Degrees Of Reward In The Kingdom Of Heaven? -- By: Craig L. Blomberg

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 35:2 (Jun 1992)
Article: Degrees Of Reward In The Kingdom Of Heaven?
Author: Craig L. Blomberg


Degrees Of Reward In The Kingdom Of Heaven?

Craig L. Blomberg*

The lordship-salvation debate rages on. In the recent pages of this Journal, John MacArthur pursues his thesis first laid out in detail in The Gospel According to Jesus, considering it now in light of the epistle of James.1 One of the respondents to the article, Earl Radmacher, declares MacArthur’s view to be one of three examples of contemporary evangelicalism’s return to a view of authority akin to Roman Catholicism.2 A more balanced assessment, and one of the finest brief reviews of the debate, appeared already in an article by Darrell Bock.3 Whatever else one thinks of arguments against lordship salvation, one ought to acknowledge their commendable concern to preserve a full-orbed Biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. But ironically it is precisely in those circles—largely but by no means exclusively dispensationalist in heritage—that rightly seek to preserve the strong Reformation tradition of God’s freely granted justification apart from any human merit that often a contrary doctrine is also vigorously promoted: the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven. Believers may enter into God’s family entirely apart from their own good works, but the degree to which they will enjoy heaven is said exclusively to depend on how they live out their Christian life—to what extent they obey God’s commandments and mature in the faith. In short, though few would put it so baldly one is left with justification by faith and sanctification by works.

In the twenty years of my adult Christian life I have grown progressively more uncomfortable with any formulation that differentiates among believers as regards our eternal rewards. Several recent, lengthy conversations with students and pastors who have been equally troubled about this issue and about some of its very practical consequences in ministry have heightened my concern. Joe Wall’s new book, Going for the Gold: Reward and Loss at the Judgment of Believers,4 troubles me greatly. On virtually every major passage he treats concerning the topic of rewards I find his exegesis unconvincing. I will state my thesis at once and then briefly

*Craig Blomberg is associate professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, P.O. Box 10,000, Denver, CO 80210.

defend it. I do not believe there is a single NT text that, when correctly interpreted, supports the notion that believers will be distinguished one from another for a...

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