Rewards in Heaven - Is it Okay to Seek Heavenly Rewards?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3
The Bible does not specifically say, it’s okay to have “Selfish, Heavenly Desires.” But as mere human beings, with many shortcomings and limited capacity in our brains regarding our behaviors, thoughts, motivations and actions, I believe these verses state not only is it okay, but it is right to look forward to all what God has for us in Heaven.
In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and in Colossians 3:1-3 it says “set your hearts” and “set your minds” on things above. If we are going to be selfish about anything, I think it’s okay to look forward to heavenly things.
Some of those “things above” that the Bible speaks of are the heavenly crowns. There are 5 heavenly crowns mentioned in the Bible, let’s take a brief look at each of them.
The Crown of Life
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” – Revelation 2:10
It’s not entirely clear if the crown of life is for everyone who faces persecution for the sake of the gospel, or if it is for those alone who have been “faithful, even to the point of death.” I believe based on these two scriptures, the crown of life would be awarded to all those who persevere any type of persecution and not just death. James talks about “trials” and “tests” which could be the loss of reputation, loss of family, slander, jail time, physical punishment or of course the ultimate persecution, being put to death for faith in Jesus. Revelation affirms this by stating not to be afraid of your tests, sufferings and jail time and to be faithful even unto death. Don’t fear trials, tests and persecution, because there is a heavenly crown for one that undergoes such difficulties, the crown of life!
The Incorruptible Crown or the Imperishable Crown
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
This crown is given to believers who faithfully run the race (life) and who diligently and sacrificially serve Jesus. After his conversion, The Apostle Paul gave up his (likely very comfortable and respectable) life as a Pharisee and radically followed the call of Jesus. His life became fully devoted to serving and going where Jesus called him (Acts 13:13, 14, 16:9-10, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21). Paul traveled across the Roman world planting churches, writing, preaching and teaching the Gospel.
God calls some to live in a specific way, which may be to sacrifice their “normal” way of life. Some are called to be missionaries in 3rd world countries where they live off of the support of other generous believers. Others may be called to full time ministry which may not pay a lot, but calls for long, hard hours and ministering to a flock of sick, hurting and errant people. These people could be sacrificing a nice comfortable life for themselves.
Does this mean you must immediately sell everything you own, move to a developing country and learn a new tribal language to become a missionary? No, not unless God tells you to. You are saved by faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone. No amount of “works” can help you inherit the kingdom. But run the race that God has set for you and be your best for God. Be willing to make sacrifices that will help you successfully fulfill the ministry God has set out for you.
The Crown of Righteousness
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul (or Saul before he became Paul) didn’t have the best start. He was a persecutor and murderer of the early Christians. It says in Acts 9:1 – “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” However, after he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life would never be the same. Paul is probably the greatest missionary ever known to man. He traveled most of the known world facing arguments, beatings, shipwrecks, snake bites, prison and torture on his way to preaching the Gospel. After his conversion, Paul became a different man as evidenced by the fruit of his life.
While all believers have the righteousness of God imputed to them, the crown of righteousness will be for those believers that lived a life that was sanctified; meaning their actions, words, behaviors and attitudes followed their beliefs that Jesus is worth it all, including a completely surrendered life to him. Paul’s life cost him everything (including being put to death) and we can already, see, he probably has inherited 3 out of 3 crowns thus far!
The Crown of Glory
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” – 1 Peter 5:2-4
The crown of glory is given to the elders and shepherds of the church who minister to faithfully feed the flock of God. This could probably include pastors, teachers, kids & student volunteers, missionaries and anyone else who faithfully teaches and serves within the Church. This crown shows the importance of training up others in the way of the Lord. Teaching others to obey the laws of God and to have a relationship with Him is of the utmost importance. Regardless of who you are or where you are at in your Christian walk, God can use you to teach, guide, help and shepherd others. He shows us the importance of this with this crown. Be willing to volunteer, teach, lead and educate others on the goodness of what God has done for you and what you’ve learned.
The Crown of Rejoicing
“But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-19
Paul had a longing to reach and be with the people of Thessalonica. He says his hope, joy and crown is the people themselves! The crown of rejoicing is given to those that work hard to evangelize and share the good news of the Gospel to those outside of the faith. This is an important role within the church because it states in Romans 10:14-15 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” God’s method of spreading the gospel and saving souls is preaching, teaching, and sharing through evangelism. And there is cause for rejoicing in heaven over that! You don’t have to be an overseas missionary to be an evangelist. Just be willing to speak and share the goodness of what Jesus has done for you. That can be with a co-worker, friend, neighbor, family member or stranger.
Elder – NEO Church