Check out the new Convergence Church Network! 

Visit and join the mailing list.

Enjoying God Blog


Many answer No to the question posed in the title to this article, for a variety of reasons. They believe the notion of rewards for obedience and holiness in this life undermines the principle of grace and is a reversion to a works-oriented approach to Christian living. They fear that it will only fuel an unhealthy competitive spirit among Christians in a local church. Some argue that the concept of rewards is mercenary and driven by a selfish desire for personal recognition.

But what does the NT say? Consider the multitude of texts that speak of rewards to be granted to those who heed the call to obedience, humility, service, and sacrifice.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12; cf. Luke 6:23).

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same” (Matt. 5:46).

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1).

“[let your giving be in secret] And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4b; see v. 6 – “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you;” also v. 18b – “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”).

“lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20).

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:40-42; cf. Mark 9:41).

“For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27).

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21).

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23; cf. Luke 19:17-19 and “you shall have authority over ten cities”).

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35).

“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labors” (1 Cor. 3:8).

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss [of reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

“Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Cor. 4:5).

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Col. 3:23-24).

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Heb. 11:35).

“Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 1:8).

Consider the many promises to those who overcome found in the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 (and Rev. 22:12).

“The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev. 11:18).

Essential Principles for Understanding the Nature and Purpose of Rewards

(1) We must begin by reminding ourselves that as believers in Christ Jesus “there is therefore now no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1). See also John 5:24. The issue of our eternal destiny has been secured, settled, and sealed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing can change that (see Rom. 8:31-39). Our deeds do not determine our salvation, but demonstrate it. They are not the root of our standing with God but the fruit of it, a standing already attained by faith alone in Christ alone. The visible evidence of an invisible faith are the “good” deeds that will be made known at the judgment seat of Christ.

(2) Thus, the issue of rewards concerns the degree of authority, joy, happiness, and leadership in the age to come. Entrance into the kingdom of God is altogether of grace.

(3) Lest we think that the deeds/works we perform in this life are meritorious, in the sense that we put God in our debt and compel him to bless us, thereby bringing praise to us instead of to him, remember that whatever we accomplish in this life is simply the fruit of God’s grace and power working in and through us. Consider just these few texts.

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

“. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13).

“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29).

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20-21).

(4) Don’t be afraid that, with the exposure and evaluation of your deeds, regret and remorse will spoil the bliss of heaven. If there be tears of grief for opportunities squandered, or tears of shame for sins committed, he will wipe them away (Rev. 20:4a). The ineffable joy of forgiving grace will swallow up all sorrow, and the beauty of Christ will blind you to anything other than the splendor of who he is and what he has, by grace, accomplished on your behalf.

(5) The best and clearest text concerning the judgment of believers to reward them for deeds done in the body is 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:9-10).

Here are ten observations that are evoked by Paul’s statement.

First, who is to be judged? Whereas it is possible that all mankind are included here, the broader context in 2 Corinthians 4-5 suggests that believers only are in view. Murray Harris has also pointed out that wherever Paul speaks of the recompense, according to works, of all people (such as in Romans 2:6), “there is found a description of two mutually exclusive categories of people (Rom. 2:7-10), not a delineation of two types of action [such as “whether good or evil” here in v. 10] which may be predicated of all people” (406).

Second, what is the nature or purpose of the judgment? In view of Romans 8:1, as well as John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 5:8-9; and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (just to mention a few), eternal destiny is not at issue; eternal reward is. This judgment is not designed to determine entrance into the kingdom of God but reward or status or authority within it.

Third, when does this judgment occur: At the moment of physical death? During the intermediate state? At the second coming of Christ? Paul doesn’t seem concerned to specify when. The most that we can be sure of is that it happens after death (see Heb. 9:27). Having said that, I’m inclined to think it happens at the second coming of Christ (cf. Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12), at the close of human history, most likely in conjunction with that larger assize that will include all unbelievers, known to students of the Bible as the Great White Throne judgment (see Rev. 20:11ff.).

