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Cold Case Christianity


Are There Different Degrees of Reward in Heaven?

Are There Different Degrees Of Reward In Heaven
Image Credit: Roy Mattappallil

As Christians, we believe that we are saved solely by the grace of God. When we say this, we mean we believe God sets us apart for salvation based not on anything we could do on our own effort, but based on the “free gift” of salvation offered by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Our ‘works’ play no role in our salvation. We cannot ‘earn’ our way into Heaven, this is a gift of God, so no man or woman could ever boast they ‘earned’ a place in Heaven with God.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But when we make this claim to non-Christians who believe salvation results from some human effort in combination with the work of God (Jewish believers or Mormons for example), we often hear the complaint orthodox Christianity seems to ignore the behavior of believers altogether. After all, do we actually think all believers are acceptable to God no matter what they do or how they behave? Do we believe someone can simply say they believe but then live a life exhibiting very little evidence of this belief and still expect to get into Heaven? Doesn’t the Mormon notion of levels of Heaven (for example) seem to be a more equitable and fair position on the nature of the afterlife?

Aren’t We Asked to Work While We Are Here?
The beliefs of Christians are often mischaracterized. While we, as Christians, don’t believe our works have anything to do with our entry to heaven, we do understand our works have everything to do with our reward once we get there. This is clear from the Biblical record of Scripture. The Apostle John reminds us of the importance of the need to “work” while we are here on Earth:

John 9:4-5
“We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.”

So, why is it so important for us to “work”? Is it so that we can earn our Salvation? No, that can’t be the reason, because the passage we just read in Ephesians makes it clear our Salvation is not the product of our work. The issue here is not Salvation; it is reward. The orthodox Christian view of Heaven sees it as a place where rewards are distributed to the saints in accordance with the nature of their lives here on earth.

Now, not everyone in Christendom agrees with this idea. Some argue all heavenly reward is measured out equally to those who are saved. So let’s examine both cases and see if we can determine the best inference from the Biblical evidence.

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The Case for Equal Reward in Heaven
Now remember as we proceed, every faithful follower of Jesus Christ will receive the best gift of all; eternal life. The question is only whether or not there is an additional reward waiting for some of us. Those who say God rewards every saved Christian equally sometimes point to a specific parable of Jesus to make their case:

Matthew 20:1-15
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’

At first glance, it appears from the parable everyone who gets into heaven is given an equal reward, independent of their “work” here on earth. After all, these workers enter at different times and appear to perform different amounts of work, yet they all get the same payment. Does this mean regardless of what we do here on earth, the reward will be the same for all of us? Or is it possible this parable is really trying to make an entirely different point?

Remember this passage of scripture comes right after a discussion Jesus had with a Gentile ruler (the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ encounter). Here Jesus told a Gentile what was required for him to enter the Kingdom, and he did it right in front of all of his Jewish disciples. After talking to this Gentile, Peter asked Jesus if the disciples themselves had done enough to enter the Kingdom, and importantly, Peter asks, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19: 27). Jesus assured Peter the Jewish disciples would have authority in the Kingdom, but also told Peter many others who come to the truth later would also be in the Kingdom:

Matthew 19:28-39
And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”

This last statement is important. Jesus told the disciples some who come late would also be in the Kingdom. Who were these late comers? The parable of the vineyard workers answered this question. When read in the context of Matthew Chapter 19, it’s easy to see the parable of the vineyard is all about the Salvation of the Gentiles. The parable was designed to illustrate the fact the Gentiles (who actually heard the Gospel and entered the Kingdom very late compared to the Jews who possessed the scripture all along), would also enjoy the same privileges and rights as the Jews who were ”chosen” and “favored”.

This parable does not teach all reward in heaven would be the same. In fact, if you read the parable in the context of Matthew Chapter 19, you can easily see all reward in Heaven will not be the same. After all, in Matthew 19:28-29, Jesus clearly told his disciples they would have a greater reward than those in Heaven over whom they will judge:

“Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”

In light of this statement, any attempt to read the parable of the vineyard and conclude reward in Heaven will be equal for everyone, is simply an inaccurate interpretation of the parable.

