Sermon #1947 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: WILL THERE BE DEGREES OF
REWARD IN HEAVEN?
Text: Revelation 21:4
Subject: Heavenly Reward
Date: Sunday Morning — December 18, 2011
Tape # AA-45
Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
“1 ¶ For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, [that] shall ye receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them [their] hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that [were hired] about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received [it], they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take [that] thine [is], and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
Will There Be Degrees Of Reward In Heaven? This is a question around which there has been much controversy throughout the history of the Church. Many men whose doctrine has been thoroughly biblical in other areas have been in grave error concerning rewards. I know that I will not settle the controversy surrounding this question. However, as your pastor, it is my responsibility to teach you those things which become sound doctrine and build you up in the faith of Christ, so that you will not be — “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness!”
My purpose in preaching this message is not to answer the arguments of those who oppose our doctrine. I am not here to debate doctrine. I leave that to others. My purpose in preaching this message is threefold…
1. I want to glorify and honor our great God.
2. I want to build you up in the faith of Christ.
3. I want to show sinners the way of salvation by grace alone.
Proposition: Salvation, in its’ entirety, is the work of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ.
That is the foundation upon which we build all our doctrine. That is the hermeneutic principle upon which we interpret Scripture, because it is the hermeneutic principle laid down in Scripture. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. No part of salvation can be, in any measure, attributed to the will, worth, or works of man (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6).
(2 Timothy 1:9) “Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
(Ephesians 2:8-9) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
(Romans 11:6) “And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
If it were possible to separate heavenly rewards from salvation, then we might talk about degrees of reward in heaven; but if heaven and the glorious inheritance of the saints in heaven is only the consummation of salvation, then to talk of degrees of reward in heaven is to teach salvation by works! — Let me remind you, once more, that salvation involves all that is required to bring a sinner from the ruins of the fall into the glory of heaven. Heavenly glory is the consummation of God’s salvation.
1. What is the doctrine of those who teach degrees of reward in heaven?
2. What are the inevitable implications of this doctrine?
3. Why are we so dogmatically opposed to this doctrine?
4. There is one text of Scripture which both destroys the doctrine of degrees of reward and assures every believer of an everlasting fulness of joy in glory.
The Doctrine of Rewards
What is the doctrine of those who teach degrees of reward in heaven? I realize that some men who teach this doctrine may have some slightly different opinions than others; but basically this is their doctrine. Lest I be accused of putting words in their mouths, let me quote directly from one of the leading proponents of this doctrine. These are the words of Merrill F. Unger.
“Rewards are offered by God to a believer on the basis of faithful service rendered after salvation. It is clear from Scripture that God offers to the lost salvation and for the faithful service of the saved, rewards. Often in theological thinking salvation and rewards are confused. However, these two terms must be carefully distinguished. Salvation is a free gift (John 4:10; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9), while rewards are earned by works (Matthew 10:42; Luke 19:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). Rewards will be dispensed at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10). The doctrine of rewards is inseparably connected with God’s grace. A soul being saved on the basis of Divine grace, there is no room for the building up of merit on the part of the believer. Yet, God recognizes an obligation on His part to reward His saved ones for their service to Him. Nothing can be done to merit salvation, but what the believer has achieved for God’s glory God recognizes in His great faithfulness with rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
This is what those men teach who teach degrees of reward in heaven. (5 Things.).
1. Salvation is limited to the initial experience of conversion. You cannot separate one part of salvation from another (Romans 8:28-30).
Š Not according to Paul (2 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 13:11).
Š Not according to Peter (1 Peter 2:4).
Š Not according to our Lord (Matthew 10:22).
2. It is possible for a person to be saved and not be a faithful servant of Christ. See Luke 14:25-33!
3. Men and women, by their service to God put God under obligation to reward them! — Is it possible for a sinful man or woman to do anything to merit God’s favor, to earn God’s blessing? Can a mere man oblige the Almighty?
4. There will be two judgment days, one for believers and another for unbelievers. — These people must make the Bible fit their doctrine. So they teach…
Š Two second comings — One secret/one open.
Š Two resurrections — One secret/one open.
Š Two judgments — One for believers - The Judgment Seat of Christ — One for unbelievers - The Great White Throne.
NOTE: Judgment Day is will not be a trial, or a day of discovery, but a day of declaration.
5. Believers will yet have to suffer for their sins!
Illustration: Dusty’s statement at Lookout — “You will spend eternity weeping in heaven over every sin you commit on this earth.”
God declares that He will never charge His people with sin (Romans 4:8; 8:32-34).
Romans 4:8 “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Romans 8:32-34 “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
What are the inevitable implications of this doctrine? If the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven is accepted then it must be acknowledged that…
Š Heaven’s glory is not the reward of grace, but the payment of a debt.
Š Heaven is not a place of unmingled joy, but of mingled joy and grief.
