I’m struggling with the concept of degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works. Doesn’t this concept promote work-righteousness?
The concept of degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works is a scriptural one but must be explained correctly.
Note: These are rewards of grace, not rewards of merit
The Bible clearly teaches that we are not saved by our good works. “It is by grace you have been saved . . . not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9, emphasis added). In fact, the Bible teaches that our good works on their own are “like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we cannot expect a reward because we earned it.
Instead, all we have, all we are, and all we do are by God’s grace from start to finish. God gives us faith in his forgiveness won for us by Jesus—grace (Ephesians 2:8,9). God gives us the abilities and opportunities to respond to serve him with good works—grace (Ephesians 2:10). In addition to all of that, he gives us the will to want to accomplish those good works—grace (Philippians 2:13). God deserves the glory, and yet grace beyond grace, he rewards us for his work in our lives. Amazing!
These rewards of grace are for this life and the life to come. Numerous passages illustrate this truth but consider these two: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). Again, it is a reward of grace, not merit.
Remember: We will be perfect in heaven
Our motivation to do good works ought never to come from selfish motives that desire greater glory and blessings than others. The blessedness of all the believers in heaven will be perfect. No one will have less joy in heaven than another.
Yet God will give greater honor to some. Consider what the apostle Paul or the prophet Isaiah have done for the Lord and how we have all been blessed by what God had done through them. It would be natural for God to accord them greater honor in heaven; we would all agree, even in our experience, that some have done so much for the kingdom of God. They will enjoy the same bliss, joy, and perfection as all the saints in heaven, and God will grant greater honor to some by his grace.
But won’t we be jealous of those who have greater honor? One of the great blessings of heaven is that jealousy and envy will not diminish our joy. Sadly, those sins plague us regularly while we are here on earth, but they will be gone in the perfect bliss of heaven. In earthly terms, a weak picture of the concept is when parents genuinely rejoice when their child is honored for an achievement. If you have greater honor in heaven, I will praise God for his work in your life.
Realize: The purpose of this teaching
The purpose of this teaching is to encourage us as we carry out our Christian callings in this sin-darkened world and look forward to the perfect joy of heaven. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Have a question, ask it here!
Author: David Scharf
Volume 108, Number 10
Issue: October 2021
- Q&A: Do parts of the Bible teach works righteousness?
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?