Eternal RewardsOne of the most commonly believed myths concerning the afterlife is the notion that in heaven eternal life is our only reward. Everyone's rank will be equal and the same in God's eyes. This monolithic view of heaven would have us spending a large portion of eternity just sitting on clouds, strumming our harps, and preening our new wings.
The Bible could not disagree more strongly with this idea of a communal heaven. Paul, in Corinthians, said we would receive rewards according to the deeds we perform here on earth, "For we must all appear before the judgment 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" (2 Cor. 5:10).
In 1 Cor. 3:13-15 it says the quality of our works shall be tested by Jesus with fire. Works that are unprofitable will be burnt up; works that give glory to him will remain. Obviously, if someone's works were for their own glory, they will suffer heavy loss. The folks that work unselfishly to advance the kingdom will suffer little loss.
Jesus made it clear in Luke 19 that we would each receive different rewards for our service. In the story of the ten pounds, our Lord said, the kingdom of heaven is like a rich nobleman that gave his 10 servants each a pound to invest while his was away on a journey. One servant generated a profit that was 10 times his master's money, another servant made a five fold return on the pound they was given him. The one that gained 10 was made ruler over 10 cities the one that gained 5 was made ruler over 5 cities. The rest of the servants were unprofitable with the nobleman's money.
Paul related that man has very little understanding of the splendor that God is preparing for his faithful children. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9).
Eternal Wealth Is Not Always ObviousFrom our earthly vantage point, it is impossible to know exactly who is richer than someone else in the kingdom of God. Jesus indicated from the example of the widow's two mites that what is in the giver's heart is more important than what is in the giver's hand. If one man had a million dollars to his name and he gave $1,000 to God's work, his gift would be dwarfed by a man that lived in poverty and gave $20 to God.
Having a church which seats 10,000 people, a series of best selling books, and a successful radio and TV outreach ministry, is a good outward indication a pastor is building up great treasure in heaven, but again, spiritual success can sometimes be hard to recognize.
Consider the case of Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China. He sailed into the port of Canton in 1807 and labored there 27 years until his death in 1834. During the entire span of Morrison's missionary career, he had only baptized ten Chinese nationals. His pioneering work, which included a six-volume Chinese dictionary and a translation of the Bible, laid the foundation for other missionaries to build on. The mind of man would perceive Morrison to be a complete failure, but I know God thinks otherwise.
God's BillionairesThe world has its various rankings of wealthy individuals. Right now there are close to 1000 people that have achieved billionaire status. The kingdom of God has its own roster of heavenly billionaires. The following list is just a small representation of some noteworthy people that have achieved greatness.
God referred to David as a man after his own heart. David's historical legacy was his founding of the Judean dynasty. Most of David's greatest conquests were won on the battlefield. As a boy, he killed the godless giant Goliath with just one stone from his slingshot. David was God's greatest warrior defeating the Philistine, Moabites, Aramaeans, Ammonites, Edomites, and Amalelekites. In both the Old Testament and New Testament, the Messiah is referred to as the Son of David. He is also credited with writing 73 of the Psalms.
John the Baptist
Gauging the amount of wealth John achieved is not an easy task. John the Baptist did not write any books of the Bible, he had a very short ministry, and even his life was abbreviated. It wasn't until Jesus made his comments about him that we learned that John was a man of great riches. "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mat 11:11).
When polled, most Christians cite Saint Paul as the man that has done the most to advance Christianity. This is an amazing accomplishment for someone that started off in life, trying to destroy the Church that is now so greatly indebted to him. If heavenly wealth was solely determined by deeds alone, Paul would have an overwhelming lead over his fellow hero's of the faith. Called the "apostle to the gentiles," Paul probably holds the most patents in the field of missionary work. With the New Testament containing 13 letters bearing Paul's name as author, there can be no doubt of his mega-billionaire status.
Augustine was born in Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria) in 354 and died almost seventy-six years later in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba) on the Mediterranean coast sixty miles away. In the years between he lived out a career that bridged the gap between ancient pagan Rome and the Christian Middle Ages. His writings had a profound influence on medieval religious thought. Augustine's ideas showed up in the teachings of John Calvin and Martin Luther.