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While we, as Christians, don’t believe our works have anything to do with our entry to heaven, we do understand our works have everything to do with our reward once we get there. Share on X

The Case For Unequal Reward in Heaven
There are many good Biblical reasons to believe there are different levels of reward in Heaven. Orthodox Christianity does teach faith alone saves us. But Christianity also teaches our salvation is not the same as our reward. We serve an equitable and fair King, who loves us and is also just and holy. Grace alone brings us into the kingdom. Nothing we can do on our own can ever ‘earn’ this for us:

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In this sense, the gift of “eternal life” is given to all believers equally based on their faith alone. But there is plenty of Scripture suggesting there is a reward awaiting us in Heaven beyond our Salvation, and this reward will be distributed to us on the basis of our obedience and love for God demonstrated in our mortal lives. Let’s look at some verses making the case for differing levels of reward in Heaven.

Jesus Said There Are Degrees of Joy in Heaven
The first thing you notice when examining the Biblical passages describing Heaven is the fact there are differing degrees of joy experienced in the next life:

Luke 15:6-7
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

From this passage, it’s clear it’s possible for us to have more joy (meaning of course, it must be possible for us to less joy as well). If this is true, and our experience of joy can be thought of as a reward, then it is also clear there are differing degrees of reward in Heaven.

Jesus Said That There Are Rewards in Heaven
Jesus specifically told us that Heaven is a place where rewards will be given to the saved. Look at Jesus’ words from the most important sermon He ever gave (the Sermon on the Mount):

Matthew 5:11-12
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


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Matthew 6:1-6
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”


Matthew 6:16-18
“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”


Matthew 6:20
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…”

From this one sermon it is clear there is a “reward in heaven” waiting for each of us who is saved. There are “treasures in heaven” for each of us. God has rewards waiting for us, and much of this sermon from Jesus is an admonition for us not to forsake our heavenly reward by seeking worldly rewards and acknowledgment.

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Jesus Also Said That There Are DEGREES of Reward in Heaven
Jesus told his followers each of them would receive a reward in heaven based on what they did here on earth:

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.

This statement is so clear and direct it can hardly be argued. Jesus promised to “repay each person according to what he has done” (ESV). Think about it for a minute. If Jesus is not telling us God dispenses fair and just rewards (and punishments) in the next life, what in the world does this passage mean?

To further advance the point, Jesus used a famous parable to illustrate this for his followers:

Matthew 25:14-30
For it (the kingdom of heaven) is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’ The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Jesus clearly told his followers the Kingdom of Heaven would be a place where individual saved believers would be rewarded according to their deeds. If you do a lot with what God has given you; you will get a greater reward in Heaven. If you squander what God has given you; don’t be surprised to find that your reward is much less.

Paul Agrees That There Are Degrees of Reward
Paul seemed to understand this as well. When writing to the believers in Rome, he used language very similar to the language used by Jesus:

Romans 2:5-6
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds…

Since we know from the scriptures God does not render salvation according to our deeds, what is it He is rendering? He is rendering reward according to our deeds. This means as our deeds increase, our reward increases as well. Look at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He clearly told them their Salvation was built on Christ alone, but in addition to this, each of us, as saved Christians, also builds on this foundation of Salvation resulting in our reward in Heaven:

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1 Corinthians 3:11-15
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

Paul clearly proclaims rewards are waiting for us as saved Christians. But he is also clear about the fact some of us will receive more reward than others. Some will work here on earth to create something persevering and as a result will obtain an enduring reward in Heaven. Others will not produce enduring work here on earth, and while they will still be saved, their reward in heaven will be nothing more than Salvation (“he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire”).

Solomon Agrees That There Are Degrees of Reward
God has always maintained there are varying degrees of reward in Heaven. Even the Old Testament speaks of this truth. Look at what Solomon says:

Proverbs 24:12
If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?

Jesus, Paul and Solomon are simply reflecting the heart of God when they tell us we will be saved by His work and rewarded by our work.

So, What Actually Earns Us A Reward?
The question you might then have is simply: “What is it that will earn us a reward?” The Scriptures are pretty clear about this as well. Let’s begin in the Old Testament and read from the Book of Daniel:

Daniel 12:3
“And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

In describing the heavenly order of things, Daniel said “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Did you notice Daniel used the word “many” when describing the number of people we might lead to righteousness? By using the word, “many”, Daniel made a comparison to the possibility of leading “few” to righteousness. This comparison tells us something about how we can earn a reward. Some of us will ‘shine brighter’ in heaven for having brought more ‘to righteousness’. It appears our effort to bring people to the truth about God and tell them about His free gift of Salvation is rewarded by God in the next life.

