Saturday, June 6, 2015

Will You Graduate with Honors?

Is one of your loved ones graduating this year? Are you proud of their accomplishment and your part in it, yet perhaps a little sad that they are moving on to a new phase of life in which you will be less involved? Are you nostalgic over the passing of time, relieved that they will graduate even though they just squeaked by, or maybe even a little disappointed that they were not chosen for special honors?

The graduate may also experience any or all of these emotions, as well as fear of not knowing what lies ahead. All believers have a "graduation" to anticipate -- that day when we meet Christ in the air at the Rapture, and He reviews our lives at His judgment seat. 

Praise God that of all the emotions we shall experience, fear will not be among them (1 John 4:18), for we  know our future is eternally secure with Him in Heaven! Considering these thoughts at this special time of year led me to repost this from the archives. May your earthly graduation ceremonies be blessed, and may we prepare for our heavenly graduation to come!

One of salvation’s eternal blessings is that we will receive eternal rewards at the judgment seat for believers (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12). We will not have to give an account of our sins, for they are already forgiven and paid for by His shed blood (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25). Once we place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven, we are saved to eternal life in His presence (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16; 14:6).

But when we see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12), Christ will review everything we did with our life since we were saved. He will also review opportunities He gave us but that we did not use to tell others about Jesus, to encourage and teach other believers, and to glorify God (Matthew 12:36-37).

In the parable of the talents, Jesus explained that those who are faithful to use their gifts to further His kingdom will be rewarded proportionately (Matthew 25:14-30). For every good thing we did with the right motive, we will be rewarded. But for missed opportunities or good works done for self-serving reasons, we will suffer loss – not of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), but of rewards (1 Corinthians 3: 11-14).

The gold, silver and jewels that emerge unscathed from the fire of judgment are those deeds done with the right heart and the right motive to further Christ’s kingdom, while those “good deeds” we did out of pride or for our own selfish motives will burn up like wood, hay and stubble. These lost rewards will bring us momentary sadness and even shame, but He will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17;21:4), and our overwhelming emotions will be of joy and gratitude.

To use an analogy, at a commencement ceremony some graduates receive their degree “cum laude” (with honors), “magna cum laude” (with high honors) or “summa cum laude” (with highest honors). Some may receive special awards for their community service, leadership, or academic achievement. Other graduates may be disappointed that they were not singled out for these rewards. Yet all should experience joy, relief and gratitude that they have graduated and are beginning or “commencing” a new, better life. Each graduate wears a cap and has the privilege of casting it into the air when the ceremony is over.

The Greek word that Paul uses to describe the judgment seat for believers is Bema, referring to the award stand at the Olympic games. For all athletes in such games, it is a great honor just to be there, and all who take part in their event will be blessed by their participation. Certain athletes are given special awards to recognize the excellence of their achievement. But all who are there can be considered winners because of their self-discipline and their devotion to their calling (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). None are punished or sent home in disgrace.

Based on Christ’s review at the Bema seat of what we did with our lives once we were saved, some believers will receive crowns, which we will give back to Him, casting them at His feet, because of our awe and love for Him (Revelation 4: 4,10-11). Five specific crowns are mentioned.

The soul-winners crown is the crown of rejoicing (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) – a living crown of those souls we helped bring to Jesus. What unspeakable joy we shall have in glory when we see those we helped lead to Christ! 

This may include those with whom we shared God’s Word, even though the seed we planted did not bloom into the flower of salvation until much later. We may not even have met some of these believers before, if they were saved because of missionaries we helped support, or an Internet posting we made, or even a tract we left somewhere (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

Each of us who looks forward to Christ’s return can receive the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). If we live each day in anticipation that the Rapture could occur at any moment (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), we are far more likely to live a holy and separated life, not through our own righteousness but through that of Christ.

The crown of life is the martyr’s crown, given to those who were persecuted for their faith yet did not renounce Jesus, even though they were executed as a result (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10).

Faithful, God-fearing preachers, and perhaps pastors, deacons and teachers, will receive the crown of glory, provided they feed their church with God’s Word, are good examples, and are motivated by service rather than financial gain (1 Peter 5: 2-4).  

