Will those who believed in Jesus at old age and died shortly after receive rewards in heaven?

Salvation is not a reward

We are saved by grace alone in Christ Jesus and not by our efforts. The day we believed in Christ Jesus, we got saved once and for all and we will never be condemned ever again because we have been brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light!

There will be a reward in heaven

However, to be saved is one thing and to receive a reward is another. The Bible teaches that there will be a reward in heaven for all that we have done on earth as believers. While everyone who believes in Jesus is already saved and will never be condemned, there will be a reward for what we have done with God’s calling.

Jesus said

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” – Matthew 5:11‭-‬12 NLT

From the above statement of Jesus, we do not only see that there is a reward, we also see that there is a reward attached to being a follower of Christ boldly. When we follow Christ regardless of persecutions, mockeries and rejections, that alone has a reward!

We have established that salvation is not a reward, it is a gift from God, a free gift! But there is such a thing as reward in heaven which means that when we fully surrender ourselves to God it is worth all our time because we will be rewarded for it.

Who gets rewarded?

One begins to wonder what will be the fate of those who got born again at old age and had no chance of doing so much. Will they live in perpetual regrets in heaven? How about those who never heard the true gospel until they were about to die, what will be there fate?

Before we answer this, let me ask a rhetorical question.

  1. What is the fate of a young boy who got born again but died in an accident?
  2. How is the first scenario different from an aged person who heard the gospel, believed and then died shortly?

God does not deal with us collectively, he deals with us individually. God will not deal with us on the same standard or scale, he is not partial but he does not expect the person with one talent to produce the same result a person with ten talents should produce. In the parable of the talents, they were all not judged on the same standard, they were judged based on the abilities they were given.

Both the one who had five talents and the one who had two talents were commended with ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’ – Matthew 25:21 NLT

However, one who got only one talent but decided to do nothing with it was not commended. In a previous story in the same book of Matthew, Jesus had told a parable. Let’s read:

For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. “At nine o’clock in the morning, he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’ “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”- Matthew 20:1‭-‬16 NLT

God rewards faithfulness, not duration

From the above story, you see people who had an early appointment to work, you see yet another set of people who were called into the work when the time was almost up. The only thing these people don’t have in common is time but they have the following in common

  • They heeded to the call – Everyone at the field was called at some point and they were at the field because they heeded to the call. They believed in the one who has called them.
  • They were faithful – regardless of the time they were called, they were all faithful. Those who started working in the evening met those who had been working since morning.

What exactly did their master reward them for? He rewarded their diligence and faithfulness. Those who were hired in the morning did more work but all the workers were judged based on their faithfulness. In matters of time, they were judged differently. The most important thing was that they were faithful from the point they were called.

We cannot determine how God will reward people who had less time to do ministry than us. God knows how he deals with his people, only he knows how to determine his reward considering the levels of responsibilities he has given us.

Paul wrote saying

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” – 1 Corinthians 3:13‭-‬15 NLT

I believe that the value of our work is not based on how long but how well, I believe it is not based on the years of service but our faithfulness regardless of what time we had. I got born again as a kid, I started preaching the gospel from primary three class or thereabout but someone who has been in ministry only a few months and died may receive a better reward if I have not been faithful with my works.

The mite is powerful sometimes

Jesus acknowledged the widow’s mite. Although it was little, it’s value was greater than the large amount of money others were giving. They had plenty, the window had only the mite.

Let’s read

Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”Luke 21:2‭-‬4 NLT

Based on men’s judgement, the poor widow is insignificant, her mite will not go a long way, it will not solve any problem and therefore it is not worthy of mentioning. However, God sees it differently. Had she had more, she would give more!

In the same manner, some people has been doing great things in ministry and yet, God sees more value in those doing what is thought to be little.

It’s not how long but how well

God does not put the duration into consideration, he puts our faithfulness into consideration. Not everyone had the opportunity of getting born again early enough. The length is not always the bone of contention, faithfulness is.

On the tree, at the crucifixion of Jesus, two rebels were crucified with him. Both had been in prison, they didn’t have the privilege some other people had, they were not among those chosen by Jesus as disciples. However, on the tree, an opportunity came!

One was wavering in doubt, he joined others to scoff at Jesus but the other believed in Jesus and believed that salvation can be found in Jesus. He said “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”Luke 23:42 NLT

While we do not know what reward he could get, we know that he maximized the only time he got. Their conversation was heard and recorded by others. There could be people who got convicted by the little thing that rebel did on the cross and till date, his story continues to inspire lives all over the world!

We would be making mistakes if we try measuring the rebel who turned a believer based on the efforts of the Apostles. God looks at the heart, he may be willing to do much more if he had more time on his hands.

Abilities are not our making

One of the reasons we must never judge a believer’s efforts based on the results of another believer is because we differ in gifting and abilities. Not everyone has been called into Apostleship, not everyone has been called into Pastoral ministry, not everyone has been called as Evangelists and therefore we shouldn’t expect them to outperform Apostles.

God is the one who gives abilities and responsibilities. He rewards us based on how we were able to use rhe abilities that he has given us. If you are limited to only reach your neighbours with the gospel and you do it faithfully, God rewards it as much as he rewards those who were given the ability to reach nations!

Don’t be intimidated by God’s calling on another, it should only motivate you. To whom much is given, much is expected! Some people were given more time, some only had a few minutes. Jesus, our Lord lives only thirty-three years on earth and did public ministry for only three years!

Your ministerial calling started the day you believed in Jesus, not when you were born

The gift of the Spirit is only received after salvation and the essence of these gifts is for ministry. You weren’t given the gifts of the Spirit to help make your business grow or to help you pass exams, you were given these gifts for ministry. If that is so, then your calling into ministry only started from the point you became born again.

No one is ever late YET

Whether you got born again at 6 or 60, you are not late and your calling started at that point! While you may wish you believed earlier enough, your reward is based on your faithfulness.

Now, if someone says “I won’t get born again until I am done enjoying life”, then the person is yet to hear or understand the true gospel of our Lord Jesus. The gospel doesn’t say “stop sinning so that you can make heaven”, the gospel says “quit trying, Jesus is all the help you seek!”

The reason some people say they would get born again later after they are done enjoying life is that they haven’t heard the gospel, they have been hearing threats like “you will go to hell if you don’t stop sinning” instead of “come to Jesus let him fix you. Just come as you are…”

In summary, only God can decide and determine who gets a reward. God’s rewards are not based on how long but how well. God rewards faithfulness and therefore regardless of how insignificant your calling seem, stay on it faithfully. And if you think the aged people have got no chances, now you know that God judges us differently.