I wrote a blog on the impeccability of Jesus Christ. (See here.) In that blog I cited Dr. Earl Radmacher who said that for the believer this life is “training time for reigning time.” I then received this excellent question:
Why? Why does God allow us to “train” when the “training” has no purpose? If we are to have perfect bodies and no more sin nature, then we “automatically” will not sin… so why the training?
The assumption behind this question is that since all believers will be sinless and have perfect bodies, thus all believers will equally serve and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. That is not a logical assumption, though it seems like it.
There are two issues: sin and service. If no one sins in the eternal kingdom on the new earth (Revelation 21-22), then no one sins.
But what about service? Will all serve Christ equally in the kingdom? No. The Lord Jesus made this clear in the Parable of the Minas, where the first servant is given authority over 10 cities (Luke 19:17), the second over 5 cities (Luke 19:19), and the third is not given authority to rule at all (Luke 19:16-26), though he does escape the second death (Luke 19:27).
Only King David will be Jesus’ right-hand man, the Prince, in Jerusalem. Only the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones and rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.
How much treasure you will have in the kingdom depends on how much you lay up (Matt 6:19-21). Treasure will be used to glorify Christ. Thus the more treasure you lay up, the more you will be able to glorify Him.
Are there not differences in our abilities to serve in this life? Consider ten believers whom you know that are walking in fellowship with God. Do they all have the same physical, spiritual, and mental abilities? Of course not. Though all may be wholehearted in their service, some are more effective than others.
(Rewards will be based not on how our service compares to that of others, but how we do with the time, talent, and treasure God has given us. A two-star believer may be equally rewarded with a five-star believer if both maximize their lives for Christ. See Matt 25:19-23. So in the life to come, they will have equal ability to serve if they both maximize this life. The fullness of future service will depend on the fullness of present service.)
I’m not implying that we can know which believers are doing the best in life. Paul said we are not to judge before the time, before the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 4:1-5). The Lord Jesus will determine who gets what rewards in the kingdom. And all rewards will directly impact how fully we will be able to serve Him forever.
An illustration from the NBA, pro basketball at the highest level, might help. Imagine that there will be an NBA on the new earth. None of the players will be sinners. Yet there will only be a handful of seven footers (unless things radically change in the kingdom). There will only be a handful of All-Stars. There will be very few with the games of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Bill Russell, or LeBron James. Though I am 6 foot 5, I doubt I’ll be able to dunk in the kingdom any better than I could in my prime in this life, which was not well and not often. I doubt I’ll be good enough to play in even the lowest pro leagues if there will be leagues and athletics in the kingdom.
The same will be true in all fields of service in the kingdom. There will be good to great writers, musicians, architects, engineers, preachers, actors, growers, and so forth. Also, some will rule (over varying amounts of real estate) and some will not.
What if what you do as a believer in this life will impact what you can do for Christ forever? That might have a big impact on motivating you to give you best for Christ each day, right?
And it should. Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [= disapproved to rule with Christ]” (1 Cor 9:27; compare 2 Tim 4:6-8). If the Apostles were driven by a desire to maximize their service in the life to come, so should we.
Don’t get me wrong. All believers will serve Christ forever in the kingdom (Rev 22:3). All will be joyous forever. But some will have more joy than others (John 10:10; Heb 1:9; 11:35). Some will be more effective servants of Christ than others.
You are training now for what you will become then. There will be no opportunity in the kingdom to increase your skills, abilities, and opportunities. That will all be set based on “the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
Wouldn’t it be great to hear the Lord Jesus say to you, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17)? Absolutely! And with that commendation will come eternal rewards that allow us to serve Him more fully forever than we would have been able to if we had not done well in our service in this life.
“Only one life twill soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”