Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday,June 18, 2023
Are You Making Deposits in Your Special “Retirement Plan?”
by Dr. Raymond Finney
DÉJÀ VU: Déjà vu is an impression of having seen or experienced something before. Former New York Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra humorously clarified this phenomenon as “déjà vu all over again.”
After writing this RR, I experienced some déjà vu. Have I written a similar RR before? I don’t remember. I have written about pieces of this RR, but I do not keep records of previously written RRs. However, this topic is so very important for all Believers that we need to consider it now, whether a new topic or a repeat topic. It forms an important part of a Believer’s eternal life. “Retirement” in Heaven is a plan we should gratefully review frequently.
The following passage summarizes well today’s topic, emphasizing that both faith and works are important in a Believer’s life (James [Jacob] 2:18-20): But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe– and shudder! But do you want to know, you empty person, that faith without works is dead?
INTRODUCTION: Americans are urged by the government, employers, and investment firms to put money aside during working years to be used during retirement years. The average American worker saves only a fraction of the amount financial advisors recommend as necessary for comfortable life in retirement. There are many ways to save financially for the future– Social Security, 401(k) or Roth plans, precious metals (gold and silver), stocks, bonds, annuities, and real estate, to mention a few options. Saving for the future is both wise and Biblical (for example, Proverbs 6:6-8): Go to the ant, you slacker– consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler. Yet it prepares its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
Applied to finances, this proverb could be re-written: “Save money while you work to use when you are retired (or cannot work).” Applied to faith, this proverb could be re-written, as did Yeshua: “Store treasure in Heaven for eternal rewards by working for others in God’s name.”
SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND: Yeshua consistently preached against greed, except in one instance (Matthew 6:19-21): [Yeshua said] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Here, Yeshua encouraged a Believer to be as “greedy” as possible. A Believer cannot purchase eternal treasure, but he/ she can lay up (store) eternal treasure by working in this life for other persons in Yeshua’s name. Every time a good work for others because of love for them and for Yeshua and it is done only as a service to the Lord and not public recognition, kaching! a Believer has made a “deposit” in his/ her “Bank of Heaven savings account.”
The Apostle Paul described a Bema Judgment (only for those going to Heaven), which may be translated “judgment seat of the Messiah:”
● (Romans 14:10c): … For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God. [Different texts associate either “God” or “Messiah” with this seat.]
● (2 Corinthians 5:10): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body– whether good or bad. [“Judgment seat” translates the Greek bema.]
Paul sometimes wrote in sporting terms. He wrote of a bema of the Messiah in the preceding two verses. A bema (pronounced BEE-mah in English, or BAY-mah in the original Koine Greek) was a raised platform upon which a judge sat at the finish line of a race. As racers crossed the finish line, the judge determined the order of the runners’ finish so that prizes could be awarded to the fastest athletes or not awarded to the slowest. This judge was not responsible for determining who was eligible to compete in the race; his responsibility was to determine only the order of the contestants’ finish (that is, what prize each contestant’s effort had won or not won).
Paul taught us how to prepare good works suitable for Bema Judgment awards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15): According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each consider carefully how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what is already laid– which is Yeshua the Messiah. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work–what sort it is. If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss– he himself will be saved, but as through fire.
Let us explore Paul’s passage in greater detail:
● All good works for any Believer start with Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice for sin. An unsaved person– a non-Believer– cannot store up treasures in Heaven, because he/ she will not be admitted to Heaven to enjoy those treasures. For example, a large American bank is J.P. Morgan Chase and Company, with assets exceeding 2.5-trillion dollars, but I cannot withdraw even a penny from this bank’s amassed wealth because I do not have a J.P. Morgan account. All good works must be built on the true foundation laid by Yeshua at Golgotha, not any false foundation laid by self or another human.
- A Believer’s work may introduce different building materials (different types of work) – gold, silver, and precious stones for GOOD works; or, wood, hay, and straw for BAD works (NO works). “Good” and “bad” do not refer to sin, but to faithful and effective work for the Lord.
- “The Day” a Believer’s works becomes revealed and judged will be the day he/ she stands before Yeshua at the Bema Judgment. Yeshua promised that on His return, Believers’ rewards will accompany Him (Revelation 22:12): [Yeshua said] “Behold, I am coming soon, and My reward is with Me, to pay back each one according to his deeds.” [“Soon” may also be translated “suddenly,” which makes more sense.]
● When Yeshua returns, all Messiah-honoring labor and opportunity for additional rewards cease to exist (John 9:4): [Yeshua said] “We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work.”
