Ephesians 4:1-3… “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
When we last examined what the worthy walk would encompass, our Apostle Paul was enduring afflictions as he performed the work of the ambassadorship he was called unto and warning Timothy that the same trouble would be coming his way as he did the same. Nonetheless, Paul was encouraging Timothy (as he encourages us) to persevere through these afflictions.
2 Timothy 2:2-3… “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Here, Paul likens the ambassadorship to which all true Christians are called, to a soldier enduring the hardness of battle. Why, if this work is so difficult, did Paul continue therein, and why is it so important that we do the same? As we have seen previously, it is the love of Christ which constrains the believer (2 Corinthians 5:14); knowing what was done on his behalf, he is thus motivated to share the Great News of the gospel of Christ with others. Indeed, knowing what I have been made “in Christ” excites me no end to share such with others, even though most others are not at all interested, with some (even blood relations) becoming downright hostile in the process.
Where does a soldier usually find himself? In hostile territory of course. To the soldier of Christ (a soldier of Truth), this world is hostile territory through which he must battle. This present world, controlled by the god of this world, does not “appreciate” the Truth. At the war’s end however, there is great reward. The basic concept of “reward” inherently implies judgement of ones actions. How can a reward be accorded without acknowledgement of some success or failure in action? While there are several impending judgements of God coming to all men in the world, we turn our attention here, to the judgement members of the body of Christ will receive at the personal hand of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to the body in:
2 Corinthians 5:10… “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
This is NOT Gods final judgement of the world for sin (that comes later)… this is the heavenly judgement of today’s “body of believers” in the gospel of grace. Since sin was paid for (JUDGED) at the cross to those who accept Gods form of payment; this is judgement of the ambassadors actions here on earth; not TO condemnation, but FOR reward. Paul, again speaking to those saved by the gospel of grace, says:
1 Corinthians 3:13-15… “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Examine carefully what God through Paul is saying. The believers work will be tried by fire. Some work will survive the fire and some will be consumed by it. The fire is true judgement, determining which work shall stand to receive reward and which will not.
Note especially well that even the saved man whose work is consumed by fire, remains saved and his place in heaven with the Lord, secured. This man will suffer loss of reward, not eternal death.
The work which will receive reward is that work which Paul began, the ambassadorship of the grace of God to which he (and we) are called by God to continue. Christ, through Paul alone, laid the foundation upon which we are to build.
1 Corinthians 3:9-10… “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto ME, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.”
We take heed to build correctly because of Christ’s love for His own and for the potential of eternal reward, over and above a place with the Creator in eternity. The careful builder studies to shew himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15)… It is here at Christ’s judgement seat that shame may come to the fore in the face of the believer. At Christ’s judgement seat the believer will learn the eternal value of his work in the Lord, post salvation (as the unsaved can do no work for the Lord). Whether these works were built upon the right foundation; “doctrinally correct” (Paul’s gospel for today) or ” doctrinally incorrect” (another gospel for another time, past or future), a foundation laid by another; Moses or Peter for example.
In 1 Corinthians 3:12-13, Paul uses the example of gold, silver and precious stones to describe “good” works effective toward how God is working in the world today; and wood, hay and stubble to describe works not appropriate to today’s message of the free grace of God given to the entire world. Fire will consume the wood, hay and stubble reducing it to worthless ash; yet at the same time, fire will refine the impurities out of the gold, silver and precious stone leaving only perfection in its wake!
While all saved men have safe passage to heavenly places in eternity with God, judgement and reward inherently establish a hierarchical standard by which these saved will be established in and for eternity. One will necessarily somehow receive more than another based upon what he was able to accomplish for God in this world. Let us carefully qualify this statement; as Paul writes to the Roman believers:
Romans 8:17… “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Clearly, as believers crucified with Christ and suffering with Him through this present evil world, we are joint-heirs with Christ. Joint-heirs of what?
Colossians 1:16-18… “For by Him were ALL THINGS created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.”
