“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Although humanity is born into a homogenous state of sin, I believe some sins we commit are more severe than others, as Jesus pointed out to Pontius Pilate (John 19:11). Consider what Jesus said to Chorazin and Bethsaida. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21-22). Jesus directed his most fierce condemnations to the pride and unbelief of the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:13-36). When Jesus spoke of his second coming and judgment, he warned that some would “be beaten with many blows”, while others “with few blows” (Luke 12:47-48). Throughout the Gospels, Jesus measures and evaluates guilt, and with the greater guilt and greater responsibility comes greater judgment; this is a message that permeates the New Testament. Some people, such a teachers of the Word, for example, will be judged more strictly than others (James 3:1), as more will be expected of those who receive more (Luke 12:48).
Although entrance into heaven will be on the basis of the merit of Christ, we see that our works will be tested. Paul speaks of reward as well as loss, when our works are revealed by fire: “If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15). Jesus said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36). And again, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12). The idea that all sin is equal has been drilled into my thought process for much of my life, but I do not believe to flatten out sin is scriptural. If some works bear witness to salvation, then it follows that other works bear witness to depravity; a cosmic sized enigma to be sure. I can find at least twenty-two references in the New Testament to degrees of rewards in heaven; there are different levels, different rewards, and different roles in eternity.
Human sin and depravity are both its cause and effect; we are not only punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins (Voice Bible footnote, p. 1374). Some sins are more severe in terms of impact (1 Corinthians 6:18), in terms of culpability (Romans 1:21-32), and in terms of the judgement (Mark 9:42; 2 Peter 2:17). Sin is like yeast; a little works its way through the lump. No wonder Paul warned the Corinthians not to associate with anyone claiming to be a believer but is “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Fortunately, for those of us redeemed in Jesus Christ, we know how the story ends. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, death and sorrow, crying and pain, will all be no more. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). The former things will have passed away.
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