then what value does Christianity really offer anyone?
It is in this framework that we will consider the very significant distinctions between the words salvation and reward. Salvation, which is a free gift from God, is admission into heaven with no strings attached. Reward is based upon efforts and accomplishments one completes while in this lifetime, and will determine what level in heaven one will live in, as well as what will be given (to never be taken away by a corrupt government). Notice, Paul in Corinthians makes this distinction very clear in the following verses:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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.
One does not know, or can even imagine, how one can still be saved, yet have nothing to show for his time on this earth. That is one of the mysteries of God, and it will be revealed upon the end of time. What seems to be clear at this point is, there will be a certain percentage of people in heaven that very well may be the ‘janitor’s’, but will still experience total contentment and peace. But what will be obvious is that one’s life, once completed, will truly be seen as a ‘whiff of time’ and there will initially be a time of grieving lost opportunities prior to entering one’s ‘reward’.
“God will give to each man according to what he has done” Romans 2:6.
“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds”. Revelation 22:12
Those who want to argue against this interpretation of rewards, works and salvation use the following quote to refute: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6. What these individuals are missing in their use of this quote are two very important qualifications. First off, this is an Old Testament quote by Isaiah, when Israel was still operating under the “Law”. Isaiah was attempting to make the point to the bull headed Jews that their beliefs in salvation through following the laws and rituals handed down by Moses, were not salvific on their own merits, but pointed out the reality towards the sacrifice of the future Christ. If one believes they can attain salvation outside of Christ’s shedding of blood, they must realize their works (all of them) are tainted and will fall far short of ‘earning’ them eternal life.
The second and more important point is the use of the word righteous. In this passage, righteous works as dirty rags is used only in the sense of us earning our salvation, which is eternal life. Since we are mortal, and this reflects a temporary condition, our efforts are temporary, and temporary does not supersede permanent. So there is nothing we can do while in this temporary condition that would purchase or entitle us to something eternal such as unending life. However, our temporary condition will determine WHAT WE HAVE (reward) for eternity (salvation) as our character and personality will go into the afterlife. What we prove we are capable in this lifetime will bear direct fruits in what we are given in the next life.
Works do not purchase or merit salvation (eternal life). Works merit reward. So, for those who believe they have been ‘saved’ and thus, need to do nothing will find out to their chagrin that they may be heaven’s janitors for eternity. For those who let their faith shine before other men, and allow for any heartache or crosses to come their way, will see a return on their works, that would be the envy of any bankster on Wall Street. But unlike here, the government or banksters on Wall Street will not be able to steal it, nor will it ever be taken away by some well meaning, but misguided government in the name of ‘redistributing’ the wealth. Rewards handed out by King Jesus will be forever, and will be untouchable by all forever.