Dante’s famous work “Inferno” describes a man’s journey through hell. As he travels he descends deeper and deeper into torment, each level worse than the one before it. This depiction of hell has caused many to wonder if the Bible teaches that there are various levels of hell. A natural second question follows, are there levels of heaven? Is heaven arranged so that those who lived best during this life get the greatest joys in heaven?
After death the Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. This judgment will be an examination of the Christian’s service after salvation. After the individual gives an account of how he has served, “he shall receive a reward.” (2 Corinthians 3:14) The Bible promises various rewards to the faithful Christian including crowns, rich clothing, precious stones and favor with God.
The rewards given to saints probably will be all returned to Jesus. Revelation 4 describes a group of 24 elders seated before the throne of God in heaven. They have crowns of gold given to them, but they take their crowns off and throw them at the foot of God’s throne, declaring that to God alone belongs glory and honor. Though the Bible does not say this specifically, it seems likely that all Christians will return their rewards to One who gave them eternal life. Certainly, the cry of every believer in heaven will be, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.” (Psalm 115:1)
Likely there will be various positions of service in eternity. In Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus promises that certain saints will be “pillars in the temple of God” (Revelations 3:12) and others will be given “power over nations.” (Revelation 2:26) Possibly every one in eternity will be given a specific of responsibility. Some may serve before God’s throne, some may serve on the New Earth and some may serve in the New Jerusalem. Whatever the responsibility may be, it is certain that every task will be full of joy. The drudgery of work is part of the curse of sin. When the curse of sin is removed, work will never be misery. Work will be delight, and the redeemed will bring the glory and honor of their work to God. (Revelation 21:26)
The eternal condition of the saved will be one of great joy. The joy of every believer is, “God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them.” (Revelation 22:3) In eternity all the redeemed will have access to the presence of God, to the city of God and to the tree of life. The Bible does not teach that some Christians will have greater favor or greater blessing in eternity. There may be different positions of service, but none have less access to the presence of God which is the true joy of heaven.
The truths of rewards in heaven are taught in Scripture to motivate us to faithful service for the Lord. Those who are not faithful will have nothing to present to their Savior. They will be saved, but will stand before Him ashamed and empty handed. Let us therefore “labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)