Don’t Let Sin Steal Your Rewards
The topic of this lesson is rewards. As Christians, we believe that we we are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, that Christ did it all for us to be saved. Eternal salvation is not something we earn or contribute to. It is a free gift that the Father gives to everyone who believes in Jesus and can never be lost. Salvation, therefore, is not a reward but a gift. However, from the moment we are saved by faith, from that point forward, we enter the Christian race that extends to the finish line where rewards can be earned that go beyond salvation. What are those rewards, how do we earn them and what does that mean in terms of how we should live our lives today? Let’s look into it.
The Christian life is a race that can be joyful, but at times can also be difficult and painful. Like it or not, we’re in a marathon race that will not end until we are finally with Christ. And how we run that race has tremendous eternal significance. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul told us:
“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 CSB)
Unfortunately, far too many Christians are not running this race well. They are getting entangled in the cares of this world, beset by sins and are losing their eternal rewards — not their salvation, but rewards that they could have had in addition to salvation. For this reason, the writer of Hebrews encourages us, saying:
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1 KJV)
And then he gives us the model we are to follow which, not surprisingly, is the One who ran the race well, Jesus:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)
To finish this race well, we’ll need to keep our eyes on Jesus, not looking away to the left or right, but straight ahead, following Him.
So what are the rewards for someone who finishes this race well?
Eternal Salvation Is Not A Reward
First, there’s a difference between eternal salvation and rewards. Eternal salvation is not a reward but a gift based solely on faith in Jesus. When we look at eternal salvation versus rewards, if you are someone who thinks that eternal salvation is the big prize and that’s all you are waiting for, you are shortchanging yourself. Salvation is the very bottom of what God has for His children, not the top.
Everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal salvation. That’s the very bottom, basic level that makes you a citizen of heaven. It’s also called, being an overcomer, overcoming this world. When we believe in Jesus, we are born again and, at that moment, we become overcomers. That’s the bottom line entrance criteria into heaven.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5 KJV)
According to this verse, an overcomer is not someone who has overcome sin by living an obedient, holy life. No. An overcomer is simply one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus is an overcomer. This is not referring to easy-believism where you just say a prayer, make a profession of faith and then go on living like the world. No. This is talking about faith in Jesus through which you are born again into a new creation, where the Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell you, you are sealed by that Spirit until the day of redemption and you are saved from the penalty of sin by God’s grace. The one who believes in Jesus with this saving faith overcomes the world. It is a one-time event that happens the moment you believe. And to every overcomer, Jesus Himself gave us this promise:
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:5 KJV)
The one who believes in Jesus has overcome the world and will never be blotted out of the book of life. That’s why salvation can never be lost. But as great as that is, that is just the bottom level of heaven.
Being saved is just the start of what God has available to us. Every believer gets this. But there is so much more.
Three Types of Eternal Rewards
In addition to salvation, there are three types of eternal rewards that every believer can earn by finishing the race well. These are things that go beyond the basics of salvation. Only those who finish the race well will get these and we’ll go through each of them:
- Authority and Privileges
- Eternal Glory
Let’s look at each of these, what they are and how we can earn them. Then we’ll look at when these rewards will be given out and how close we are to that finish line.
In Revelation chapter 4, we see a glimpse of what takes place in heaven at the very start of the final 7 year tribulation period prior to the return of Christ. One of the prominent things mentioned here is crowns.
“The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:10-11 KJV)
The Greek word for “crowns” is the word stephanos, which means a mark of royal or exalted rank.
It comes from the Greek word stéphō, which mean a wreath. In the first century, the winners of the Roman Olympic games were given a wreath to wear on their heads as their victor’s prize. All of the athletes would run, but only the winner would get this victory wreath, this crown. That is why Paul said:
“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 CSB)
As Christians, we are to run so as to win the prize that goes beyond salvation. So a crown is something that sets the believer apart as a special victor. And it says they cast “their crowns before the throne,” meaning that their crowns were unique to them and the race that they ran, but also that the glory behind those crowns was not the believer’s but the Lord’s. In other words, it wasn’t the believer who deserved the rewards through his or her own abilities, but it was the Lord Who gave them the ability to win the crowns.
The Five Crowns
In Scripture, there are five crowns that a believer can earn.
