The Biblical Answer is NO!
While heaven will be wonderful for all inhabitants, Scripture makes it clear that not every believer’s position and experience in heaven will be the same. Heaven’s rewards —its possessions and positions—will vary from person to person.
Some Motivational Realities About Rewards
• Not all of us will hear the Master say—“well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
• Not all will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
• Not all will have the same positions of authority in heaven (Luke 19:17-26). Clearly socialism will not be the ruling form of government ☺
• We will have differing levels of reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
• Scripture suggests some Christians will be ashamed at Christ’s coming (1 John 2:28). I don’t think the shame will continue in heaven, but there’s no indication that rewards lost due to disobedience on earth will ever be restored (1 Corinthians 3:15).
• Revelation 3:11 says, “Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” Interesting!
• 1 Corinthians 9:27 says that we can be disqualified from earning our crowns.
• John warns, “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully” – 2 John 8
• When our motive is to seek recognition from men, we forfeit our rewards from God (Matthew 6:5, 6).
Just as heaven will be wonderful for all and even better for some, hell will be terrible for all and even worse for some. Punishment will vary according to the nature and number of the sins committed (Revelation 20:12-13). What is equally freighting is that the only basis of judgment for those outside of Christ, will be the merit of their works that will determine the severity of their punishment. Jesus warned that in certain towns where He ministered, they would have a worse fate on the day of judgment than that of other cities (Matthew 11:20-24). Why? Because they were accountable for the knowledge they gained and what they saw Christ do.
A True Story
On December 11, 2012 two people were shot and killed and one wounded in Clackamas Town Center Shopping Mall. A day later, December 12, 2012, 20 children and 6 adults were shot and killed at a school in Connecticut.
In each instance the killers killed themselves.
(As an aside, I was discipling a swat-team member who was, at the time, the first to arrive at the scene in the Clackamas incident immediately after the killer ended his own life. I asked him if he was afraid. He said no, I was just disappointed I could not have been the one to put a bullet in his head. He was also one of the coolest masculine lead guitarist leading our praise services at the church I pastored. We need more masculine men in front of our congregations!)
The morning of the Connecticut instant I was in Starbucks mentoring a young man when I heard the news about the children and others killed.
A group of about 10-12 women from our community were gathered around a large table expressing their grief and organizing ways they could help the victim’s families here in Oregon. One of the gals knew me and called me over to the table and asked that I say something to the women about what had happened over the past couple of days.
I expressed my grief and I communicated how kind, generous, and loving they were to seek to help the three families in Oregon. One gal raised her hand, (how fun is that :), and asked me, as a pastor, what I thought of the actual murders?
I believe in the providence (the hand of God in the glove of circumstance) of God because that morning I had finished my devotional study from 2 Timothy 3:1-5. I proceeded to summarize what I had read from Timothy with these women. I am including the passage here so you may observe some of the content as it relates to the incitements from our dialogue.
1 “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving [without natural affections KJV] and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” — 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT
Here were some of the key points and the highlights of the conversations of what I said as I remember them:
• The Bible says that in the days approaching the return of Christ, love for each other will grow cold, without natural affection, actually the text says inhuman, becoming brutal to each other. These are the characteristics of these evil men who perpetrated these crimes.
• I said that I believed that these evil men at this very moment are experiencing the wrath of God in Hell.
• I referred to where Christ in the New Testament said that there will be greater punishment for some more than for others because of their extreme evil deeds. I referenced Matthew 11:22, and Revelation 20:12, 13 and very briefly summarize these passages.
• Another gal came up to me after my comments and said to me with her hands fisted and teeth clinched tightly, “There is something you said that just makes so much sense. I hope these evil men get what they deserve!!” I then asked her, “Do you know why you feel this way?” She said, “Yes —I am so angry.” I said, “The reason you are so angry is because you are created in the image of God and we all have God’s sense of justice built into us. God is just and He will judge each of us with a fair verdict. He is punishing these men today for their evil deeds!” She hugged me and said, “thank you, Dale.”
Friends, sometimes it is powerful to affirm the truth we observe in others or what others do when their character or behavior reflects who God is. In this way we can help others to discover that it is, “He that has made us, not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3 KJV).
It also helps us evangelize because we re-affirm that men and women are “God’s offspring and we live and move and have our being, in Him” (Acts 17:28).
This verse is profound because it references the poets of the Athenians who were intellectual and secular minded non-believers. He is saying that they had a most elementary awareness of the True God amidst all their false gods, and that He was their creator because they had certain characteristics which were just like Him. This is positively staggering! Let’s recognize more of God’s attributes in people and affirm that this is an indication that there is a God and that He has made them and loves them.
27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” – Act 17:27-28 NIV
Who would have thought I would talk about heaven, hell, Christ’s return and degrees of punishment in hell with a group of marginal people who were not followers of Christ, and who were not acquainted with the truth of Christianity? You can see why I say, the real power is released in our lives when we obediently follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit! (Galatians 5:25) ☺
More Talk About the Reality of Rewards
The notion of differences in heaven strikes many as unfair. We’ve gotten the false impression that heaven must be identical for all of us.
If everyone will be happy in heaven, what’s the nature of the differences? The best phrase to explain where I have arrived on this question is this:
Some may have more joy because their capacity for joy will be larger, having been stretched through their trust in God and obedience to him in this life. Some will have been more consistently faithful that they will reign with Christ (Revelation 20:6). Reigning implies delegating responsibilities to those under our leadership. One parable tells us certain believers will be put “in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21,23).
Heaven is not a socialist utopia in which private ownership is evil. Materialism, greed, envy, and selfishness are sins; ownership when obtained righteously is not!
Christ spoke of granting some of his followers leadership over specific numbers of cities in proportion to their faithful service on earth (Luke 19:12-27).
This passage is my favorite to say what I have said to many Christians and non-Christians alike:
“God is not a socialist, and for those who are most faithful they will be politicians in heaven.” Ruling cities is a governmental responsibility. My do we ever need godly politicians! In heaven we will have them! ☺
Our different personalities, rewards , positions, and names in heaven speak not only of our individuality but of how God, who loves us all, finds reasons to love us. I love my wife Linda and I love each of our three children, and 13 grandchildren, but I love different things about each of them.
We are like unique instruments, played by an orchestra of individual musicians performing as one. We will play together in perfect unity, but each of us will play our own part in bringing glory to God. We will bring something different, something singular and vital, to the concert of praise. Perhaps each of us will uniquely draw attention to one of His attributes. And God will take delight in each uniqueness, for He is not a God of sameness but of diversity.
So Now What?
Well I don’t know about you but when I read the Scriptures from the segment of “Some Motivational Realities about Rewards” from above I am convicted and stimulated.
Here is a challenge for you and me. Take each one of the nine points and rewrite them in a positive statement of action.
#1 We will have differing levels of reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
I will attempt to accomplish acts of God-honoring deeds today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that will merit God’s rewards. Today, July 27th 2020 I helped our grandson start the commercial power-washer to prepare him for his next paid power-washing job.
#2 I purpose to listen to the Holy Spirit today and speak up or do what I feel prompted to do with the goal that I bring attention to Christ.
#3I will heed the warning in 2 John 8 by refusing the temptation to sin and continue to work out my salvation in specific steps in a given day.
Living in Light of Eternity with you,