“Let us rejoice and shout for joy [exulting and triumphant]! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself. She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white – for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people). Then [the angel] said to me, Write this down: Blessed (happy, to be envied) are those who are summoned (invited, called) to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me [further], These are the true words (the genuine and exact declarations) of God” Revelation 19: 7-9, AMP.
Who will be present?
It is the Bride of Christ who will be at the Marriage Supper – those whom Jesus catches up to Heaven in the Rapture. At the present time the church is promised to Christ as a bride; she is engaged to Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “You need to know that God’s passion is burning inside me for you, because, like a loving father, I have pledged your hand in marriage to Christ, your true bridegroom. I’ve also promised that I would present his fiancée to him as a pure virgin bride” 2 Corinthians 11: 2, TPT.
The Bride will consist of the ‘dead in Christ’ and those caught up together with them to meet Jesus in the air when He comes at the Rapture. The Bride is made up of those who have given their life to Jesus and lived for Him, not for themselves, during the Church Age, from Pentecost until the Rapture.
Righteousness identifies the Bride
The key to identifying the Bride is found in her clothing – ‘fine linen’ (Revelation 19) which represents ‘the righteous acts of the saints.’ Additional scriptures add to our understanding of this important point.
Discussing the responsibilities of husbands and wives in his letter to the Ephesian church, Apostle Paul likened this human relationship to the beautiful spiritual relationship between Jesus and the church. The relationship between Christ and His church will be based on righteousness. With this spiritual relationship in mind, Paul wrote:
“… the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5: 23-29, KJV.
Jesus addresses His Bride
We, the church, are already engaged to Jesus as Paul stated. The Lord Jesus told His Apostles in John 14: 1-3 (using the very words the typical Eastern bridegroom would have spoken) that He was going away to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house (Heaven) and that He would come again to receive them to Himself so that they might be together with Him forever. As I know a little about arranged marriage customs from my previous missionary work in India, where a bridegroom would literally build a spacious, well-designed extension to his father’s house where he and his bride would live together when everything was ready, it is clear to me that the Apostles would have been speechless with astonishment to hear Jesus speaking to them in such terms. Here He was addressing men in exactly the same beautiful, traditional marriage phraseology that an Eastern bridegroom uses as he declares his love to his fiancée at the betrothal. Jesus spoke these endearingly tender words during His long final discourse to His beloved Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem where they were celebrating the Passover together on the evening before He was crucified.
The Bride must live a holy life
Jesus will return for a holy Bride, who resembles Himself. Strong emphasis on being righteous is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Through Moses, God told the ancient Israelites: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” Leviticus 19:2, KJV.
Speaking of those who would be in the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” [practise lawlessness], Matthew 7:21-23. KJV.
The Apostles taught the same message. Peter wrote to the brethren, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” [referring here to our conduct]. 1 Peter 1:15, KJV.
The Bride of Christ, the church, will consist of people who, upon receiving God’s grace: the unmerited pardon for their sins through repentance and, having been baptised will, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, live righteous lives.
Who selects the Bride?
In our modern world, most men and women choose whom they will marry. In years gone by, parents often selected their children’s bride or bridegroom. In the Old Testament many marriages were arranged by the parents. An outstandingly beautiful example of an arranged marriage is that of Abraham sending his servant to pick a wife for his son Isaac (See Genesis 24:1-4).
In the case of the marriage of the Lamb, it is God the Father who chooses the Bride for His Son. Jesus made this very clear to His disciples when He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” John 6:44. Emphasising this point further, Jesus said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father” John 6: 65, KJV.
Are we storing up treasures in Heaven?
Jesus said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6: 20). He linked this command to the desire of our hearts: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21; see also verses 10–20).
We are to treasure the Lord Jesus most of all. When Jesus Himself is our treasure, we will commit our resources – our money, our time, our talents – to His work in this world, rather than using them solely for our own personal benefit. The Bible teaches that the Lord views as extremely important our motivation for everything that we do. In the days of the Roman Empire there were many Christians in the churches who were slaves: men and women who worked for a living as servants to the wealthy. In his letter to the Colossians Paul specifically addresses them, explaining that God has an eternal reward for those who are motivated to serve Christ first and foremost:
Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church, “Let every employee listen well and follow the instructions of their employer, not just when their employers are watching, and not in pretense, but faithful in all things. For we are to live our lives with pure hearts in the constant awe and wonder of our Lord God. Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord, as we serve the Lord Yahweh, the Anointed One! A disciple will be repaid for what he has learned and followed, for God pays no attention to the titles or prestige of men” Colossians 3:22-24, TPT.
