Are Believers Rewarded Now or in Eternity?
Concerning Proverbs 11:18, do you know if the reward we receive will be on this side of eternity also? Or is the reward meant to be in Heaven only? Thanks for your comment on this and be blessed.
The wicked man does deceptive work, but he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.
a. The wicked man does deceptive work: When someone works with deception and dishonesty, it is evidence of wickedness. The wise and honest person knows that work must be done in a way marked by honesty and integrity.
b. He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward: Those who do their work in righteousness – marked by honesty and integrity – will see the sure reward of their work. Their righteous work is like good seed that has been sown.
- Believers will be rewarded both now and in the life to come
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
2. An example of earthly reward: Jeremiah 29:11-14a
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity;
3. A description of heavenly reward: 2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Also, the people of Hebrews 11 were motived by heavenly reward.
- It could be the crown of life.
- It could be the crown of victory.
- It could be the reward of hearing “well done, good and faithful servant.”
- It could be the reward of a greater sphere of authority in the kingdom age.
- It could be the reward of a greater capacity to enjoy eternal fellowship with God.
- It could be things we can’t even imagine.
4. We may not be rewarded as we expect; there will be some surprises in the way God rewards.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
We will be rewarded, both in this life and in the life to come.
We can’t dictate or choose our rewards (or our trials!).
No one will out-give God – God will reward His people both now and then.
When we get to heaven, will we see the Father and the Holy Spirit, or just Jesus?
I’ve been following a theology lecture series at a local church. This week’s topic was Christology. The speaker, a pastor, made two statements that I’m not sure about. Number one: “When we get to heaven, we will not see God or the Holy Spirit because they are spirits, but we will see Jesus.” Number two: “While Jesus was on earth as a human, He was unable to do miracles on His own; all of His miracles were done by the power of the Holy Spirit.” To my thinking, the Scriptures don’t affirm those statements (Genesis 1:26; Exodus 33). What are your thoughts on this?
First, I would not say that when we get to heaven, we will not see God or the Holy Spirit because they are spirits. We will certainly see Jesus. But I will be a little bit picky here: I don’t like how you phrase this question. You say we will not see God, or the Holy Spirit. I know what you mean: when you say God, you mean God the Father. I get that’s what you mean, but that’s not what you wrote.
When we see Jesus Christ, we are seeing God. We’re not seeing God the Father, we’re not seeing God the Holy Spirit, but we are seeing God. Sometimes in theology, we need to get a little picky about how we phrase things. I would rephrase your statement: “When we get to heaven, we will not see God the Father or God the Holy Spirit because they are spirits, but we will see Jesus.”
However, I would disagree with that statement, because we don’t know what our capabilities will be in Heaven. Maybe there is a way for spirits in heaven – even spirits that have a resurrection body, as we will have in Heaven – to see or perceive the presence of other spirits. I would not be so certain about saying that we will not see God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, because they are spirits. We don’t know what our capabilities will be. Right now, in our human bodies and our human capabilities on this side of eternity, we could not see God the Father. That’s why the New Testament says, speaking of God the Father, that “no one has seen God, because God dwells in invisible, unapproachable light.” Nor can we currently see the Holy Spirit – because He’s spirit. But we don’t know what our capabilities of perception will be in our resurrection bodies in Heaven.
Was Jesus able to do miracles by His own power, or only by the power of the Holy Spirit?
Now I’ll answer the second statement: “While Jesus was on earth as a human, He was unable to do miracles on His own; all of His miracles were done by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I would categorically disagree with that statement. Because Jesus was not unable to do miracles in His divine resources– He certainly could have if He chose to. Look, if you’re God, you’re able to do anything. Jesus Christ did not stop being God. The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, did not stop being God, when He added humanity to His deity, and came as the incarnate God-Man on this earth. No, He was able to do whatever He wanted.
Now, He may have chosen not to do things in the power of His deity, and instead chose to do things as a human being in reliance upon the Holy Spirit. But that’s a far cry from saying He was unable to do things. Do you see the difference there? I think there’s a legitimate place to argue whether all or most of the ministry of Jesus was done simply as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. To whatever extent that’s the case, it’s not because He was unable to do them in divine power, but because He chose to lay aside those rights and privileges. He chose not to access those powers. He was always God, but He chose not to operate in the power of His divine nature and divine resources. I’m okay with that kind of approach to this question, whether that was an absolute principle in the ministry of Jesus, or it was mostly how He operated. There are a few things He did which certainly look kind of divine. What Jesus did in the Transfiguration seems to smack of divinity. We can point to a couple other places as well. But whether we would say it was all or most, I would say that for the most part, Jesus chose to do His ministry based on His human nature, with human resources, relying on the Holy Spirit. But it was never a matter of inability.