Paul understood this. When writing to the Thessalonians, he said he expected to have great joy and a “crown of exultation” in Heaven. He expected heavenly reward. But he made it clear to the Thessalonians they were the reason why he expected this reward:

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1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.

Paul knew his work here on earth was important because it produced believers who would then someday join him in Heaven. Paul understood what Daniel taught hundreds of years before: the more people you bring to Heaven, the greater your reward in Heaven will be.

So, What Will This Reward Be?
The last question you might be asking is, “What form will this reward take?” Keep in mind we already acknowledge Salvation comes freely from God. We are talking about the reward earned by those who are already saved freely by God. What kind of reward might we receive based on our work here on earth? This is actually a very tough question to answer, as the Bible does not give us the clarity we might like on this issue. But there are several clues we can work from. First, let’s remember joy is a reward, and the Bible tells us there are degrees of joy in the next life. So we know whatever it is God gives us, it will be something resulting in great joy. Maybe it will be different for each of us, who knows? But there is a reason to believe God has a particular way of rewarding his beloved.

It appears God enjoys rewarding his Children with increased and valuable roles of responsibility! Look at the Apostles for a minute. Jesus told them they would be rewarded with roles as the “judges” over the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus told them their reward would be increased and more powerful responsibilities. This is consistent with the parable we’ve already looked at from Matthew 25:14-30. In the parable, Jesus affirmed the rest of us will also earn greater responsibilities as the result of our efforts here on earth (“I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master”)

Sometimes we see responsibility here on earth as a burden, but in Heaven, when we are reunited with the God who gave us every talent we possess, His reward will be responsibilities maximizing our talents in such a way as to produce great joy. We will have a complete sense of our own significance and role in Heaven. Joy will be ours.

Don’t Lose Your Reward
Once God has given you the free gift of Salvation, once you have truly received Jesus as your Savior, the issue of your Salvation is no longer in question. But reward is another matter altogether. While your Salvation cannot be lost (because it is not earned), your reward can, in fact, be forfeited. Look at what John writes:

2 John 4-10
I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. And now I ask you, lady, not as writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.

John does not want anyone of us to lose our ‘full reward”. He doesn’t want us to get to Heaven and receive only a portion of what could have been ours. He wants us to get all the reward God wants us to have. And it appears we could, in fact, lose a portion of our reward if we begin to neglect the truth. We can forfeit a portion of our reward if we stray from the life God has called us to. When we no longer love others enough to share the truth, comfort the needy, shelter the homeless in an effort to demonstrate the love and nature and salvation of God, we risk losing the reward that could be ours. God promises us Salvation as a free gift, but he clearly calls us to live a life He can bless, both here on earth and in the life to come.

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For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

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Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).



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  4. Ezekiel Tyozua

    August 15, 2020 at 2:41 am

    I will be very grateful if I will be able to get more information

  5. Olivia Calton

    October 8, 2020 at 2:19 am

    This is very well written and sound! Thank you for your research in including a plethora of bible verses to back the article. Cheers!

  6. Ken

    October 10, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    You honesty believe once you are saved you will go to heaven? How about the “saved person”who latter commits murder or one who rapes and does not repent. Adjust God will not welcome anyone into His presents who does not live a repented life. You are missing the whole purpose of this life if you tell people they are not saved by their good deeds. Deeds being work. Work and over coming their sins and be in a state of repentance is Ben they pass on. Your kind of heave is not where I want to go. I don’t want to live with murders and abusers. I still believe no unclean thing can be in the presence of God

    • Jo-el

      October 18, 2020 at 4:36 pm

      Ken, I think you are infering an incorrect position to Mr. Wallace about another topic. Although Mr. Wallace touches on salvation, he is underscoring the Biblical position of what Biblilcal rewards are in light of salvation. If you take the time to read other articals he has written you will see that he is very aware of how works relate to salvation in the Christian life and stands on the biblical truth that salvation is a result of Gods gracouse sacrafice. But you seem to think that works are the means of salvation. You are taking a unbiblical position that your deeds/works earn you salvation when you say “You are missing the whole purpose of this life if you tell people they are not saved by their good deeds.” Please take the verses below as a starting point of what the Bible teaches concerning faith and works…

      Eph 2:8-9 NKJV – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (also see, Rom 3:20,27,28; Rom 4:2; Rom 9:11,16; Rom 11:6; 1Co 1:29-31; 2Ti 1:9; Tit 3:3-5, Jms 2:14-26)

      As far as you not wanting to “live with muerders and abusers” you might want to read the Bible again, Paul, David, Noah, Moses, Jacob, Mary- Murderes, adultery, deception, prostitution? They all had very wicked points in their lives including murder and God showed them grace in their humility.

