Thursday, October 26, 2006

No tiers in heaven?

Our church small groups have lately been studying from a workbook called Blueprint for Life by Michael Kendrick and Ben Ortlip. It takes you through the process of understanding that God created you to do "good works" and that the things you do should be with an eye toward heaven rather than earth. To help in this, they take you through the process of creating a blueprint that describes oneself, how you were made, how you are called to live, the things you are called to do.

They bring up a question in chapter two for discussion, citing
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Matthew 16:27, and asking "will all Christians receive the same rewards in Heaven?" The language they use, both in the reading of the chapter and in the questions would seem to indicate that they think the answer is "yes".

What do you have to say? Are there levels in heaven? I have a pretty confident answer from my own thoughts on the matter, but I want to get a flavor of what other people out there are thinking. If you look at the verses referenced above, following the link provided, you can read each in multiple translations including the original Greek (for you nerds out there like me).

Christian Living, Heaven, Blueprint, Bible, Rewards


euphrony said...

thump thump thump
Um . . . hello? Is this thing on?

Did this question stump you people? Confussion? Apathy?

Is anybody out there?

Testing, testing. 1-2-3. Check, check.

Anne said...

Well, I'm too busy trying to get through this life to think about anything in heaven other than peace. I'm a simpleton.

Chaotic Hammer said...

For me, the use of the word "levels" in your question seems a little off. First you are talking about rewards, then about levels. Those are not necessarily the same concept, right? I'm not certain that anywhere in Scripture there is a real cut-and-dry description of what these "rewards" are exactly, but I don't see how anyone can dispute the very straightforward teaching that there will indeed be different rewards for different works.

It's important to be clear about this, though -- there is no works-based salvation. We're talking about believers, and what they have done with what they are given.

I don't think there's any doubt that some will have greater rewards than others, but if we don't know exactly what these rewards are, then I'm not sure how that translates into other concepts, like "levels" in Heaven. I don't mean to nitpick here, but you did ask about levels, and that is potentially a whole different thing, like floors in a skyscraper, where those who are greatest are allowed access to the nicer top floors, and those who are saved but have no works live in the basement or on the first floor, and are not allowed any higher.

One other thing -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with teaching about rewards in Heaven (Jesus did it), and letting people know that the Bible teaches that good works of a believer now will somehow translate to rewards later, but I often wonder if focusing on doing good works, just to amass rewards (like some sort of heavenly bank account or point system or something) doesn't become a little counterproductive eventually. It seems to me that the Grace that makes us able to stand before God at all, and the resulting ability to do God's will in this life, are rewards in and of themselves. Anything in the hereafter is just icing on the cake.

euphrony said...

Okay, I didn't just abandon this question. I've been a little too busy and a little too run down to adequately compose my thoughts to respond.

I used "levels" as the base of the question because that is the path the study led me down. I do not know if that is exactly what the authors of the study intended, or if they just wanted to get people reading the study thinking about the hereafter, but my reading in the context of the lesson implied some sort of an "I'll get more than you in heaven". Kind of like a prosperity gospel for the afterlife. Thus I used "levels".

I agree, Hammer, that it is not the best word. I do not even think that we can begin to apply our logic and understanding to exactly how it will be in that day. We are too small to get a grasp on the fullness of it all. In some respects, I am like Anne: what does it matter if I drive a Lexus or a Volvo down the streets of gold, when the point is I'm on the streets of gold?

In discussing this chapter within our small group, we all agreed that just cannot try to do just enough to get by and get into heaven when you die. That demonstrates a selfish, un-sacrificial attitude contrary to calls like that in Romans 12:1 This is where I think the two verses cited above (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Matthew 16:27) are possibly being misapplied by the authors. The 1 Corinthians verse talks about someone building on the foundation of Christ, some building well (i.e. in tune with God, very close to Him and knowledgeable of His will) and some building poorly (i.e. struggling with self and not always hearing God well, but still working wholeheartedly to build His kingdom). The works of the good builder will stand the test and while the works of the poor builder will crumble; both will receive eternal life for hearts devoted to and seeking God, but one will look back on a life of frustration because he struggled to build well. This has nothing to do, as I read it, with rewards in heaven.

I won't say that there are not differences in the eternal kingdom. Read Revelation 4:4, and see the 24 elders wearing crowns and sitting on thrones around The Throne. Somehow, I do not think I will be one of those 24, but it becomes obvious that there are differences. These 24 we would call honored, rewarded, and/or elevated because they sit on thrones and were crowns based on our understanding and experience; are they elevated or rewarded more than others, or are they simply in a different position, a different duty, whatever you want to call it, in the Kingdom? Paul talks about the body, all under the Head and all equally important though some receive more attention than others. James talks about God showing no favoritism.

The only thing I know for sure is that position or rank or added rewards are not something I should be seeking. Jesus handily shot down two brothers and there mom when they asked for such honors. I should be serving God simply out of love for Him, because He is God, and not for anything I get out of it.

Seth Ward said...

There has to be. First of all, all those verses you quoted.

I don't go around barking this to people but I believe something akin to way Augstine described it. Sanctifying Grace is not just a ticke to heaven, it gives us the very ability to live in Heaven. Without it in our soul we could not live there. It is the inner life of Chirst in us. While there will be no envy in Heaven, and God will be our all in all, filling our every needs to their fullest and higest capacity, I believe that this is where good works just might kick in here, or earth.

Here on earth, we recieve somekind of grace or Love from acts of Charity. We are filled with this grace in this lifetime and I believe that however much we are filled here, then that is how much we will reflect and and be filled their. This has nothing to do with sanctification or forgiveness. This has everything to do with storing up treasures in Heaven. About being judged by what we do and not by what we just say.

It is a beautiful gift when I think about it that way. The more I love now, the more I allow God to fill me.

Seth Ward said...

I know you know this but just in case, when I say "Charity" I mean the all-encompassing meaning of Love, not just the Wolrd trade-center relief effort donation fund. (however good it may be)

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