When we live sacrificially for Jesus’ sake, serving the body of Christ, we are storing up treasures for ourselves in heaven. Even seemingly small acts of service do not go unnoticed by God for Jesus said, “Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of my humble disciples, I promise you, he will not go unrewarded” Matthew 10:42, TPT.
Some Christians with more noticeable gifts such as singing, or playing a musical instrument, writing or painting, might be tempted to use their gift for their own glory.
Those who use their gifts coveting the praise of men rather than seeking God’s glory, receive their ‘payment’ in full here and now. The applause of men was the extent of the Pharisees’ reward (Matthew 6:16). Why should we work for the applause of men when we can have so much greater reward in heaven?
The Lord will always faithfully reward us for the service we give to Him. The writer to the Hebrews states, “For God, the Faithful One, is not unfair. How can he forget the work you have done for him? He remembers the love you demonstrate as you continually serve his beloved ones for the glory of his name” Hebrews 6:10, TPT.
Our ministries may differ, but we are serving the same Lord. Apostle Paul wrote, “Now, the one who plants and the one who waters are equally important and on the same team, but each will be rewarded for his own work” 1 Corinthians 3:8, TPT.
In Matthew 19: 16-30 we read that the rich young man loved his money more than he loved God. The issue wasn’t that the young man was rich, but that he ‘treasured’ his riches and did not ‘treasure’ what he could have in Christ. Jesus told the man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, “and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (verse 21). The young man went away from Jesus sad, because he was very rich. He chose this world’s treasure and so did not lay up any treasure in heaven. He was unwilling to make Jesus his treasure. The young man was very religious and Jesus exposed his heart of greed.
We are warned in the Bible not to lose our full reward by following after false teachers. Apostle John wrote, “Numerous deceivers have surfaced from among us and gone out into the world, people who will not acknowledge Jesus Christ coming as a man. These deceivers are antichrists! Be on your guard so that you do not lose all that we have diligently worked for but receive a full reward” 1 John 1:7-8, TPT.
This is why it is so important to be in God’s Word daily. In that way we can recognise false teaching when we hear it. Paul urges Timothy, “Always be eager to present yourself before God as a perfect and mature minister, without shame, as one who correctly explains the Word of Truth” 2 Timothy 2:15, TPT.
The treasures that await the child of God will far outweigh any trouble, inconvenience, or persecution we may be called upon to face (Romans 8: 18). We can serve the Lord with all our heart knowing that God is the One who is keeping a record of our life, and His reward for us will be abundantly gracious.
Rewards in Heaven
Experiencing Jesus, His glory, and the joys of Heaven will be so wonderful, it’s hard to understand why extra rewards would be needed. Since our faith rests in Christ’s righteousness and not our own (Romans 3: 21-26), it seems strange that our works would merit reward.
God will give rewards to us in Heaven for many different reasons. He will reward our faithfulness in service according to His calling on our lives. The rewards will show the reality of our sonship (Galatians 4:7). God will give rewards in heaven in order to fulfil the law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-9). Our Heavenly Father will make good on His promise that “our labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15: 58).
Jesus will share His own reward with us
One reason for the rewards in heaven is the fact that Jesus actually shares His own reward with us. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20, KJV.
Our lives are “hidden” with Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3: 1-4). We die with Jesus and we live with Him (Romans 6:8). The Word makes it clear that we will also share in His joy: in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30, KJV) the Master says, in verse 21, to the servant who had faithfully used all the talents he was given, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Our lives are inextricably linked with the life of Jesus. The reward He receives will be shared with all of us: “If we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” Romans 8:17, KJV.
The rewards we gain in heaven are not like the rewards we earn here on earth. We tend to think in material terms – jewels, wealth etc. But these things are only representations of the true rewards we will gain in heaven. A child who wins a school prize treasures the trophy he receives not for the sake of the trophy itself but for what that trophy means. Likewise, any rewards or honour we gain in heaven will be precious to us because they carry the weight and meaning of our relationship with God—and because they remind us of what He did through us on earth.
In this way, rewards in heaven glorify God and provide us with joy, peace, and wonder as we consider God’s work in us and through us. The closer we were to God during our life on the earth, the more centred on Him and aware of Him, the more dependent on Him, the more desperate for His mercy, the more we will have to celebrate in Heaven. Rewards in heaven are the completion of our earthly story, and those rewards will be eternally satisfying.
Crowns that will be awarded in Heaven
#. Stephanos. This was the victor’s crown, the wreath given to the victorious athlete before the judge at the Bema. It is the word used of the crowns promised to believers for faithfulness in the Christian life.