He made his fortune by setting the Reformation into motion. The grand opening event was held when Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The document contained an attack on papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church officials. He basically helped revive what has always been the heart of the gospel; justification comes by faith alone. Luther became the father of a huge network of denominations that bears his name.
Probably the greatest Christian fiction writer of all-time, Bunyan is most noted for his book Pilgrim's Progress. It has been said that his famous allegory about Pilgrim on his journey to the Celestial City is second only to the Bible itself in number of copies sold through the ages and throughout the world. Bunyan was jailed many times for preaching the gospel without an official license. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise; Bunyan did some of his best writing in the jailhouse.
Wesley was born on the seventeenth of June, 1703, in Epworth rectory, England, the fifteenth of nineteen children of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Wesley was untiring and energetic in his efforts to advance the gospel message. The Methodist movement was not an overnight success. Prosperity was only gained through a long series of years, and amid some of the bitterest persecutions. In nearly every part of England it was met at first by rock throwing mobs. The name "Methodist" came from the business like organizing power the movement displayed. After Wesley's death, the Methodist Church grew into a huge denomination. Its success was guaranteed by military perfection instilled into its leadership by its founder.
Some folks have described Charles Wesley as the "first Methodist." They point out that he was the one who first brought together a group of like-minded Christians to the "Holy Club" at Oxford. Leadership was not Charles' calling; he usually deferred executive matters to his brother John. Charles' main calling, and the source of much of his eternal wealth, was the hundreds of hymns he wrote. You don't need to attend a Methodist service to hear them. His hymns have become standards of most Christian denominations.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
He was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church. His congregation grew so large, they actual had to move several times before finally settling down to the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000, all in the days before electronic amplification. Greatly blessed by the Holy Spirit, his success and worldwide popularity were due in large measure to a genius intellect, a natural gift of oratory, and thoroughly biblical expository messages. Spurgeon's many writings and brilliant sermons are still widely published today, testifying to his timeless appeal.
During the 1800's, there must have been something special in Britain's water because here we have yet another native of England that founded a prosperous global Christian organization. Booth was an evangelist in London, where he and his wife, Catherine Mumford Booth, established the movement that became known as the Salvation Army. It was originally founded under the name the "Christian Mission," with the aim of serving to the evangelical and social-welfare needs of the inhabitants of the slum areas of London. In 1878 the Mission was reorganized along its present quasi-military lines and was renamed the Salvation Army. Today, Booth's organization has become one of the largest charitable organizations in the world.
Infamous Financial Fiascoes
Over the years the financial world has experienced a number of infamous financial fiascoes. The spiritual realm has had several financial disasters of its own. Nothing can more tragic than for someone to have the opportunity to achieve eternal greatness and then lose it because of his own fraud or neglect.
If anyone had the promise of great wealth, it was Judas Iscariot. The Bible says the names of the twelve apostles would be inscribed into the twelve foundations of heaven (Rev 21:14). Jesus said they would also sit on twelve thrones judging the nations of Israel. Judas saw the miracles, and he walked with Jesus all that time, but still somehow he failed to see the eternal riches that were being placed in his name. We all know he sold everything that could have been his for a meager payment of 30 pieces of silver.
