This post is in reply to a feedback question I recently received from a reader. This is a very common question, and one the is talked about a lot amongst believers; what awaits believers after death, since we know that our sins are forgiven us, is there any kind of judgment upon us, and how do “our works” play into it?
The main thing to always keep in mind, and the reader pointed this out, is that our sins, and the punishment for those sins has been, is, and will be completely covered by Christ’s sacrifice. They are over and done with, completely washed away. This means that the Law has no more power to condemn us and our salvation is not in question. However, we have freedom with responsibility, we are still called to yield to righteousness.
I believe Paul talks about this idea of our works being judged here in 1 Corinthians chapter 3:
11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Notice this important point; it is our works that our judged, not us. At this point, Paul is talking about a believer, already saved. Look at verses 11 and 12. The foundation is Jesus Christ, then the discussion turns to what we put or build on this foundation. This is a time of rewarding of deeds; and I believe everything contained in this passage is a reward, even though many people see a negative here if one’s work is mainly wood, hay, stubble, etc…
Let me explain with a question; what greater reward can await we believers than to see all of our bad deeds go up in smoke? Seriously, regardless of anything else we might receive, this is the one thing that I’m definitely looking forward to. My sin is already covered, then, at this time that Paul is describing, all my bad works, anytime I’ve failed to respond in faith to God’s leading, or His word, will be burnt up…the works will be burnt up, NOT me. I emphasize this lest anyone think this passage is talking about something like purgatory, which is not biblical.
As for those works that are not burnt up, I believe those consist of those times we yielded to righteousness. Nothing truly good that we do originates with ourselves, but rather with the Holy Spirit. There is some clue that we might take those rewards we receive for yielding and place them at Christ’s feet (look at the elders example in Rev. 4:10), which would make a lot of sense.
So, as Paul clearly teaches, there remains no condemnation for those of us in Christ; our works do follow us but NOT in regards to salvation. There is also no room for fear at the thought of our works being tried, God loves us and has accepted us via His Son. What we can take from this, and other teaching of Paul is that we should try to yield to God whenever we can, in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Not all the rewards are going to go to people who lived fast-paced exciting lives, but rather they will go to anyone who yields in faith to God in big things or in small, everything else including our mistakes and our slip-ups will be burnt up and blown away, praise God for that!