I could see where you’d feel I’m getting awfully picky about these wordings. But listen, when we’re talking about important theological concepts, if we’re going to talk about them straightforwardly and honestly, we need to realize that our specific words matter. We need to be careful about how we phrase things. We also need to realize that sometimes we’re not careful in how we phrase things, and work to phrase them better.
Was Revelation written before or after the destruction of the Temple?
Was revelation written before or after the destruction of the Temple? What evidence leads you to this conclusion?
Tradition can be a form of history. Oftentimes when we say tradition, people think what we mean is legends or fairy tales, but that’s not necessarily true. There can be accurate history lying behind traditions.
According to early church tradition, John wrote the book of Revelation at the end of his life, maybe somewhere around 90 A.D., while he was an exile on the island of Patmos. Now, we don’t know that for certain because the Bible itself does not tell us that. It tells us that John was on Patmos when he wrote, but it doesn’t exactly tell us that he was there in exile.
I’ve read a few things that tried to make the case that Revelation was written before the destruction of the Temple, and I regard that as possible. But I would say there’s more weight to the church traditions that we have, that it was written later. But in the end, the Scriptures don’t tell us for sure, and we don’t have the kind of historical evidence that would really make us confidently say it was one way or another.
I would say that it was likely written as the last book of the New Testament, maybe sometime in the 90s to 100 A.D. But I don’t think that we can exclude the possibility that it was written earlier before the destruction of the Temple. There are mentions of the Temple in the book of Revelation. Some people assume that means the Temple must have been standing. But if John wrote Revelation 20 or 30 years after the destruction of the Temple, he may be very well have been looking forward to a rebuilt Temple, which is mentioned or associated prophetically in a few passages.
In the intertestamental period, there were no prophets until John the Baptist. Could there be a similar period of no prophets from the Apostles’ time until the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:3 appear?
I don’t think so. I think it depends on how one specifically defines a prophet. There were non-apostolic prophets in the days of the early church. The book of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and other New Testament epistles describe to us that, at least in some sense, prophets were active in the early church. Their role was not as authoritative revealers of God’s eternal word intended for the entire Church throughout all ages, but God used them to communicate things by His Holy Spirit to specific congregations, as we see in Paul’s reference to the work of the ministry of prophets among the Corinthian Christians.
But there is no scriptural book given to us of the writings of the Corinthian prophets. Whatever God by the Holy Spirit legitimately spoke through the prophets at work in the church in Corinth in apostolic times, God did not want those words preserved. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was genuinely inspiring those prophets, but what they spoke was not God’s eternal word intended for all His people throughout all ages. It was something particular or peculiar to that time and that place. This is the difference that I would emphasize. We must make a distinction between prophets who speak forth God’s eternal word for all generations and all peoples, and, on the other hand, prophets through whom God speaks to a particular place and congregation, but not in universal way for all God’s people at all times.
If we define a prophet in strictly that universal sense, then I think there’s an argument to be made from what you’re saying. God has not spoken universally to all His church in all places at one time, through a particular prophet in the period you mentioned, but we could see a renewal of that in Revelation 11:3.
We highly esteem God’s eternal Word. We believe that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.” That was not true of what the Holy Spirit spoke through the Corinthian prophets, for example. I don’t believe that such prophets in the early church functioned only in the Corinthian church; they were also present in the Roman church and the Ephesian church.
How would you explain biblical obedience to Jesus?
I would just simply not try to overthink it. To overthink something is to try to go into the minutest, strangest detail. When Jesus said to pray privately or in your closet to God, then we should just find a private place to pray. When Jesus said that we should give, we should give. Obedience is not trying to overthink it; as simply and straightforwardly as we can, we are to do the things that Jesus commanded us to do.
Biblical obedience to Jesus goes beyond the specific commands given by Jesus. Those are important and precious to us, of course. But we also understand that Jesus, the Spirit of Christ, was speaking through the foundational apostles and prophets, so His commands would include everything that we see in the New Testament, the Greek Scriptures.
Biblical obedience is simply saying, “When Jesus says to do something, then I’m going to lean on the Lord and press into Him for strength, but God helping me, I’m going to do what Jesus told me to do. When Jesus told us to not do something, then leaning into Jesus, depending on Him to the best of my ability, I’m going to try to not do what Jesus told me to not do.”
Can you explain single and double predestination? Is it biblical and what are your thoughts?
The Bible describes for us how God has predestined His people to receive and experience His saving work in many different aspects. Romans 8 says that those whom He foreknew, He also predestined, called, justified, adopted, and ultimately glorified. All these things are aspects of God’s predestined plan. It’s a plan He has thought out beforehand; it’s planned by God ahead of time to work in and through the life of His people.
Let’s use the example of somebody being predestined to Heaven. It’s sort of cheating the idea of predestination to call it this, but we’ll use this example. God has directed that person to Heaven; that is single predestination. Double predestination includes single predestination, that God has predestined some people to Heaven. But double predestination also says that God has predestined others to Hell.
