July 11th, 2004

Debunking the Myth of Heavenly Rewards for Good Works

Romans 14:10-12 (KJV)

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

We have seen from our text truths consistent with the doctrine of justification by grace.

  1. The "judgment seat" of Christ is a place of authority, or throne, in heaven.
  2. The true believer in Christ will stand beside Christ as a coheir of God's riches.
  3. The ungodly shall not stand (they shall fall) in the presence of Christ's judgment.

There are some who attempt to teach "two" future judgments. They say that the ungodly shall be judged at "The Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20" but the righteous shall be judged by Christ at "The Judgment Seat." The ungodly are judged for their sins, but the righteous are judged for their good works. Thus, those who hold this view believe in various degrees of rewards in heaven. This teaching has many problems.

  1. Heavenly rewards for good works contradicts the Biblical teaching of grace.
    The Bible is quite clear that all of our good works on earth are a direct work of God. "For it is God at work in you both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
    1. Everything that you have done that is good comes from God...
      The soft heart, the compassionate deed, the bold leadership is all from God.
    2. This is why nobody can take credit for anything they do that is good...
      An understanding of grace will keep a person humble when they succeed. Christ moved us to do that which our sinful natures would never consent to do.
  2. Heavenly rewards for good works can only be for the good works of Christ.
    Think about it for just a moment. God is perfect. He is holy. He demands perfection. "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). If we are not perfect in our works, we are in sin. It was for this reason that Christ went to the cross. That we "could" appear before Him blameless, perfect, and without fault in all our works. The Bible says that the righteous shall be "found without fault" on judgment day (Revelation 14:5). We are without fault because God justifies us.
  3. Heavenly rewards for good works confuses the believer regarding motivation.
    Why do you do what you do? Why do you give? Why do you do what is right? Pastors will often seek to motivate you by threatening you with some loss of future reward or the possible shame for being saved "by the skin of your teeth." Whereas the clear teaching of the New Testament is that we should be motivated by Christ's great love. "We love him because he first loved us" (I John 4:9). This is our motivation.
  4. Heavenly rewards for good works captures the world's imagination.
    I have learned that if man naturally thinks something is right, it is usually wrong. God's ways are higher than man's ways (Isaiah 55), and God graces sinners of no merit. Does this sound a little unfair? I remind you—He is Lord (Matthew 20:1-16).