A pastor friend asked this question:
“I have a question I have been struggling with for a while—will there be poor people in heaven? Maybe not so much poverty, but haves and have nots? Will we see those with more and wish we had lived better, see those who have less and be thankful for the grace of God realized in our lives? Just something that’s been bugging me for a while.”
That is a great question. I love the way it’s worded.
Yes, there will be some who have more and some who have less. Of course, no one in the kingdom will have nothing. But the Lord and His apostles clearly taught that there would some who rule and some who do not rule. Among those who rule, some will rule over more cities (e.g., 10 cities, Luke 19:17) and some over fewer cities (e.g., 5 cities, Luke 19:19).
All who rule will have certain things that are only true of them among the citizens of the kingdom. The rulers will have special white garments (Rev 3:4-5), will eat the hidden manna (Rev 2:17) and the twelve fruits from the tree of life (Rev 2:7; 22:14), will have a special white stone with a special name engraved on it (Rev 2:17), and will be able to enter the New Jerusalem by its gates (Rev 22:14). Non-rulers will have none of those things.
Jesus commanded us to lay up treasure in heaven, not on Earth (Matt 6:19-21). Believers will lay up differing amounts of treasure, depending on what they did in this life (e.g., Matt 16:27; Gal 6:7). We aren’t sure what the treasure is. Zane Hodges told me that he thought the treasure is an unnamed blessing in the kingdom. I think the treasure is likely money. I think there will be an economy in the kingdom and that we will each have some sort of treasure that we have laid up. Maybe it will be a lump sum or maybe it will be a monthly amount. But whatever this treasure is, it will be desirable.
I agree with my friend that those who have less will be fully satisfied and thankful for God’s favor in their lives. Everyone in the kingdom will experience joy forever (Revelation 21-22). But some will have more abundant lives than others (e.g., John 10:10b).
How we live now will determine the fullness of our lives forever. Another way of saying this is that the degree to which we glorify God now will determine how much we will be able to glorify Him forever. The more we glorify Him, the more joy we will have.
Most people in Christendom do not believe this. They think that everyone in the kingdom will have the same fullness of life as everyone else. But that is contradicted by scores of passages, many of which are cited above.
I thought that way until I went to Dallas Seminary and began to study the Scriptures carefully. I was blown away by the prospect of ruling with Christ and having maximum opportunity to glorify Him forever. I still am. The reason I want to be a have is not because I am greedy and want what others don’t get. We can all be overcomers. We can all be haves in the kingdom. The reason I want to be one of the haves is because that is what the Lord commanded me to want!
If you knew now that how you live now will determine the fullness of your life forever, do you think that might impact your decisions and your desires? After telling us to lay up treasure in heaven and not on Earth, the Lord said, “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21). He commanded us to set our hearts on heavenly treasure. To neglect the doctrine of eternal rewards is to fail to set our hearts properly on the life to come.
One final note. Treasure stored in heaven will not be enjoyed in heaven. It is being stored there, like things we store in a safety deposit box in a bank. We don’t use those things in the bank. We store them there. Believers will live for one thousand years on this earth (restored) during the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-9), then forever on the new Earth (Revelation 21-22). The things we store up in heaven will be transferred to us on Earth so that we can utilize them to God’s glory forever.