"The events surrounding the great white throne are recounted
in Revelation 20 and 21. Revelation 20:11 – 15 informs us that
God calls “the dead” to his throne for judgment — those who
are pulled up from the sea, death, and Hades. They are judged
according to their deeds and then hurled into the lake of fire.
There’s one criterion that dooms them: their names aren’t written
in the book of life.
Chapter 21 then addresses the church. Here God calls believers
his “bride” and says there’ll be no sorrow for us in heaven. So we
see a clear distinction made between the dead pulled up from hell
in chapter 20 and Christ’s precious bride in chapter 21. The bot-
tom line is that Chris tians won’t be put
on trial and judged, since we believe in
the Lord Jesus Christ and our names are
written in the book of life.
One eye-opening statement con-
cerning our perfect standing before
the Judge is made by Jesus himself: “He who believes in [Jesus] is not
judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because
he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”
(John 3:18 NASB, italics added).
Despite the clarity of God’s Word, I’ve heard some use the
final judgment to instill what they term “godly fear” in believ-
ers. I’ve even heard some say that they determine the quality of a
sermon by how guilty they feel afterward! Taken out of context,
the great white throne judgment can seriously damage our sense
of assurance. "
speaks of our works being tested to see if they’ll endure:
No one can lay any foundation other than the one al-
ready laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this
foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay
or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because
the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with
fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
1 Co rin
thi ans 3:11 – 13, italics added
The principle is simple: Anything built on Christ will stand
the test of time; anything done in fleshly effort will not. But you
are never on trial. You are not on the conveyor belt.
This is a crucial distinction to make, since many Chris
aren’t clear on it. God has divorced who we are from what we’ve
done, so that our destiny and standing are not in question. At the
same time, the Father wants to showcase all that his Son has ac-
complished. And there’ll be a grand celebration at the end of time
as we know it. "
“OK, so maybe we ourselves are not going to be judged, but I
still want to earn tons of rewards in heaven!” Quite often I’ll hear
a statement like this after teaching on our freedom from God’s
As humans, we always seem to be looking for a punishment-
or reward-based motivation to keep our behavior on track. While
we’re more apt to dismiss a blatant guilt motivation, the picture
often painted is that God will be doling out mansions of various
sizes and other merit-based awards when we hit heaven. Chris-
tians have commonly used the term rewards to refer to extra
square footage or certificates redeem-
able for crowns and jewels in heaven’s
In reality, the term rewards does not
appear anywhere in the New Testa-
ment. The apostle Paul speaks of a “re-
ward” (singular, not plural) or a “prize”
in the context of running a race and reaching the end. But Paul
also notes that everything else is like garbage next to knowing
Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8). Given this truth, do we really be-
lieve that God will be awarding larger homes and nicer jewelry to
those who depended on Jesus more?
God doesn’t want us to think and act in certain ways because
we’re seeking to accumulate heavenly merchandise. Just as Paul
was willing to lose all things for the sake of knowing Christ, we
too should make it our agenda to know him. For more wealth in
heaven? No, we want to know him simply because it’s the greatest
thing going on planet Earth.
But doesn’t Jesus himself tell us to store up treasures in heaven
(Matthew 6:20)? Yes, but treasures aren’t rewards.
treasures. They don’t earn them. Once a treasure is discovered, it
can be abandoned or it can be stored somewhere.
When God tells us we can store up treasures in heaven, he’s
asking us to consider our daily choices and their outcomes. Some
choices end in a worthless product that is later burned up like
wood, hay, or straw. Other choices endure for eternity since they
are expressions of Jesus Christ.
Essentially, God is posing the following questions: Given who
you are and what you know, what will you invest in? Will you
store up attitudes and actions that endure forever, or will you
pursue dead works that end up being burned?
The choice is ours.