“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
“Mark Smith, step on up,” God says sternly with a displeased frown. Another person has died and now stands before Him to be judged and receive their heavenly rewards.
“You only worked for this amount of payment,” our Creator explains with an eye-roll, while pointing to a pile of treasure the size of a small stack of books.
“Not very good, Mark, but go ahead over there and claim your earnings, then I’ll have an angel show you to the slums. Truthfully, you’re lucky to even sneak on in, let alone get those rewards. Now get out of my sight.”
“Betty Ann Baker, you’re next. What you did was just okay, I guess. There’s your pile of crowns and jewelry in the wheelbarrow. You could have done a lot more, so you’ll spend eternity in middle-class. And Betty, by the way, you irk me. You irked me on planet earth, and even now–so much wasted talent that I gave you. If you really wanted to make me proud you would have done much more, you would have used what I left with you for more good things. I expected a greater return on my investment. Now be gone. I might stop by and see you now and again, I might not. It’s whatever. Your whole life was just whatever, so that’s what you’ll get from me for eternity.”
“Next…” an angel calls out to the crowd.
“William Graham!” God gasps!
“What an absolute honor it is to see you in my presence! Hang on–hang on–I have to direct the dump trucks of treasures to lay at your feet!”
***Beep…beep…beep…*** The fleet of tandem diesels are piled to overflowing as they back up and pour out what looks like a bigger booty than the contents of the bank from DuckTales! Confetti explodes everywhere! Celebratory music comes belting from the angels! The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all run out to shake the hand of Reverend Billy Graham!
Gazing in adoration, the Trinity speaks together in one voice, “We have the greatest spot for you inside! Come on in and see! Oh we are so blessed to have you here! Finally! We’re not sure what we would have done on that evil, evil planet without you! Come! Come see all of your rewards and the huge palace we’ve built with your name at the top of it!”
…With all due respect to Billy Graham, whom I love, just imagine if this was the truth. For a moment, picture God doling out levels of medals, merchandise, and mansions for all we’ve done and not done while living in these fragile shells. This is not how it works for Christians. We all get paid the same. Even the symbolic elders in Revelation 4:10 cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus. So what makes us believe we will be paid in measurements on Judgment Day?
“No way, Matt! Jesus said in Revelation 22:12 that when He comes back He’ll repay us for the work we’ve done!”
Friend, that’s true, but He also defines what work truly is for a Christian, in John 6:29:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The work is to believe. Also, in that same verse, Revelation 22:12, He said His reward is with Him! He is that reward! I understand this upsets the most self-righteous because I’m messing with their “stuff.” After all, they’ve worked way too hard to not get paid (see Matthew 7:21-23). But at the same time, this truth is a life-giving relief for those who can’t find rest, no matter how much work they do (see Matthew 11:28-30).
In the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus talks about a master with three servants. Each one of them was entrusted with “talents” or “bags of gold.” The master heads off on a trip, expecting each to invest their talents and get a return for him. Two of them do, one of them does not. The servants who do turn in their talents with interest, the master is greatly pleased with. The one who doesn’t is scolded and cast out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth–which sounds like hell to me.
Now, I have some colleagues who see this parable as the talents being the gospel, and God rewarding us for what we do with it–and I respect that view. I’ve even used this example in my previous books. However, I believe an even deeper look into this passage is Jesus explaining what judgment is like under the Mosaic Law–with the ante’ being upped. After all, no Christian will be given “more” gospel in heaven for investing in it on earth; and no Christian will be “cast out” for not investing in the gospel. We are God’s children by birth and are not judged by anything we invest. Instead, we are judged by our lineage (see John 1:12, 3:6-7, 5:24).
This is why I see this passage as Mosaic Law Judgment 2.0. Remember, the Bible was not written in chapters and verses. Those were added later for easy referencing. So I see this parable as Christ saying, “If you want to be judged according to the talents God has given you, this is what you’ll get. So you better get to work or else!”
Sounds scary to me! Yet God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of peace, confidence, love, and a sound mind (see 2 Timothy 1:7, Galatians 5:22-23). And if I’m looking at this parable as a goal of investing the gospel, how can I be sure I’ve invested well enough? Such a thought can send chills down my spine if I allow it–and I won’t!
According to the book of 1 John, God’s love for me is perfect and it casts out all fear because fear has to do with punishment. Christians won’t be punished for anything by God because Christ was already punished. The only thing He would punish us for is sin, and every sin requires a death, and Jesus isn’t dying over and over because of my “lack” of investing in the gospel based on my level of God-given talent (see Romans 6:23, Hebrews 1:3).
A child of God shouldn’t be worried one iota about their Day of Judgment, we should be eagerly awaiting it! (See 1 John 4:17). So if I’m stressing about investing the gospel, how can I be eagerly awaiting judgment? I can’t. Plus, this entire parable is based on a servant/master relationship, yet Christ said this:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Do we still serve God even though we are no longer His servants? Of course! But not out of fear–instead, out of love…out of delight. The New Covenant is based on a loving relationship, not a fearful one set upon expectations, duties, and punishment. God’s expectations, duties, and punishment for me was put on Christ! Further, no true, caring union can ever be enjoyed through threats. So according to this parable, the people in it are not getting paid the same. Not even close. Jesus even said this toward the end:
“For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 25:29)
That’s not the gospel. The gospel isn’t taken from us for not investing it. Nor is it given to those who have done more to invest it. This teaching from Jesus can be viewed as performance-based judgment, which is not how the New Covenant operates. Christ already performed everything for us. It is His talents that matter to the Father, not ours. We are branches, not investors.
