Question from a Site Viewer
This question concerns rewards in heaven. If a non-believer or believer has wasted time disobeying God they can be forgiven if they repent, but they could lose treasure they might have had in heaven. But can they still get a reward in heaven for living the rest of their lives for God? Will only believers lose rewards they could have had or also non-believers who willfully disobey God?
Thank you for your question. You are certainly correct that a believer who has lived in sin and who returns to Christ, or an unbeliever who turns to Christ, will both gain rewards in heaven for living the rest of their lives for God. No matter how short life is, there is a blessing in store for those who turn to Christ to serve Him. This is true for both believers and unbelievers.
The loss of rewards, however, Scripturally, only affects believers (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 John 8). Having come to Christ, if a believer thereafter turns away from Christ, that builder in the words of Paul will be building on the foundation with wood, hay and stubble; all works that will be burned up in the day of judgment. They will lose their rewards. But, if they then repent and return to Christ, they can build with gold, silver, and precious stones. Such rewards will be theirs on the day of judgment. Scripture is clear that there are rewards in heaven for those who seek to serve Christ (Matthew 5:12; 6:19-21; 19:21; Luke 6:35; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).
This does not mean that an unbeliever who turns to Christ is in a better position than a believer who returns to Christ. To the contrary, an unbeliever before they return to Christ is lost, without hope of God, and are alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:13). They walk according to the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:3). They are children of disobedience. If they died in this state, they would not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). A believer, however, though walking away from Christ, still has the foundation of Christ and if he dies, he would go to heaven (2 Timothy 2:13).
Yet, there is a sense in which it is a greater wrong for a believer to turn away from Christ than it is for an unbeliever to remain away from Christ. The believer, having tasted of Christ, having been born again, having been given the Holy Spirit, and having been cleansed by the blood of Christ, for that person to turn back to sin is a sobering thing (Hebrews 10:26-31). The believer knows better and has more knowledge of what is right. It is a greater affront to God for His children to turn away from Him than for those who are not His children to stay away from Him.
It is for this reason that we want to be in fellowship with other believers so that we can be encouraged constantly to walk with our God, to love Him with our whole heart, to cling to Him, and to serve Him. We do not want to be led away by the temporary pleasures of sin. We do not want to be counted with those who gain what they want in this life and lose their souls. Rather, we want to be counted among the saints who grasped the meaning of eternal life in heaven and held on to Christ with everything they had (see Hebrews 11:13-16).
I trust this helps you think through this matter. May the Lord Jesus always be your joy and your love,