REWARD AND GIFT
Now we want to see the third difference—the difference between reward and gift, in other words, the difference between the kingdom and eternal life. There are many Christians in the church today who cannot differentiate between the kingdom of the heavens and eternal life. They think that the kingdom of the heavens is eternal life and that eternal life is simply the kingdom of the heavens. They have mixed up the Word of God, taking the condition for the receiving of the kingdom as the condition for the preservation of eternal life. They take the losing of the kingdom as the losing of eternal life. However, the distinction between these two is very clear in the Bible. One may lose the kingdom of the heavens, but he will not lose eternal life. One can lose the reward, but he will not lose the gift.
What then is the reward, and what is the gift? We were saved because of the gift. God gave the gift to us freely by His grace; therefore, we were saved. The reward pertains to the relationship between us and the Holy Spirit after we were saved. When we were saved, we were related to Christ. This relationship allows us to obtain the gift that we are absolutely unworthy of receiving. Similarly, after we have been saved, we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. This relationship allows us to obtain the reward which we could not otherwise obtain by ourselves. If one believes in the Lord Jesus as Savior, accepting the Lord Jesus as life, this one is saved before God. After he is saved, God immediately puts this one on a pathway, so that he will run in the race and will obtain the reward placed before him. A Christian is saved because of the Lord Jesus. After he is saved, he has to manifest the victory of Christ by the Holy Spirit day by day. If one will do this, then at the end of the race, he will obtain the heavenly glory and the heavenly reward from God.
Hence, salvation is the first step of this path, and the reward is the last step. Only the saved ones are qualified to gain the reward. The unsaved ones are not qualified for this. God has given us two things rather than one thing. God places the gift before the worldly people and places the reward before the Christians. When one believes in Christ, he receives the gift. When one follows Christ, he receives the reward. Gift is obtained through faith, and it is for the worldly people. Reward is obtained by being faithful and having good deeds, and it is for the Christians.
There is a big mistake in the churches today. Man thinks that salvation is the only thing and that there is nothing else besides being saved. He takes the kingdom of the heavens and eternal life as the same thing. He considers that since one is saved when he believes, he no longer has to be concerned with works. The Bible makes a distinction between God’s part and man’s part. One part is the salvation given by God, and the other part is the glory of the millennial kingdom. To be saved has absolutely nothing to do with one’s works. Once anyone believes in the Lord Jesus, he is saved. But after his salvation, God immediately places the second thing before him, telling him that besides salvation, there is a reward, a coming glory, a crown, and a throne for him. God puts His throne, crown, glory, and reward before the believers. If one is faithful, he will obtain these. If he is unfaithful, he will lose them.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 20, by Watchman Nee)