From the minute a sinner accepts and receives Christ into his or her heart, God’s reward is waiting for that individual whether the person dies immediately after or continues to live on the earth.
The question is, will the person who repents on their ‘deathbed’ receive an equal reward as the person who remains on earth producing good deeds and suffering for Christ?
Before answering the question, let’s remember that some people who are healthy become born again and die shortly after without the opportunity of having good deeds in Christ. God will not penalize them by giving them a lesser reward. Selah! It is our belief in Him that actually gets rewarded as opposed to the works grace accomplishes through us 1 Corinthians 15:10. God rewards our faith.
Christ told Paul, ‘you will see how much you will suffer for the gospel’. What does suffering for the gospel mean? It is labouring hard in the gospel with its attendant consequences.
Why did Paul and every other believer who remains on the earth have to suffer for the gospel? It was for him, and every believer to keep on believing in Christ Jesus and not for a reward. Every work the Holy Spirit accomplishes through us is aimed at keeping us looking to or abiding in Christ to the end.
This is the reason we’re told in Hebrews, ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness’ without works. And though His faith produced good works and he was rewarded with blessings, we’re told he did not receive the thing (reward) he was believing for. What reward did he look forward to receiving?
It’s important to know what the reward is because, the body of Christ (The church) is also looking forward to the same reward though she is presently receiving blessings for her work and sufferings in the gospel like the past people of God. We know that the reward is not ebullience because, Jesus said, ‘He delights to answer our prayers now so our joy may be full’. Believers’ full felicity is for now not a reward later in heaven John 16. To enjoy it, we’re encouraged to abide in Him and ask for what we want according to His will.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul said, “in a race, all run but only one gets the prize, so run that you may obtain it”. What is the meaning of “run” in Paul’s statement?
“Run” in Paul’s speech means, keep believing aright. All who keep believing or running aright are “one” — that is, (the Church). Only the Church will receive the prize. In other words, the Church (The body of Christ) is like a relay team that includes those that have finished their laps but are waiting for the final team member to reach the finishing line. Then, the team will be declared as overcomers and receive the reward Hebrews 11:40.
So, those who walked perfectly with God while on the earth are not yet made perfect because of us, the church. Why? The reason is, the phrase “not yet made perfect” speaks of the reward and they can’t get it until the Church as the “final member” finishes her lap of the race.
John the apostle, tells us what the reward is in 1 John 3:2, “Dear friends (Team or Church), now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is”. Notice the phrase, “We will be like him” When? At His appearing! This is the reward for which the saints are being kept by grace. Our perseverance in labouring in the gospel and suffering joyfully is to the end that we may keep believing in Christ.
Our believing ties us to His work which in turn refreshes our believing. The greatest reward or gold medal we will receive is Christ! We will be like our Lord, when He appears. Selah!
Before His appearing, even the walk of those pronounced perfect by God is only partial 1 Corinthians 13:10. His appearing will give the Church her reward in full. Of all the grace the Church has received, the appearing of Christ will bring in such grace the Church has never known 1 Peter 1:13. By this grace at His appearing, we will be like Him. Then, indeed, God would have brought many sons out from Christ as the first Son. No reward supersedes this!
After the Church is pronounced winner and all her parts decorated with Gold (Him), we will serve with Him in different capacities, as sovereignly assigned by God. The capacity each part will serve with Him is not earned by us.
Jesus explained it in Matthew 20. The hired labourers worked in His Kingdom’s vineyard. At the end of the day (Time of reward), each received the same prize though they started working at different times. They as “one man”, were rewarded with “one denarius” (representing Him or the Master’s heart). Same principle applied in Matthew 25. Both the servants with five and two talents were rewarded equally, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”. Notice their differential talents of five and two were tagged little. And, both talent and reward was sovereignly given. The person with one talent who stopped believing had no work or fruit and was condemned. His lack of faith in the Master was the real problem as opposed to his fruitlessness John 15:4.
James and John wanted to sit, one on the right and the other on the left side of Jesus in Mark 10. Jesus promised them, ‘you will surely drink my cup and get the baptism of death as me but for sitting on my right and left, God will assign it to those for whom it’s prepared. Notice, Jesus did not say it’s for those who worked for it. Whilst the working or producing fruit cannot be separated from genuine faith, the fruit is as a result of faith.
While we’re busy in the gospel worshipping and serving others by faith, we’re consciously and unconsciously keeping our faith aflame. All who keep it aflame to the end will be saved and rewarded. His pleasure and reward is not for those who refused to repent (believe in Him) or for those who draw back and stop believing.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. We know that what we have done means nothing without the faith that propelled us to do so. So, the reward is actually for the faith as against the deed itself. Paul clarifies it in Romans 14:23, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”. This is why we don’t talk of heroes of deeds in Hebrews but of faith. Hebrews 11, was careful to highlight the means over the heroic deeds. There is no good deed found with Christians that cannot be seen with some people who are outside of Christ but, it is faith that matters to God.
Our faith is our work and it is what gets rewarded. Every good deed done for the sake of doing good means nothing to God. But, good deed in the name of Christ Jesus, will be rewarded as faith in Christ. No other good deed will compare to the good deed of believing in Christ. Those who keep believing will keep His work to the end and be called overcomers. They shall eat from the “Tree of Life”, perpetually escape the “second death”, eat the hidden manna and receive a name written on “White Stone” and be clothed with “White Garment” Revelation 2:7, 11, 17 & 26.
The grand hope and reward of all believers is to be the sons of God with the first begotten from the dead (Jesus Christ) and to reign with Him in authority over the nations Revelation 3:5 & 21:7.
Believing or abiding in Christ to the end is everything! This is why all the apostles prayed and pleaded with the disciples to keep the faith to the end lest their (the apostles) labour would be in vain not that their labour will not be rewarded. It’s vital to note that if a convert turns back or stops believing and following Christ, it becomes a “labour in vain” for the believer(s) who planted and watered 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. However, their reward remains intact! 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Finally, remember, it is God, that gives the growth and not the labourers. We will be rewarded for the faith of doing the assignment and not the result of the assignment. We’ll receive the same reward because it’s our faith that’s rewarded. Therefore, the acceptance and receiving of Christ into the heart by faith though on one’s ‘deathbed’ will not stop a person from the reward of being like Him at His appearing. Selah!