Seeking Our Eternal Rewards In Heaven
Continuing on from the previous post on Preparation, Pursuit and Persistence in our Service from last week, Paul uses Christ Jesus as one more example of suffering through persecution , He is the chief example for all Christians as we prepare ourselves and walk in faith in the face of persecution,
2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NKJV)
8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
There can be no better example, of course, that Jesus Himself. First, Paul refers to Christ rising from the dead. We are immediately drawn to Jesus’ suffering and death. No follower of Jesus Christ have, or will ever be able to say they suffered more in serving Christ than He (Christ) did in serving us. We are reminded throughout the epistles that Jesus is our ultimate example of suffering in obedience to the call of God. We know Jesus willingly suffered in obedience to the Father and He did so to serve God in an eternal mission.
Secondly, Jesus was resurrected from the dead. His service in suffering, in the end brought glory to Him. But be aware of this order … His suffering had to proceed His glory.
He had to persevere and finish the race set before Him. Paul adds Jesus was the descendant of David. Paul is alluding to the Davidic Covenant, which says that David’s
descendant would rule over Israel and all nations on Earth forever. That promise was directed at Jesus in a day to come in the Kingdom, Sitting on the seat of David, the throne and ruling over that Kingdom without anyone challenging His authority. Jesus will receive that rule the Father promised to Him in the day of the Kingdom. Psalms 8 says this:
Psalm 8:5-6 (NKJV)
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
Think of this, Jesus has yet to receive this reward since it’s waiting for the arrival of the Kingdom. So Christ Himself is still waiting for His reward, like us. He has died and received His glory, but Christ is still showing patience since what He died to receive hadn’t yet been awarded to Him by the Father. His ultimate reward. That means He hasn’t received His Bride in full and He hasn’t inherited the Kingdom yet. So if Christ suffered willingly for eternal glory, and if He persevered even to the point of death and if He is showing patience for His reward…How can we not be willing to do the same?
Finally, Paul offers himself as one more example to Timothy. Paul says, he willingly suffered hardship for Christ that included going to prison as a criminal. In the face of persecution, Paul knew what he was asking of Timothy. He understood the risks, but he wasn’t asking more of Timothy than he was willing to do himself. Just as he is not asking us anymore than what Paul did himself. But then Paul adds that his imprisonment wasn’t at the expense of the mission, for no one can imprison the word of God. What a great statement. What Paul means that even as persecution comes against leaders in the church, it has no bearing on God’s ability to deliver the Gospel. Ironically, Paul says in verse 10 that he endured these things for the sake of the chosen (believers), that is those who may obtain salvation in Christ. He said it was far from lessening his effectiveness in the mission and he endured persecution in order to accomplish the mission. We should remember this as we endure our own mission in Christ. Persecution advances far more in God’s economy than concession and compromise ever could. The more the persecution the faster the church grows. The more the opposition to the gospel the more the people come to believe in the gospel. When the church stands firm in the face of persecution, it leads to a growth of the best kind. As the church goes through persecution it draws attention to the love of God’s people putting it in stark contrast against the hatred and sin of those who oppress believers. It lets people see the believer’s love all the more when they see what the believers are enduring at the hands of those who are ungodly people. Just as Abel’s godliness is amplified by his brother’s persecution and hatred, so will the message of the Gospel be amplified by the world’s hatred of us.
Sadly, the church has sometimes sought to avoid persecution by compromising with their oppressors. When this happens, the excuse the leaders in the church is often that they must make some concessions to the demands of their enemies or in their thinking it will ensure the Gospel will be silenced. You’re hearing that now in our culture in little ways how the people are talking about the pressure of speaking out on certain social issues, on certain ungodly things of our day. With the answer being, if we (the church) aren’t more careful in what we say they could shut us down, Paul is making exactly the opposite argument. But as we can see, Paul’s testimony (and the history of the church) proves this to be wrong. That concessions are not the answer. God said that His word can never be imprisoned. The world was made by God’s Word. So it is evident the world cannot restrain the word of God in any way. It’s excessive pride to think that God needs us to bring His word to the world. Timothy couldn’t use that excuse to avoid the persecutions and trials God may bring and neither can we.