Asa Alonzo Allen
In my mind A.A. Allen stands as the saddest story of a preacher turned charlatan. He is most well known for telling his followers that he could command God to "turn dollar bills into twenties." Allen said he had "a new anointing and a new power to lay hands on the believers who gave $100 towards the support of our missionary outreach and bestow upon each of them power to get wealth." He was also known to have urged his followers to send for his "prayer cloths anointed with the Miracle Oil," and he offered "Miracle tent shavings" as points of contact for personal miracles. Allen was kicked out of the Assemblies of God denomination when he jumped bail after being arrested for drunk driving. Allen claimed the drunk driving offense resulted from him being kidnapped and having alcohol forcefully poured down his throat by some thugs. On June 14, 1970, listeners were hearing a recorded message from A. A. Allen on his radio program saying: "This is Brother Allen in person. Numbers of friends of mine have been inquiring about reports they have heard concerning me that are not true. People as well as some preachers from pulpits are announcing that I am dead. Do I sound like a dead man? My friends, I am not even sick! Only a moment ago I made a reservation to fly into our current campaign. I'll see you there and make the devil a liar." At that moment, at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, police were removing A. A. Allen's body from a room littered with pills and empty liquor bottles. Allen died from liver failure brought about by acute alcoholism. (James Randi, The Faith Healers, 1989, p.88)
From the very beginning, the sole purpose of the Robert Tilton Ministry was to extract money from believers. Tilton got the inspiration for starting Success -N- Life from watching a Dave Del Dotto's real estate infomercials. Tilton's love of earthly wealth is so prevalent it even shows in his own personal testimony. He chose to go to a Hawaiian resort to get saved because in his words, "If I'm going to go to the cross, I'm going to go in a pretty place. Not some dusty place like Jerusalem. Gravel is all that place is." Tilton built an empire that at its peak took in as much as $65 million per year. The end came when an ABC's news program found out that the prayer request letters he promised to pray over were being trashed unread. All of Tilton's mail was sent directly to his Tulsa bank; the checks were removed and deposited, and the prayer requests were thrown in dumpsters. A reporter, while digging through the garbage, found desperate requests, asking for things like healing of heart and eye conditions. Tilton's operation dwindled rapidly amid the revelations of the scandal. In his defense Tilton said the prayer requests were planted, and he also said, "I laid on top of those prayer requests so much that the chemicals actually got into my bloodstream, and . . . I had two small strokes in my brain."
For years he claimed to be the former high priest of a 1500-person satanic coven. It has been said that "Warnke did more to shape the Christian view of Satanism than any leader of his generation." The end of his multi-million dollar per year empire came to a sudden halt when Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein of Cornerstone magazine spent two years checking out his claims, and to their surprise they found them to be totally fraudulent. Tales of unbiblical divorces, extramarital affairs, drinking and enormous compensation packages for himself and his cronies didn't help matters. Warnke's second wife said, "Mike is one of the greatest con artists I've ever known in my life. And coming from my background, that says quite a bit." Warnke's greatest ploy was his appeals for money to help alleged victims of Satanism - the money instead went to his personal use.
Jim Bakker and PTL
I remember where I was when the news of Jim Bakker's sexual and financial misjudgment hit the newsstands. I was down in San Antonio, Texas going through my six weeks of Basic Military Training. It was the only time I recall one of the instructors dropping his authoritative persona to say, "Hey, have you guys heard this..." Disclosure of the gross over-booking of time-shares at Bakker's Christian theme park forced it into bankruptcy. The "Praise The Lord" satellite network was eventually doomed to obscurity by the circus that enveloped the ministry. After being tried and convicted of fraud, Jim Bakker went to prison for several years. He's now out and last report has him serving a small congregation of people - his once vast media empire a distant memory.
Pat Robertson and CBN
In the early 1980's the Christian Broadcasting Network was one of the leading sources of Christian programming in the nation and the world. Pat Robertson was the founder of CBN, and everything was going fine until he got the idea of running for President. The American people were about as ready to elect a preacher to the highest office as they were an exotic dancer. After losing big time in the fall election, Robertson started a process that slowly transformed CBN into a worldly network. Bit-by-Bit nearly all Christian programming was replaced with shows that were secular in nature. When Robertson eventually decided to change the name of the network to the Family Channel, it was a logical move because there was little left of CBN's Christian heritage. All hope was lost when Pat Robertson accepted a multi-million dollar buyout from Rupert Murdoch's Fox Broadcasting Company for the sale of the Family Channel.
Money Down A Rat Hole
In America today there is $14 trillion in equity and real estate wealth. The longest economic boom in history has helped create a vast pool of prosperity. Men work endlessly to grow their portfolios, but for what purpose. A man that has 10 billion dollars is just as overwhelmingly rich as someone that has 20 billion dollars. Far too many people think they're poor because someone else has more money than them.
Unless you put money to some use, it really doesn't have any value. In fact, value is mostly created by the act of hoarding money. If everyone suddenly decided to sell all the stocks they own, wealth that is based on equity prices would instantly collapse. In the end a rich person is not someone who has money; a rich person is someone who utilizes money.
