I received the following excellent question via email:
Thank you for your daily blogs. They are (for the most part) a great encouragement. I’m still not on board with your women in ministry position.
Today’s blog was great, and it raised a question for me. Near the end you said,
“I am a cracked pot. While my mind has been renewed and I believe I am spiritually minded, I have times when bad Bob emerges. I do not hold myself up as the paradigm to follow. Jesus is our paradigm. However, much of the time I do manifest the work of the Spirit in my life. I am thankful for that. I seek to have a life that is overflowing with good works. Am I succeeding? I will find out at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor 5:9-10).”
We talk about assurance of salvation but I wonder if we can have an assurance of inheritance or reward as well. Paul seemed to be sure of his reward,
“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim 4:8).
Unless he received a special revelation assuring him of his reward, I wonder if it is not too presumptuous for us to achieve some level of confidence about ours?
There are several layers to this question.
First, I do believe that Paul received special revelation just before he died. He wrote 2 Timothy from prison in Rome. Likely he wrote 2 Tim 4:8 weeks before he died.
Since he was not sure ten years earlier, when he wrote 1 Cor 9:27, that he would be chosen to rule, something happened to change that. The only thing which could happen to make him certain would be special revelation. No amount of good works could guarantee that he would persevere in good works until death.
Second, I do think we can have “some level of confidence” that we will rule with Christ forever. Paul was sure when he wrote 1 Cor 9:27 that he would rule with Christ if he died that very day. The same was true when he wrote Philippians and his other letters. But he was not sure that he would persevere. Since perseverance is required to rule with Christ (2 Tim 2:12, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”), then we can’t be sure we will rule.
There are various places in the NT where we learn that someone at the time of writing was in position to rule with Christ. In Romans 16 Paul says that Apelles is “approved in Christ” (Rom 16:10). He commends Phoebe as “a helper of many and of myself also” (Rom 16:1-2). Of Rufus he says, “chosen in the Lord” (Rom 16:13), which most likely means that at that time Rufus was among those who would be chosen to rule with Christ if he would persevere. In Col 4:7 he says that Tychicus is “a faithful minister.”
Of course, the eleven disciples plus Matthias were guaranteed by the Lord Jesus that they would sit on twelve thrones and rule over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28). That was essentially a guarantee that they would persevere. See his special guarantee to Peter in John 21:18-19. But it seems likely that no one else in the history of the church received such a promise, other than Paul at the very end of his life.
But remember Demas. Paul refers to him as a faithful servant of Christ at the end of several of his letters (Col 4:14; Phile 24). But in 2 Timothy 4, in the same section which the reader cites, he says, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim 4:10). We all must avoid falling from our own steadfastness (2 Pet 3:14-18).
Third, there are different degrees of rulership. See Luke 19:16-26. One servant is chosen to rule over ten cities. Another, a man who was only half-hearted in his service, is chosen to rule over five cities. A third servant, a man who was unfaithful, was not given rulership over even one city. Thus even if, as you were dying, you were sure you had persevered in the faith and hence would be chosen to rule, you could not be sure how much authority you’ll be given.
Fourth, there is the issue of what I call instant winners. Remember that Jesus told us to lay up treasure in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy and thieves and taxes aren’t taken away. I added the part about taxes. Matthew 6:19-21. This treasure in heaven does not require perseverance. The moment we do one rewardable work, we’ve laid up some treasure. The more we lay up, the more treasure we will receive. This means that you can be sure that there will be rewards for you at the Bema. But you cannot be sure that you will rule with Christ, or if so, over how much territory (or in what city, state, or country, for that matter).
So, we can be confident that if Christ returned today, we would rule with Him. But we cannot be sure we will persevere in our walk with Christ. We could fall away. If we do, then we will not rule with Him.
Our salvation is secure. Our future role of ruling with Him is not yet secure.