"Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6:4b
The saints will rule with Christ (Dan. 7:27; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21). However, there is special authority granted to a select few. In Revelation 4, the twenty-four elders are clothed in white, seated on thrones, and wearing golden crowns. Their thrones and crowns represent their rule under the ultimate government of the King of kings. They are honored, sitting in close proximity to the throne of God (Rev. 4:4). Jesus alludes to the privileged few (Matt. 20:20-23) who would sit at his right and his left in the kingdom of heaven. James and John sought those places of honor. But Jesus said that they belonged to those whom the Father prepared them for. Jesus then went on to instruct his disciples on how such places of honor would be granted (vv. 25-28).
So, what does the Bible reveal that God will reward for all eternity? Let's walk through some of the various categories.
1. Anything done for the glory of God (even simple daily tasks). "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1Cor. 10:31). To do something “to the glory of God" means to put him on display before a watching world, even in the most menial actions of life.
2. Humble servanthood. Jesus said, "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:26-28). Every act of humble servanthood toward others will never lose its reward.
3. Sacrificial giving. The Old Testament sacrificial system was based on something costly given up for God and others. David said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing" (2 Sam. 24:24). The more something cost us on earth (whether time, energy, money, or other), the greater the reward in heaven. Yet even a small gift, like the widow's two copper coins, can be more valuable than another's gift because sacrifice is measured proportionally (Luke 21:3).
"Positions of honor are given in his kingdom based on the degree to which people suffer for Christ's name's sake."
4. Suffering for the kingdom. No sacrifice is greater than one's own life laid down for others (John 15:13), so the martyrs who die for the kingdom give more than anyone else. Similarly, people who suffer pain physically or emotionally for the kingdom will be rewarded in proportion to their suffering (Matt. 5:11-12). When James and John seek the place of honor, the first thing Jesus asks them is, "Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" (20:22). That was the cup of suffering on the cross. Positions of honor are given in his kingdom based on the degree to which people suffer for Christ's name's sake.
5. Advancing the gospel. Other people won to Christ are "[crowns] in which we will glory" in heaven (1 Thess. 2:19 NIV). Any soul-winning effort is rewarded in heaven, but those who venture forth boldly in some courageous pattern of missionary work are especially honored. Paul said, "I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named ... but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand'" (Rom. 15:20-21). Paul's word translated "ambition" literally means "love of honor." Paul yearned for the honor of going into an unreached region of the world, to pioneer the church of Christ. This reminds me of David's "mighty men," warriors who vied for the honor of doing great deeds of valor on the battlefield (2 Sam. 23:8-39). How much more will a missionary pioneer who ventured forth into a hostile land for the gospel of Christ be honored?
6. Giving to the poor. Jesus said people who feed the poor in this world will be "repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:14 NIV). We should seek out people who cannot repay us in this world, as though there is a heavenly ledger with "debts outstanding" that God will not fail to repay in heaven.
7. Secret acts of piety: fasting and prayer. When we go into a room, close the door, and pray to our unseen Father, he sees what is done in secret and will reward it. So it will be with private acts of fasting or self-denial done for the glory of God (Matt. 6:6, 18). In this way, quietly faithful servants have stored up vast quantities of treasure in heaven.
8. Anything done to help those advancing the gospel. This is the "cup of cold water" teaching in Matthew 10:42. Jesus said that anyone who supports gospel workers will receive the same reward as those who do the actual preaching.
9. Anything done to help other Christians in any way. Hebrews 6:10 says, "God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do." This is the reward of godly widows who "washed the feet of the saints" (1 Tim. 5:10). And it is the framework of the judgment day "sheep and goats" teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (v. 40 NIV). Included are works of love such as those of Dorcas, who made robes and other garments for Christians (Acts 9:39).
10. An honorable life of hard work. Paul uses the same word as in Romans 15:20, translated "ambition" or "love of honor," in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 for the ordinary lives of Christians all over the world: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we instructed you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need" (NASB). Christians who work at a job to earn enough money to feed, clothe, and house their family, who conduct their affairs with dignity, and who shine the light of Christ whenever they can will have an eternal reward in heaven.
That is the honor we should seek, and it will never be taken from us.
Excerpt from "The Glory Now Revealed" by Andrew M. Davis. To purchase click Here.