Some Christians are opposed to the doctrine of reward. They think that we ought to be led to do good works solely on the principle of love to God. In entertaining this opinion, many are no doubt quite unaware how much Scripture testifies on this subject, both in the Old Testament and the New.
It is intended then to exhibit in this tract some of the Scripture testimonies on this point. It is one of deepest moment to each believer to accept. It is said, that Sadoc, the founder of the Sadducees, began his career of unbelief, by denying the doctrine of reward.
Does then, the Scripture affirm the doctrine of future reward?
The doctrine of reward reposes, as its last foundation, on the character of God Himself, as described in His Word.
Let us then consider:
I. THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF REWARD.
III. THE DAY APPOINTED.
IV. THE APPLICATION OF REWARD TO THE SAVIOUR AND TO HIS DISCIPLES.
I. THE CHARACTER OF GOD
Jehovah proclaims Himself both in the Old Testament and the New, as the Righteous Governor, who will render at last, to both the righteous and the wicked, recompense according to their works: Deut. xxxii. 35; Prov. xii. 14; Isa. xxxv. 4; xl. 10; lix. 18; lxii. 11; lxvi. 6.
To Abraham, the father of the faithful, after his act of courage in attacking, the victorious armies of Chedorlaomer, and his self-denial in refusing the riches of the King of Sodom, God speaks in terms of promise. " Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." Gen. xv. 1.
The doctrine of God's rewarding His people is stated in the New Testament as a first truth; following immediately on the confession of the existence of God. "Without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is* a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Heb. xi. This is exemplified to us in the translation of Enoch.
[* More exactly in Greek, "he becometh.'']
Both the Old and the New Testament bear witness to this part of the character of the Most High. It is a principle common to both, as the following passages testify. " I will not keep silence, but will recompense into their bosom, your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers." Isa. lxv. 6.
It is never said, that "Law offered reward for service rendered, but that the Gospel does not admit the principle of recompense." On the contrary, the Gospel assumes this principle, and carries it out into its own sphere with a "much more."
1. If Adam's one offense brought in the recompense of death, much more shall Christ's work introduce the millennial kingdom and the reign of life. Rom. v. 17.
2. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was (became) steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we (believers) escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" Heb. ii. 1, 2.
3. "If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven. " Heb. xii. 25.
God then is the Lord of Justice, who in the coming day will render to both the righteous and to the wicked recompense." To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." Prov. xi. 18.
"Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked ! It shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him." Isa. iii. 10, 11.
Let us consider next:
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF REWARD.
This day is the time of men's trial. For it is the time of faith. Christ is away. Serve Satan and the world, and you will get a present favorable result. Serve Christ, and you will have to bear persecution for His sake. Thus the sincerity of men is being tested.
It was easy to be a republican when Cromwell was virtually the King of England; and when to be a royalist entailed trouble. But by these sufferings of the king's men their sincerity was proved; as on the other hand, the sincerity of the Nonconformists was manifested when Charles the Second persecuted Dissenters.
God then is putting, each to the test in this day of His patience. Whom will you serve? To what extent will you labor ? How far can Christ trust you now?
How high will He promote you in the day of reward?
Are you willing to make surrenders for Him, and to suffer for His sake?
With every believer the question is being tried:
Will you seek reward at Christ's hand? To what extent will you seek it?
God's eye is on labor wrought for His Son's sake. He says He will requite it in a day to come. Jesus teaches us, that not the lowest act of kindness done for His sake shall be without its reward.
"He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Matt. x. 41, 42.
The principle announced in the Old and New Testament alike, is—that God will render to each at last — "ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS."
1. "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to each according as his work shall be." Rev. xxii, 12.
2. "All the churches shall know that I am He that searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. " Rev. ii. 23.
3. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward each according to his work." Matt. xvi. 27.
4. "Each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." 1 Cor. iii. 8, 14.
As a secondary result, reward will be in proportion to suffering for Christ. To the sufferers unto death for the Savior's sake a place in the millennial glory is promised. Rev. xx. 4—6; 2 Tim. ii. 10—12.
Hence we have several times the sentiment—that Christ will "account" some "worthy" of reward.
1. "The children of this age marry and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from among the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. For neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." Luke xx. 34-36 (Greek).
2. "We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations which ye endure. Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye even suffer." 2 Thess. i. 4, 5 (Greek).
3. "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling." 2 Thess. i. 11.
This principle is necessary to adjust the respective places of each in the coming day. The redeemed are saved through the perfect work of Christ received by faith. But that is the same for all; and if that were the only principle of God's arrangement it would set all the saved in an equality of station, and of glory.
But such is not God's counsel. As star differs from star in size, color, and brightness, so also is the resurrection of the dead: 1 Cor. xv. It is then at this point that the principle we are considering comes in. According to the differences of labor for Christ, and of sufferings for His sake, will the station of each hereafter be arranged.
