Will all Christians be equal in Heaven? Certainly not. Heaven is not at all the difference canceling place we’re often taught to expect. In Heaven, the consequences of the spiritual choices we made on earth will be unveiled. God will reward us according to how we responded to the illumination He gave us on earth.
Not everyone receives the same level of insight from the Holy Spirit. Down here it’s rather obvious when someone has been endowed with an extra measure of spiritual insight, faith, love, etc. Everyone assumes that these people have an advantage over everyone else, and that they must be some kind of favorites to God. However these people do not have an advantage—they have a responsibility. Every soul down here has been given some measure of illumination by God. The quantity isn’t important. What matters to God is how you personally responded to what you were given.
In Matthew 25, Jesus was speaking of eternal judgment when He told the parable of three slaves who were given three different amounts of money by their master. The master then left on a trip, and when he returned, he called the slaves to account for what they had done with the money he had given them. The first two slaves had invested their master’s money wisely and they gave him back twice what he had given them. The master was quite pleased with both servants and he said he would put them in charge of many things as a reward for their faithfulness. Even though one slave had been given twice as much as the other, both men received the same commendation. This is how it will be in Heaven. Maybe God hasn’t given you as much faith as your pastor, but are you doing the most you can with what you have? Are you trying to trust Him in your heart? If so, then you are pleasing Him. God’s approval is easy to earn. It’s simply a matter of using the resources He has given us to honor Him.
Now in the Church, we get this business of rewards all confused. We teach that external actions are what really counts. It’s not about how much you want to please God, it’s about how many people you verbally shared the Gospel with. We teach that if your heart is right but you don’t follow through with righteous behavior, then your good intentions are like so much garbage. This is a complete reversal of truth. Over and over in the Bible, God teaches us that heart attitude trumps everything. Righteous behaviors by themselves are totally worthless. It is our hearts we are judged by, and only our hearts. This means that the drug addict, child molester, and prostitute have just as much of a chance at pleasing God as the evangelist, missionary, and superstar pastor. It isn’t how holy you look to others that matters—it is what is happening in your heart.
Those who earnestly seek God on earth and desire for Him to have His total way in their lives are going to receive the greatest rewards in Heaven. Part of God’s idea of rewarding us is to give us greater responsibilities. He is clear in the Bible that there will be ranks in Heaven—there will be a noticeable difference in how He responds to those who He is very pleased with as opposed to those who He is not so pleased with. Now here we must be careful to separate God’s pleasure from His love. God loves us all with equal enthusiasm, but that does not mean we are all pleasing Him. The shocking truth is that many Christians today are greatly angering God, just as a rebellious child angers his parents on earth. God’s love and His approval are very separate concepts. He will always love us, but His pleasure must be earned. Again, pleasing God has nothing to do with external acts. It is all about your heart. If you sincerely care about honoring God, you will want to do the things He tells you to do. But whether you succeed at doing them depends on how much help He gives you. A porn addict can agree that his actions are wrong and he can sincerely want to change, yet God might not give him what it takes to kick the habit. If he does not, the porn addict still receives full credit for his sincere desire to please God. Now on this earth, we would judge such a man as displeasing God. “If he really cared about honoring God, he would just stop,” is what we say. This is why Heaven will be full of surprises.
In Heaven, many Christians who are currently being exalted on earth are going to find themselves moved to the back of the line, while God heaps rewards on the heads of those who the Church condemned as spiritual failures. Get ready to see perverts, addicts, abusers, and murderers receiving the highest honors in Heaven, because many of them are inwardly treating Christ with far more reverence and honor than those who strut around in the Church promoting themselves as icons of spiritual maturity. It’s all about soul attitude to God, and those who earnestly pursued Him with mere scraps will be as greatly rewarded as those who were able to pull off great feats of obedience because they had ten times the resources to work with. There is no glory for the man who starts off with an extra measure of faith. Instead, he has an extra measure of responsibility. God knows what we’ve been given and He judges us accordingly. The world does not know what we’ve been given, and so we can easily wow them into thinking we’re all that. There will be many surprises in Heaven.
