It is usual to honour people with awards after they are dead for services provided when alive. Sometimes, institutions, buildings, streets, and so on, are named after the deceased. Events and prizes are established in memory of those who have contributed immensely in their lifetime.
When such honours are bestowed on people, it is the living relations and friends who receive them. They also express their gratitude to those who honour their dead relations. The person in whose name the honour is bestowed is no longer alive and has no knowledge of, nor can benefit from this noble gesture. It is a fact that posthumous award is of no value to the honouree but to the people alive.
I remember one prominent man from the southeast of Nigeria calling for the recognition and honouring of people who have made significant contributions while they are still alive. He said that anyone appreciating his own services should do so while he is alive. He considered it valueless when honoured after his death.
Of course, the man has good reasons for his opinion and many people think like that. Indeed, people should always be appreciated for their good works. This encourages them to do more and also encourages other people to emulate them. Everyone naturally likes to be appreciated.
In the same way, God rewards people for the good things they do in this life. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The Bible contains many promises of blessing for those who obey and serve Him. In fact, the blessing of God in this life is an earnest desire of everyone.
However, the Word of God considers more important the eternal reward than the temporary ones. In Luke 14:14 Jesus said, “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Also, in Matthew 16:27, he said, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Here, the emphasis is on the rewards believers receive after this life.
Certainly, God blesses us here on earth and gives us temporary rewards for our good works and faithful services to Him. The rewards the Bible teaches are not like the plaques, trophies, medals, houses, fat cheques, street names, and so on. These rewards are not given because of our prayers but because of what is done while on earth.
A little understanding of how and when God pays back for our services is necessary to avoid a feeling of disappointment. Sometimes, one may ask why someone faithfully serving God here may not be receiving visible rewards to show for it. God has not promised that our services to Him will be fully rewarded here. But it does not mean that He does not care for us here.
The Bible emphasises rewards after this life because whatever Christians or believers receive here on earth is temporary. Even if a believer lives for 120 years and enjoys God’s blessings, it is still a very short period, when compared with eternity.
Believers are assured of eternal rewards after judgement. The judgement for believers is the judgement seat of Christ for the purpose of receiving rewards for their faithful service. All of us will give account of what we have done after trusting Jesus Christ as our Saviour. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV) says, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
All believers will stand before God and be individually judged. This judgement is not to determine who will enter heaven. The sins of believers will not be an issue at the judgement seat of Christ because they have already been forgiven. Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV) says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him: As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Believers are judged for the purpose of receiving their rewards, the unbelievers are judged for condemnation. Romans 8:1 (NIV) says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ are not condemned but those who do not believe are condemned already.
Believers are encouraged to do things right in God’s sight always, with the assurance of receiving rewards both here and hereafter. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV) says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” This is a strong motivation for living a truly Christian life to show that we love God. Christians shall enjoy eternal life and heavenly rewards.