      As far as your statment concerning “How about the “saved person” who latter commits murder or one who rapes and does not repent. Adjust God will not welcome anyone into His presents who does not live a repented life.” Mr. Wallace never made the argument that salvation is a licanse to sin (Rom 6:1) you pulled it out of thin-air, this is a straw man argument . No were in this article does he make or defend this position. His point is that salvation is not the results of good works (see above verses).

      But if you really would like to understand his position on faith and works I would like to share with you the article below, concerning this topic.

      And please take the time to read some of the “Pingback” comments that accoumpany this article.
      I hope this helps and I hope I have not misrepresented Mr. Wallace.

    • Dave

      March 27, 2022 at 9:00 pm

      Hey Ken, Ever hated anyone? Jesus said that makes you a murderer, ever looked at a woman with lust??? hmmmm, Jesus said you committed adultery, sounds like abuse of a woman to me. Guess you are an unclean thing like the rest of us….. You are not going to heaven buddy or… drop your pride, realize none of us deserve His grace and get over your holy than thou self.

    • Chris

      September 19, 2022 at 11:50 am

      “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”- Galatians 3:10-13

    • John Wheeler

      November 3, 2022 at 11:18 am

      Salvation is a gift to all of humanity, and yes that means criminals, like murderers and rapists. Once you declare your plea of salvation to the Lord, all of your sins are washed away and your soul will be saved. However, the rewards will be much, much, much more minor because that soul confessed to God regarding his or her sins. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” -Ecclesiastes 7:20.

      We, too, are sinners by nature, thanks to the Fall. We are born sinners, much like the rapists and the killers. Romans 3:23 states that we have all sinned and thus are sinners, based on Romans 3:23.

      At the same time, just as all of Man has fallen short, so are they able and equally eligible to live in Heaven as the person beside them.

      They are, however, victim of procrastination like a student finishing his science project the day it was due. They still get a grade, but it won’t be the BEST POSSIBLE grade. The “project” could have been better, if they had taken the time to do God’s Will and not goof around, living a sinful lifestyle when that time could have been made better serving God instead of their own desire and will.

      I rest my case.

      • Selah Chunem

        September 23, 2023 at 1:47 pm

        a truly saved person in Christ will demonstrate fruits of true godly repentance. That person if they fall will be convicted and confess their sinners sooner than later. 1 John 1:9 We have been gifted with the righteous of Christ through true salvation.Thus the true regenerated believers will hunger and thirst after deeper knowledge and righteous to remain holy as our God is holy. They will persevere to the end
        and thus receive complete salvation from the 2nd dead, sin, and the Devil. That puts the divisive doctrinal discussion of blessed assurance once saved always saved vs loss of salvation from unrepented continual sin which some note as a sin that leaders unto death!

  7. Daniel Tweddell

    December 3, 2020 at 7:39 am

    I loved this article. Thank you so much.
    There is another interesting point in this salvation v. rewards study. (most people miss v.10)

    Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    We are saved through faith not by works … in order to do good works. It seems pretty clear that works an important part of the Christian walk. I got this insight from Randy Alcorn.

  8. Christelle

    October 30, 2021 at 7:09 am

    I am so grateful for this article that brings more clarity and confirmation to my soul. May God bless the writer for his efforts. With LOVE! -Christelle

  9. David Mammoth

    January 8, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Interesting interpretation. What is missed is that “the reward in heaven” is actually heaven itself. Things like “the twelve thrones” are references to heaven itself, not a level. Humans are too objectively minded to comprehend what the creator has in store for us in the afterlife. If you read the Bible, and this interpretation, with the understanding that faithfulness is measured in works that fulfill His glory and are accomplished with no preconceived notion for the selfish goal of entering the kingdom of God; rather, out of love for ALL others through Jesus Christ, then you may be judged favorably – but only you and He know your true reasons. Do not do your works or adhere to your true to faith in a righteous manner with the goal of getting into heaven or believing you will have a rank there, else you will be one of the 99 righteous (they actually did NOT get into heave – another terrible misunderstanding of humans as they read the gospel). The belief that there are levels in heaven for mankind is wrong. Also simply saying you’ve accepted Christ as your savior is not the same as true repentance. These concepts are so simple, it’s profound to humans who don’t want to accept the truth. Don’t seek a place in heaven. Don’t seek “jewels” for your crown. Simply follow Christ and truly believe in him through the greatest commandment of all – LOVE others as you love me.

