Eternal Life and Eternal Reward

Matthew 19:16-30

Jerry A Collins




v     What does it take to get into the kingdom of god?

v     What kind of commitment does Jesus ask of us?

v     Where should we look for our rewards?


Don’t put the cart before the horse we have heard often said. The meaning; Don’t reverse the accepted order of things. Don’t put that which is second, first. Here is a story of a man who attempted to do just that. He is the rich young ruler. The essence of his problem is revealed in his question to Jesus in vs 16 Teacher what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life? There are a number of things wrong with this question but the main one:


First, he perceived Jesus to be a teacher and of course Jesus was that. However, Jesus was also much more than that. Until this rich young ruler could perceive Jesus as God’s Son, the eternal life he wants remains beyond his reach.

Second, his concept of ‘good’ was misguided at best. He understands eternal life to be something he can merit with a good deed—maybe a huge good deed—one up on anything in the Law. Maybe a super-size deed! So is there some good deed he could do besides keeping the commandments, that would guarantee his place in the kingdom? This concept of goodness clouded his whole perception of Jesus, of the nature of eternal life, and of even himself. These perceptions had to be corrected or he would remain far from this kingdom.

Third, at the core is what we could call a self-righteous perspective. He is certainly not humble and trusting, as Jesus sated earlier one had to be to gain entrance into this kingdom—look at vss 13-15. Since Jesus was a good teacher (Mk 10:17), the ruler believed Jesus could provide the answer to how he could earn this ‘eternal life’, a life approved by God, and one that guaranteed his access into it.

This is the fundamental problem with the gospel. It forces people to have to humble themselves and admit they are not good, nor good enough to merit the kingdom of God. Yet, it is the one way we perceive can get us there. This young rich ruler is like any of us who have truly entertained the idea of life after death. If so, what can I do to ensure I am there? Jesus attacks and chips away at this false premise to expose the self-righteous attitude behind it—an attitude that bluntly keeps people out of this kingdom. Jesus answers this guy.


Jesus says two things here:

1. The One who is good—God—defines what is good. Only God is good, Jesus says. That being the case there are 2 implications (a) Jesus could not be good unless He was God. He called Jesus the good teacher in Mark 10. (b) The young wealthy ruler himself was not ‘good’ either if only God is good. But neither of these implications seem to dawn on him.

2. So obey the commandments then if you want to display the goodness to get you into the kingdom, Jesus says. Of course, by keeping the law one would normally face his shortcomings—that is, his sin. Jesus instruction is designed to uncover the arrogance and self-righteous attitude lurking underneath this guy’s question. He asks, which ones? Vs 18. He is still considering how he can earn his way in. He still has not gotten hold of the implications Jesus’ answer provided. Jesus enumerates several of the commands and adds love your neighbor as yourself. By now, it should have been convincing. Does he get it or not?

3. Here is self-righteousness in all of it’s stark reality. The guy has just blown by the evidence that should have convicted him. Of course he has not kept these commandments. No one has! But he is blinded by his arrogance. And so are your neighbors! He is not good but he is self-righteous. He had it all wrong and the darkness his blindness delivers is dark indeed.

4. Mark says at this point, Then Jesus looking at him, loved him 10:21. How and even why Jesus loves him is beyond our comprehension but this does reveal the heart of God for sinners for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus love for this guy motivates him to take the ruler one step farther—and one step closer to the kingdom. Perfection is the standard Jesus says to him vs 21. The answer is to come by faith and in order to do that he must sell everything, give it to the poor, and have treasure in heaven—and follow Christ. This is what he really needed because he had more faith in his money than he had in Jesus. Actually, what he perceived would get him into the kingdom, suspecting that his wealth could be tapped in some way for a generous act of benevolence   that would earn him God’s favor, was the one thing keeping him out of the kingdom! Jesus made it very clear that entrance was through a narrow gate and few would find it. That through Him is the only way into it. This man unwilling to trust Christ’s words, and heed His call of faith, left grieving. It would have been a leap of faith for him to adopt a different view of Jesus—that would have meant He was divine. If he had done that he would have been born again. He owned a lot, unwilling to surrender what he trusted in—his wealth. Zaccheus was a wealthy man but when called by Jesus he spontaneously volunteered to do what this ruler was unwilling (Lk 19:5-9). Zaccheus was not saved by his new-found generosity but that willingness was evidence that he received Jesus gladly and Jesus said of him today salvation is come to this house. For anyone like the rich young ruler, pride will be the obstacle to salvation. Admit your sin, trust God.


Hard for the rich to enter 23-24 Jesus conclusion is that it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom trusting his wealth. The camel and needle picture that impossibility. So at the get go this rich man’s efforts were worthless and fruitless. So are yours

Who then can be saved? 25-26  The

disciples shared the common OT idea that God blessed the righteous with wealth as Abe, Solomon, Job. If rich people in God’s favor can’t get in who can? Salvation was hard for the rich man because he trusted in his riches. But the disciples need not worry because salvation is always a miracle of God anyway—what’s impossible with men—to gain entrance into the kingdom, is possible with God—grace through faith in Christ.

We have left all 27-20 In answer to the disciples question, Jesus extends the promise of rewards to all who make sacrifices to follow Him. Here is the cost of discipleship. They are paying a price and will further. Jesus said their reward would be in the regeneration—that is, in the resurrection (Titus 3:5). On earth, their assignment would be making disciples while being persecuted and rejected. But in the kingdom they would be judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Daniel 7:13-14) vs 28. Until then, anyone sacrificing anything, here associated with relationships, will be abundantly compensated by God for the loss. Indeed, they will inherit eternal life—a reward belonging to a future day. Eternal life is the very life of God Himself and the potential for this kind of life is abundant. But to have that reward you must first accept the free gift to enter it. There is no earning this kind of life and that is where the rich young ruler had put the cart before the horse.

1. Eternal life is impossible to attain, not just difficult, because we cannot keep God’s perfect standard. But what is impossible with man is possible with God thru the cross.

2. Eternal rewards are based on leaving everything of worldly value behind.