If all believers are joint-heirs in “all things” with Christ who is our Head, where then does this reward hierarchy come into play? How will one receive more than another? Since Christ is the Head of all things, let us examine the nature of those things He is head of. Things both visible (things physically present in this 3 dimensional world) and things invisible (things present outside of the physical world we inhabit); whether they be thrones, dominions, principalities or powers. Thrones, dominions, principalities and powers are “governmental” positions of authority. These exist in this present AND the invisible world. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul further clarifies who these holders of invisible positions are. They are the “gods” of this world whom we wrestle against. satan and his fallen angels.
Ephesians 6:12… “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the RULERS of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
In the future, when Christ sits on His earthly throne, He will be surrounded by the twelve He chose during His earthly ministry to Israel; these will be the head of Gods earthly heavenly government (Matthew 19:27-28). Thy Kingdom will now have come to earth as it is in heaven. As God has a two-fold plan for His creation: a plan to redeem the earth (via Israel) and a plan to redeem the heavens (via the body of Christ); since both have fallen by way of pride thus sin; both places will need to be eventually and effectively “governed” prior to the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things are gathered together in one under Christ the Creator Himself (Ephesians 1:10). As Israel will rule this earthly place with Christ (thy Kingdom come) over the Gentile nations; the saved in this dispensation of free grace will rule and govern the heavenly places AS the body of Christ, while Actual Christ is seated on His earthly throne.
Note that a full one third of the angels (stars) followed satan’s prideful lead and revolted against Gods perfectly created order.
Revelation 12:3-4… “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.”
Michael the Archangel then does battle in the fallen heavenly places, prevails, and casts satan and his minions out of the heavenly places forever.
Revelation 12:7-9… “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
With one third of the angels gone, this creates a gaping hole in the governmental structure of the heavenly places (not to mention a really big problem for the earth at this time, since all those evil, banished, fallen beings are cast down unto it). One third of the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers are fallen, removed and thus emptied. satan was created to be the covering cherub (Ezekiel 28) to be in charge of these principalities… Gods finest creation. he is now no more. Today’s believers will fill those positions. (My own personal hunch is that Paul will be number 1 up there and I can’t wait to meet him in person!)
As the earth is currently without a Righteous Leader, so too are heavenly places without Righteous leadership. The god of this world, satan, has been given control of each by Adam, who forfeited the control and dominion God gave him (Genesis 1:26-28). As the earth will one day have Christ as King, so too will the heavens have Christ in charge in the form of His body, the church… us.
Ephesians 1:3… “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
Colossians 1:27-28… “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:”
Perfected/Completed in Christ (though remaining in sinful flesh while here on earth) we will do the work of Righteous Christ in heavenly places in our Glorified Life to come!
When Christ came to earth He was made lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7-9). With Christ now glorified above the angels seated at God the Father’s right hand; and we, who are crucified and risen with Him (Colossians 2:12), in the same judicial standing; we too, in our “new creature” form are also placed above the angels; judicially now, literally and physically in the future! Indeed we shall judge them in those heavenly places!
1 Corinthians 6:2-3… “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”
It is therefore here that our full reward is realized; in the governmental structure of the heavenly places. While all saved men have an equal inheritance of all things in Christ, not all will have an equal position in Gods heavenly government. It is these positions which will be offered to those whose works were of gold, silver and precious stone.
When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Not with an All Powerful Creator God though 🙂
Brothers and sisters in Christ; if the simple salvation of Christ alone was not enough to motivate you into action for our Savior, here is further motivation in a position of higher authority in heaven itself, where we will serve and reign AS Christ (we are His body after all), as we are in Christ. What a stunning realization, what a stunning reward! Walk worthy indeed…!
To Paul, Christ was all in all. The preaching (sharing) of the gospel of the greatest news ever given to man, that of free grace, became Paul’s entire world. Indeed, it was more important to him than even his own life and certainly anything material contained within that life. Paul is the true Christians pattern (1 Timothy 1:16). How will we measure up to such? We will find out at the judgement seat of Christ.
Philippians 3:8-14… “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.“