- The Imperishable Crown, often called the Victor’s Crown
This is the crown that will be given to those who practice discipline and have victory over the world, the flesh and the devil by demonstrating holiness in their conduct, the way they live their lives. Paul said:
“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath (or crown), but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NASB95)
This word “disqualified” also translated as “castaway” in the KJV, simply means “does not pass the test.” In other words, Paul is saying that he disciplines his body, exercising self-control in all things so that, after preaching to others about living a holy life, he will not be found to have failed the test himself. He’s not referring to being disqualified from salvation, but being disqualified from winning the crown.
So, as believers, those of us who develop and exercise self-control in this life, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit, can expect to receive the Imperishable Crown or the Victor’s Crown. Those believer’s who are saved but choose to not live in self-control will not receive this crown, though they will be saved.
- Crown of Rejoicing, often called the Soul Winner’s Crown
This reward will be given to those who bring others to Christ. Paul described the believers whom he had led to the Lord as his crown of rejoicing:
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NKJV)
- Crown of Life
This reward is for those who endure and triumph over temptation, persecution, suffering and martyrdom.
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (James 1:12 KJV)
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10 KJV)
This is not speaking of eternal life itself. Everyone who believes in Jesus gets that. This is speaking about special recognition and honor for those believers who placed their faith in Jesus at great personal cost, some to the extent of even being martyred for their faith. They will receive the crown of life in addition to eternal life.
- Crown of Glory
This reward is given to the shepherds of God’s people – the pastors, elders, deacons, teachers and ministry leaders.
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:2-4 KJV)
- Crown of Righteousness
This reward is given to those who eagerly await the second coming of the Lord and who long for heaven, their true home. Those believers who get caught up in this world and forget that heaven is their real home will not get this award.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV)
If you are eagerly waiting for the coming of the Lord, you are earning a crown of righteousness. Not all believers will get this.
These are the five crowns we can earn by running the Christian race and finishing the race well. These are in addition to eternal salvation. And the fact that we cast them at Christ’s feet signifies our dependence on Him to give us faith, strength, skill and character to earn them. Therefore, to Him be all the glory, not ourselves. Nevertheless, they are ours forever and we are encouraged to earn them.
2. Authority and Privileges
In addition to crowns, a second type of reward we can earn through our good works is special authority and privileges. We cannot earn our salvation by good works. However, once we are saved, the Bible does speak of rewards that we can earn if we live a faithful life of service and good works. This reward is to reign and rule with Christ.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. ” (Revelation 2:26-27 KJV)
This is a promise that believers will be given authority to reign and rule with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth after His second coming.
There are two conditions listed for receiving this reward:
- Overcoming = believing in Christ for salvation
- Keeping Christ’s Works to the End = Obeying Christ
You have to believe and obey. You have to believe to be saved. But for those who not only believe but also obey Christ and walk in holiness before Him to the end of their lives, Jesus said He will give them power over the nations, meaning that they will be given an assignment, a special authority and privilege, to reign and rule the nations with Christ.
How close are we to receiving this reward? Very close.
If we look at where we are on God’s prophetic timeline, we see that we’re right before the rapture, that great event when Christ will snatch away all believers to be with Him prior to the final 7-year tribulation. At the end of those 7 years, Christ will return to reign and rule over the nations for 1,000 years. Those believers who are faithful in this life will reign and rule with Him.
We see a foreshadowing of this when Jesus told the parable of the talents. In the parable, each servant was given a sum of money to take care of while the Master was away. And when the Master returned, He rewarded those who were faithful. Luke 19:
“And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom (note the timing of this), then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:15-17 KJV)
What we do in this life matters. To each of us who are saved by faith in Jesus, God has given gifts and abilities, talents if you will. Those believers who prove themselves to be trustworthy enough to walk in holiness, obedience and faithfulness to the end will be rewarded with authority and privileges that go beyond eternal salvation. By proving ourselves faithful even in the little things of this life, Jesus will reward us by giving us real power and authority over a part of His Kingdom.
But the parable goes on to say:
“And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.” (Luke 19:18-19 KJV)
Here’s a servant who did less than the first servant did with what the Master had given him. As a result of doing less with his talents, he was given less authority. All who place their faith in Christ will be saved and will inherit eternal life. But those who also then prove themselves to be Christ’s disciples in this life by living holy, obedient lives will be given more authority and privileges to reign and rule with Christ. The more of a disciple you are in this life, the more you will be given in heaven.