Fourth, we should take note of the inevitability of judgment for everyone (“we must all appear”). This is not a day that can be set aside as irrelevant or unnecessary. It is essential for God to bring to consummation his redemptive purpose and to fully honor the glory of his name among his people. No one is exempt. Paul himself anticipated standing at this judgment, for it served (at least in part) as the motivation for his grace-energized efforts to “please” the Lord (v. 9).

Fifth, Paul emphasizes its individuality (“each one”). As important as it is to stress the corporate and communal nature of our life as the body of Christ, each person will be judged individually (no doubt, at least in part, concerning how faithful each person was to his or her corporate responsibilities!). Paul said it in similar terms in Romans 14:12 – “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Sixth, we should observe the mode or manner of this judgment (“we must all appear”). We do not merely “show up” at the judgment seat of Christ but are laid bare before him. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:5, the Lord “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Murray Harris is right that “not merely an appearance or self-revelation, but, more significantly, a divine scrutiny and disclosure, is the necessary prelude to the receiving of appropriate recompense” (405).

Is it not sobering to think that every random thought, every righteous impulse, every secret prayer, hidden deed, long-forgotten sin or act of compassion will be brought into the open for us to acknowledge and for the Lord to judge? But don’t forget: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)!

Seventh, this judgment has an identity all its own (it is the “judgment seat of Christ”). Most Christians are by now familiar with the term used here: bema. The use of this word in v. 10 “would have been particularly evocative for Paul and the Corinthians since it was before Gallio’s tribunal in Corinth that Paul had stood some four years previously (in A.D. 52) when the proconsul dismissed the charge that Paul had contravened Roman law (Acts 18:12-17). Archaeologists have identified this Corinthian bema which stands on the south side of the agora” (Harris, 406).

Eighth, the judge himself is clearly identified (it is the “judgment seat of Christ”). This is consistent with what we read in John 5:22 where Jesus said that “the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”

Ninth, of critical importance is the standard of judgment (“what he has done in the body, whether good or evil”). Reference to the “body” indicates that the judgment concerns what we do in this life, not what may or may not be done during the time of the intermediate state itself.

According to the ESV, we receive “what is due”. In other words, and somewhat more literally, we will be judged “in accordance with” or perhaps even “in proportion to” deeds done. The deeds are themselves characterized as either “good” (those which “please” Christ, as in v. 9) or “bad” (those which do not please him).

Tenth, the result of the judgment is not explicitly stated but is certainly implied. All will “receive” whatever their deeds deserve. There is a reward or recompense involved. Paul is slightly more specific in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15. There he writes: “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The “reward” is not defined and the likelihood is that the “loss” suffered is the “reward” that he or she would otherwise have received had they obeyed.

Can anything more definitive be said about the nature of this recompense? Jesus mentions a “great” “reward” in heaven, but doesn’t elaborate (Matt. 5:11-12). In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25; cf. Luke 19:12-27) he alludes to “authority” or dominion of some sort (but over whom or what?). Paul says that “whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Eph. 6:8).

According to 1 Corinthians 4:5, following the judgment “each one will receive his commendation from God”. Both Romans 8:17-18 and 2 Corinthians 4:17 refer to a “glory” that is reserved for the saints in heaven. And of course we should consider the many promises in the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3, although it is difficult to know if they are bestowed now, during the intermediate state, or only subsequent to the second coming, and if they are granted in differing degrees depending on service and obedience or are equally distributed among God’s children (see Rev. 2:7, 10, 17, 23; 3:5, 12, 21; cf. also Matt. 18:4; 19:29; Luke 14:11; James 1:12).

Therefore, knowing that whatever we do in obedience to the commands of Scripture is ultimately the fruit of God’s amazing grace in our lives, and knowing that the aim or intention of all good deeds is to glorify God (and not ourselves), we should not hesitate to affirm that it is entirely biblical to pursue godliness of life with a view to the rewards that God has promised to bestow on his children.