Then, as some are bearers of thirty-fold, some of sixty-fold, some of an hundred, there will be answerable diversities of glory. No two of the saved will be in all respects equal in glory, as no two are entirely the same in service and in suffering, and in surrender for Christ.
Consider we next:
III. THE DAY APPOINTED.
The Holy Spirit states, that the present day of grace is moving onward towards a DAY of an opposite principle, in which God will render to every one, converted or unconverted, elect or non-elect, saved or lost, according to his works.
1. "Despiset" thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and of the revelations of the righteous judgment of God, [God is righteous in this day o£ mercy; but in the coming day He means to manifest His justice by the award given to each,] who will render to each according to his works: To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honou, and immortality,—eternal life: But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. But glory, honor, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile [then comes a long parenthesis] in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." Rom ii. 4—16.
2. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." 2 Tim. iv. 8.
The coming day is described as an AGE, of which some will be accounted worthy: Luke xx. 34 - 36. It is to begin at the seventh or last trump, when Christ is to take the kingdom, and the promised reward is to be given to His servants of various classes: Rev. xi. 15—l8.
It is to last for a thousand years.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment as given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and whoever had not worshipped the Wild Beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." Rev. xx. 4—6.
It is the time of "the kingdom of God," when He resumes the authority which for awhile He has entrusted to the Gentiles. Rev. xi. 15—18.
lt is the day of God's future rest from His redemption-work. As after the six days of creation-work God rested on the seventh day, and rejoiced in His creation; so, after six thousand years of redemption-work there is to come the seventh day, or sabbath-rest of redemption-work. It is to be one of a thousand years' duration, as each of the preceding days of redemption-work has been. Heb. iii. iv.
It is the period of the resurrection of the righteous dead, which takes place a thousand years before the general resurrection. Rev. xx. 4—6.
"Thou shalt be blessed; for they [the poor] cannot recompense thee; for thou shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Luke xiv. 14.
To attain this Paul pressed onward with the utmost ardor, desiring to partake of Christ's sufferings, and even to find a martyr's death, "if by any means he might attain to the select resurrection from among the dead." Phil. iii 11. (Greek.)
It is to be really a time of reward; a repayment of labour expended for Christ, a consolation for suffering, a harvest in return for good works sown.
1. "Lift up your eyes, and look on tile fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." John iv. 35, 36.
There is then to be a time in which God’s laborers before the law and under the law shall meet together with the servants of the Lord's farm under the Gospel, and all three classes shall rejoice together in God's great harvest-home!
2. "Each shall receive His own reward according to his own labor:" 1 Cor. iii. 8. If we get not our recompense now, we are to find it then.
3. Hence Paul gave up his right to a maintenance in preaching the Gospel. "For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed to me. What then is my reward? That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of the Christ without charge, (so) that I abuse not my power in the Gospel." 1 Cor. ix. 17, 18.
The coming day is designed by the Most High as a time of consolation for the sufferers for Christ.
"Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven, for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets." Luke vi. 22, 23.
But disciples who obtain their reward now will not receive it then. (Lk. vi. 24—26). "But woe unto you the rich (disciples), for ye are receiving your consolation. Woe unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger (then). Woe unto you that laugh now; for ye shall mourn and weep. (then.) Woe unto you (disciples) when* men speak well of you; for so used their fathers to do to the false prophets." Matt. v. 4, 11, 12.
[*The word ‘all’ is omitted, as it is not considered genuine by critical editors.]
4. "Love ye your enemies and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be children of the Highest; for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil." Luke vi. 35.
The coming millennium is to be the hour of requital for good works, whether prayers, fastings, or alms. Hence Jesus persuades His people not to seek their reward here and now, as did the Pharisees; otherwise they would have no reward in the coming glory from their Father: Matt. vi. l—16; 2 John 8; Matt. x. 41, 42.
IV. THE RANGE OF THE PRINCIPLE.
I. It is applied, in the first instance to the SON OF GOD HIMSELF.
1. The xviiith Psalm celebrates Jesus' resurrection, as the result of His prayer to God, (xviii. 4—7,) and notices the earthquake at His coming forth from the tomb. The Psalm, however, goes on to speak of the future day of the kingdom of glory, and the requital then. "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me." 20, 24—26.
2. The well-known fifty-third of Isaiah, while it celebrates the Savior's death for sin, is equally outspoken about His recompense to come." He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied; by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors."
3. In the Philippians the same principle is exhibited in the case of Jesus. He is perfect—in self-surrender, humility, and obedience. Therefore His name is before God the highest of any. "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross. Wherefore also God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name." Phil. ii. 5—11.
4. In the Hebrews we find the same idea. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore O God, Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." Heb. i. 8, 9.
5. In the Apocalypse, after the churches are set aside, a new throne is set up, not "the throne of grace" as now; but "the throne of judgment." Then comes the question—"who is worthy?" ch. v. There is a pause; for none is found worthy, till the Lamb appears. His worthiness is at once confessed; and all power is given to Him. "'Thou art worthy.'' It is the new day of reward according to works; and it takes effect first on the Son of God Himself.
