Embarrassed in Heaven? You Bet!

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

Psalm 32:1-2 says our sins are covered…this is from Christ I would believe and that God does not count are sin against us, in 2 Cor 5:10 and Revelations 22:12 and several other places it talks of judgment for our works in the body…are there 2 Judgments? Are we judged for our faith and our works? Or is their only one judgment for salvation with Christ?

Sincerely, Dustin


Dear Dustin,


“I don’t care about the rewards. I just want to get there!” What a stupid thing for Christians to say.


“As long as I get into Heaven, that’s all that matters!” Are you kidding me? Tears aren’t wiped away from Heaven until the new Heaven is constructed (Revelation 20). Until then there will be grieving and tears in Heaven (Revelation 6:5-11) flowing from the eyes of Christians who failed to work for crowns and rewards. After all, how else could they feel when those all around have treasures to lay before Jesus and they stand empty handed?


Specifically, in answer to your question, there are two judgments for Christians. First, is the judgment of sin that occurred the cross. We were guilty of sin and our sin deserved eternal death; but, Jesus died as our substitute. We were forgiven and made righteous through God’s mercy and grace mixed with our faith.


The second judgment occurs in Heaven when Jesus evaluates the profitability of our lives as Christians. This is not a judgment of sin which determines whether or not we are saved and can go to Heaven. It is a reward stand where prizes are given out to some and not to others.



“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).



In Greek “good” and “bad” might better be translated as “profitable” or “unprofitable.”



“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).


In this passage Jesus looks forward to the time when He gives out rewards to Christians based on their work here on earth.


1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is an expanded version of the previous two passages. Paul uses an analogy of house building to demonstrate that each Christian builds his/her house on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Once the foundation is in place, the actual house building begins. The same building materials are available to all. Some choose to build with gold, silver, and costly stones. Others will use materials like wood, hay or straw.


The term, “Judgment Seat of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:10 above is the Greek word, “bema,” which referred to the award stand at the Greek Olympiad where laurel wreathes were bestowed on the winners. In like manner the Heavenly Bema is not a place for judging good or bad behavior, it is a place where Jesus will pass out rewards.


According to Paul’s analogy, every life, or house, is tested by fire.



“If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15.



Notice that those who build strong, attractive houses from profitable materials saw their houses unscathed by the fires of evaluation. They won prizes. On the other hand, those who chose worthless, unprofitable, non-eternal building materials watched their houses go up in smoke. They earned no prizes. Fortunately, there is a sense in which everyone who stands at Heaven’s bema is a winner. Thankfully, the foundation poured by Jesus can’t be burned up.


We can earn any one or all five of the rewards. Just as the Greeks won laurel wreathes, Christians win crowns. There are five of them. I want all of them—except one.


1. The Crown of Glory or the Soul Winner’s Crown (Philippians 4:1 and 2 Thessalonians 2:17-20)


Singing hymns is now passé in today’s worship experience. There is little doubt that hymn music is dated, slow and boring. Unfortunately, the hymn lyrics that taught great theology are summarily tossed aside.

One old hymn plays often in my brain. The lyrics go like this:



Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown

When at evening the sun goeth down

When I wake with the blessed in the mansions of rest

Will there be any stars in my crown?



According to the lyrics, we die when the sun goes down. We awake in Heaven. The question is, “Will I bring any one along with me?” Proverbs says, “Those who win souls are wise.” We earn the soul winner’s crown when we lead our first soul to Christ. We begin adding stars with each person we lead to Christ. Personally, I want a lot of stars. On one trip to Korea I took a satchel full of booklets written in the Korean language on how to become a Christian. Why? I want stars in my crown.


You say, “That sounds rather selfish and egotistical to me.”

“Well,” I say, “No, not at all.”


2. The Everlasting Crown or the Crown of Self Discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 2 Timothy 2:5-7)



Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).



We could just as easily call this crown the “Crown of Spiritual Disciplines.” Spiritual Disciplines are the activities utilized by Christians that have stood the test of time in developing a life of profitable spiritual service. There are nineteen or twenty. Disciplines like fasting, Bible study, prayer, simplicity, worship, meditation, study and confession have a way of decreasing our self dependence and increasing our God dependence. These take time and effort—in other words—discipline. We need discipline because things like TV easily out pace Bible Study.


3. The Crown of Righteousness or the Crown of Loving the Lord’s Coming (2 Timothy 4:6-8)


Earning the Crown of Righteousness comes from loving the things of Heaven more than the things of earth. I’ve heard it said that first-century Christians expected Jesus to come walking in on them at any minute. They could hardly wait! Unfortunately, some don’t have that attitude. When the trumpet blows can’t you just imagine them crying out to Jesus, “Just a minute, I am not quite ready!”


My wife Julie will certainly receive the Crown of Righteousness at the Bema. Not a day goes by without her reminding me that Jesus is coming soon. Then, we often spend the next several moments arguing about her pre-trib position versus my mid-trib truth. Finally I surrender and say she is right. After all, when momma’s happy every one is happy.


4. The Crown of Life or the Martyrs’ Crown (James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10)


Jesus was a martyr and there’s no doubt that martyrs and almost martyrs are near and dear to His heart. The Martyrs’ Crown has two aspects. The crown is rewarded to those who actually die for Jesus as well as to those who stand up to the trial and torture of suffering for Jesus who somehow survive.



“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).


“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).



I remember one particular day in Turkey when Julie and I debriefed a Brother and his wife who’d undergone intense persecution in Tajikistan. He was tortured by the secret police in an attempt to extract the names of other Christians in the country. Time and again he refused, even after they began burning the soles of his bare feet with cigarette lighters. Finally, his persecutors pulled back a curtain to reveal his wife tied up with ropes in the next room. “Give us some names,” they demanded, “or we’ll rape her.” He refused. They raped as he watched. If anyone deserves the Crown of Life, they do.


5. The Crown of Glory or the Shepherd’s Crown (1 Peter 5:1-4)


“… Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care … And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”


Can any one crown be more important than the others? Probably not! However, if I had to choose one this would be it. Why? Well think about it. In Luke 5:10) Jesus invited Peter to follow Him and He would mold Peter into a fisherman for the souls of men and women.


I believe that it is of the utmost significance that after Peter’s denial Jesus recommissioned him as a Shepherd who watched over the sheep.


Jesus’ favorite New Testament symbol of Himself was that of a shepherd. He often pictured Himself doing what shepherds do: separating sheep from goats; lying down as the door to the sheep-fold; laying down His life for the sake of the sheep. In fact, the most often seen symbol scratched into the walls of the catacombs in Rome was a shepherd’s staff—not a fish.


The history of the Christian church began with Jesus declaring to Peter, “I am a shepherd, you be a shepherd, too.”


Everyone can earn the shepherd’s crown. We can all look after a flock. Maybe it is our children, or Bible study group, or some friends, or church family. The Lord’s sheep need care—and we are just the ones to do it.


I mentioned earlier that I am working hard to earn my rewards. This is not a sign of arrogance or egotism. It is a sign my understanding what we will one day do with our crowns.


These crown-rewards are not “treasures” we lay up in Heaven for our future use (Matthew 6:19-21). Nor are they determiners of just how much responsibility we will or won’t have in Heaven (Matthew 25:14-30). They are objects that we will receive and then lay at the feet of Jesus as depicted in Revelation 5:9-14:


And they sang a new song:


“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”


Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:


“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”


Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:


“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power—for ever and ever!”


The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


So, Dustin, let’s get going and win those prizes! We have a lot to give back to Jesus.


Love, Roger


P.S. Tell your mom and dad “hello” for me.


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