CHRISTIANS vs. Non-CHRISTIANS: Heaven and Hell – Rewards vs. Punishment


            Most people believe they are “good” (relatively speaking in comparison to others), and that it is fair and just that because they are good that they should/will go to heaven.  They will cite a record of morally good deeds they have done (which could include tithing) and contrast their good deeds with really bad people like rapists, murderers, physically abusive parents, etc. 

The problem is God’s standard of good is different from our own. God’s standard is perfection (Matthew 5:48). For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8). And, if God used a human standard, who would it be? Jimmy Carter or Mother Theresa? Thomas Jefferson or Rosa Parks? (God’s standard is perfection because He is holy.) 

            God does “reward” good works, though this is different from “earning” our blessings (Deuteronomy 11:26). Again, God’s perspective is different from our human perspective. And, since He is God (and we are not), it is wise to align our thinking with His thoughts and His ways rather than implicitly telling God to adopt our belief system. So then, what is God’s perspective regarding man’s actions? And, what about man’s good works?

            Men and women will be judged for their actions. There will be two judgments (Matthew 25:31-34): one for Christians (2 Corinthians 5:10) and one for non-Christians (Revelation 20:11).     The impact/consequences of good works for both Christians and non-Christians will be evaluated by God at Christ’s second coming (Matthew 25:31). Christians, who are deemed “righteous” because of their saving faith in Christ (and Christ’s death on the cross, and resurrection), will receive eternal life (and other rewards), while the unrighteous (those who die without putting their faith in Christ, and His righteousness) will suffer eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).

Romans 14:10-12 states, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
   ‘every knee will bow before me;
       every tongue will confess to God.’ ”  

12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Jesus said, Behold, I am coming soon! My reward (for Christians) is with me, and I will give to every one according to what he has done (Revelation 22:12).

>> Note the word reward used in Revelation 22:12 is speaking only of Christians, so for Christians, this is a verse of hope, and not despair or anxiety. Christians are looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Impact of Good Works: Christians vs. Non-Christians


            A person becomes a Christian and will go to heaven based upon faith in Jesus Christ: acknowledging they are a sinner, being sorry for their sin (repentance), and asking God to forgive them for their sins. They put their faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection and do not seek salvation based upon their good works. [True repentance leads to a change in one’s behavior: turning away from your sin.]

            For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith {in Christ}– and this is not of yourselves, it is a (free) gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast {pride} (Ephesians 2:8-9). But when the kindness and love of God our Savior (Jesus) appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things (good works) we had done, but because of His mercy (Titus 3:5).

            Thus, a person becomes a Christian and will go to heaven not because of their good works, but because of God’s free gift of mercy/forgiveness/grace. Good people do not go to heaven, only forgiven people do.  It’s not about performance (good works), it’s about payment.  (Christ’s blood shed for the forgiveness of sins).  It is not about what I can do, it is about what Christ has already done

            REWARDS: However, God does reward Christians for their good works. Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (“your Father, who sees what is done in secret. (Matthew 6:3-4) 

However, not all Christians will receive a reward for some or all of their good works.  Only God knows their heart. Some Christians will receive no rewards, but they will none-the-less be saved and spend eternity in heaven. “. . . his work [a Christian] will be shown for what it is, because the [Judgment] Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will evaluate the quality of each man’s work. (“1 Corinthians 3:13 (KJV) – Forerunner Commentary – Bible Tools”)  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one who escapes through flames.”  (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)


            Some Christians will receive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ some will not but, non-Christians will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

“God is just:  He will pay back . . . This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. God came to earth in the physical body of Jesus the Christ through a virgin’s birth as was prophesied. Anyone who rejects Jesus rejects God. He offers to connect with us through Jesus. If not, they will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord in heaven and from the majesty of His power on the day he comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.”  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)

The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy angels to judge everyone and to convict all the ungodly of (1) all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and (2) of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  (Jude 14-15)

God knows the beginning and the end of this world. He gives all mankind a choice, chose Him or not. “And they were judged, each one according to their own works . . . This is the second death. (“Bible Verses about Judgment According to Works”)  and anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:13, 15)

Chilling but true words. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus teaches hell is fair, final, and forever. It is a conscious place of immeasurable torment (Luke 16:24, 28).

There Are Different Degrees of Rewards & Different Degrees of Punishment

            Degrees of Rewards for Christians/Believers

God will reward Christians at the Bema Seat of Christ based upon their faithfulness/obedience.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus said “you have been faithful” with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things (Matthew 25:14-30). In the parable of the pounds, the one who faithfully took his pound and made ten more pounds received ten cities (with authority over them); the one who made five pounds received five cities (with authority over them). (Luke 19) Thus, we will be rewarded with greater responsibilities for eternity in heaven based upon our faithfulness on earth.