#. Diadem is the word used for the royal crown, the crown of a king. To emphasise that Jesus is King of kings, this word is also used of the many diadems the Lord will wear at His return, and is mentioned in Revelation 19:12. The principle here is that our Lord Jesus is the victor, and our victory is really His victory which is appropriated by faith. Crowns are given as rewards for faithfulness to appropriate God’s grace and Christ’s victory in the Christian life. They remind us of our responsibility to abide in the vine.
#. The Incorruptible Crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). This title describes all the crowns. It contrasts our crowns with the temporal and temporary treasure of this life. It is also a special crown given for faithfulness in running the race and exercising self-control in order to serve the Lord and finish the race.
#. The Crown of Exultation or Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19 and Philippians 4:1). This crown is a reward given for witnessing, follow-up, and ministry to others. In one sense, the Thessalonians will be Paul’s crown, and the effect at the Bema (Judgment Seat of Christ) throughout eternity will be rejoicing or exultation over their presence in heaven. Paul may also have in mind a personal crown or reward that he will receive because of them.
#. The Crown of Life (James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10). This crown is given for enduring testings (trials) and temptation. The crown is not eternal life, which is a gift through faith in Christ alone (John 4:10, Romans 3:24; 5:15-17; 6:23, and Ephesians 2:8), but a reward for enduring trials and overcoming temptation.
#. The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). This crown is a reward given for faithfulness to use our gifts and opportunities in the service of the Lord and for loving His appearing. Note that these two things go together. To love His appearing is to live in the light of it.
#. The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:4). This crown is a reward promised to Pastors and Elders for faithfulness in the discharge of their responsibilities in shepherding the people.
Since Jesus Christ alone is worthy, and because we can only be fruitful when we abide in Him allowing His life to fill our life, we will all cast our crowns before Him in recognition that everything of any worth that we have done was done by His grace.
We will cast our crowns before the feet of Jesus
In Revelation we see the vision that Jesus gave John of the scene in heaven where “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’” Revelation 4: 10-11, KJV.
Jesus promised various rewards for those who faithfully serve Him on earth. These may be the crowns that John saw the elders lay at the feet of Jesus. In their worship, they indicate that, despite what they may have done on earth to earn these crowns, only Jesus is truly worthy of glory and honour. In the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself, all good deeds we have done will pale in comparison. A crown will seem an infinitesimal gift to present to the One who gave His life for us.
The elders’ response is most likely to be the way we will all respond when we receive our reward from Jesus. We will be so overcome with gratitude because of what He has done for us that our worship will be spontaneous. Regardless of what we have endured on earth our priceless crown will seem a trivial offering indeed, but it will be the best gift we can give Him. Although the Scriptures do not state this, it is likely that we will follow the example of the twenty-four elders in casting our crowns at Jesus’ feet.
How will the Bride be made ready for marriage?
As we noted previously, the Bride will be made ready for her marriage to Jesus at the Bema: the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven. She will be handsomely rewarded for everything in her life that has pleased God by bearing fruit for the Kingdom. However, at the Bema every failure to bear fruit in her life on earth, every single oversight, her lack of awareness of how she could be a blessing to poor people in dire need when she had more than enough for herself, her lack of awareness of the calling of God on her life – or maybe even her downright refusal to leave her comfort zone for the sake of the gospel… all these issues come under the heading of Wood, Hay and Stubble and will be consumed by fire (see 1 Corinthians 3).
The Bride will realise to her shame how much eternal reward she has forfeited by not asking for the grace of God so freely offered her, and always more than sufficient for her needs. She will learn where she has failed to be a ‘doer of the Word.’ All our work that was not done out of love for Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, will be consumed by fire as wood, hay and stubble on that day. The Bride will now be totally perfected: “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing… holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5: 27, KJV. She will emerge pure and radiant after this purging, which awaits every one of us at the Judgment Seat. She will cast her crown(s) at the feet of Jesus lost in love, wonder and adoration of her glorious Lord.
Jesus will escort His Bride, now perfected, into the Marriage Supper – a splendid banquet indeed! I believe that Jesus Himself, together with the Angels, will wait upon His Bride in love. Then will we forever be with the Lord.
Note from So Greatly Loved
In my next article, unless the Lord leads otherwise, it is my intention to write more fully on how some of us may be forfeiting eternal rewards unawares. I am finding writing this series really challenging, and I pray that it will be a blessing to you, as it is to me.
Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation New Testament with Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs, translated from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts by Dr Brian Simmons. Copyright 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC. Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com
Scripture quotations marked AMP are from The Amplified Bible copyright 1954 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.