The very concept of gaining eternal rewards in Jesus’ future kingdom is foreign to many Christians, but it’s certainly not foreign to the Bible, which repeatedly teaches about the importance of rewards.
“[L]ay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” Jesus urged (Matt 6:20). And Hebrews says God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6b).
However, just as there is a possibility of reward in the kingdom, there is also a possibility of loss and regret at that loss. Jesus warned believers against the experience of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” when rewards are taken from some people (cf. Matt 25:28, 30). And John warned against experiencing shame at Jesus’ coming (cf. 1 John 2:28).
But how can a born-again person, in a perfect, glorified body, who is with Jesus forever, experience things like weeping, shame, and regret?
That does not fit their pre-conceived idea of a perfect afterlife.
Here is how Tony Evans explains it.
“It’s precisely because you will be perfect that you can feel regret,” Evans says, “because you will be very sensitive to that which displeases God.”
After all, think about God—
“Sin makes God unhappy and sad,” Evans explains, “yet He is a perfect Being who never sinned. God’s perfection is what makes Him so sensitive to sin.”
If sin makes God unhappy, it will make glorified believers unhappy, too. So being perfect does not mean you won’t be ashamed of your failure to serve the Lord to the fullest.
Evans continues: “There will be profound regret at the judgment seat for a person who was saved for fifty years and yet had nothing of any value to present to the Savior who gave up heaven to save him” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On, p. 1268).
Eternal life is a free gift, but pleasing the Lord is not. That takes work such as actively laying up treasure in heaven and diligently seeking God. Not every believer makes the most of his or her journey—but so long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to start.