The victor’s crown is the incorruptible crown, won through spiritual and physical discipline (1 Corinthians 9:25-27; 1 John 2:28). It represents denying the body’s fleshly lusts, such as sex outside of marriage or substance abuse, and living in subjection to the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 2:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) Who inhabits our bodies as His temple.

These rewards and crowns will determine positions of responsibility in His Kingdom when He returns to earth to rule in perfect justice and peace for 1000 years (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6). Knowing this, why would we not want to store up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), rather than working so hard for earthly treasures that we won’t be able to take with us? May we not give up in our quest to serve Him, so that we will not lose our reward and our crown (Galatians 6:9; Revelation 3:11; 22:12)

Throughout all eternity, we will have meaningful and enjoyable projects and fields of study to challenge and delight us, and we will have the joy of worshipping Him with all our God-given talents and all our being (Revelation 2:17; 3:12 5:8-14). What could be better than the unending joy of being in Heaven, in His presence with our loved ones in Christ, with all that He has lovingly designed especially for us? (John 14:1-4).

Just as graduates have the joy of throwing their hats into the air, celebrating their commencement of a new life, may we devote our lives to Christ so that we can earn crowns to cast at His feet with joy, reverence, and eternal gratitude!


© 2013 Laurie Collett
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28 comments:

  1. I enjoyed thinking about our graduation to heaven as I read your post. We recently attended a graduation at the Naval Academy and watched the joy of the midship men as they threw their hats in the air. We will have that kind of joy--even better! I'm your neighbor at Sunday Stillness.

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    1. That must have been amazing, Carol, to observe that ceremony! And to think that it just the smallest foretaste of the joy that awaits us in Heaven! Thank you for your lovely comment and God bless!
      Laurie

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  2. Dear Laurie,
    Unfortunately I was a complete failure at school, so I had never even seen the inside of a university, let alone graduate!
    But all these things I now count as loss compared to the promises the Lord has for us who believe. I guess my graduation is yet still to come, but without the back-of-my-mind anxiety over what will follow. Instead I try to imagine the glorious New Jerusalem which will come down from Heaven.
    I am one of the few in my church who believe in the Rapture, the Tribulation period, and the Millennium which is ushered in by the second advent of Christ. As with the crowns, I'm with you on this as well, and yes, according to Scripture, there will be some who will suffer loss, but thank God that he has a tissue already at hand!
    Then, as I believe, following the Bema seat, there will be a heavenly participation of what we call the Holy Communion - and that will remind every single saint present, along with all the angels too, that without the shed blood of Jesus, not a single soul would stand at his presence, let alone receiving any rewards.
    An excellent post, God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      Don't feel bad -- I almost failed kindergarten because I wouldn't color inside the lines! But, praise God, He gave both of us the most important truth there is -- that He alone saves, and that by trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection, we can have eternal life! Looking forward with joy and great anticipation to the Rapture, our "graduation" to Heaven, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Millennium, and eternal bliss thereafter! What a joy it will be to meet Him face-to-face, and all the saints, even those we have never met face-to-face on earth!
      Thanks as always for your encouraging comment and God bless!
      Laurie

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  3. Thank you so much for this interesting and biblical post!

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    1. Thank you, Ariella, for your kind and uplifting words!
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  4. Hi Laurie I am stopping by from Literacy Musing Mondays...
    Beautiful post filled with life giving scriptures. My son just graduated college and now is off to prepare for law school...
    Your post gave me such a wonderful reminder of the ultimate graduation waiting for all who are in Christ Jesus!
    Blessings to you!

    http://www.danisejurado.com/

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    1. Hi Denise! Thanks so much for your visit and lovely comment! Congratulations to your son and may He fulfill God's plan for his career. I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  5. Stopping by from The Weekend Brew - Just wanted to say how much I love the imagery of "graduating" from this world to heaven! Thanks for stopping by my Scripture and Snapshot.

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    1. Hi Kym! So glad you enjoyed the analogy of "graduation!" Thanks for your visit and lovely comment.
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  6. Graduation from college was anticipated because we would finally escape the struggles of of the college and begin to see the results and benefits of all out training. In the same way graduation will free us from the struggles adn of this life and enable us to see first hand the benefits of what we have learned in serving him. For those who have devoted thier lives to doing their best, graduation is highly anticipated. Unfortunately some have just coasted along living off their parent's largesse, adn graduation will not be nearly as great a blessing for them.

