An article I read in the booklet Days of Praise, published by The Institute for Creation Research, prompted me to write an article about the degrees of reward in the future kingdom. As I've mentioned in previous articles, my mom's family grew up Methodists and my dad's Baptist. I don't know much about the 21st Century Methodist Church, but back in the early years of the 20th Century they were very evangelistic, with the only major difference between them and the Baptists being baptism and security of the believer. Those early 1900's Methodists in Vera, Illinois sprinkled for baptism and taught that you could lose your salvation.
I've heard it said of us in the "once saved, always saved" crowd that we don't pay enough attention to how we live, since we can't lose our salvation. In a lot of cases I suspect that criticism is valid. Anyone who has spent much time reading the Bible knows it says plenty about how we are to live (Paul says "walk") and about the consequences of not living/walking properly. In The Sermon on the Mount/The Beatitudes, Jesus said in Matt. 5:19 that anyone who breaks a commandment and teaches others that it is OK to do so "shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosever shall do and teach (the commandments), the same shall be called great in the kingdom." He's not talking about the difference between saved and unsaved people, but about the degrees of reward in the kingdom. When Paul spoke about the Christian living a carnal life in I Cor. 3 he likened that person to someone building something out of wood, hay, and stubble versus building out of gold, silver, and precious stones. In I Cor. 3:13 he says, "all works will be revealed by fire," and in I Cor. 3:15 he says some Christian's works "shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
The Bible plainly teaches there will be degrees of punishment in hell. Matt. 10:15, Mark 6:11 & Luke 10:12 all say it will be more tolerable (the Greek word means more endurable) for Sodom and Gomorrha in the Day of Judgment than it will be for the cities of Israel that didn't receive Jesus' message of redemption. Likewise the Bible plainly teaches there will be degrees of reward in heaven. 2 Cor. 5:10 says all believers will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; and every one will receive gain or loss, depending on their Christian life, based on whether they did good or bad.
There are two coming judgments after we live this life. The unbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne. Rev. 20:11-12 says they will be judged according to their works. All of those at that judgment will be cast into the lake of fire, where Jesus said it would be more endurable for some than for others. The believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. When we appear there everything we have done since we accepted Christ as our savior is going to be in a pile, represented in I Cor. 3:12 as either gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble. Fire is going to fall on that pile, and our status or position or responsibility in heaven will be determined by what is left after the fire goes out. Everyone at the Judgment Seat of Christ is already in heaven, but my Grandpa Lawler used to say, "some of them will really smell smokey."
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