● What is the fire by which these works are judged? What is the fire that will burn up unworthy works (wood, straw, and hay), but will allow worthy works (precious metal and stones) to persist? Although the Bible does not explain this statement, John recorded a strange description of Yeshua’s appearance at the end of the Age (Revelation 19:12a): [Yeshua’s] eyes are like a flame of fire,…. This symbolic picture of Yeshua’s eyes as flaming fire may provide a hint to interpret this passage. When Yeshua looks at each person’s lifetime of work, will His “eyes of fire” melt– and purify– GOOD works? Even a good work may be contaminated with impurities– pride, desire for recognition, and so forth– which will be removed at this judgment. A goldsmith melts precious metal and skims off impurities (the dross) to produce pure metal. On the other hand, BAD works may be consumed by the fire of judgment, leaving behind only a pitiful pile of ashes.
A crown can be made of precious metals and stones (good works), but not of ashes (bad works, no works). Lack of rewards at this judgment does not disqualify a Believer from entering Heaven, as Paul emphasized. In the Greek races, a stumbling, slow straggler who finally crossed the finish line was credited with being a competitor, but was not awarded a prize. In the Bema Judgment, a Believer with a handful of ashes to give to the Lord will still be admitted to Heaven (salvation has secured his/ her entry), but he/ she will experience regretful shame.
Consider an earthly example from the late night news. When a family’s home is burned to the ground, a news reporter commonly asks the family’s reaction to the lost home. Wet, covered with ashes, and huddled under a blanket, the common reply is: “We lost everything, but, thank God, we are all safe.” A person will feel ashamed (“suffer loss”) that he/ she has earned only a “crown” of ashes, while others have earned glorious crowns of gold. The Bible is silent on how long such feelings may last, but possibly not for eternity. We are told that persons admitted to New Jerusalem (Heaven) will have all tears wiped from their eyes, with no more sorrow, pain, or suffering (Revelation 7:17 and 21:4).
REWARDS YOU MAY RECEIVE AT THE BEMA JUDGMENT: All persons will be judged (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,… The Bema Judgment for Believers will probably occur immediately after the resurrection/ rapture of the saints, while the saints live with Yeshua in Paradise. (Judgment for nonbelievers is the Great White Throne Judgment.) At the Bema Judgment, Believers will stand before the Divine Judge Yeshua and may receive all or some of the following rewards:
First reward– Crowns: The Bible describes crowns (rewards) that a Believer may be given for faithful service and perseverance. Although an individual is possibly not eligible for all crowns, commonly mentioned crowns include:
… The Crown of Rejoicing for Soul Winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
… The Crown of Righteousness for Those Who Love Yeshua’s Return (2 Timothy 4:8)
… The Incorruptible Crown for Victorious Lives of Purity (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27)
… The Crown of Life for Christian Martyrs (Revelation 2:10)
… The Crown of Glory for Faithful Servants (1 Peter 5:4)
… The Crown of Life to Endure Temptation for the Love of Yeshua (James [Jacob] 1:12)
… The Crown of Joy for Converts (Philippians 4:1)
… The Crown for Faithful Perseverance (Revelation 3:11)
… The Elders Crown (Revelation 4:4, 10)
… Other Crowns not mentioned (?).
The Bible implies that your crowns may be laid before the throne of God, as did the elders (Revelation 4:10-11). Why would you want to do this? When you enter Paradise and see its perfection and beauty; and when you sense the full impact of eternal peace, God’s love, and Yeshua’s sacrifice for you; then, you will want to give something in return. However, you will have no earthly possessions or wealth. All you will have is the work you accomplished for others in Yeshua’s name, stored up in Heaven, because you loved God and your neighbors while you lived on Earth. Faith and love for God and others is the only wealth you can carry to Heaven. Your heavenly wealth, earned on Earth, will be converted to a crown. You will happily trade all of your accumulated wealth– your crown(s) – for the joy of being in Heaven.
Second reward– Preparation of a bridal garment: After the Bema Judgment, you will be eternally wed to the Bridegroom Yeshua. At the Marriage Supper (Revelation 19:7-9), you will drink a toast with Yeshua, as He drinks from the fourth cup of wine saved from His last Passover Seder (Matthew 26:29 and Luke 22:18). With this toast, the Believers’ union with th Bridegroom Yeshua is sealed for eternity.
It is no accident that Yeshua is called “the Bridegroom” and Believers are called His “bride.” The entire ministry of Yeshua is outlined in the first-century Jewish wedding. A married couple then drank and now drink wine together at the marriage ceremony to symbolize the joy they expect in marriage.
On Earth, a bride typically seeks a special gown for her wedding. In your marriage to the Lamb (Yeshua), you will also want a special garment. John wrote that you weave your garment by your life’s works, and the linen is made spotless (your sins are removed) by Yeshua’s blood sacrifice (Revelation 19:7b-8).
