In a letter to newly planted churches in the Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia, the Apostle Paul explained how lost souls might receive the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ.
“If,” he advised, “you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Many, if not most, of us have received the gift of salvation; have the promise of everlasting life.
We look forward to heaven, which the Book of Revelation describes as having twelve gates of pearl and streets of pure gold.
We can hardly wait to take residence in the mansions that, according to the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus has prepared before us.
But many, if not most, of us will find heaven very much different than we are expecting. We mistakenly believe heaven will be egalitarian; that all who are saved will enjoy the same standing in the hereafter.
But that’s not what the Word of God teaches. It promises us – it warns us – that heaven is a meritocracy.
That, while our salvation guarantees us a place in heaven, our works on this side of eternity determine what exactly that place will be in the hereafter.
Indeed, the Lord declared, “I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”
The Book of Matthew tells us the Son of Man will sit on the throne of His glory. That before Him all the nations will gather. That He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
That He well set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left. That those on His right hand will inherit the kingdom prepared for them. And that He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you cursed.”
Those of us who are saved are the Lord’s sheep. An inheritance awaits us, everyone. But everyone does not have the same inheritance awaiting.
For some devote their lives to being good and faithful servants. To standing in the gap for the Lord. To fulfilling the Great Commission. To fighting a good fight, finishing the course set before them, and keeping the faith. To suffering persecution in the name of the Lord, even unto death.
There is laid up for those saints crowns of righteousness. They are on heaven’s A-list.
And it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Those who truly love Him are those who let their light so shine before men, that they might see their good works, and glorify the Father which is in heaven.
As to those of us who do not lead such a purpose-driven life, who do not labor in the Lord’s harvest fields bringing the lost to Christ, who do not feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and minister to the prisoner, there is a place prepared for us, too, in eternity.
But let us not delude ourselves that we can do little or nothing in service to the Lord and enjoy the same rewards earned by such great men (and women) of God as Abraham, Moses, David and Esther or John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, the Apostle Paul and St. Peter.
Papias of Hierapolis, who authored five books on Christian oral tradition, who said he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, taught that “there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold.”
The first, wrote Papias, “will be taken up into the heavens.” The second, “will dwell in Paradise.” The last “will inhabit the city.” Everywhere, he explained, “the Savior will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see Him.”
Salvation earns us a place in the city, with its “splendor” beyond anything we have seen or experienced in this fallen world.
But more is required of those who will spend eternity in paradise, with the “delights” far beyond the splendor of the city. And much more is required to be “deemed worthy of an abode in heaven,” where God, the Father, sits on His throne, and His Son, Christ the Lord, sits on His right hand
That’s why the Lord, Himself, advised us, encouraged us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,” but “store up treasure in heaven,” where our good works will be eternally rewarded.