Hell Exists – Degrees of Punishment for Non-Christians

             Hell exists: It is mentioned over fifty times in the Bible. Jesus referred to hell on at least six occasions, and this is what he said. In Matthew chapter 5, after teaching on the Beatitudes (verses 1-12), Jesus mentioned hell three times: (1) verse 23: being in danger of the fire of hell; (2) verse 30: your whole body going to hell; and (3) verse 31: fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. And again, Jesus talks about hell: (4) in Matthew 23:33: (when confronting the Pharisees about their hypocrisy) being condemned to hell, and (5) in Matthew 18:8-9: being thrown into the fire of hell. And (6) in Rev. 21:8, Jesus told John the apostle, “all {continuous/ongoing} liars shall have their part in the lake of burning sulfur (hell).”

Then Jesus said to them, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces . . . and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40). And that servant who knew his master’s will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few (Luke 12:47-48). [Thus, God only holds us accountable to the degree we have knowledge. Romans 1:19-20 states everyone has knowledge of God through (a) nature, while Romans 2:15 says everyone has knowledge of God through (b) their conscience.]

Thus, for non-Christians who God has further revealed Himself through the person of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22-30), they are beyond doubt without excuse (Romans 1:20). Since they have a greater degree of knowledge of: (1) their sins, and (2) their need for a savior, they will be accountable for their sin to a greater extent than the tribesman/woman who lives in the middle of the jungle and to whom God has revealed Himself only through: (a) nature, and (b) their conscience.

In Conclusion

            Both Christians and non-Christians sin (falling short of God’s holy/perfect standards). The Bible teaches, “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who does good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10, 12).

The “Gospel” is good news: although you are a sinner, God has paid the price for your sin (and mine) through the person of Jesus Christ – and the blood Jesus shed on the cross on Good Friday as payment for your (and my) “sin debt.”

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is this: a Christian has sincere sorrowful repentance (and only God knows one’s heart), and with humility, a Christian has chosen to confess their sin to God and seek His forgiveness. They acknowledge their sinful nature and receive God’s free gift of salvation by putting their faith and trust in Christ {alone} and His death and resurrection as the payment for their sin (as God requires).  Thus, it is not about our performance and the good works we might do, because there is none righteous, none who does good.  It’s all about Christ, and His death and resurrection (as payment for our sin) that He has done. It is a gift from God by Grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 & Titus 3:5.

If you are not a Christian, please do not intellectualize what you have just read.  Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation (Romans 6:2).

You may never come to this place again in your life where the truth of God’s word is pricking at your heart. Pride led to Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5-7). They were judged, and “driven” out of the garden by God because their pride led to disobedience (Genesis 3:24).

Do not be so prideful (or ignorant) to believe that you are a “good” person and worthy to live in the presence of a holy God based upon what you have done.  The Bible makes it clear that neither you nor Mother Teresa is good enough to live in heaven in God’s presence based upon your performance.

God’s desire is for you to spend eternity in heaven with Him, rather than eternity in hell separated from Him. God does not send anyone to hell. He allows you to choose between having a relationship with Him or not — to choose eternal life or remain separated from Him for eternity in hell. On the Cross, Jesus Christ paid the price for your sins. However, you must choose to receive God’s free gift of salvation, through repentance and by putting your faith and trust in Jesus’ shed blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

A gift is of no value if it is not both given to and received by the person to whom it is given. If you are not a Christian, will you receive God’s free gift of salvation? In your heart, “Repent, and turn {from sin} to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” (“Acts 3:19”) – Repent, and turn to Jesus the Christ, so that your sins can be removed…”) (Acts 3:19)   Will you confess your sins to God and demonstrate Godly sorrow that the Bible says leads to repentance?  Put your faith in Jesus Christ. If you do, God will wipe out your sin debt based upon Christ’s shed blood.

In humility, won’t you reflect upon the truth that you are a sinner by nature in need of forgiveness;  that your sin separates you from a Holy God; that God loves you so much that Christ left heaven to die on a cross for the payment of your sin; and that today through faith in Christ and His death and resurrection for the payment of your sin debt, you can be saved from the consequences of your sin. 

Humbly admit and confess your sin to God. Tell Him you are sorry. Ask God to forgive you of your sin. Humbly tell God you are putting your faith and trust in Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead (which proves He has power over sin and death), and not in your performance. Call out to God in your heart for His mercy to forgive you for your sins, and you shall receive eternal life (Rom 10:9).

If you have done so, God imputes (gives) Jesus Christ’s sinless life to you and declares you “righteous” (holy) in His sight…through faith as you seek to follow Jesus’s teaching. The only way to follow Jesus’s teaching is to read them. By studying His Word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Your sins are forgiven, and you are reconciled to God.

Grow in your faith by following these five steps

  1. Pray daily as you go through life and let His Holy Spirit lead your steps.
  2. Read the Bible every day. You will see how God thinks and change your mind to be as His.
  3. Find a Bible teaching church where you feel the love of God.
  4. Find Christian friends and walk with them.
  5. Share what Jesus did for you. Help others to know Him.

[1]              Romans 3:22, Philippians 3:9, and 2 Corinthians 5:21

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