Q: I’ve read in some publications by The Family that in the afterlife people will be rewarded for good works they did in this life. However, the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 and elsewhere that we are saved by faith, not by works. So shouldn’t we also be rewarded for faith, rather than works? If we are faithful to God and His Word, works will follow, but it seems works should not be the deciding factor concerning rewards in Heaven. Can you clarify this for me?
A: You are absolutely right about salvation being a gift of God as a result of faith. Forgiveness of sin and entrance to Heaven in the afterlife are automatic the moment we confess our sin and receive Jesus as our personal Savior. There are many Scriptures that make this clear.
However, the Bible also makes it clear that the saved will also receive rewards in Heaven over and above forgiveness and eternal life, and that the level of reward will be based on their works:
“The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).
“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8).
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
God shows no partiality regarding salvation (Acts 10:34). He is completely unbiased regarding people’s earthly deeds when it comes to salvation, but when it comes to their works—their contribution to His kingdom by sharing His love with others—He is definitely partial. In addition to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the following Scriptures also indicate that there is a reward system in Heaven:
“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:11-14).
“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6).
“God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).
God definitely works on a merit and reward basis when it comes to works. He blesses those who put their faith into action by fulfilling His two great commandments—“Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).
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