    • Chris Hearn

      September 19, 2022 at 11:52 am

      ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”- Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21

    • sharon j lowe

      May 7, 2024 at 2:05 am

      I think that those who have suffered like Joni Eareckson Tada and others who have endured great pain through disease (think cancer, chronic pain, and physical sexual and emotional abuse) who have continued to both know and be known by Him will receive special rewards for enduring. I believe, yes, that those who bring others to faith in Him are greatly loved by God but some have the gift of evangelism and so are more bountiful in that respect. I know that my Abba, Jesus, and especially the Holy Spirit lives within me and so knows every pain my body feels – every tear I cry – indeed all our tears and keeps them in His bottle. I have known Jesus in the midst of suffering and because of that suffering I am able to comfort others with the comfort with which I have been comforted and so His love flows from Him to me and from me to others who are suffering (think mentally ill, addicted, homeless) and I am a wounded healer. By His wounds we are healed and through my wounds He heals others

  10. Scott

    February 8, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Craig Blomberg writes (and I agree with him):

    “I do not believe there is a single NT text that, when correctly interpreted, supports the notion that believers will be distinguished one from another for all eternity on the basis of their works as Christians. What is more, I am convinced that when this unfounded doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven is acted upon consistently—though, fortunately, it often is not—it can have highly damaging consequences for the motivation and psychology of living the Christian life.”

    • Fred

      July 9, 2022 at 7:39 am

      I agree with Scott. I taught adult SS for 7 years until the new pastor cancelled ALL SS classes. I never saw so many pompous, hypocritical Christians in my life! They were so full of themselves for all the good they did for God. Surprisingly, to me, they had little knowledge of what the NT actually said. They only knew verses that supported what they thought and disregarded anything else. They also seemed to be obsessed with the OT. They did their “good deeds” for the rewards they would receive in heaven.

  11. Marsha

    July 5, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    This is a great, well written, and thought provoking article! I personally want to “work”/ use my talents to please God rather than to receive a reward or rewards. I want my motive to be pure and not self seeking! I want to serve God out of love and gratitude, without thought of rewards in heaven! When I make the transition from my earthly body to life eternal, won’t it be enough just to worship God and Jesus, who made it possible for me to have eternal life? I would rather my right hand not know what my left hand is doing for the glory of God.

  12. Nic

    July 28, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    Bear with me here…

    Heaven: a place with no suffering

    Heaven: a place where some will be rewarded more than others

    Heaven: a place where those who’ve been rewarded less will not
    experience as much joy as those who’ve received much

    Heaven: a place where some will suffer a little 😉

    …am I wrong?

    • Joven

      October 3, 2023 at 4:23 pm

      You are spot on!

    • Maddie

      March 26, 2024 at 3:20 pm


      You offer insightful thoughts; however, I disagree with your ultimate conclusion. It is crucial to think of followers of Christ as the ‘Body of Christ,’ as portrayed in Ephesians 4:16, Colossians 1:18, and Romans 12:4-5, to name a few. 1 Corinthians 12 describes the Body of Christ extensively, explaining that every function of the Body is needed, no matter how “great” or “small” that function may be. Moreover, verse 26 states, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; If one member is honored, all rejoice together.” I would like to argue here that given that there will be no suffering in heaven (Revelation 21:4), no individual will suffer based upon the reward they receive. Instead, they will rejoice with the body as a whole.

      An area I am investigating in this article concerns the degrees of Joy in Heaven. I have not found a scripture that explicitly claims that or encountered parabolic teachings that imply that. If anyone can offer insight regarding this portion, I would be grateful.

  13. Jose

    September 18, 2022 at 6:32 am

    Definitely a controversial topic that isn’t a dealbreaker as to salvation, but that Jesus is our great reward (reward is always in the singular in the New Testament) is most consistent with the New Testament teaching that only deeds inspired and motivated by faith can please God.

