Chapter 6 – The Age to Come

Have you ever thought about what it will be like to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ? Have you thought about what you will be doing in the decades and centuries after the Second Coming?


After reading the last chapter, my wife Jenny suggested I spend some time explaining the relationship between marriage and the age to come. As a reminder, here are some of the statements I made:


·         God’s purpose for headship and submission is, in part, to prepare us for our roles in the age to come.


·         The characters we form now will be with us forever.


·         The idea of husbands helping wives go on to have a greater impact may be reflected in the positions we are assigned to fill in the age to come.


·         Women will evidently be among those given authority in the age to come. 


Each of these statements has to do with eternal rewards. I’ve attended church for many years, spanning dozens of denominations, but have not heard many messages about this topic.


Many Christians have been taught that God erasing or forgetting our sins (ex. Psalms 103:12, Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34) means we will not be subject to judgment. Many have also been taught that everyone will be the same in heaven or the age to come. Neither of these is true. The fact is, even if we are saved, our eternities are still deeply affected by our choices in this life. In this chapter I will show five truths from scripture:  


1)      The Judgment Seat of Christ

Every believer will stand before Judgment Seat of Christ and recompensed for his or her choices in this life.


2)      Authority over the Earth

In the age to come, resurrected saints will rule over the earth.


3)      Varying Rewards and Degrees of Authority

Resurrected saints will be assigned varying degrees of authority and responsibility, according to their faithfulness in this life. This is part of what the Bible calls eternal rewards.


4)      The Great Turnaround

This assignment of rewards, authority, and responsibility will be the greatest turnaround of all time. Many who are considered the greatest in this age will either be lost or the least and many who are the least in this age will be the greatest.


5)      Treasure in Heaven

Every believer can also store up treasure in heaven. This is another part of what the Bible calls eternal rewards. 


Supporting Passages

Now let’s briefly step though some scriptures that teach these points.


The Judgment Seat of Christ

Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Revelation 22:12, and Matthew 12:36, collectively, teach that God will recompense believers for every good deed and every evil deed we ever committed throughout our entire lives, including the motives of our hearts and every word that came out of our mouths.


Authority over the Earth

Revelation 2:26, 20:4 and Daniel 7:27 explicitly state that the saints will rule over the earth in the next age. Jesus likewise said in Matthew 5:5 the saints will “inherit the earth”. (Most if the not all of the beatitudes have their ultimate fulfillment at the Judgment Seat of Christ and in the ages to come.) Also, Revelation 11:17-18 connects the timing of the saints receiving their rewards with Jesus beginning to reign over the earth.


Varying Rewards and Degrees of Authority

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 discusses two possible outcomes (really two ends of a continuum) for believers – being rewarded for one’s spiritual labors, or suffering loss and receiving no reward in spite of being saved. Also, Luke 19:15-26 depicts Jesus assigning believers varying degrees of authority at His second coming, according their faithfulness in this life. Finally, when James and John asked for high positions in Matthew 20:21-27, Jesus acknowledged such positions existed (although they were not His to give) and then explained what criteria will be used to populate them (self-sacrifice, servanthood).


The Great Turnaround

In Luke 14:7-11, a parable about the wedding supper of the lamb, which takes place at the second coming, Jesus described a remarkable scene in which guests were seated according to varying degrees of honor. He then concluded by saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.


Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19:28-30 that “many who are first will be last, the last, first”. The clear context of this statement is positions of authority in the millennial kingdom.


In Luke 1:52, Mary looked ahead to Christ’s earthly rule saying, “He had brought rulers down from their thrones, and he has exalted those who were humble.” Psalms 113:7-8 likewise says of that time, He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people.”


Paul delineated a kingdom principle in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 that God has mostly chosen those who are considered foolish, weak, and lowly in this age to be exalted in the future. Similarly, James explained in verses 1:9 and 2:5 of his letter that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and of “high position”.


Rewards in Heaven

In Matthew 6:20, 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 12:33, 18:22, Jesus taught that we can store up “treasure in heaven”, as opposed to rewards on earth in the next age. Also, in Matthew 5:11-12, He said the heavenly reward of those who experience persecution for following Him will be particularly great.


Questions and Objections

Next, let’s address some common questions and objections about these passages.


What if I’m Not Interested in Earthly Authority?

Perhaps you’re thinking, I’m not really interesting in politics or ruling. This reward system doesn’t appeal to me.” However, in scripture, authority does not only refer to civil authority. For example, the gospels say Jesus taught with authority (Matthew 7:29). Paul said he was given authority for building up the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 10:8). At its heart, authority actually refers the capacity to bless and serve others. Therefore, those who are given great authority in the next age with be the ones who will bless and serve others on the greatest scale.


Won’t We Will All Be the Same?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’ve been taught we will be all the same in the future.” However, this idea is not biblical, as we have seen. This idea usually comes from two passages – Galatians 3:28 and the Laborers in the Vineyard parable in Matthew 20.


Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, in context Paul is clearly talking about impartial accessibility to salvation under the new covenant. He’s not talking about a loss of our individual identities or about everyone receiving the same eternal rewards. 


The Laborers in the Vineyard parable in Matthew 20 tells of a landowner who hired five groups of workers who each worked less than the previous group. The first group worked all day long and the last group worked just one hour. When it came time to be paid, they were all paid the same amount and the first group was indignant.


The point of this parable is not to contradict all the other passages we saw earlier and teach that everyone will be rewarded the same. Rather, the point is that many people will be rewarded similarly in spite of huge contrasts between how much they work they accomplished because the character we develop is more important than the things we accomplish.


Let me say that again. Our characters will weigh more heavily when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ than what we works we did, even though those matter too.