Š God does withhold some good things from them that walk uprightly, and some evil shall fall upon the just (Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 12:21).
Š The blood of Christ and the righteousness of Christ will not alone be sufficient for our acceptance with God.
Š Some part of God’s favor, some of the blessings of God must be earned by us!
Why must we be so dogmatically opposed to this doctrine? — 5 Answers!
1. It is without foundation in the Word of God!
Š Not one passage referred to in support of this doctrine even hints that some saints will have more and some have less in heaven.
Š Not one of the crowns mentioned in the Bible are said to be given only to certain believers. (See Revelation 4:10).
Revelation 4:10 “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.”
2. It is totally contrary to the plain statements of Holy Scripture.
Š Matthew 20:1-16; (v. 12).
Š Ephesians 1:3
Š Romans 8:17
Š John 17:5, 22
Š Ephesians 5:25-27
Š Jude 24
Š 1 John 3:2
Š Romans 8:29
Matthew 20:1-16 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. (2) And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. (5) Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. (6) And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? (7) They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. (8) So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. (9) And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11) And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, (12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (13) But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14) Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. (15) Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (16) So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
Romans 8:17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
1 John 3:1-2 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (2) 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.”
Jude 1:24 “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”
Can there be degrees of holiness, degrees of perfection, degrees of faultlessness, degrees of glorification?
3. It makes service to Christ a legal, mercenary thing.
Š It promotes pride.
Š Threatens punishment.
Š Inspires by reward.
4. It robs Christ of the glory of His grace and makes room for human flesh to boast before God.
If I have done something that puts God almighty in obligation to reward me, then I have a right to boast in His presence. If I do something by which I merit a higher standing than you in glory, why shouldn’t I boast about it?
5. The doctrine of degrees in glory has the obnoxious odor of works about it; and there is no room for works in the kingdom of grace. — You cannot worship God on an altar of hewn stone. — There is no room for your baggage of works in the strait and narrow way. (Exodus 20:25).
Exodus 20:25 “And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”
There is one text of Holy Scripture which both destroys the doctrine of degrees of reward and assures every believer of an everlasting fulness of joy in glory. The passage I am talking about is Revelation 21:4.
Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
This text implies that there is much weeping in the way to heaven, and there is. Faith in Christ brings deliverance from all curse and condemnation, but not from pain and sorrow. There are many things which believers suffer in this world along with other men. Because the world is a world of sin, it is a world of sorrow.
Š Physical Pain and Sickness.
Š Domestic Troubles.
Š Financial Losses.
And there are many things that bring tears to our eyes about which the world knows nothing.
Š Inward Sin
Š Rash Speech
Š Injured Pride
Š Coldness Of Heart
Š Lack Of Resignation
There are even some precious tears which we shed here that will be dried on the other side of Jordan.
Š Tears Of Repentance
Š Tears Of Sympathy
Š Tears Of Concern
Š Tears Of Longing For Christ’s Presence
Even now, our heavenly Father does much to dry our tears. The believer’s life is not a morbid, sorrow-filled existence. Not at all! But we do have our sorrows. Yet, even in the midst of sorrow our Lord gives us great comfort (Isaiah 43:1-6).
Isaiah 43:1-6 “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; (6) I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;”
Hebrews 12:5-12 “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;”
(Colossians 3:1-3) “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
(2 Corinthians 4:15-5:1) “For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.”
5:1 ¶ “For we know that if our earthly house of [this] tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 4:15-5:1)
Yet, in heaven’s glory our God will wipe all tears from our eyes. — Impossible as it is for us to imagine, there is a time coming when we shall weep no more, when we shall have no cause to weep! Heaven is a place of sure, eternal, ever-increasing bliss; and the cause of that bliss is our God!
Heaven is a place of joy without sorrow, laughter without weeping, pleasantness without pain! In heaven there are no regrets, no remorseful tears, no second thoughts, no lost causes, no sorrows of any kind!
Listen carefully…If God did not wipe away all tears from our eyes, there would be much weeping in heaven.
Š Over Past Sins!
Š Over Unconverted Ones, Forever Lost!
Š Over Wasted Opportunities!
Š Over Our Unkindness and Lack of Love to Our Brethren Here!
Š Over The Terrible Price of Our Redemption!
But God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
Š “There shall be no more death!”
Š “Neither sorrow!”
Š “Nor crying!”
Š “Neither shall there be any more pain!”
Š “For the former things are passed away!”
Our great God shall, in heaven’s glory, remove us from all sin, remove all sin from us, and remove us from all the evil consequences of sin. He will remove us from every cause of grief. He will bring us at last into the perfection of complete salvation and every desire of our hearts will be completely gratified.
Will you be among the blessed company of the redeemed? Will you be with Christ in glory?
(Colossians 1:9-14) “For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”
“12 ¶ Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins.”
(Colossians 2:9-10) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
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