Paul summarizes his central point with a noteworthy expression
2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NKJV)
11 This is a trustworthy (faithful) saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
13 If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
Paul summarizes the relationship between faith, service and reward by saying a memorable expression. Paul starts with the assurance this is a trustworthy statement,
something that you can take to the bank. In Greek, the word Paul used for trustworthy is pistos, which means this is something we can place faith in. So, this is something you can put your faith in. And the first part of the saying we are told that if we died with Christ, then we will also live with him. This is a concise expression of the Gospel message itself. Essentially, the Gospel is a matter of believing in two things. Two separated but related thoughts. First, that Jesus is the perfect, sinless sacrifice Who died in our
place on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Secondly, we are maintaining He did not stay dead. That He (Jesus) was resurrected by the Father from the grave never to die
again and we share that same future with Him because just as we are like Him in faith we will be like Him in reality, in body. These two parts are summed up in Romans:
Romans 10:9 (NKJV)
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
So, when a person places faith in Christ in this way, the Bible says, that person has died with Christ. In other words, God assigns Christ’s death in place of the believer’s own death for sin. And in that sense, all believers can say they have died with Christ through
their faith in His payment on the cross in their place. This is how Paul describes as having saving faith as having died with Christ. And Paul goes on to say if we have died with Him, then we can be sure we will live again with Him eternally.
Our faith in Christ assures us that our physical body, the one we have now is not the last one we will have and the death of our body is not be the end of us. We will receive a new body and we will walk the earth again with Christ to never die again. Notice the Gospel does not rest on our good works, for human works have no value to the Lord in how we obtain eternal life. We cannot work our way out of our debt of sin. We cannot earn the righteousness that comes only by faith. Only God could pay our debt for us, through His Son on the cross.
But since we know we cannot earn our salvation through works that is only available through faith, we may be tempted to think that our works are of no value whatsoever. This must be the thinking of any Christian who shrinks back in the face of trial or persecution. There must be something in their mind. They must have thought that their behavior has no long-term bearing on their future interest, otherwise why would they do it. It has to be a disconnect possibly. Or they failed to appreciate what’s on the line in eternity. So they think that having saving faith is the end of the story…but it’s just the beginning. Which is why Paul’s saying continues on in verse 12.
Paul says if we endure with Christ, we will also reign with Him. The Greek word translated as endure carries the sense of persevering in the face of difficulty, to have patience in the midst of a difficult work. Much like the farmer, We know that Paul is no longer addressing the topic of salvation, since he has introduced the necessity of a human work. Instead, Paul has moved to the next step of the Christian walk. And if human works is a necessity it can no longer be a conversation of salvation. Following our salvation through faith, we now begin to serve the Lord as His disciples in our walk of faith. As disciples we’re called to serve faithfully, enduring trials and waiting patiently for a reward. Paul says if we work patiently and endure in serving Christ, then we will reign with Him. Scripture teaches that all believers are promised both an inheritance in the kingdom and we will have opportunity to reign with Christ in governing the coming Kingdom on Earth. Some portion of the physical earth that makes up the Kingdom that we are waiting to join as Christ returns to establish it. That Earth will require ruling. Christ will oversee the whole of it, but he does it through a government and that government is a government by you and I, by the church, by the saints from all time that are serving Christ in that way. Like a soldier or athlete or farmer. Paul says if we endure in our work, we will reign with Christ, which is a reference to our eternal reward.
Revelation 20:6 (NKJV)
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
In the Gospels Jesus explains that our opportunities to reign are determined by our faithfulness to serve Him now. Some believers will receive a greater reward than others. Jesus says that our present time serving Him on Earth is the test of our endurance and faithfulness. And by this test, the Lord will discover who is deserving of greater responsibility in the coming Kingdom. And Jesus used parables at times to explain how He will assign us responsibility to share in His reign in the Kingdom. In the parable about talents there is a key statement at the end of the parable:
Matthew 25:15-29 (NKJV)
15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
We have each been given a degree of responsibility to serve Him now in what He has called us to do. Collectively all these things are little things. Little in the sense in how they would compare in the magnitude of things to serve Christ in the Kingdom. We all have opportunities to serve Him in our churches or to witness to Christ in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, communities, and to serve in all those same places. We have been given spiritual gifts for that purpose which aids us in that work. And at our judgment, we will be measured for our endurance, a measure of our faith as the bible calls it according to what we have been given. Those who make the most of the time on Earth to serve Christ, will be given the greatest opportunity to serve in the Kingdom. Scripture alludes to greater honor, greater responsibility, a greater inheritance in some form in many different places. Having greater things in eternity is far more valuable than having anything we could gain in this short life on Earth. So if anyone would worry at any point, is it worth it? Do I really need to make all these sacrifices? Can I have just some of what I want now? What we will all discover in the end is we should have been willing to give it all up. So while our
salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in the death and resurrection of Christ. Our endurance in serving Christ as His disciples gives us opportunity to enjoy a greater opportunities assigned by Christ in the Kingdom.