To view Heaven correctly, we must remember that to God, our lives are one continuous event. Death is not some huge eraser that comes and sweeps away our earthly past. It is simply a transition. Our souls change dimensions, but we do not lose our identities. We don’t all morph into mindless praise machines who spend eternity drifting about on clouds plucking golden harps. Heaven is a very active place. We will have plenty of work to do there, for we were created with a desire to be productive and do the will of our Creator. Our career as God’s servants is only just beginning. Heaven is not about kicking back and doing whatever we want to do. Heaven is about pleasing God, and He is going to be the focal point of our lives there.
In many ways, this earth is like a giant sifter which God uses to determine where He will place us in eternity. If we reject His Authority entirely, we will end up in Hell. If we align with His requirements for salvation, we will end up in Heaven, but exactly what we will do there and what kind of dynamic we will have with God depends on how we respond to Him after salvation. If we decide He just isn’t worth the trouble of obeying down here, then we are going to experience discipline in Heaven, and one of the primary forms that discipline will come in is God withholding invitations to commune with Him in deeper ways.
In Heaven, everything will revolve around God. He will no longer seem like some distant King who we are able to ignore without consequences. In Heaven, pleasing God is going to be the only thing that matters. This is why it is so important to prepare for it now by living our earthly lives according to heavenly standards.
If you live in Japan and you have a bunch of yen, then you’re doing fine. But if you travel to America and try to pay your restaurant bill in yen, you’re going to find that your yen aren’t worth a hill of beans. American businesses want American dollars. You might have been considered wealthy in Japan, but in America you’ll be dirt poor unless you change currencies. This is what it will be like in when we die and go to Heaven. Many of us will arrive there thinking we’ve got piles of impressive treasures because we did many things that the Church applauded us for. But unless we paid attention to God’s value system, He will consider our treasures to be totally worthless. In Heaven, there won’t be any way for us to make a last minute currency switch. What you have when you get there is what you will be judged by. If we want to have something to show for our lives that God actually finds praiseworthy, then we have to invest in the things He cares about. God cares about our soul attitude. He wants humble souls who deeply revere Him and who consider His feelings and wishes to be far more important than their own. These are the things He is going to judge us by, not by how many times we shared the Gospel message, or by how many hours we spent in church. If we have spent our lives ignoring God’s standards, we’ll end up with little or nothing to show for our lives. We will still be His dearly loved children, but we certainly won’t be thrilling His heart.
The good news about Heaven is that we will find new chances there to progress in our walks with God. Our Maker is infinitely bigger and more complex than we are. Even in all of eternity, we will never come to the end of Him. There will always be farther to go and more to learn. The thrill of growing closer to God will always be the best part of our existence, regardless of what dimension we’re living in. Here on earth, our lives are richest, and our souls are the most satisfied, when we are pursuing intimacy with God. It will be the same in Heaven. Even if we’ve totally squandered our time on earth, God will continue working with us in Heaven. As we serve Him there, we will be presented with new choices and new options. We will not be turned into robots who mindlessly follow God about, nor will we be trapped in fallen flesh that craves evil. God will give us opportunities to advance in our personal walks with Him, and He will also give us chances to serve Him in greater ways. How well we will respond to those choices remains to be seen. But from the very beginning, there will be obvious ranks and differences among us. Some of us will start off much closer to God than others because of the choices we made down here. Those of us who are more intimate with God will experience sweeter soul communion with Him than those who are not. When Jesus chose out three of His disciples to share extra information with on earth, everyone knew He was showing favoritism. So also in Heaven, it’s going to be quite obvious that some of us are receiving extra privileges from God. But this is as it should be, for God is fair and He has given us all plenty of warning that the choices we make here have eternal ramifications. If we refuse to take His warnings seriously, then we deserve what we get.
Decide that you’re not going to be the kind of Christian who squanders his time on earth. Ask God to have His total way in your life and to make you all that He wants you to be. Seek God first in life—not second, not third, and certainly not last. Ask Him to make you pleasing in His sight. Compared to eternity, our time on earth is like a brief flash of lightning. Don’t waste it trying to get the approval of other Christians. Their commendation is worthless. God’s opinion is the only one that matters.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)