The prevailing belief among mainstream Christians is that the faithful will go to heaven when they die. In fact, many priests and ministers of various religious denominations do not hesitate to claim that many individuals are already in heaven, awaiting reunification with their families and loved ones. Nothing could be farther from the truth! What then did Jesus mean when He said “…great is your reward in heaven…” (Matt. 5:12)?
The common assumption of most professing Christians today is that heaven is the reward of the saved. Have these individuals ever looked into the Bible to see what God says about the reward of the saved, the true followers of God?
Bible scripture vs. traditional thought
What, in fact, does the Bible say is the reward of the righteous? In Matthew 5:11–12 we read what God says about this subject: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples to rejoice when persecuted “and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven….”? Yet a few verses before, in verse five, Christ also said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Do the persecuted go to heaven to collect their reward, while the meek inherit the earth? Once again, the Scriptures provide us with the answer: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3–4).
Reserved in heaven, received on Earth
Notice very carefully what these verses say! The reward of the saved—the inheritance of true Christians—is reserved in heaven. The word “reserved” in the Greek is tereo, meaning “safeguarded; watched closely” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1985). That is where the reward is currently kept. The reward is reserved, safeguarded and watched closely in heaven. It is NOT heaven itself!
Do Christians then go to heaven to receive their reward? Are they whisked off in a secret rapture? Jesus Christ Himself explained it in Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” When Christ returns from heaven the second time, He will bring the reward of the saved, which is now temporarily reserved in heaven, with Him to this earth!
In Luke 19:12–27, Christ explained it further in the parable of the young nobleman who went to a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. Christ went up into heaven to receive His Kingdom from the Father. He will return to the earth and reward His true servants according to their works.
What is included in the reward of His true servants? Revelation 2:26–27 tells us very clearly: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father…”
Clearly, from the word of God, the reward of the righteous saved is temporarily reserved in heaven, where Christ presently is. Nowhere do you find the Scriptures saying that Christians will inherit their reward in heaven. Rather, the reward—rulership, positions of authority, leadership and service in the Government of God—will be brought to the earth by the returning Jesus Christ, the Mighty King of God’s Kingdom.
What a tremendous, awe–inspiring hope we all have! Though our lives here on this earth will be filled with trials and tests that we must overcome, our reward will be magnificent and grand in the Kingdom of God here on earth! Thus, we must remain faithful and obedient to His Word, surrendered to His Will and be truly conquered by God so that we can receive that reward and hear our Lord and King say: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).