Q: #191. Will there be degrees of rewards in Heaven? If so, how can I be happy if someone is being rewarded more than me?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Yes, some people will get more rewards in Heaven. By asking the second question, I would have to assume that you believe everyone will get rewarded the same because otherwise some people wouldn't be happy in Heaven. I will address that in a bit, but first let's discuss why we won't all be rewarded the same and look at some Bible verses to show that there are differing degrees of rewards.
As far as I am aware, the Bible never shows us that all people will be exactly the same in Heaven. As I have discussed in answering other questions, Heaven will certainly be a place of joy, peace, happiness, love, etc... However, this does not mean that everyone necessarily has to have equal amounts of these positive traits. In fact, most commentators agree that based upon the Bible they believe that some may have a greater capacity for love than others, some may have a greater enjoyment of Heaven than others, some may "shine" more brightly than others (Dan 12:2-3)(1 Cor 15:34-42), some may have higher positions of serving than others, etc...
I love how my favorite theologian Jonathan Edwards states his viewpoint: "But yet there will be different degrees of both holiness and happiness according to the measure of each one’s capacity, and therefore those that are lowest in glory will have the greatest love to those that are highest in happiness, because they will see most of the image of God in them; and having the greatest love to them, they will rejoice to see them the most happy and the highest in glory. And so, on the other hand, those that are highest in glory, as they will be the most lovely, so they will be fullest of love: as they will excel in happiness, they will proportionally excel in divine benevolence and love to others, and will have more love to God and to the saints than those that are lower in holiness and happiness."
Having said this, let's look at some Bible verses showing differing degrees of rewards. First, the Bible tells us in several places that we are supposed to "lay up treasure in Heaven" while we live on the Earth. For example, (Mt 6:19-20) says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and dust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Also see: Mt 19:21, Mk 10:21, Lk 18:22, Lk 12:33, 1 Tim 6:18-19)
What does this mean? Why do we need to lay up treasure in Heaven? And, if we do, doesn't this mean that some will have placed more treasure in Heaven that others? It seems obvious to me that if Jesus said it is important to put treasure in Heaven, and we obey this command, we will receive this treasure one day, and some will have more treasure (or reward) than others.
This is also confirmed in a number of other verses as well. Here are a few.
(Mt 16:27) For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
(Rev 22:12) And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
(1 Cor 3:8) Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
Consider this. What will be the greatest place of honor in Heaven? I believe the Bible makes it clear that it will be to sit to the right and left of Jesus in His Kingdom. James and John requested this honor and Jesus replied to them that He could not grant this to anyone, but rather it was the Father's decision upon whom to bestow this honor (Mk 10:35-40)(Mt 20:20-23). Obviously, those who have this honor will have a greater reward than those who are not sitting right beside Jesus.
In addition, the Bible teaches that five different crowns will be presented to certain people based upon their different works, deeds, and faithfulness. These 5 crowns are: 1. Incorruptible crown (1 Cor 9:25) 2. Crown of rejoicing (1 Th 2:19) 3. Crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) 4. Crown of life (James 1:12)(Rev 2:10) 5. Crown of glory (1 Pet 5:4). Not every person will have done what is required to earn each of these crowns.
Finally, I would also point out that not only are there different rewards for different behavior in Heaven, but the Bible also says that there are varying degrees of punishment in Hell based upon what an unbeliever did while on Earth (Lk 12:47-48)(Jer 16:18)(Mk 12:40)(Mt 11:24)(Jer 17:18). Thus, in contrast to the different rewards a believer will obtain for his works on Earth, an unbeliever will be punished ("rewarded") for his works as well.
For the believer, these various rewards we have discussed will be given out in the future at the Judgment Seat Of Christ.
(2 Cor 5:10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
At this time, (1 Cor 3:12-15) says this will occur: (1 Cor 3:12-15) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (13) every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (14) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
As we can see from these verses, all believers will indeed receive different rewards for their works, but also, sadly, some of the works we thought we would be rewarded for will not be rewarded at all (they will be burned up), because they were not God-honoring. (Also see: Rev 3:11, 2 Jn 1:8)
Now, let me address your 2nd question about how can you be happy if someone is rewarded more than you. First, this question should be asked, "WHY is a person sad if someone gets more rewarded than he does?" The simple answer is that he is jealous or envious when someone gets more than him and also covetous of what they got. The Bible tells us that these are all sin: Jealousy/Envy (James 3:14-16)(Rom 13:13)(Gal 5:21,25-26)(1 Pet 2:1)(Prov 27:4)(Prov 14:30) Covetousness: (Ex 20:17- The 10th commandment)(Eph 5:3,5)(Lk 12:15) (Rom 7:7).
As most of us know, the Bible tells us that Heaven will be free of all sin. In fact, because we are ALL sinners Jesus had to come to Earth and give His life as a sacrifice for our sins because without that sacrifice we wouldn't get to Heaven at all! Since jealousy, envy, and covetousness are all sins, obviously they won't exist in Heaven. As I spoke of a few questions ago, I believe we often view Heaven from an earthly perspective, unable to fully grasp how awesome, glorious, and DIFFERENT our lives in Heaven will be from what they are now. I think most of us cannot even imagine a love so perfect for others that it will be free from jealousy, envy, anger, lust, bitterness, etc... But, we have a picture of what that will be like and that picture is JESUS! We will be just like He was while on Earth and is now in Heaven. When we get there, we will rejoice in others victories and rewards. We will not be envious or sorry for ourselves. Hard to picture? Probably for most. But, keep mind that the Bible tells us that we will never fully understand the things of God until we get to heaven (1 Cor 13:12).
One example that might help a little is to consider the angels in Heaven. I believe that the Bible shows them to be content. However, clearly there are categories of angels and some are above others. For example, Michael is shown to be the chief angel, and Gabriel also appears to be a leader amongst the angels. There are cherubim and seraphim as well. Yet, none of the angels is shown to be jealous or envious of another's position.
What are you doing for the cause of Christ right now? Are you laying up rewards for your ETERNAL life in Heaven? If not, now is the time to start. See Q: #89 for more on how to earn some of these rewards.