But if reward is to be dealt out to the Redeemer, according to His work, all pretesce against its being applicable to us is at once removed. And if our Lord Himself was cheered by the hope of recompense, well may we be: Heb. xii. 2.
The principle as applicable to Christian teachers has already been noted: 1 Cor. iii.
The same rule will apply to sufferers for Christ's sake.
1. "Now if children, then heirs; heirs indeed of God,* but joint heirs with Christ, if at least we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Rom. viii. 17.
[*The translators have lost the distinction here set forth, by omitting the μεν, and mistranslating the δε. The promise refers to sufferers for Christ; and not all Christians do so suffer.]
2. "Faithful is the saying; for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we suffer we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12.
3. To the same purpose, is the apostle's illustration which follows. God's eternal kingdom resembles a palace in which there are vessels of various materials, answerably destined by the master to different uses; some honorable, and some dishonorable. 2 Tim. ii. 20, 21; see also Matt. v. 11, 12; x. 41, 42; Heb. x. 34—37.
This offer of reward is designed to steady us in our endurance of the trials of our strange calling, during its day of rejection and dishonor. Luke vi. 23, 35.
1.Thus the example of Moses is proposed to us, as that of the man of faith giving up the world's glitter to suffer affliction with the hope of reward.
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to he called the son of Pharaoh's daughter: choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward." Heb. xi. 24—26.
Even if life is called for, the principle holds good; the recompense shall outweigh any suffering.
2. "For whosoever will save his life (soul) shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life (soul) for My sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and be fined his own soul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward each according to his work." Matt. xvi. 25-27.
Also Rev. ii. 10; xx. 4—6.
This view is intended to stimulate us to service while Christ is away.
1. "Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities." Luke xix. 16—19.
2 "And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; even as I received of My Father." Rev. ii. 26, 27,
The refusal, then, of a doctrine so often asserted in Scripture, is traceable, either, (1) To defective views of the character of God, as the Rewarder of service. Or to (2) defective views of the necessities of the Christian, of the difficulties of our Lord's doctrine, and the sacrifices for which it calls.
It is easy to work for Christ, when all prospers, But what, when sacrifices, persecution, and death, stand in the way of the Christian worker?—"Why should I be put to such straits? and required to give up so much? Why be called on to surrender life, when thousands of Christians find religion a source of honour and wealth ?"
At this point comes in the doctrine before us to stay the rising murmur. "To you it is given, not only to believe, but to suffer. And the sufferer shall reign in the Christ's kingdom of glory."
Many do not hold those doctrines of Christ which lead into trouble from the world. And not seeing the peculiarity of the Christian's heavenly calling, they see not also the hope given to animate him.
Be strong, then, Christian! Your work, your sufferings shall be rewarded. The Lord knows your trials. He has appointed a day to console you. He has fixed a day in which the sowers and the reapers of His great field shall rejoice together; while the slothful servant is shut out: Matt. xxv.
Now is the time of trial, then the day of answering promotion. Those who have been humbled to the darkness of the dungeon, shall come out into the light of God's glory. Those who have passed through the fires shall he promoted, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the kingdom of a greater than Nebuchadnezzar. The sowing may be in tears, but the reaping shall be in joy.
David, the Lord's anointed king, is driven into exile, in tears, and peril. Barefoot, and with head abased, he climbs the hill of Olivet. But after his humiliation and flight come victory, and return in triumph. Then his mind turns to requite the friends who in his day of suffering opened to him their stores, and drew their swords on his behalf.
He remembers the kindness of Barzillai, and would requite it by a seat at his own royal table. David's intentions are indeed baffled by the heaviness of age, and its desire for quiet. But not so with Christ. He shall bid His faithful servants enter into His joy. He shall infuse new life into the glorified bodies of His aged and His sleeping ones. "His rest shall be glory."
Shall we look a moment at Joseph? He is rejected and hated by his brethren, because of his superiority given him by God. Sent to them by their father, they sell him as a slave. He is cast into the dungeon on a false accusation. He seems forgotten of God and man. But it is only for a season of trial. Then comes his marvelous and sudden elevation. Owned to be the chief in wisdom, he is advanced to the chief rank. He is virtually King of Egypt. All before him bow the knee.
Most can see that this has been in part fulfilled by Jesus in His day of suffering. Few observe, that the glory and the kingdom have yet to be fulfilled in Him. Jesus is seated at the Father's right hand, awaiting the kingdom, when all His foes shall be put under His feet. He shall have dominion over all the works of God. "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou." He will remember those who have served Him. Seek then a place in this kingdom of the true Joseph !
[The article above was excerpted from Kingdom Studies by Robert Govett and is used by permission. All of Govett’s works, as well as those of Lang, Panton and others are available from Schoetttle Publishing Co., P. O. Box 1246, Hayesville, N. C., 28904. Phone: 706-896-3333. Fax: 706- 896- 3311.]
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)