Third reward– Opportunities for service in the Millennial Kingdom: After Yeshua’s return to Earth (the Second Coming), He will establish His thousand-year reign (Revelation, chapter 20). Heavenly saints– you and other Believers who are raptured or resurrected because of faith in Yeshua– will assist King Yeshua. You will help mentor the saved humans who survive the Tribulation– the “sheep” on Yeshua’s right hand in His Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Saints who are good stewards and faithful, diligent servants in earthly life will have greater service opportunities in the Millennial Kingdom, as Yeshua taught in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Yeshua’s teaching in the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27) is even clearer. Please read this parable. Upon the master’s return [representing Yeshua’s return at the resurrection/ rapture], he required an accounting [representing the Bema Judgment]. To the servant who had earned ten more minas, the master praised him (Luke 19:17): [Yeshua said] “The master said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you were faithful with so little, take charge over ten cities.’”
The servant who earned five minas was placed in charge of five cities. But to the lazy, fearful servant who did nothing with his mina and earned nothing for the master, his mina was taken away, leaving him with nothing (Luke 19:26): [Yeshua said] “‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more shall be given. But from the one who doesn’t have, even what he does have shall be taken away.’” [A mina was a unit of precious metal weight in the ancient world. The actual weight of a mina varied at different times, but was a significant amount of precious metal. Your gifts from God, which you can use in service to Him, are also significant.]
Other rewards? The Apostle Paul, who personally viewed Paradise in his near-death experience and quoting from Tanakh prophets, assured us of unimaginable wonders of Heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9): But as it is written, “Things no eye has seen and no ear has heard, that have not entered the heart of mankind– these things God has prepared for those who love Him.” We may have many other rewards from God that we cannot even imagine.
CONCLUSION: Many local, national, and international organizations provide service opportunities for you, as a Believer, to demonstrate your love. Your imagination may provide additional unique opportunities to serve others. Use these opportunities to make your “retirement plan deposits.” There are only two rules to earn eternal rewards:
● Work for others because you love God and you love your neighbors. This love is an extension of Yeshua’s teaching pf the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35-40): (1) love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind; and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. Yeshua also gave a new (third) commandment to love fellow Believers, as we are loved by Yeshua. Love and service are the basic building blocks upon which a Believer builds upon Yeshua’s foundation.
● Work for others as anonymously as possible, with no desire for recognition or praise from man, as Yeshua taught in His example of the poor widow who quietly gave her two small coins, while the rich boasted of their large gifts. Work for other, if done for selfish reasons, is probably disregarded by God (Luke 6:24): [Yeshua said] “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” (That is, a person’s pride and need for recognition of others is the only reward a person should expect– reward from man. Expect no other reward from God for self-promoting acts of “service.”)
God looks at the heart of the giver, not the size of the gift (1 Samuel 16:7): But Adonai said to Samuel, “Do not look at his [David’s] appearance or his stature, because I have already refused him. For He does not see a man as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Adonai looks into the heart.” Your work for others may be great in God’s eyes, if it is the best you can do under your circumstances. (Read Mark 12:42-44.)
Start saving for your eternal future today. Some day, labors and concerns will end, and a Believer will “retire’ in eternal bliss. Interest in this retirement plan begins accruing immediately, and payment will be made in full at the Bema Judgment.
Is any good deed (good work) too small? If you have an account in a local bank, you may make either large or small deposits. Your bank will accept a one-dollar ($1) deposit or a ten-thousand dollar ($10,000) deposit. Your heavenly account will credit both large and small deposits of good deeds. Yeshua was more impressed with the widow’s two small coins given to the Temple treasury, than He was impressed with the rich men’s enormous gifts (Luke 21:1-4). The widow gave out of love and gave sacrificially, without boasting. Even small gifts of kindness and love are credited (Matthew 10:42): [Yeshua said] “And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, amen I tell you, he shall never lose his reward.”
A Believer should work diligently to add to his/ her “retirement plan” by making “deposits” through kind actions for others in love and Yeshua’s name. I hope you and I can witness each other’s Bema Judgment, and that we can rejoice at each other’s crowns. Hopefully, Yeshua will smile and say to each of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
P.S. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY: To fathers reading this RR, I cannot say anything that you should not already feel today. Holy Scriptures are filled with passages blessing earthly mothers and fathers. The greatest things I have ever accomplished in life are the fathering of my children. Thank you, God, and thank you, Linda, for my children. I am blessed beyond measure.
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 18 Jun-2023 29th of Sivan, 5783
Nu 16:1-13 Jer 38 Ezr 1 2 Co 3 (Lk 2:22-52)