In Luke 14:13-14 Jesus says:
13 “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
14 “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
We see that God rewards people in heaven for their service of him on earth, but not everyone receives the same amount of rewards. Some people don’t do the things God gives rewards for, or they don’t do them very often. Other people make it a point to do the things God rewards. I know if I get to heaven, and I haven’t done my best for God, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll be unhappy with the amount of rewards I receive.
Several verses explain God’s rewards for those who serve him in this life, here are a few more:
22 Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Jesus reveals why you and I can rejoice, even in the worst circumstances. Why? Because there is a direct connection between something you do for him on earth and something “great” he will do for you in heaven. Notice Jesus describes it as a reward for doing, which would distinguish it, for example, from a gift you receive for believing. Also, the reward is specifically and personally yours if you behave in one way, but is not yours if you behave in another (for example, if you run away under the pressure of persecution).
Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Matthew 19:21 “you will have treasure in heaven”
God will reward you for seeking him through spiritual acts such as fasting and praying, (Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 11:6).
God will reward you for submitting to your employer as a faithful steward (Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:22-24).
God will reward you for self denial in his service (Matthew 16:24-27).
God will reward you for serving those in need in his name (Mark 9:41).
God will reward you for suffering for his name and reputation (Luke 6:22-23).
God will reward you for sacrifices you make for him (Luke 6:35). In fact, Jesus said that every person who sacrifices to follow him will be rewarded a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29)!
God will reward you for sharing your time, talent, and treasure to further his kingdom (Matthew 6:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:18-19).
Although your eternal destination is based on your belief, how you spend eternity is based on your behavior while on earth. Believers and nonbelievers will be judged by Jesus Christ at events called the bema and the great white throne (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). The outcome will determine your degree of reward in heaven or retribution in hell:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
11 ¶ For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
Matthew 23:14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
While I definitely don’t want to go to hell, I can’t help think there will be a certain kind of suffering in heaven. Think about it, if people are receiving different levels of rewards, that means not everyone is going to have everything they want in heaven. It must be analogous to life on earth. Some people have nicer cars, nicer homes, more homes, take better vacations, stay at better hotels, can afford nicer things, etc., etc. So wouldn’t there be a certain kind of sadness, if you didn’t do the best you could have, and you are unable to have some of the things you want? If you have to see others enjoying things you can’t have?
This article was adapted from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever. If you would like to find out more about how to be rich in heaven, I highly suggest reading what Dr. Wilkinson has to say.