In fact, Jesus even concluded this parable by returning to the theme of varying degrees of honor, saying, “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” This parable is actually a warning to Christians who over-emphasize works. In effect, Jesus said, “Be careful that you don’t criticize other believers because they don’t seem to be doing as much work as you. They may actually be godlier in their characters. That kind of critical, self-righteous attitude can knock you down to the last place.”


What Will Heavenly Rewards Consist Of?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “What are the rewards in heaven that Jesus talked about? If the resurrected saints are ruling on the earth, how is heaven also a part of their experience?”  


Philippians 3:21 says at the resurrection God will transform our bodies to be like Jesus’ body after he rose. Also, Luke 20:36 says after the resurrection we will be like the angels. Both Jesus and angels have the ability go back and forth between the physical and spiritual realms, as evidenced by a number of scriptures. This is how we will be able to have authority on earth and still enjoy heaven.


So what does it mean to have treasure in heaven? That’s a good question.


The writer of Hebrews said things on earth are like a copy or a shadow of things on heaven (Hebrews 8:5, 9:24). Even though heaven will be more wonderful and beautiful than we can imagine, it may also be familiar. Some of the things we see in scripture in heaven include trees, rivers, streets, homes, food, clothes, loved ones, and familiar materials such as silver and gold. Perhaps there will be other familiar things such as mountains, oceans, gardens, clouds, buildings, animals, etc… In light of this, it is reasonable to consider that treasure in heaven could refer to literal possessions we are given stewardship over.


If so, this is the best retirement plan imaginable. Which is better – storing up earthly wealth for a short retirement in this lifetime, or storing up literal wealth in heaven that will last forever? When Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”, perhaps He wasn’t being overly spiritual – perhaps He was just being practical.


Don’t Eternal Rewards Imply License to Boast?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “If there are eternal rewards, doesn’t that lead to pride and boasting, which scripture forbids?” There are two answers to this question. The first is no – at least not in this life. Scripture repeatedly says we must wait until stand before the Lord in judgment because we cannot accurately judge ourselves or others until then (Romans 14:10-13, 1 Corinthians 4:45). Even the apostle Paul said in the latter passage that although he was conscious of nothing against him that did not absolve him – he had to wait until he stood before Lord.


The second answer is that not all pride and boasting is sinful. There is also a righteous kind. Consider these examples:


·         Galatians 6:4 says, But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”


·         Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:12 he had “proud confidence” that he had conducted himself in holiness and sincerity.


·         Paul told the Corinthians and Philippians that it was appropriate for them to be “proud” of him, since he was a spiritual father to them (2 Corinthians 1:14, 5:12, Philippians 1:26).


·         Paul told the Thessalonians that he spoke “proudly” about their faith and perseverance to the other churches (2 Thessalonians 1:4).


·         Jesus said to one man in Matthew 25:21, “Well done good and faithful servant”, which is almost like saying, “I’m proud of you!” The same applies to 1 Corinthians 4:5, which says “…each man’s praise will come from God”.


It is possible to feel godly pride in one’s family or nation or ethnicity when we honor the good in them that reflects God’s nature, not because we are comparing them with anyone else’s or calling them superior. We can feel proud of ourselves for overcoming a temptation or breaking a bad habit or working hard to achieve a goal. A father can be proud of his son because he showed integrity. What son doesn’t want to hear his father say, “Son, I’m proud of you”? God is a good father and sometimes this is exactly what He says to us.


Perhaps sinful boasting and righteous boasting could be contrasted like this:


·         Sinful boasting compares our work with someone else’s.

·         Righteous boasting examines our works in light of the grace God provided for them.


·         Sinful boasting focuses on what we have accomplished apart from God’s help or empowerment.

·         Righteous boasting acknowledges our utter dependence on God’s help and empowerment to accomplish anything of eternal value.


·         Sinful boasting gets our sense of self-worth and acceptability from our works.

·         Righteous boasting knows our acceptability comes from God’s love and mercy, which cannot be added to or taken away from by our works.


What about the Lost?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “What about the lost? Will they also be judged?” A number of passages such as Ecclesiastes 12:14, Daniel 12:1-2, Matthew 5:28, 13:41-42, 49-50, 25:31-46, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10, and Revelation 20:12-15, collectively, teach that the lost will also stand before God in judgment and be recompensed for every moral choice they ever made. However, their recompense will be in the context of eternal separation from God, rather than in the context of serving Him on earth and in heaven.


At the judgment, we will see our thoughts, words, actions, and motives from God’s holy perspective. Then we will understand how utterly incapable we are of being reconciled to Him on our own merits. The weight of our sins will be unimaginable. Some scholars have considered that it is actually more tolerable for the lost to be separated from God in hell than to remain in His manifest presence with the full weight of their sins still upon them. However, in the case of the believer, that sin is taken off of us and put onto Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the remedy God provided.  



While every choice will be reviewed in judgment, I personally believe the experience will be markedly different for repented sin versus unrepented sin in our lives. The more we allow ourselves to be molded by Christ, the more our past sins will lose their sting in judgment. Instead, they will be turned into a testimony of God’s power to deliver and transform.


This is where marriage and parenthood are especially useful. First we learn to love and respect a spouse that is profoundly different than us. Then we learn to work together to serve the needs of dependent, beloved children. It changes us. It teaches and challenges us.


We become stewards not only of wealth or time or talents, but of human beings. We learn to lead with kindness, rule with tenderness, and build with selflessness. We learn to esteem relationships above accomplishments. We learn the culture of the kingdom. We complete God’s training program before He sends us out on assignment in the wake of the resurrection. 




We have discussed women and authority. What is the foundation of a man’s authority? We’ll address this question in the next chapter.