He who works much and long will have the same reward as he who comes late to the Kingdom. Jesus told the parable of the workers against the Jews who would not welcome the newcomer Gentiles into the Kingdom. The principle applies to us as well, be it in terms of time or effort. Some struggle mightily in Christ, others seem to glide through life and slide effortlessly into heaven. What a marvelous thing to think that everyone will receive the same reward, that none is diminished by the generosity of the owner of the vineyard.
Paul certainly didn’t feel cheated. “Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8 NET). You don’t hear any pettiness in that triumphal verse, none at all. On the contrary, he exults at the thought of everyone receiving the same gift, even though he has worked harder than anyone. Because he knows that each one’s reward is a gesture of grace from the Lord.
• Faithfulness over time may not differ in kind from faithfulness under duress, but I sometimes feel peeved when teachers and preachers quote Rev. 2:19 out of context. They don’t necessarily do it an injustice, but they certainly miss the point, which the NET Bible hints at, “Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.” Even to the point of dying painfully, in agony, for your faith, because you refuse to disown your Lord.
Again, faithfulness is what it is regardless of the circumstances, and is always, if not heroic, then praiseworthy. Whether it is harder to be faithful when surrounded by the slick invitations of the world and the tantalizing desires of the flesh than it is to still confess the Name under the flash of the knife or the darkness of the dungeon, I do not know, nor do I wish to have a basis for comparison. But it seems we lose an appreciation for the latter by making the Revelation verse into the former. Am I making sense?
• Psalms talks, a lot, about enemies and judgment. “Arise, O Lord, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies. Wake up, my God, and bring justice!” (Psa. 7:6 NLT). Some think such language is unworthy of Christians. I wonder if some members of that group have a real sense of the conflict. (That’s a judgment call, I know.)
Without taking away from the emphasis on loving one’s enemies, it seems possible to hold these two truths near to the breast. For the prayer for the defeat of one’s enemies comes from the righteous whose greatest desire is to see the Kingdom of God triumph. One cannot happen without the other. Obviously, the judgment is his, he is Judge of all, but let us not be more righteous than God.
To think of that eternal reward pushes the words to the lips, “Maranatha!”