When Will Believers Receive Their Rewards?

[This article was taken from our book The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul.]

 

The Bible promises that those who obey God will be rewarded in the future. However, there is no verse of Scripture that specifically says specifically how or when the rewards will be given. It is very likely that an individual’s reward will not be handed out all at once, as if it were a lump-sum cash gift, but rather that it will be given out over time. Since rewards can be positions and assignments in the Kingdom, it is logical that many of the rewards will be “lived out” year after year.

The judgments in the Bible are: the Judgment of Christians associated with the Rapture, the Sheep and Goat Judgment, the Judgment associated with the First Resurrection, and the Judgment associated with the Second Resurrection, the Resurrection of the Unjust. Chronologically, the first judgment is the judgment of Christians. This occurs after the Rapture, but how soon after the Rapture is not specified. It seems likely that Christians will stand before the Judgment Seat while in heaven before coming back to earth with Christ. That Christians return with Christ as an army implies that a judgment has taken place and various levels of authority and responsibility have been given out. It seems unlikely that Christians would be raptured, and then wait up in heaven through the Tribulation before being judged.

The next two judgments, the Sheep and Goat Judgment and the Judgment associated with the First Resurrection, are very close together or perhaps simultaneous. The “Sheep and Goat Judgment” (Matt. 25:31–46) occurs after Christ fights the Battle of Armageddon and conquers the earth. He will gather everyone left alive on earth and judge them. Those people who are judged righteous will enter the Kingdom, while those judged unrighteous will be cast into the lake of fire.

The judgment that is closely associated in time with the Sheep and Goat Judgment occurs just after the First Resurrection, the Resurrection of the Righteous (Luke 14:14). The First Resurrection is when the righteous believers who died before the Day of Pentecost or who lived and died during the Tribulation will be raised from the dead and judged. There are no verses that specifically state if the resurrected believers are judged before or after the Tribulation survivors, or if both groups are judged at the same time. The Bible does, however, indicate how long Christ will be judging people at the start of his Kingdom.

The length of time Christ will be judging at the opening of his Kingdom can be calculated by studying Daniel and Revelation. The Tribulation period lasts seven years. The last half of the Tribulation, three and half years, is known prophetically as “time, times, and half a time” (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:14), 42 months (Rev. 11:2; 13:5), or 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6). The Battle of Armageddon ends the seven years of the Tribulation period. The book of Daniel, after mentioning the three and a half years that are the last half of the Tribulation, adds the following:

Daniel 12:11 and 12
(11) From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.
(12) Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

The 1,290 days mentioned in Daniel is 30 days longer than the time of 1260 days specified as the time that the Antichrist will have dominion. That extra 30 days after Armageddon is time for the nations to be gathered together for the Sheep and Goat Judgment. Then Daniel mentions a period of 1,335 days, and says that the people who reach the end of that period are “blessed.” The difference between the 1,290 days and the 1,335 days is 45 days. It is apparently during that 45 day period that Christ will judge the people before they enter the Millennial Kingdom. Anyone judged righteous at the Sheep and Goat Judgment will be allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom, and of course all the believers in the Resurrection of the Righteous will enter the Kingdom. No wonder then, that Daniel 12:12 says, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” Anyone who reaches the end of the 1,335 days will be “blessed” indeed, for that person will have been judged righteous and allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom.

The last judgment in the Bible is the White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11–15. As was discussed earlier in this book, the resurrection associated with this Judgment is called the “Second” Resurrection because the “First” Resurrection will have already occurred at the start of the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:4). It is also known as the “Resurrection of the Unjust” because the vast majority of people who get up will be unjust. All the unsaved people of all time will be raised at this resurrection and stand before the Great White Throne. This judgment will also include any “natural” people alive at the close of the Millennial Kingdom. At this final judgment, anyone judged unworthy of everlasting life will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:15). Thankfully, there will be some people who are judged worthy of life and allowed into the Everlasting Kingdom.

Every person who has ever lived will be in one of these four judgments just mentioned: the Rapture, the Sheep and Goat Judgment, the Judgment associated with the First Resurrection, or the White Throne Judgment. [1] They will take place at set times, therefore the Bible speaks of a “day of Judgment” (Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36; 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17; Jude 6). People are not judged immediately after they die, as some people teach. Instead they wait “in sleep” until they are raised and judged. Acts 17:31 speaks of “the day when He [God] will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”

Endnotes

[1] The possible exception is the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3–12.

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