The Bible nowhere specifically teaches that. You could say that there have been some individuals who were predestined to destruction, among them most notably Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, but for humanity as a whole, the Bible never says that God predestines people to Hell.
In fact, Jesus said that God prepared Hell for the devil and his angels. Those who go to Hell go there by their own choice. God doesn’t say, “I prepared a place for them,” even as He would say He’s prepared a place for His people in Heaven.
So, single predestination says God has ordained certain people to go to Heaven. Double predestination says that God has ordained certain people to go to Heaven, and He has ordained certain people to go to Hell. I find biblical support for the first statement. I do not find biblical support for the second statement.
There are people who object, saying, “It’s simply a logical necessity. The Scriptures don’t have to state that God predestined everybody to Hell whom He has not predestined to Heaven. It’s a logical necessity, even though the Scriptures don’t say it.”
My response would simply be – If the Bible doesn’t say it, then I don’t have to say it. I like something that the old Puritan commentator John Trapp said. He may have been a double predestinarian himself; I don’t exactly know. But he said, “Where the Bible has no tongue, we must have no ears.” In other words, we can’t pretend to hear things that the Bible doesn’t say. And it doesn’t say that God has predestined, in humanity at large, people to go to Hell. He has predestined some for Heaven, but not to go to Hell.
So, I would disagree with the idea of double predestination. I would be considered a single predestinarian. I don’t have any problem resting in that. I would never claim double predestination as a logical necessity.
Does the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree have implications for the life of the believer?
What is the significance of the story of the fig tree which was dried out by the Lord Jesus? Does it have implications on the life of born-again believers today?
Yes, it certainly does have implications for the life of the believer today. Jesus saw a fig tree which had leaves but no fruit. I’m not an expert in horticulture, but I’ve seen it in a fig tree that’s at our house. I’ve also talked to Israeli tour guides about this and asked them about this question. On these fig trees that Jesus was concerned with, the fruit at least begins to appear before the leaves do. You won’t have a healthy, properly functioning fig tree with leaves but no fruit; if there are leaves, there will be fruit.
Jesus cursed the fig tree that had leaves, but no fruit. I think this He cursed the fig tree on a case of false advertising. The fig tree “advertised” as if it had fruit, but it actually had none. That’s a form of hypocrisy. If we have an outward appearance that we have a fruitful life for God, but in actuality we do not, that’s hypocrisy. You could say that Jesus cursed the fig tree as a demonstration of His judgment upon hypocrisy in the life of a believer.
By the way, you can say that the cursing of the fig tree was the only destructive miracle that Jesus did, or at most, one of the few. And He directed it, number one, against hypocrisy, and number two, against a tree, not against a human being. So that’s the implication: don’t advertise that you’re something before God which you’re not. Don’t put forth an image of spirituality or godliness when you really have no reality behind that in your life.
Can you provide an example of God chastening a believer whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6)?
Well, in the Old Testament, David was chastened by the terrible effects the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba. That was God’s chastening in his life. You could say that Abraham was chastened for the lies he told to Pharaoh, and later to Abimelech. This was something very dangerous for both Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and for Abraham himself. The agony Peter went through after denying Christ was a form of God’s chastening.
God’s chastening can come in many ways. Just like we can’t pick our trials or our rewards, we can’t pick our chastenings either. All those things are up to God Himself. I think that God may chasten believers in many different ways. And I need to be a little bit careful here, because if you say, “God may chasten believer by this, you’re not saying that everybody who experiences that is undergoing the chastening of God. Maybe they are, and maybe they’re not okay.
Let me give you an example. It is possible that God could chasten an unbeliever by allowing them to experience financial difficulty and stress. They’ve been lost in materialism, yet God wants to bring them back, so He gets their attention by allowing some kind of financial crisis or difficulty. I think that principle is true. But there is a danger of immediately assuming that everybody who has financial difficulty is being chastened by God. Well, maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. We don’t always know. We usually don’t know.
So, I could give examples, but the examples need to be taken cautiously. It’s dangerous for us to come into other people’s lives and say, “You know why God has allowed this” and assume we know what God’s purpose is in it. Sometimes we know, but sometimes we don’t. And we need to be careful with that.
God hates divorce, so how do I pray for a believer who’s going through a messy divorce with an unbeliever?
First, I would acknowledge that it’s true that God hates divorce. But He does allow it under specific circumstances. One of the circumstances under which God will allow divorce is the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse. This may be exactly what’s happening to this believer of whom you’re speaking; I don’t know the situation. It would require a deep dive, with pastoral wisdom, into that person’s circumstances, where you take the principles of Scripture, measure them against that person’s life and current situation, and giving them Biblical understanding concerning those things. Having not done that in the life of this person, I would just say that it may be that this is a permitted divorce.
