I remember attending a Bible study once and we had a discussion about heaven and one of my friends said that she would often day dream about how to decorate her mansion in heaven.
We might think that this is rather silly but I think it points to an important truth about the continuity between our lives on this earth and our lives at the resurrection.
I think the Reformation polemic against merits and rewards has been overdone and there is a very legitimate place in Christian theology for the logic of rewards. The resurrection of the Just isn’t merely about receiving a crown, it is fundamentally the consummation of our deepest desires and loves as it grasps and discerns what is true and beautiful about the beloved at its very fundamental level and receives it as a reward at the resurrection.
In this Fallen Postlapsarian world, there are limits to which we can attain what we want or desire. I will, for example, not be able to hear a live performance by Bach, or ever have an opportunity to talk to Queen Victoria or Elizabeth (both of them!). I doubt I will ever fully comprehend String Theory or master Topology in this life. Closer to home, there are many things which we would not be able to enjoy in our life time, many broken relationships which we would not be able to mend, many people whom we do not have the pleasure of their company or friendship. In short, there are many things of beauty, truth and goodness which we shall never have the opportunity to enjoy in this fallen imperfect life.
It is important that the resurrection of us be precisely the resurrection of ourselves, concerned with the fundamental desires and loves which constitutes our lives. While not discounting the radical fiery purification of our subjectivity and internal states which the resurrection will bring, yet, if the goodness of creation is not to be utterly and completely denied, after the divine conflagration of our souls and the transformation of our desires and our loves, there must still remain a semblance of our former desires which now desires rightly and discerns truly what is true, good and beautiful about the objects of our longing.
Thus, we must reject one element of the “pie in the sky” argument which is that the concept of heavenly rewards and the afterlife negates all that is true and good in this life. While rightly restrained in our eschatology that not all that all which is rightly desired and loved can be attained in this life, but we also cannot have a too dualistic eschatology wherein our desires and loves in this life becomes so utterly obliterated and transcended that what we love and desire in our risen state bares no continuity or resemblance to what we love and hope in this life.
Therefore, if the resurrection is not to remain a mere afterthought or insurance against damnation, but instead is to be a reality which encompasses our deepest desires and longing, the doctrine of rewards needs to be revived and rightly articulated. This is so that we might not illegitimately resort to sinful means to attain them in our despair that we shall never have them, but keeping to God’s will and being patient in suffering in not being able to have our desires in this life, we endure in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection where then shall we all attain unto what is deepest and truest about our desires.
So keep decorating that mansion, for therein lies the hope of the Resurrection.