In a final day so secret that no being save ONE knows its exact date, a great scroll will unfurl, and all souls gathered will join in a celebration like no other, for their journey as mutual heirs to the most mighty kingdom of all will be complete. On that day, what every soul yearns for, to be re-united with its eternal Creator, will wonderfully come to pass. From those who committed a lifetime of fruitful living, like Paul, to the criminal who died on the cross beside Christ believing only moments before he died, every person who confessed the deity of the Son of God and accepted the gift of Grace will realize their kinship as heirs to the kingdom of heaven on that day.
This Grace provides us with an inheritance like no other. Paul writes to the Ephesians:
So that in ages to come He (God) might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (2:7-10).
In the final lesson of “Amazing Place,” pastor Rick Atchley’s series on what heaven will be like, he makes a distinction between our inheritance as heirs to the kingdom of God, which is equal to all Christians, and the kind of judgment (actually a rewards system) that will be taking place in heaven. Of course, we believers who have accepted Christ want to fulfill the promise of good works God put us on this earth to complete for Him, but Atchley’s comparison of inheritance versus judgment in heaven also gives us a very “human” incentive to do our best while we are here on earth.
First, let’s make it clear that those who have asked for the redemption bought for us with the very blood of Christ, are no longer under the yoke of judgment that cloaks a fallen world:
“He who believes in Him is not judged,” John writes; “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3: 18). Jesus tells us, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Paul assures us, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
True, the book of Revelations is full of examples of the kind of ultimate defeat that will happen when God once and for all finishes the destruction of evil that was begun when Jesus died and rose again. However, the judgment that takes place for Christians at this time will be more like a reward system tallying how well we did at bearing the fruit of the Spirit. My Ryrie Study Bible explains in the footnote to the famous verse of John 3:16 that the “eternal life” promised is “a new quality of life, not an everlasting ‘this-life.'”
Part of that new quality of life is casting off the sinful nature and becoming a “new creation,” as Paul puts it. Christ admonishes us to “store up treasures in heaven” where nothing can rust or corrode what we have collected. We all inherit equal amounts of Grace, but we do not all tally equal amounts of heavenly treasure.
As one of my life group members pointed out, this way of looking at inheritance versus judgment/reward puts a different spin on some of the more perplexing parables in the Bible. When you read about the workers of the vineyard who come to work only in the last hour and yet get paid the same amount as the workers who have put in a full day, doesn’t the human nature in you think, how exactly is that fair? Well, if you consider the wages of the story the inheritance of salvation, the parable makes a different kind of sense. Surely, when it comes time to hand out the rewards for the work of that day, those who bore the most fruit will receive more of a reward than those who came in the final hour. In the same way, some who worked unfruitfully for the entire day may actually receive fewer rewards than some who made the most of the less time in the vineyard they had to sow seeds.
So, if we really will see a reward system in heaven according to how well we have used God’s gifts to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth, doesn’t it give us something to look forward to about the Day of Judgment? Instead of picturing myself cringing at every stupid and willful thing I have done in this life being shown to me on some huge type of movie-screen while everyone watches, I can look forward to seeing, hopefully, that I have managed to do some good things for God!
As a perfectionist who is pathetically seeking “A’s” in a reality that has been outside the classroom for almost two decades, the concept of getting a “well done” from the only Judge who really matters frankly gives me goose bumps. I used to imagine Christ’s second coming as a moment of awe and love so wonderful, followed by a period of having to be shown all my mistakes during life so I can “start clean” in heaven. There probably isn’t any theological reason for me to have been imagining the second coming that way. It’s just the impression I had of the way things might go, even with the grace of God that is my salvation through Christ.
Now, instead of dreading Judgment Day, I actually have something to look forward to. I also have even more reasons to strive to use my God-given talents to love, love, love while I am on this planet.
As heirs in Christ, we may get in by the skin of our belief, but let’s not spend eternity wishing we had done just a little bit more for Him while we were still here on earth. Let’s build up as much treasure in heaven as we possibly can by doing as God commanded: loving Him first and foremost and loving all others as we ourselves wish to be loved (Matthew 22: 36-40).
The Last Will and Testament of our LORD Jesus Christ is the most generous will of all time. And, if you want to become one of His heirs, all you have to do is ask Him.