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    1. Great point, Donald -- we shall reap what we sow! Those who are saved but never served Him will still get to Heaven but will be deprived of rewards, whereas those who serve Him with the right motive should eagerly look forward to His coming and to hearing Him say, "Well done!"
      Thanks so much for your insightful comment.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. One of our Granddaughters just graduated from college and is going on to the University at Sacramento for another two years. Another Granddaughter will graduate soon from college. Our final graduation where we shall wear a crown will truly be a joyous time. You have illustrated many crowns and it is interesting that perhaps we shall enjoy more than one. May all our works go through the fire untouched, and be placed at the master's feet. Thank you for sharing your awesome words with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Amen, Hazel! May God bless you and your granddaughters as they embark on new journeys, and may we all be prepared for our final graduation and have crowns to cast at His feet! Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words and for hosting.
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  8. I have to admit Laurie that I do not really think any further than today. I think it is because one of the first scriptures the Lord highlighted to me was 'take no thought for tomorrow', and I know that my times are in God's hands. I love the Lord and my life in Him, and I love learning from Him daily. You are right where you say that 'He alone saves', and I think that is why I never really think of what I might gain for what I do. One plants, one waters, but it is God who adds the increase.
    God bless you Laurie as you continue to serve our Lord.

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    1. You are right, Brenda, that we do not need to worry about tomorrow, and to do so shows lack of faith. And yet He wants us to invest the time, talents, and treasure He has allotted to each of us in His service, and being good stewards requires some planning (while always following the Spirit's leading. I know you are and will be richly blessed and rewarded for all you allow Him to do through you. Thank you for your lovely comment and many blessings to you.
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  9. I never thought about it in this way, but that will surely be a happy graduation day when we lay our crosses at His feet and trade them for that Heavenly crown that He has laid up for us! What a day that will be! The thing I look forward to the most is seeing Jesus! I don't know how I will be able to contain that kind of joy...guess that is why we will need a new, celestial body. God help us all to be faithful to Him until the day He calls us home for our eternal graduation. :)

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    1. Amen, Cheryl! May we exchange our burdens for His blessings here and now, and then serve Him with the right motive so that we have crowns to cast at His feet when we see Him face-to-face! Seeing Jesus will truly be joy unspeakable and full of glory -- and then to spend eternity with Him and our loved ones in Christ will be even better!
      Thank you so much for your visit and lovely comment. God bless,
      Laurie

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  10. Wow! I love what you did here to tie the graduation cap to the crown: "Each graduate wears a cap and has the privilege of casting it into the air when the ceremony is over." This was the best explanation I have read to date of the crowns and final judgment seat. Well done! I'm tweeting, pinning, and sharing. My heart was so encouraged, my faith strengthened, and my excitement about eternity enhanced! Blessings from #EspressosofFaith via #RaRaLinkup!

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    1. Wow, Bonnie, I am so blessed by your comment! I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the post and found it helpful! Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for tweeting, pinning and sharing. You are a real blessing and an encourager!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  11. I loved reading this. I learned so much. Thank you. What a joy it is to be next to you on Suzie's site. I hope you come visit me sometime too. I would love for you to linkup on Tuesdays too! I hope you have so many crowns in heaven that you can cast at Jesus' feet!

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    1. Hi Kelly,
      Just stopped by and commented on your lovely blog and hope to link up on Tuesday! I am blessed by your encouraging comment. May we all serve Him with the right motive and receive crowns to cast at His feet!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  12. Hi, Laurie and thanks for sharing this amazing post with Social Butterfly Sunday this week. It is filled with hope and encouragement for us all to keep furthering the kingdom of God. Hope you come back and link up again this week. Blessings :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for hosting! I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed the post! May we continue pressing on toward the prize in His service!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  13. What a wonderful parallel you drew to illustrate a tough verse! Thank you for your encouraging words. So glad I followed the breadcrumbs you left on my blog! So happy to #livefree

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    1. Hi Liz! I'm so glad you visited -- your sweet comment has brightened my day! Praise God that we can truly live free in Him!
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  14. Thank you for linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays. This post is inspirational and joy to read.

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    1. You're very welcome, Mary, and thank you for hosting and for your very kind words!
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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