To be a truly rich person in the eternal sense you need to be investing your money in the kingdom of God. In this area, people of earthly wealth fail miserably. One survey of people that had $5 million or more in holdings, found that only 2 percent of their money goes to religious charities. Wealthy celebrities rank even lower. One site that reviewed the tax returns of a number of well-known Hollywood personalities could not find one celebrity that gave money to a gospel minded organization.
When the rich finally do decide to give away a portion of their fortune, AIDS causes, libraries, secular colleges, museums, and medical research are some of the typical recipients of their donations. It's so ironic that people can be wise enough to build up large sums of money through earthly investments, and they end up pouring it down a rat hole when it comes to eternal investments.
Probably one of the best descriptions of what the afterlife will be like for men of great wealth can be found in Charles Dickens's classic "The Christmas Carol." The torment of men like Jacob Marley, Scrooge's departed business partner, was not that he and others were weighted down with giant chains; their torment was that they could see the need in the world, but they could no longer "interfere, for good, in human matters."
Jesus said, "...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mat. 19:24). Simply because so few rich people give to the cause of Christ, someone well off could easily pull ahead of the pack by giving to God. There is a factor I call the rich man's mite. If someone like a Bill Gates decided to give a generous portion of his holdings to something like missionary work, even though he would have plenty of money left over, I believe that person would likely be out giving the widow of Mark 12:42.
"Do You Make Any Money Off It?"
Whenever I talk to people about my web site Rapture Ready, one of the most common questions I receive is, "Do you make any money off it?" My answer is always "no." This site has actually cost me several thousand dollars over the years. Of course, it may not generate any earthly income, but I'm sure there's a heavenly positive cash flow constantly being produced from the sites operation. When I started RR, I never had any grand ideas of developing some great ministry. I just did it because there was a need.
I have found it to be very dangerous to try to speculate on how God perceives your labors. When someone looks boastfully on his own works, he runs the risk of allowing pride to creep in. Another much larger problem with reward speculation comes when people just give up after they fail to receive man's overwhelming response. The worst thing you can do is quit, because even someone that enjoys limited success is far superior to someone that does nothing.
There are some people that refuse to do anything for the Lord's work because they claim they have doubts about their own motivation. When you give or do something in Christ's name, there is nothing wrong with a healthy expectancy of some future reward. It's true, personal gain should not be our only motivations.
When Paul was near the end of his life, he knew very well he would be wonderfully compensated for his labors. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7-9).
What keeps me going is the realization that someday Jesus is going to demand to know what good we've all done in our lives. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." (2 Cor 5:11). With me being the type of person that has a hard time defending himself, even when I'm doing the right thing, I realize I need all the extra points I can muster.
Making Financial PlansIf the Bible promised us a full week's warning before the rapture was to take place, I would guess most churches would be quite full the Sunday before the great event. Because of the huge bounty of giving, the ushers would probably have to go down the aisles using wheelbarrows to gather the offering. Of course, all this money given at the last minute would be nearly worthless.
When the rapture takes place, all the assets we have in banks and brokerages will indeed be worthless. As they pass into glory, some people that God greatly blessed in this life might have to endure a dramatic reduction in their prosperity level.
Over sixty percent of the US population has a long-term investment plan that they regularly contribute to, however, the number of people that have eternally minded investment plans is only a fraction of that number. Among faithful church members the giving rate is said to be only about 5 percent of their annual income.
The giving of tithes and offerings to various ministries is often motivated by what is commonly called the prosperity gospel. You give God $100 and he'll give you back $1000 or maybe $10,000. With time being so short and with the valuations of this life so temporal, I would ask Lord to just keep the money in the heavenly realm. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust 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 NIV).
It's not just money we're talking about here folks. You can cut out the middleman by witnessing to people yourself. The reward for winning a new convert to Christ is priceless. If you get someone saved, you could pretty much take the rest of the month off. "He that winneth souls is wise" (Prov 11:30).
Most faithful Christians look forward to Christ's return. I believe if it was made know to us the current balance of our eternal reward, many believers that were once so eager to see Jesus return, might instead be motivated to ask him for an extension. Oh, but ready or not, Jesus is coming soon.
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