On the other hand, the Parable of the Vineyard Workers is New Covenant judgment! In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus explains that some labor is needed to be done in a vineyard, so the owner hires people to work. Each hired person agrees to work for the same set amount of wages–but all throughout the day the owner hires new laborers. Some started working at daybreak, others around lunch, and some didn’t even begin until nearly the end of the workday.
Afterwards, when they all lined up to be paid, each received the exact same amount of payment. Those who started working early complained because of putting in more time, effort, and energy. Yet the owner retorts, “I can do whatever I want with my own money. What’s it to you?”
He then says something which can be overlooked if we aren’t paying close attention, an ending statement which is the opposite of the ending of the Parable of the Talents:
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
Do you see it?! We all get paid the same! This is not a Bible verse on pride, but on payment!
Sadly, so many of us have been taught we’ll receive different levels of rewards in heaven based on our works or lack thereof. But what most believers don’t know is that the word rewards (plural) is not in the New Testament, only reward is. And what’s our reward? It’s Christ in us, right now! It’s a free gift of righteousness, today, permanently, in these finite human bodies! Just look!
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (See 1 Corinthians 6:19)
Our reward is the Holy Spirit of Christ! Paul tells the Romans:
“And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (See Romans 8:9)
We have Him! We belong to Him! Even better, our reward, Christ in us, is inherited and not earned! Inheritances come by way of a death, and Christ died! Inheritances don’t have the possibility of being earned! They are bequeathed! You can’t tell your rich uncle that you’ll work really hard for your portion of what he’ll leave you–he has to die! Same with us and our righteousness from God! This is why the Jews who were waiting on Messiah were ecstatic! Those who were taught to do, do, do, could now rest, rest…rest…because of their inheritance from faith in the Cross of Christ.
Our full reward is the inheritance of Jesus’ Spirit into our own. Paul informs the people in Colossae, as well as those in Corinth:
“knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:24)
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
This is so exciting to me! No wonder the gospel means good news! Friend, do you see that it is Christ whom you’ve inherited? Now? I am not talking about what you do, but who lives in you. As God’s kids, we are not waiting to receive Jesus at the gates of heaven along with a bounty of gold coins and diamonds. No. Our reward–our gift–was given when we first believed: the Spirit of God, with a big, beautiful bow on top.
In heaven, the main thing that will happen is the complete removal of sin from our presence–a sinless realm–that’s what heaven is! I’m not referring to the verbs of sinning–which is incorrect actions and attitudes for a saint. I’m talking about the force which entered this universe when Adam and Eve no longer believed God about their perfection by way of a simple relationship with Him (see Genesis 4:7, Romans 5:12). Sin is a force, a power like gravity. It’s everywhere and affects everything, yet we cannot see it. It is what causes all death, decay, and destruction. It is the batter in which demonic forces use to cook up the most pain.
IN HEAVEN, THE POWER OF SIN WILL NOT BE THERE! Why do you think it’s such a wonderful place?! Why do you think all tears will be wiped away?! It’s because sin cannot be in God’s presence so we will be taken out of it when we eject from these earth-suits! (See Revelation 21:4, 2 Corinthians 5:8).
As new creations in Christ, we are not waiting on heaven! We have heaven on the inside of us as we live and breathe today! IT IS JESUS! It is Jesus combined with our new, perfect spirits which we received the moment we first believed He forgave us! (See 1 Corinthians 6:17, Romans 6:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20).
My goodness! I get so pumped up when I write about this subject! I even have to tell myself, “Now don’t get too carried away,” but the fact that Jesus lives in me in full as I type?…That’s incredible.
Yet some will still claim that it’s just Jesus and none of me. That’s not true. It’s both of us together. It’s a relationship. I am not a hollow tube, I’m a person. The Father isn’t only looking at Jesus while saying, “Ewwww…” as He peaks over at me once in a while. I am righteous, I am holy, and I am blameless too! This is the gift for all who will believe! This is the reward we inherit by faith! What happened at the Cross, and our belief in it, sealed the deal of us becoming the beneficiaries to these heavenly traits! (See Colossians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:21-22, 11:6, Hebrews 9:15).
So today, my friends, know this: We’ve all been paid the same, as New Covenant believers! The reward is Christ in us right now! We aren’t looking forward to being paid at heaven’s door. Instead, we’ve been paid by grace through faith in Jesus’ ability to perfect us once for all time–by one Sacrifice–Himself! (See Hebrews 10:10,14). Your reward is Jesus living in you, through you, now and forevermore! Nothing else could ever compare!
A prayer for you: Dad, thank you so much for the inheritance you’ve given me through the event which took place at the Cross. I feel so honored to even get to be here on this planet with your Spirit inside me. I have no words to describe how I feel about this, but you already know. Thank you. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them have been distracted by thinking they need to get to work to earn more stuff for when they die. Father, please renew their minds to the easiness of what Jesus has accomplished for them. Some have even been taught that there are two different judgments, and there’s not. You are wise enough, and fair enough, to only need one. And yes, we must all appear before you to give an account for the good and bad done while in this body. But for Christians, we don’t have anything bad, we only have good. Bad is sin, and Jesus has looked down the timeline of our life and taken those all away. You are satisfied with His death on the Cross for all of our sins committed. He was the one true propitiation. Therefore, the only thing that will be left on our Judgment Day–that hasn’t burned up like wood, hay, and stubble–are the organic, good things we’ve done! Jesus said if we even do so much as give a cup of water in His name, we’ll be rewarded! So we look forward to being judged! But even deeper, we already know that growing in your grace for all of eternity, through your Son, is the greatest reward we’ve ever received! In His name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!