Occasionally, I run into a dispensational or Free Grace writer who holds the view that the rewards believers will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ are not for all eternity. Instead, they will only be for the millennial kingdom. As a result, rewards given by the Lord will only last 1000 years. After the millennial kingdom, in the eternal state (new heaven and earth), everyone will be equal.
While there are differences of opinions among such writers, I think a very common view among them is that the millennial kingdom must be seen as completely separate from the eternal state. The first 1000 years are seen as the kingdom of the Lord. This is when Christ will fulfill the Old Testament prophecies to the nation of Israel.
It must be said that rewards that can be enjoyed for 1000 years would certainly be great rewards and something to be desired. But it seems to me that the evidence points to rewards being eternal.
For example, in 2 Pet 1:10-11, part of the discussion concerns rewards. Those who are rewarded will have an abundant entrance into the kingdom. Here, the word kingdom occurs and certainly refers to the millennial kingdom. But Peter calls this kingdom “eternal.” The most natural sense of these verses is that the millennial kingdom is part of the eternal kingdom. We could say that the millennial kingdom is the first 1000 years of the eternal reign of Christ.
In 1 Cor 9:25, Paul says that the crown overcomers receive is imperishable. In Matt 6:20, Jesus says our treasure in heaven cannot be destroyed. It seems to me that if rewards end after 1000 years, that would not be the case. Crowns would indeed be perishable, and we would lose the treasures we have laid up in the heavens.
In Rev 21:1, John begins to describe the eternal state. A couple of things stand out. We are told that there will be kings among the nations (21:24). The very title of “kings” points to some having authority in the new earth. In the new earth, Jesus refers to those who have washed their robes and have the right to the tree of life. The latter is said to be a reward (Rev 2:7). The former can also be seen as a reward when we compare it to Rev 3:4-5, 18.
The Majority Text of Rev 22:14 is even more clear that rewards are being spoken of in the eternal state. It does not have “washed their robes” but instead says “keeps my commandments.” This is certainly rewards language. Those who keep the commandments will be rewarded. The verse also says that those who do so will be able to enter the city by the gates. This is probably best understood as an honor given to a select few.
In 2 Pet 3:10-13, Peter discusses the Tribulation period beginning as a thief in the night. He passes directly from that to the new heavens and the new earth. He does not mention the millennial kingdom. In other words, he goes from the Tribulation to the eternal state. This at least suggests that the millennial kingdom (which comes between those two things) is not to be seen as a completely separate thing. It seems Peter is including the millennial kingdom as part of Christ’s eternal reign.
Finally, I think it might be helpful to speak of these things in general terms by asking a few questions. If we agree that the Bible speaks of rewards during the first 1000 years of Christ’s rule, why would we conclude that they must be taken away at the end of that 1000 years? While Christ could certainly do so, it seems strange that He would give imperishable crowns for faithfulness and then collect them back 1000 years later. Nothing will have changed with those who have received these crowns. They will still be in glorified bodies. They will still be in the kingdom of God. One reward is a new name given to those who are faithful (Rev 2:17). Are we to assume that after 1000 years, that new name will be taken away, and the Lord will no longer call the faithful believer by that name?
The New Testament teaches that the rewards faithful believers will be given will be greater than anything they gave up to obtain these rewards. These rewards demonstrate the generosity of the Lord. A martyr’s crown, for example, will be given to one who gives up his earthly life for the Lord. Logically speaking, which magnifies the graciousness of the Lord more, a crown someone receives for 1000 years, or one he wears for all eternity?
Also, we can speak in terms of analogy. The angels have differences among themselves, differences of status and authority. These differences have been in operation since before the creation of the world. Will such distinctions cease to exist in the eternal state? Will Michael stop being an archangel? While it is possible that is the case, there is nothing in the Scriptures that tell us that will be the case. If angels will have differences in the eternal state, why do we suggest believers won’t?
The Bible does not say that our imperishable rewards will be taken away in the eternal state. One may interpret imperishable to simply mean a very long time, such as 1000 years. It seems to me, however, that the New Testament supports the idea that these rewards really are eternal.