As far as reigning with Christ, all believers will reign with Christ to some level, for Scripture says:
“To him that overcometh (which Scripture says means “believe”) will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21 KJV)
Every believer will have some role to play in the Millennial Kingdom. So don’t lose heart if you have found obeying Christ to be a struggle. We are saved by faith alone. You will not lose your salvation if you struggle with sin. I don’t want this video to be a discouragement to anyone. Instead, my hope is that this encourages you to press on toward being like Christ, knowing that you will be rewarded. But for those believers who prove themselves faithful in this life, more authority will be given. So set you focus on Christ, on obeying Him and on walking in holiness before Him.
As a side note, this goes to prove one other fact about God: Namely, that God is not a socialist. Everyone in heaven will not be given the same rewards and be treated exactly the same. Instead, we will be rewarded based on merit, on what we have done and how faithfully we lived. That’s why it’s so important to put away sin and live for Christ. By giving in to sin, we are literally giving away our eternal rewards. Don’t take that as a discouragement, but an encouragement to live for Christ with whatever time you have left. No matter how badly you might have blown it in terms of becoming like Christ, if you are still breathing and still able to hear this, then there is still time for you to earn rewards. Make it your goal to live for Christ even more from this day forward and earn as many rewards as you can.
Finally there’s the third type of reward.
3. Eternal Glory.
This reward refers to the degree we will reflect and emanate the glory of God in our resurrected new bodies. Our eternal bodies will shine in brightness that reflects the glory of God. The brightness of our bodies will vary depending on how faithfully we served Christ on this earth. Let’s look at Scripture that speaks of this.
First, when Christ appears, we will be given bodies that will be like His resurrected body.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 KJV)
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21 NASB95)
In an instant, our bodies will be changed from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 KJV)
Jesus showed us a glimpse of what this body will be like when He was transfigured. His body and clothes glistened with light and His face was as bright as the sun.
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2 KJV)
One of the characteristics of this new body is that it will emanate the very light of God but each of us will reflect a different degree of glory. We too will glisten with light and shine. But though we will be like Him, not everyone’s body will be the same.
“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:41-42 KJV)
Every person will be given a different degree of glory in which they shine and emanate the glory of God. No two people will shine in the same way. What determines how brightly we will shine forth the glory of God in our resurrected bodies is our faithfulness here on earth. All saved believers will shine. But those believers who serve Christ faithfully will shine brighter.
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3 KJV)
The phrase, “they that be wise,” refers to people who have placed their faith in Christ so as to be saved. These are the wise ones. All saved believers will shine in their new bodies “as the brightness of the firmament.” But those believers who more faithfully follow Christ as disciples in this life, leading others to salvation and helping others turn from sin to righteousness will shine even brighter, as the stars forever and ever. The very light that we shine forth in our resurrected bodies will be a reward that will last forever as a testimony of how faithfully we followed Christ.
We looked at this verse earlier from Revelation chapter 2, but notice the last sentence.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the Morning Star.” (Revelation 2:26-28 KJV)
This verse is about how those who overcome (which means believe) and also keep Christ’s works until the end (talking about our faithful obedience to Christ) will reign and rule with Christ. But Christ also says He will give these faithful believers “the Morning Star.” This reference to “Morning Star” refers to Christ Himself. Revelation 22:
“I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16 KJV)
So this reference to how Jesus will give faithful believers the Morning Star could be saying that they will have a closer relationship with Him in heaven. But I think the reference to a star also indicates that these believers who have proven their faithfulness will also shine brighter in heaven, like the Morning Star.
So what does this mean to us as believers? Simply this:
How important it is to not just be saved through faith in Christ but also to be found walking as His disciple in obedience and faithfulness. Every saved believer will shine, but those who walk in faithful obedience will shine brighter. God wants to give each of us that reward if we will but take it by putting away sin in our lives and living faithfully and obediently.
So to sum this up, these are the rewards a believer can earn that go beyond eternal salvation:
- Imperishable Crown
- Crown of Rejoicing
- Crown of Life
- Crown of Glory
- Crown of Righteousness
- Authority and Privileges
- Eternal Glory
What if we want to earn all of these rewards. What would it take? Let’s look at that.