  14. Chris Hearn

    September 19, 2022 at 11:52 am

    ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”- Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21

  15. Philip the IV

    November 7, 2022 at 8:26 am

    So heaven has a rewards system? How exactly is that to be calculated? Am I to do good things during my life because I’m expecting payback in the form of a more pleasurable existence in heaven ? Sounds like an idea a self serving human would come up with. For example, who is doing more good work , a man who gets up at 6 in the morning and labors all day to support his family or a minister or priest who spends 6 hours a day praying ?

    • Lauren Morriss

      February 19, 2023 at 5:39 am

      1 Corinthians 3, in the context of the whole NT, uses a helpful metaphor to clarify what “rewards” in heaven are. They are NOT trophies and awards that Jesus doles out to differentiate between the saved. Our rewards in heaven are the eternal things we’ve BUILT throughout our lives. Through works solely centered on Glorifying God and building His kingdom, we build relationships, joy, diciples… and these are the things that will remain in eternal life, and that will be an emmense reward to the Christians who, with the Holy Spirit, worked for those beautiful treasures.

      We serve a just God, and that means He handles good and bad differently. However, in heaven we won’t be crippled by sin and shame, and those who have stored up less treasures (I’m one of them!) will not be jealous and bitter. We will be overjoyed by the works of the Church and be at peace.

      • Joven

        October 3, 2023 at 4:30 pm

        If we read 1 Cor 3 in context, verses 10-5 has ministerial emphasis, and not to all christians. It refers only to those who ‘build on the foundation’ (referring to ministers, teachers, disciplers, etc). This is the proper context of 1 Cor because of the division existing amongst the Corinthian believers, others follow Paul, others Apollos, whilst others follow Cephas. It addresses the issue of jealousy and strife – IT DOES NOT speak of the varying degrees of reward in heaven. The doctrine of reward is a 20th century teaching introduced by Lewis Sperry Chafer who is the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary. Let us read Scripture in context and not according to the teachings of men. Peace to all in Christ Jesus

  16. Connie

    February 28, 2023 at 6:38 am

    We can glean some things from scripture but our finite minds can’t know how it all works in the afterlife. We do know we will be with Jesus and that is sufficient. Praise God.

  17. Bernice Erwin

    March 11, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    I will always try to do what the Lord ask because I believe he gave his life so I could have eternal life. Praise his holy name. I sometimes don’t do everything I could and we will never be perfect. That should not keep us from trying.

    Pray for repentance.

  18. Jared Evans

    March 24, 2023 at 10:49 am

    May I add 1 Corinthians 15 as another indicator that Paul believed in different levels of reward. As the sun, the moon, and the stars differ in glory… so also is the resurrection of the dead.

  19. Zhang wei

    June 28, 2023 at 10:26 am

    what kind of rewards will these be, that some will receive more than the others?

  20. Jim Ross

    July 8, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Different levels of rewards in heaven seem to infer a class system similar to what we have on earth. You’ll have the lower class, who made it to heaven because they accepted the offer of salvation but did little to no works on earth. You’ll have a middle class who did a few good works here and there for the Lord. You’ll have an upper class who devoted most of their lives on earth to doing works for the Lord. If they’re all rewarded differently doesn’t that promote lower groups envying higher groups and higher groups looking down on lower groups?

    • sharon j lowe

      May 7, 2024 at 2:14 am

      I am not in a different class than Paul or a “lower group” but I do think his rewards in heaven will be far greater than mine, and I am not a bit envious!

  21. MJ Gray

    August 10, 2023 at 6:50 am

    THE REWARD OR REWARDS are ETERNAL LIFE WITH JESUS AND YAHWEH – why oh why isn’t this enough? Each will be rewarded for their deeds, which means before He came, if they lived according to Torah they would be saved, and if you claim to be HIS you will live as HE did. Also, evildoers will receive their reward as well. Eternal Hell. Why are we looking beyond the greatest gift of all? HE DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE AND SHARE THIS SAME LOVE WITH EACH OTHER – THIS IS ENOUGH! ALWAYS HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE. TO BELIEVE OTHERWISE IS PHALACY AND WILL LEAD TO THE HEART BEING CORRUPTED! Pure love is our reward! PERIOD

  22. Simon

    January 1, 2024 at 1:58 pm

    l appreciate the article, l have learnt a lot on rewards.. light and stars – Moses face was glowing after a meeting with God, interesting.
    We have a wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ. He did not leave us alone, He sent a helper for further explanation just in case. John 14:18-26

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