How do you lose rewards? 1 Corinthians 3:15?

Jun 25th, 2012 | By | Category: Questions You Ask (click for the full answer)

How do you lose rewards? 1 Corinthians 3:15?

1 Corinthians 3:15

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.

How do you get rewards? How can you suffer loss? I don’t understand this scripture?


Verse 15 is contrary to normal logic, but Paul’s method helps to bring out a point that will be seen as we proceed. The wood, hay, and stubble are all burned; that is, they are destroyed, yet the individual is saved. Therefore, this illustration is not picturing the destruction of the individual but the destruction of his work. The gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble represent what individuals build upon the foundation Christ Jesus, the quality of their workmanship. Individuals whose works are completely shattered will not get honors but, rather, great disappointment, shock, and loss in connection with their expectations of the high calling. Stated another way, their hopes of being part of the Little Flock are destroyed. All of their efforts in the present life with regard to obtaining the prize of the high calling are of no avail, but their life is preserved. Hence the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble represent workmanship, and whether or not one will receive a reward depends on whether it abides. If the workmanship abides, there are different scales of honor in the Little Flock. If the workmanship is destroyed but the individual is saved, there are different degrees of honor in the Great Multitude. Incidentally, hay burns quickly, but stubble burns furiously. With the Great Multitude, who will be servants before the throne, there will be distinctions of service (Rev. 7:15). One lesson is that character “works” are helpful and important in determining the destiny of a person, and even with those whose works are destroyed, distinctions are made.

“He himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Fire and tribulation purify. In the Time of Trouble, the Great Multitude will wash their robes “in the blood of the Lamb,” that is, in the tribulation period (Rev. 7:14). The fire will awaken them to their need of purification, and through purification, they will be saved. (Those who are not awakened by the fire will not be saved, will not get life.) The works of the Great Multitude will be destroyed, and their hopes and ambitions will not materialize. Nevertheless, here in verse 15, Paul was presenting the thought of building on the foundation in an encouraging way. Yes, the Great Multitude will suffer loss, but as long as they hold to the foundation, they will get life. They must prove their faithfulness in the final analysis as overcomers, not as more-than-overcomers.

In a picture, the scapegoat (Goat for Azazel–Satan) was brought by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness to die (Lev. 16:21,22). In the New Testament, Paul named two individuals of the Great Multitude (scapegoat) class whom he remanded over to “Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved” (1 Tim. 1:20; 1 Cor. 5:5). Here the fire destroys the flesh and its works— the human nature with its hopes and ambitions—but the individuals do get life. On the one hand, those of the Church lay up treasures of gold, silver, and precious stones in heaven in the present life—the treasures are there on deposit—so that when they die, they inherit the treasures. On the other hand, the treasures of wood, hay, and stubble never get up in heaven, for they are not acceptable. Therefore, when the Great Multitude die, all their hopes and ambitions, as well as the flesh, are destroyed. Nevertheless, their spirits are saved by being given a resurrection as a secondary spiritual class.

The foundation Rock, Christ, is common to all six categories. However, one must be careful how he builds upon that Rock platform. The one common salvation for all six categories is life.

In one class, the works on top of the foundation are transferred to the heavenly realm, and in the other class, the works on top of the foundation are destroyed.

Two basic types of works are built upon the foundation Rock, Christ Jesus. One class builds with combustible materials; the other class builds with relatively noncombustible materials. The fire destroys the wood, hay, and stubble but does not destroy the gold, silver, and precious stones. With regard to the Great Multitude class, the wood, hay, and stubble, which are burned, do not refer to the soul, or being, of the person. To a certain extent, the faith works, or character, might be damaged or set back for a while, but the soul and the foundation of Christ are not burned. In other words, the fire can burn down the entire superstructure, but it cannot damage the foundation. The person’s relationship to Christ is pictured in the foundation.

The “works” do not refer to building materials. An example is the Apostle Paul, who lost all of his possessions when he was shipwrecked. The Little Flock build a superstructure in heaven, whereas wood, hay, and stubble are not laid up in heaven. In other words, the Great Multitude do not build a proper superstructure, and when the wood, hay, and stubble are destroyed, only the foundation remains. When those of the Little Flock die, they have spiritual treasures in reservation for them in heaven. When those of the Great Multitude die, they have only their souls. Therefore, the fire pertains to the critical point in life, which is either death itself or some other time in a Christian’s career when he reaches the point of no return of either making or not making his calling and election sure. When that crisis comes, then whatever a person does from that time on, treasures are there only for the Little Flock. The Little Flock and the Great Multitude can do visible works before public or brethren, but the nature of their character building will not be discerned until the Judgment Day. To a certain extent, we can judge a person by his fruits, but not in the final sense of the ultimate outcome (Matt. 7:16-20). We can certainly judge whether one supports a wrong principle, but we cannot judge his final destiny.

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