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Scripture Studies

Is Going to Heaven Your Reward?

going to heavenOne of the most prevailing beliefs among majority of Christians today is the assurance that faithful believers will go to heaven when they die. In fact, we will often hear it expounded in funeral sermons from priests and ministers that our departed loved ones are already “in” heaven just awaiting for their families to be reunited again. While this thought provides some comfort in times of loss, what does the Bible really tell us about heaven?

The gospel of Matthew provided us familiar texts, as it often used the word “heaven” in referencing Jesus Christ’ words. In the Beatitudes, it is written:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:12

Matthew recorded “kingdom of heaven” as it also mentioned “reward in heaven”, the phrase appears throughout the book a total of 32 times. From these verses, it generally assumes that heaven is indeed part of a reward and/or destination.

But what did Jesus mean when He told the disciples about the kingdom and a certain “reward” in heaven? Because in the same context of Beatitudes, Christ also said: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (verse 5). So anyone may reasonably ask, “Do the persecuted go to heaven to collect their reward, while the meek inherit the earth?”

Again the consistent answer in the Bible is provided by harmonizing all the relevant texts. The epistle of Peter has given us the answer, notice:  

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4).

Plainly these verses tell us that the reward of the saved—the incorruptible inheritance of true Christians—is “reservedin heaven.” It does not say of heaven as a reward itself, but only as a place where the reward is kept (for a time). The word “reserved” in the Greek istereo, meaning “safeguarded; watched closely” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1985). Heaven is where the reward is currently preserved and kept—but not the heaven itself as a reward!

So what is this heaven that the Bible speaks about?

The New Testament uses of three kinds of heavens are clearly shown in the Greek wordοὐρανός ouranos (Strong’s #3772 The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance & Lexicon). This word is defined in this lexicon as, (1) First heaven: the sky,Matthew 6:26; Luke 4:25; and region beyond the atmosphere,Revelation 6:13; (2) Second heaven: the outer space and the whole creation itself, Matthew 5:18; (d) Third heaven: the abode of God,Matthew 3:17.

So heaven is a three dimensional perspective, and our understanding to it will be based on how it is being applied or used in the Bible.

Accordingly, do faithful Christians then go to heaven (the throne of God) to claim their rewards? Jesus Christ Himself explained how He will do it:

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12)

When Christ returns from heaven the second time, He willbringthe reward of the saved, which is now temporarily reserved in heaven, with Him to this earth!

No wonder many of the parables of Jesus are expounded on these themes (see Parable of the doorkeeper –Luke12:35-38; Parable of the ten virgins –Matthew 25:1-13, Parable of talents –Matt.25:14-30, etc). In most of these parables He would often used the allegory of a “master” or “nobleman” after receiving to himself a kingdom, he will return again to give his rewards to all of his servants. Jesus went up into heaven to receive His Kingdom from the Father. He will return to earth and reward His faithful servants according to their works.

So what is this future reward of His faithful servants? The apostle John gave us some ideas:

“And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father…” (Revelation 2:26–27)

When plainly understood in the Bible, the reward of the righteous is not going to or heaven itself, this reward is temporarily reserved in heaven, where Christ presently is. This reward—of reign, power and rulership (as “priest and kings”) with Christ —will be brought to the earth by the returning Christ, as “King of kings and Lord of Lords” in God’s coming Kingdom!

And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:6

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