Adapted from my book: Heaven: Where Few…Are Many! (Can be ordered from me firstname.lastname@example.org 256-624-6024 or amazon.com).
Their Works Do Follow Them!
In Revelation 14:13, the Bible says: “Then I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” Notice that He did not say blessed are those who die, because all who die are not blessed. Nor did He say blessed are the dead because all the dead are not blessed. But He did say blessed are the dead who die “in the Lord.” That is, blessed are those who die belonging to and in a relationship with the Lord (Gal. 3:26-29). These are the ones who are blessed. Note also that it is their “works” that follow them and not their sins. Our sins do not follow us. They are continually forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross (1 John 1:7). But our “works” do follow us because we will be rewarded by Jesus for our works.
The Day of Judgment will not only be a day of welcome, but it will also be a day of rewards and recognition. The Bible teaches that each will be rewarded according to his own labor (1 Cor. 3:8). We are all redeemed by the Lord, but each of us will be rewarded according to our own labor. Jesus Himself taught: “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matt. 10:41-42, NIV). We are certainly not saved by our good works (Eph. 2:8-9), but we will be rewarded for our works (1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus clearly taught that He would reward the faithful according to their works (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12).
I know that we are not working just for rewards but rather because we love Jesus and appreciate what He has done and is doing for us. I know that just being in Heaven in His presence will be enough for us. I know that rewards are, hopefully, not our primary motivation for serving Jesus. But I also know that rewards do motivate and encourage. I know that He has promised to reward us for serving Him. The promise of rewards is reasonable, sensible, and scriptural. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to rewards from Jesus. Properly understood, there is no conflict between a faithful heart and a desire for God’s rewards.
Jesus seemed to think that rewards were important. When He was on earth, He talked a lot about rewards. He said that God rewards the meek. He rewards the merciful. He rewards those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He rewards givers. He rewards those who fast. He rewards those who pray. (Read Matthew chapters 5-7.) On one occasion, Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all and followed you. Therefore, what shall we have?” Peter was asking about rewards. Jesus did not rebuke him for asking the question but promised Peter and others rewards in this life and the next (Matt. 19:27ff). Paul wanted to be a wise builder (teacher/preacher) because he knew that if his work (converts and those he encouraged) endured, he would “receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:9-15). He also knew that if they did not hold on to their faith that he would “suffer loss”—not loss of his personal salvation, but loss of the reward he would have gotten if they had remained faithful (1 Cor. 3:15). The Bible is full of promises of rewards for believers. And one of the reasons that Moses made the right choice about “suffering affliction with the people of God” was because “he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11:24-26).
I may not know all of the radio stations that you listen to, but we all listen to this one: WIIFM. These letters stand for What’s In It For Me? Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are all interested in this question. The Bible answer is redemption from the Savior and rewards for service. What more could we ask? Jesus not only redeems us from sin, but He also promises to rewardus for service. He said, “Great is your reward in Heaven” (Matt. 5:12). It is much greater than most of us have realized or even considered. Jesus not only provides us with an inheritance, but He also provides us with the incentives to obtain it (1 Peter 1:3-5). Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).