So this point raises an obvious question…what if a Christian fails to serve Christ
faithfully? What if a believer in the face of persecution, let’s say denies the Lord the service He expects? Or even to deny that they believe in Him? Paul addresses this possibility in the second half of verse 12. He says if we deny him, then the Lord will deny us. Remember, we’re still in the context of enduring and reigning, so now Paul is
speaking of the opposite condition, if we fail to endure. .The opposite of enduring is not failing to have faith, the opposite of enduring is failing to endure. Giving up in your service. So, Paul describes it as a denial of Christ of our service. That is, denying Christ of our service and our endurance as His disciple. It’s a choice to live for our self and for this world instead of living for Christ and the Kingdom. That’s the issue, it is a behavioral issue. In such a case, Paul says the Lord will deny us…which is to say, Christ
will deny us some portion of our reward. He will deny us the opportunity to reign with Him in greater ways. Just as when we withheld our obedience to our earthly parents, they denied us privileges and rewards. So it will be for any in the Kingdom who deny Christ their endurance. The prize is for those who compete well and hold on for that prize as motivation to serve Him faithfully through the promise of eternal rewards.
And Remember, the judgment in these matters comes at the end of the race, not in the middle. So if you are worried your reward has already been lost, you can
take comfort knowing that the race is still underway. You need only return to your lane and pick up the pace again and you will be fine. Everyone stumbles here and there. No one will reach the end without a testimony of good days and bad days. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into remaining sidelined because you may had a bad day.
Now some teachers read Paul’s statement in verse 12 and come away with a misunderstanding what Paul is saying. They assume that when Paul says Christ denies us he means that Christ removes salvation, as if a person ceases being saved as the result of denial of Christ in some way. They conclude that denying means denying the faith, so therefore Christ will deny us before the Father. But this is not what Paul is trying to teach us. But Paul probably wondered if someone might make just such false
conclusion at this point. So Paul added one more line to his saying to make sure we didn’t
jump to the wrong conclusion. In verse 13 Paul adds that even if we are faithless, He (God) will remain faithful.
That is to say, in the case where a believer may foolishly walk away from
Christ, he is saying to the world don’t associate me with Jesus anymore, for if it means if you are ready to kill me, I’m ready to say He is not my Lord. Just as Peter did in the last hours before Jesus’ death. The Spirit will never leave us nor forsake us. The Lord has promised we will be resurrected into eternal life as a function of our faith. He has promised we will live forever with Christ in the Kingdom. And the Lord will remain faithful to those promises. Paul added this statement in verse 13 to make sure we didn’t go too far with
his saying. For God cannot deny Himself. Yes our behaviors matter and there is something on the line. We should take a closer look at our lives and be ready to serve. But our position in God should never be in question, for when we come to faith we will be with Him in Eternity. We don’t earn our salvation by our good works, so we cannot lose salvation by “bad” works. Nevertheless, if we walk away from serving the Lord, we do place our eternal rewards at great risk. We stand to suffer loss in the Kingdom.
We will come through our judgment moment as through fire, with nothing to show for our time spent in service to Christ. We must consider carefully our call to be a disciple of the Lord. Are we willing to endure hardship? Do we make the most of each day to please Him? Do we avoid being distracted by the concerns of everyday life, like a soldier? Are we running our race with an eye on the prize and competing according to the rules like an athlete? And are we willing to be patient like the farmer, content to receive our rewards in the Kingdom? And when trials and persecution come our way, will we have invested the time necessary to renewing our mind by the patient day-to-day study of God’s Word so that we would choose to stand in the power of His grace rather than to run away. A successful walk in Christ begins with an understanding and knowing that our service to Christ is tested by trial. And know that it is an opportunity for joy, because there is something building up in Heaven. One that demands commitment, diligence and endurance.
So when you get up in the morning, rise to serve Christ’s agenda as you seek to serve, meditate on His Word and take action on His Word. When we become discouraged or struggle with sin or fall into despair, know His grace will grant you the power to stand.
Provided you chose that course and study His word. So that when you confront trial, persecution and even death, take comfort knowing your life is poured out for the One Who died for you.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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