Degrees of Rewards in Eternity: Sanctification by Works? -- By: Douglas C. Bozung
JOTGES 24:47 (Autumn 2011) p. 23
Degrees of Rewards in Eternity:
Sanctification by Works?
Christian Fellowship Church,
New Holland, PA
Within the study of eschatology, differing perspectives on the nature of the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, and the doctrine of eternal punishment are well known and amply documented. Perhaps less known and documented is the abundance of perspectives with regard to the concept of degrees of reward in eternity for believers. On one side of the debate is the view that an eternal reward in addition to eternal life is a contradiction of the Protestant emphasis upon salvation by grace apart from works or merit. For example, Blomberg asserts that a doctrine of degrees of eternal reward in heaven leaves one “with justification by faith and sanctification by works.”1 Additionally, he objects that “it is hard to reconcile any kind of doctrine of varying rewards in God’s kingdom with the notion of grace as something wholly undeserved.”2 According to this school of thought, texts traditionally adduced as teaching such a concept have been misconstrued.3
JOTGES 24:47 (Autumn 2011) p. 24
On the other side of the debate are those who affirm the concept of degrees of eternal reward. As Sauer expresses it: “Justification is a gift of free grace, but the measure of glorification depends upon personal devotion and steadfastness in the race.”4 However, there is a variety of perspectives within this general affirmation. For example, one perspective heartily affirms the concept of degrees of eternal reward for believers as a significant and pervasive theological motif.5 Indeed, some advocates of this perspective interpret many if not all NT warning passages in terms of the loss or gain of rewards.6 Others go as far as to teach the prospect of a virtual purgatory for those believers who were especially unfaithful in their Christian lives.7
JOTGES 24:47 (Autumn 2011) p. 25
Yet another group of Evangelical exegetes and theologians give some credence to a doctrine of degrees of eternal reward, but they more stringently circumscribe the doctrine within certain theological boundaries and limit its expression to certain texts. Morris i...
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