In yesterday’s post we looked at two words that do not refer to eternal life, the word “salvation” and the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven.” This post we will look at two more.
Inheritance and inheriting
The Bible often talks about the Christian inheritance or what we can inherit as followers of Jesus.
As this inheritance is almost always associated with obedience or a life of faithful living, people who think that our inheritance is the same thing as eternal life from God will get very confused about how to receive eternal life.
But once we realize that our inheritance is something above and beyond the reception of eternal life, most of these passages become quite clear.
Eternal life is a free gift of God to all who simply and only believe in Jesus for it. When we believe, we are adopted into God’s family and become His children.
But God’s inheritance of honor, privilege, and recognition at the Judgment Seat of Christ is reserved for those children who live as Jesus lived and follow God’s will and ways for our lives.
Just as rebellious and unfaithful children are sometimes written out of their parent’s inheritance in this world, so also, while God will never abandon or forsake His children, we can lose some of our inheritance if we fail to follow Him.
The concept of rewards is almost identical to that of inheritance.
Most people do not realize it, but the biblical teaching on rewards is one of the most prevalent teachings in the New Testament. The concept is everywhere. And much like inheritance, the biblical teaching on rewards often includes calls for faithfulness, obedience, self-sacrifice, and loving service.
So if people think that when the Bible talks about reward, it is actually referring to eternal life, it is no wonder that people get confused about how to receive the free gift of eternal life. But again, just as with inheritance, as soon as we realize that there is a difference between a gift and a reward, all of those confusing texts make much more sense.
Again, this way of reading Scripture is simply common sense. Nobody ever receives rewards for their birthday or for Christmas; we receive gifts. On the other hand, if you heroically rescue your neighbor from a fire, or perform excellently at work above and beyond what was expected, you do not receive a gift for your actions, but a reward. It is similar when it comes to Scripture and how God deals with us.
Eternal life is a free gift of God’s grace. It is given simply because God loves us.
Reward, on the other hand, is an added bonus or additional incentive God offers as a way to encourage faithful living and self-sacrificial love for others. Keeping this in mind helps clarify scores of New Testament passages.
If you want to learn more about eternal rewards and inheritance, I highly recommend the following books: