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Eric Summers

The idea of God rewarding us for faithful service has come up several times during our weekly home Bible study.  This idea has been in my mind for some time, so The Lord has touched me via the Holy Spirit to discuss rewards in a website article.  Here are some thoughts about rewards that came about by reading the Holy Bible and by praying to our Heavenly Father for guidance and understanding.

I don't recall a sermon from the pulpit where the pastor discussed rewards for faithful service to God or had the idea discussed in our Sunday school materials.  I had even heard in a recent Church Bible study of the Book of Galatians that several members of  the class even downgraded the idea of rewards for faithful service to God.  They didn't want to hear about any verses from the Holy Bible that discussed rewards even though I opened up the Bible and was willing to read to them several verses that discussed rewards.  In a recent gospel music concert, one of the singers even sang a song with the words "I don't care about rewards".  Several members of the audience were nodding their heads "yes."  Apparently they also believed that rewards have no value to them.

What's really important is: Does God attach any importance to rewards?  The Lord always provides answers to our questions, if we earnestly seek the answers from Him, so I looked through my Strong's Concordance for the words reward, rewarded, rewards, rewarder, and rewarders, and came up with many Bible verses that discuss the subject for positive rewards for any good works and negative rewards for any evil works. I found over 100 verses in both the Old and New Testaments and I suggest that you look them up in your Bible after you finish reading this article.  I'll discuss specific cases for positive rewards for the faithful and specific cases for negative rewards for the unfaithful.

Let's first define reward, taken from the Free Dictionary:
Noun:
1. Something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior or in retribution for evil acts.
2. Money offered or given for some special service, such as the return of a lost article or the capture of a criminal.
3. A satisfying return or result; profit.
4. Psychology. The return for performance of a desired behavior; positive reinforcement.

Verb:
1. To give a reward to or for.
2. To satisfy or gratify; recompense.

I'll use the noun definition: Something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior or in retribution for evil acts.

Questions about Rewards

I will attempt to provide in this article the answers to the following questions:

  • Does God ascribe any importance to rewards? 
  • Should rewards be important to the Christian? 
  • If they are important, what must I do to earn rewards?
  • Are there any negative rewards? 
  • What will happen to me if I don't think that awards are important?  

I will answer these above questions in this article and will draw the answers from the Holy Bible, not from tradition.  If we can agree that its what's in the Holy Bible that is important regarding rewards, then let's analyze scripture. I'll use several verses from both Old and New Testaments and try to explain to you what I think they mean.  In this article, scripture is taken from the American Standard Version (ASV) 1901 version of the Holy Bible.

Types of works

Are good works important?  Didn't Isaiah in verse 64:6 say that our works were as filthy rags to God?

The verse is Isaiah 64:6: For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. If our works are done for our own personal glory (our righteousnesses), then yes, our works are as filthy rags in the sight of God and we will receive no reward for these works.

However, note the following verse, Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.  Paul says that good works accomplished through us by the power of the Holy Spirit are expected.  These works are planned in advance by God and should be accomplished for the glory of God and not for our glory.  We will receive a reward for any good works that we accomplish when following the Holy Spirit's direction.

Old Testament

Abraham

Let's begin examining verses about rewards in the Old Testament, starting with:

Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, [and] thy exceeding great reward.

Abraham and his men had several days earlier rescued his nephew Lot from several kings that had taken he and his family captive.  In rescuing Lot, Abraham showed that he loved his nephew Lot and thought only about his safety. After the battle, Melchizedek, the high priest at Salem brought Abraham bread and wine and blessed him and told him that God had given him the victory.  Because of his righteous work of rescuing Lot, God rewarded Abraham.  Note that the reward in this verse is The Lord God Himself.  This has to be the highest reward that a human can receive from Jehovah.   I believe that this is a walk with Jehovah and fellowship that far surpasses any close relationship that we might have with any other people.  A second reward is that God would be his shield.  This could be protection from adversaries and it could also be protection when he is tempted to wander from God.  I believe that this was a two part reward.  The first part is that God was with Abram while he was sill walking the earth.  This reward of the Lord God Himself will also continue into the Millennial Kingdom and into Eternity.  Abraham will be very close to God in Heaven and experience a sinless, beautiful and exciting relationship that will last forever.

I believe that a close walk with God is the reward that faithful Old Testament saints and faithful Christians of the Church Age will also experience.  In the Book of Revelation, chapter four,  I believe that the Four Living Creatures that share Christ's throne are the Bride of Christ and will have a somewhat deeper relation with Him than the 24 Elders that are sitting on their own thrones around His grand throne.  The Elders will experience a deeper relation with Christ than the faithful Main Harvest Christians that are a little further away from His throne.  Further away from Christ's throne are those Christians that have some good and some evil works.  The unfaithful Christians of the Church Age, those that have few good works and many evil works, will be even further away from His throne and will still experience a wonderful relationship with Him, but it will not be as close as the relationship as the Bride of Christ and the twenty four Elders will have.  I believe that the more faithful you are Jesus will want you closer to Him.

King David

2 Samuel 22:21 Jehovah rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.'

Psalms 18:20 Jehovah hath rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

This must be a very important verse, since it is recorded twice in the Old Testament.  David walked very close to God and because of this relationship David was inspired by God to live a righteous life for Him.  We find out that in 2 Sam 22:23 that David obeyed all of God's commandments and in 2 Sam 22:24 David resisted doing evil deeds.  We know that David did falter in his faith because of his adultery with Bathsheba and then  allowed her husband, Urriah, to be purposely slaughtered during a battle.  However, in Psalm 51 David humbled himself, and admitted his sin and God forgave him and restored him to fellowship.  David's righteousness is his love for God and his delight in his daily walk with The Lord.  He was also cleansed daily by admitting his shortcomings in prayers to The Lord and are recorded in the Psalms (Psalm 51).  After reading some of these prayers, is anyone closer to God than David in the Old Testament?

King Asa

2 Chronicles 15:7 But be ye strong, and let not your hands be slack; for your work shall be rewarded.

King Asa had been given the victory in battle over the Ethiopians by God and was told this by Obed the prophet. King Asa destroyed many idols in the land and Jehovah blessed him for his faithfulness. Asa did not just sit back and enjoy the privileges that as king he would have; he instead stepped up to the plate and worked for The Lord by battling and defeating one of Israel's enemies.  The larger enemy were the idols of stone, gold and wood and he had these destroyed and God was very pleased.  We are not given the details of King Asa's rewards but we do know that his faithful works were recognized by God and since it is recorded in scripture, his fame will last forever.

Ruth

Ruth 2:12 Jehovah recompense thy work, and a full
reward be given thee of Jehovah, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge.

Ruth lovingly followed her mother-in-law back to Israel and worked for Boaz, a rich man of the day.  Ruth's reward was to be great because of her faith.  A prophetic interpretation of the Book of Ruth describes how the most faithful Christians of the Church age will receive the highest reward of being the Bride of Christ.  Jesus' most faithful followers will miss all of the Tribulation and be with Him in Heaven during this time of testing.  This is the refuge they will have by being with Jesus and serving Him in Heaven.  We also know that a thousand years later, Jesus Christ would be born and be the Savior for mankind.  Ruth was an ancestor to Jesus, the Savior.  This is a great honor for her.

Esau

Genesis 27:32-37 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy first-born, Esau.  And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who then is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Yea, [and] he shall be blessed. When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.  And he said, Thy brother came with guile, and hath taken away thy blessing. And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two time. He took away my birthright. And, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants. And with grain and new wine have I sustained him. And what then shall I do for thee, my son?

Esau was Isaac's favorite son because he hunted wild animals and brought his father meat that he enjoyed eating very much.  Esau was also the first born (by a few minutes) and was in line to be the patriarch of the family.  He would enjoy a double portion of the inheritance from his father, Isaac.  Esau would also enjoy leading his clan and to receive glory and honor from the other members of the extended family.

Think on this: if Esau had not forfeited the blessing from his father to his brother Jacob, then the Old Testament would be talking about the twelve tribes of Esau instead of the twelve tribes of Israel.  An even greater loss would be missing out on the glory and honor of being an ancestor of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  I'm quite sure that Esau will forever regret his fatal decision of giving up his inheritance for the bowl of red stew.  This is a huge negative reward for Esau.  His sin was that he thought more of quenching his momentary hunger for food and hence gave up a monumental inheritance.  At that moment, he did not think highly of his inheritance and in effect, he despised his inheritance.

Here is how God feels about Esau:  Esau despised his inheritance and now God despises him.  We can learn from Esau's mistake.  If God wants to give us an inheritance of some kind, then we should joyfully want to receive the inheritance.  In Esau's case it was to be lord over his father's cattle, servants and riches.  Even more, he was to be remembered and honored by his descendants.  Unfortunately for him, his attitude towards his inheritance will be remembered always because his rejection of the inheritance is recorded forever in the holy scripture.  Here is the verse:

Malachi 1:3 but Esau I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and [gave] his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness.

Esau's rejection is also recorded in the New Testament:

Hebrews 12:16 lest [there be] any fornication, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright.

Hebrews 12:17 For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind [in his father,] though he sought is diligently with tears.

Since the Old Testament lessons are also for us as Christians, we need to learn something from Esau's failure:  we also need to think highly of the rewards God would like to give us.  If we don't want to receive rewards from God and because good rewards are possible only if we live a righteous life and accomplish good works for the glory of God, then we show that we don't think much of the rewards God wants to give us.  This is also despising our inheritance and it has eternal consequences for us in the Millennial Kingdom and in Eternity.

Keeping the Commandments

Psalms 19:11 Moreover by them (the Ten Commandments) is thy servant warned: In keeping them there is great reward.

To God, keeping all of His commandments is very important.  For Christians this is keeping the Ten Commandments and the two great love commandments: loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as our self.  We should also keep all of the words spoken by Jesus in the New Testament.  Note what Jesus said about keeping His commandments--those things He told us to accomplish while He walked this planet earth and are detailed in the Gospels:

John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

New Testament

Rewards are mentioned several times in the New Testament.

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.

Those Christians that are persecuted for Christ's sake will receive a great reward from God when they go to Heaven.  This persecution has happened during the entire 2,000 year Church Age and is happening in the world today.  In the USA there is little persecution except being made fun of by the media.  This will change quickly in these last days of the Church Age. Persecution of Christians will escalate quickly when the Tribulation begins, and most Christians will be left behind to be persecuted during the first half of the Tribulation by Antichrist.  Jesus will reward those Christians who are persecuted and He will be pleased with most of them.

Peter

Matthew 19:27-29 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee; what then shall we have?  And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.

Peter and the other apostles had left everything including their families, their lands, their boats and whatever else they had to follow Jesus and be His disciples.  Note that Jesus did not reprimand Peter for asking Him about the rewards that they would receive.  Jesus was very glad to prepare rewards for His most faithful and to let them know that they would receive a great more in rewards than they had given up for service to God.  They would also inherit eternal life because they are judged by Jesus as being mature sons in the faith.  Here is Paul's definition of Eternal Life:

Romans 2:1 Wherefore thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judges another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost practise the same things.

Romans 2:2 And we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against them that practise such things.

Romans 2:3 And reckonest thou this, O man, who judgest them that practise such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Romans 2:5 but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

Romans 2:6 who will render to every man according to his works:

 Romans 2:7 to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life:

Romans 2:8 but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [shall be] wrath and indignation,

Romans 2:9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek;

Romans 2:10 but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek:

Romans 2:11 for there is no respect of persons with God.

Note that there are consequences for not having good works (V2:8): there would be tribulation (3 1/2 years of persecution by Antichrist) for those Christians of the last days that are not faithful to Jesus--those that have committed mainly evil works during their stay on the earth.  Paul is addressing Christians during this passage of scripture and not the unsaved.

The most faithful receive the highest awards

The highest award.  In Revelation, chapter 4, the Four Living Creatures, the Bride of Christ, will have the highest award, because they will be sharing the grand throne of Christ in Heaven  and  will reign and rule with Him in the Millennial Kingdom and in Eternity.  So, this has to  be the greatest award that Jesus will give to us.  They have many eyes that represent their insight into the mind of God;  somehow the mind of Christ will be intimately connected to the minds of His Bride and they will be able to know intimately the thoughts and plans of God and to be able to understand things that only God Himself can understand.  For example, this could include why He elects some humans for salvation and does not elect others (Doctrine of Election); how He designed and created the Universe and the Earth; and His plans for Eternity.  God will permit them to co-plan with Christ any actions or adventures that residents of Heaven and of Earth will experience in the future.  Since we will have the mind of Christ, any decisions we make will be perfect and in complete accord with any of God's plans for believers in heaven and those dwelling on the earth in the Millennial Kingdom and in Eternity.

I can envision a heavenly choir and orchestra of millions of old and New Testament saints singing with perfect pitch.  God will allow us to write songs of worship and love that will involve all of the heavenly saints and even perhaps the holy angels.  The songs will be both grand like Handel's Messiah and simple as In the Garden.  The words of the songs will be taken from Holy Scripture and from any words that God the Father and God the Son will speak during eternity.

The four living creatures will be the worship leaders in Heaven and on the Earth (Revelation chapter four).   God will not ever have to tell anyone the time or place to worship Him; they will somehow know and give the adoration, love, praise and worship, and songs  and music to God that He deserves whenever they think appropriate.  This will be the most lofty mission that the Bride of Christ will have.  This will be a reward for their faithful service to Him during the Church Age.

The next highest award.  The 24 Elders sitting on their own thrones in the Book of Revelation will be the next closest to Christ in Heaven.  Their thrones will encircle Christ's grand throne and they will experience a very intimate connection to Him.  They will assist the Bride of Christ whenever they determine that God should be praised.  The elders will carry out any commands that Christ has given.   The elders will assist the Bride of Christ and Jesus when they rule over all the kingdoms of the earth.

Questions answered

Q. Does God ascribe any importance to rewards?  Yes He does.  Just read the "rewards" verses identified in any concordance of the Bible.

Q. Should rewards be important to the Christian?  Yes they should.  Wouldn't you rather receive good rewards because you are faithful rather than condemnation for your evil works?

Q. If rewards are important  what must I do to earn rewards? You need to be faithful.  To learn what faith is you need to read ALL verses in the Holy Bible.

Q. Are there any negative rewards?  What will happen to me if I don't think that awards are important?   If your works are mainly evil, you will receive condemnation from Jesus at judgment time.  Just re-read the section on Esau when he thought lightly of receiving the reward as the firstborn of Isaac.  You will see that you will be disinherited of a high position in the Kingdom if you despise rewards from Jesus.

Q. Since rewards are discussed in many verses in the Holy Bible, why do so few Christians think that rewards have any importance?  In sermons and in Sunday School materials rewards either positive or negative are almost never discussed, hence the average church member that only reads these materials will not even know that rewards are discussed in-depth in the Holy Bible.  You have to read ALL verses to see that rewards from God are indeed important to Him and should be to us.

Memories of worldly achievements will vanish

In this world you may be rich and have great achievements, fame and fortune.  You may have your statue in a hall of fame.  You may have achieved international acclaim as a great speaker.  You may have attained high political office.  You may be an owner or be in a high office in a corporation.  You may have achieved great goals and the highest awards as an athlete.  You may have won prizes and international recognition for your academic achievements.  I could go on and on about the great wealth, fame and fortune that has been achieved by various humans.  You may be now riding high on your achievements, but in terms of eternity all efforts at fame and fortune will go away forever.  When Jesus returns to rule the earth at the end of the Tribulation, all human-effort achievements will pass away because Jesus will destroy them.  None of these efforts will be remembered or recalled by anyone.  Your worldly self-effort achievements will vanish as a puff of smoke in the wind.

Good deeds will be remembered forever

Only those efforts that God deems worthy will remain--and they will remain forever.  You may have been persecuted as a believer in Christ, but remain faithful to God. You participate in local and contribute to foreign mission work. You pray for others and yourself.  You have fellowship with God by praying to and praising Him.  You help other believers in Christ to walk closer to Him.  You say no when tempted to do an evil deed. You have humility--you recognize that you sometimes fail God and are sorry for any evil deeds you may do and are sorry for any righteous works you should have accomplished but did not.  You are watching and praying for Jesus' return for the Rapture.  You are reading the Bible, even daily and applying the verses to the way you live your life.  These are some of the righteous works that God will remember that you accomplish by allowing the Holy Spirit to rule in your life--they will last forever.

The Final Word from Jesus

In Revelation 22:12 Jesus tells us:  Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.  The idea of good rewards for the faithful and bad rewards for the unfaithful is one of the last thoughts in the New Testament so we should enthusiastically want to receive these good rewards from Jesus if He wants to bring them to us.  We should also be very nervous to know that if we are unfaithful and have few good works to show Him during our life on this planet that He will bring condemnation and we will be embarrassed at His appearing.