Sam, I used to believe Mike Bickle's experiences/visions were of God because otherwise how could IHOP have grown and the 24/7 occur. I now believe he lied about all of it, totally. Yet God turned it for good in many ways. I see that Mike was still trying to manipulate women up until a few days ago. He was trying to keep Tammy quiet. He's been doing this for decades. In a way, I feel sorry for the guy. He's spent decades trying to keep women quiet, to hide his past. Hide his present. The manipulation involved there is great. I am a single. I came out of sexually immorality and have been divorced. I met a guy who thought the world of me. He had a clean upbringing and was a virgin at age50. Still is. So he thought I was like him. I never divulged my past to him because I was scared too. I had other past skeletons that I knew he would not understand, the clean dude he was. He lived the clean life Mike B. appeared to live but didn't. Anyway, as time went on in the friendship, he fell in love with me and asked me to marry him. I still had not told him my past. I just couldn't burst his bubble because he truly looked up to me as a believer and took strength from my walk with God. I knew if he truly knew my past, he would not treat me the same. So after a while I felt as if I was manipulating him. I kept telling him I only wanted to be friends with him. But he never took the hint. So in the end I cut off my friendship with him, knowing that if he knew my past it would end anyway. I think Mike is either a heathen or a true believer who is just so carnal. I don't know which. I know for me God would not let me manipulate this man friend of mine. How Mike did this for decades tells me he was either constantly disobeying God or he never knew God. I hope he truly gets saved. But I rarely tell believers my past. Once you do, they treat you differently, most of them. The culture in most churches is don't tell and pretend. I was at IHOP a few years ago and really hurting over some things in my past: rape one of them. I dared not tell anyone my struggles because people there were out to minister to you but not really get to know you. Most women there are believing God to be the next Joyce Meyer. The worship team members are idolized like crazy. It's not a place full of deep believers who love one another. At least the congregation is not like that. I was there for several months and really only saw a ton of idol worship, people following false teachers and doctrine, people who were Lord Lorders not true followers. It was a sad thing. I left knowing by the Spirit I'd never return. I also wrote leadership there, including Mike, emails about the false doctrine I was hearing and the carnality I was seeing. I told Mike specifically that GOd was saying repent not revival. I told him his billion soul prophecy was off because Jesus said few are they who find Jesus. I couldn't figure out why he didn't know that. I couldn't figure out why he had zero discernment about certain false teachers he was allowing in his pulpit. I thought well he's just not in the Word alot or just hoping or I didn't know. I did know IHOPKC was off in many ways, though. I also knew the Spirit was there despite all that. I felt His presence. So I guess I am trying to say is many of us thought Mike's words and experiences had to be of God because if not he was a devilish manipulator. I think he's the latter. He hid it well because he's kind of simple and goofy. But I hope he gets saved. There are so many false teachers out there today. Bethel is now having angel feathers appear again. This is such wicked manipulation and deception. I wish there was a charismatic leadership body who could meet and denounce false doctrine. I wish about 20 men of God would get together and talk about these things and say so and so is teaching false doctrine. And they post it on the internet, talk about it. Warn people to stay away. So many believers today are being deceived. Where are the leaders who truly care? They seem to be so busy making money and climbing the ladder they don't give a darn. I wish people close to Mike would have vetted his experiences and visions. Yet God allowed it and used IHOPKC. He is very patient.
Thanks for that Sam. I found it helpful. I am curios to hear more about how you view the carryover of things from this age to the new creation. Perhaps write more on that sometime.
Dear Sam,
I have benefited greatly from your writings on the gifts of the Spirit and your devotionals. I am in the process of reading through your book Kingdom Come. However, your views on rewards raised questions in my mind that I have always struggled with concerning works and justification. I do not believe in a two step basis for justification and I believe an over emphasis on rewards and works, if not careful, can devolve into a covenant of works that places Christians under a treadmill of fear that undermines our assurance of faith. I read an article that I found very helpful that indirectly addresses these concerns. I think you might find it helpful when considering the role of rewards and works in the Christian faith. Thank you for your love and service to our Lord. May he continue to bless you as you share his word with us.
1) No he isn't.
2) Unrelated to whether or not rewards exist.
3) You are confused and teaching nonsense. Romans 2:28-29, Philippians 3:3, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9
1) you are preaching works based salvation which is wrong
2) Christians are supposed to be selfless not desiring any rewards
3) only the Jews are promised rewards

Write a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.