What Kind Of Person Would We Have To Be To Earn ALL the Rewards?
It can be done. We would have to be:
- Self-controlled, disciplined, practicing holiness (to earn the Imperishable Crown)
- Soul winning, leading other to Christ (for Crown of Rejoicing)
- Faithfully enduring trials and suffering (Crown of Life)
- Shepherding and discipling others (Crown of Glory)
- Eagerly awaiting His coming (Crown of Righteousness)
- Faithful obedience (Authority & Privileges)
- Leading others to righteousness (Eternal Glory)
What kind of person is this? It’s a disciple of Christ. This is a picture of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We should be all of these things.
And God eagerly desires to give us all of these rewards if we will but strive for them in the way we live. That’s what Jesus meant when He said:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21 KJV)
Where is your heart toward God? God is watching and recording every good work that we do as Christians. Not one of them will be missed. Even the smallest things will be rewarded:
“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 KJV)
So let’s live for Christ! It is not too late for any of us to earn eternal rewards.
When will those rewards be given? If we look at our timeline, rewards will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which will occur right after the rapture.
“For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10 KJV)
No sin will be judged here for sin in a believer’s life has already been dealt with at the cross. This will be a judgment for rewards. The Greek word for Judgment Seat is the word bēma, which means a raised platform. It was the type of platform that the winners of the Olympic games would stand on to receive their rewards.
Our rewards at the Judgment Seat will be based on what we have done for Christ in this life:
“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. … If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:8, 14 KJV)
But this passage goes on to say that rewards God would have given us could be lost:
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15 KJV)
Believers who do not live for Christ in this life will not lose their salvation, but they can lose the rewards that God would have given them if they had walked more faithfully. It says they will still be saved, but “so as by fire.” I think this refers to how it will feel to stand before Christ as He shows us the rewards we could have had but are now lost because we didn’t live for Him. We didn’t do what He asked us to do. Instead, God will have had to raise up someone else to do the work that He had assigned to us and they will get our reward:
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11 KJV)
This is speaking someone else stepping in and taking the crown that God had planned to give you, but you didn’t earn it. Instead, someone else did and took your crown. That realization when Christ shows you this will feel like being saved through fire. This is not talking about sin. Sin has been forever dealt with at the cross. It’s talking about realizing all the missed opportunities we had to serve Christ and live for him, but instead chose to live for ourselves. We’ll still be saved, but we won’t have the rewards. Someone else will have our rewards. Don’t let it happen.
God wants to give us rewards but the time is growing short.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27 KJV)
“And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12 KJV)
What kind of rewards will you receive?
It’s not too late to live for Christ and be rewarded. If you are a believer, put away all sin and live in holiness before Him. Don’t shrink back.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35 KJV)
How are you spending your time? Live for Christ so as not to lose your rewards.
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” (2 John 1:8 KJV)
God wants each of us to earn our full rewards so that we can rejoice, even if it means suffering for Christ:
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:12 KJV)
What kind of rewards will Christ give you when He comes?
It’s not too late.
I want to close this lesson as I normally do with a prayer of salvation and rededication. If the only reward you think you’ll get from Christ is judgment, then you need to settle that right now and make sure you are saved. And if you are a Christian who has not been living as faithfully as you should, perhaps you need to rededicate yourself to Christ. It’s not too late to do that and earn a full reward.
Saying a prayer doesn’t save you or change you. Only placing your faith in Christ does that. This prayer, then, is just a means of expressing that faith. If that’s what you would like to do, please pray with me.
“Lord, I have sinned and I need you to save me. I have not lived the way You desire me to live. Against You and You alone have I sinned. I am so sorry. From this point forward, I want to dedicate my life to You. I believe that Your Son Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross to pay for my sins, and that He rose from the dead to show me the new eternal life You have for me. I believe solely in Jesus to save me, that He paid my debt of sin 100%. Thank you for this forgiveness. Please live inside of me, be my Savior and Lord, and enable me to live for You. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, God gives you this assurance:
“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:13 NASB95)
And to all Christians:
Jesus said: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11 KJV)
Thank you for watching.