And back to one of Job’s “friends,” Bildad. There is a misconception that was prevalent in the ancient world and it still hangs on in some groups of believers today. The misconception, simply put, is that God will unfailingly punish the wicked in this life and reward the righteous in this life, though Bildad’s statement focuses on the disposition of the wicked. While both of these do happen (The Bible has plenty of stories in both directions), the reward of the believer and the judgment of the wicked are not in the here and now.
I realize that some of my fellow believers would find the above assertion a bit brazen. Who am I to say what God will and will not do? No one. That is precisely who. However, I am not basing my affirmation on my own authority, but on the authority of Christ. It is He Who tells me to store up treasure in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves cannot steal away (Matthew 6:20). He warns against worrying about the concerns of the present and tells me instead to focus on the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:25-34). If I am not to lay up treasures on Earth and I am to focus on God’s coming kingdom then it stands to reason that my reward is not here on Earth. And a good thing, too, as Revelation tells me that this Earth is toast at some point. Why would I want my reward in a temporary place? What about my statement that the wicked do not receive their judgment here and now? Jesus says, in John 3, that the person who refuses to believe in the Son of God stands condemned in the here and now. That would seem to indicate that judgment is, in fact, present tense. But it ignores something very important: everyone was once a person who refused to believe. Sure, the person who in the present tense refuses to believe stands condemned, but that can change simply by that person choosing to place their trust in Christ. Acceptance or rejection of the offer of salvation is in the here and now. The believer’s reward and the unbeliever’s ultimate judgment are still to come.
Application: As a believer, I need to keep my focus on things to come. Things done in the here and now are invested toward that future and I need to make good investments. What is funny about this is that Americans have our 401Ks and our 403Bs and our IRAs (savings plans, not to be confused with the Irish Republican Army) and whatnot but it seems so foreign to believers when we talk about saving for our future in Heaven. Contributions to our retirement plans will not bear fruit until we retire, though we can borrow against them now. Contributions made to our future home in Heaven bear future fruit (rewards) but also bear dividends in the here and now in the form of a righteous life and excellent character and peace with God (and sometimes other people). I need to plan for both retirements: my retirement from the workplace on Earth and my retirement from service on the spiritual battlefield. Let me put more into the latter and worry less about the former.