So, what does that mean? Well, just because divorce is permitted, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right thing for a believer to do. They must be listening to and guided by the Holy Spirit. That’s one thing that you can pray for your friend: “Lord, give them wisdom by your Holy Spirit. Lord, if You don’t want them to get this divorce, and if You want them to do something else, because You’re working behind the scenes in a powerful way, then Lord, give them wisdom to proceed.”
But also, pray for the compassionate love of God. Maybe this believer you’re speaking of is escaping a somewhatabusive situation. Maybe it’s serious enough that they need to do this, they need to move on. Maybe their partner has so violated the marriage covenant that it would merit that kind of response. In those situations, you want to pray for healing. You want to pray for God to keep their hearts soft, and for God to pour out His grace and love so that person would not stay in a relatively traumatized state. Those are some of the things you could pray for somebody in the situation of divorce.
Doesn’t “prophet” signify “teacher”?
No, it doesn’t. That is sometimes a common interpretation, especially from those who believe that any kind of miraculous prophetic gift ended with the age of the Apostles. But the Bible has the terminology and individual words for “teaching” and “preaching” and “prophecy.” To say that “prophecy,” as the Bible understands it, is just “good teaching” or “Bible teaching,” is to mis-define the word.
God uses these different words for a reason: prophecy, teaching, and preaching all have their reasons. As 1 Corinthians explains to us, prophecy is speaking forth the heart and mind of God, especially in a situation that brings encouragement, strength, and comfort to others.
Do people need to speak in tongues to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
The quick answer to that is: No. You could say that the gift of tongues is a physical manifestation of being filled with the Holy Spirit. But it’s not the essential evidence. I would say the essential evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is twofold.
First, being a witness of Jesus Christ. God has really done something in your life, and you’re a witness of that work. That’s what Jesus spoke about in Acts 1 and at the end of the Gospel of Luke. He promised that He would give the Spirit; He would pour out the Holy Spirit on people; He would baptize them by His Spirit so that they would be witnesses.
Secondly, I would look forward to the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5. I give a deeper explanation in my teachings on 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, which you can find on my YouTube channel or at enduringword.com. The gift of tongues is a gift of communication with God. It’s a way for the believer to communicate with God in a way that transcends their human intellect. There are some people who, for whatever reason – maybe it’s their personality, their level of maturity, or any number of other reasons – just don’t feel a need for that gift. They feel perfectly satisfied with their ability to communicate with God on a normal verbal level in their own intellect. In a sense, you could say that person doesn’t need the gift of tongues; they’re not aware of their need.
I more so prefer that people have an awareness of need. I have more praise to give to God than I can articulate. I have prayers that I want to pray but I don’t know what to pray or how to pray. I need some divine inspiration by the Spirit of God to pray in me and through me. These are reasons to seek after the gift of tongues. I think there has been a fair amount of damage in the Christian world, especially in some charismatic circles, by demanding that the gift of tongues is the evidence of the filling Holy Spirit. It makes people seek the gift of tongues simply to prove, either to themselves or to other people, that they really are filled with the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think that that’s a good or a valid reason to seek that gift; I think it invites a lot of fakery and going through the motions.
How did Jesus learn obedience through suffering, as the Scripture says?
Hebrews 5:8 – Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
The book of Hebrews gives this dramatic statement that the Lord Jesus Christ learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Think of the many ways that Jesus suffered. Think of how He suffered by being so close around simple humanity. Think of how He had to suffer with the frustrations He received from His disciples. Think of how He had to suffer when His own family rejected Him. Think about how He had to suffer. Of course, I’m not even getting to the great suffering that Jesus experienced in His death – the arrest, the beating, the mocking, the discouragement, the crucifixion, all of it.
Jesus suffered greatly. God the Father, working in and through God the Son, enabled Him to learn obedience through those sufferings. In other words, suffering was an appropriate or befitting instrument in the hand of God the Father, to shape obedience in God the Son. The whole point of this is, as it’s put forth in Hebrews, how dare we despise suffering as a tool that God might use in our life? I think these are important points for us to consider.
The letter of James begins by saying that we should count it all joy no matter what trials we fall into, and immediately follows that with a recommendation that believers pray for wisdom. I think there’s a connection between the two things. We particularly need wisdom from God when we’re in a trial and we’re suffering. Part of what we want wisdom from God for is simply this, “God, do You want to deliver me from this suffering? Or do you want to deliver me in this suffering?” God can work powerfully for His glory either way. But that’s a question many people don’t even ask. They just assume, because they want the trial to end, that it’s God’s will for the trial to end immediately. But God may be working a larger purpose. Then again, there are other people to whom God would give deliverance and victory from their specific trial right there in that moment, if they would trust Him for it. So, what’s the solution? We need wisdom from above.