Definition: A reward is a prize, payment or recompense for merit, service or achievement. God rewards believers in recognition of faithful service. Rewards from God are conditional to the extent that they are based upon human merit, faithfulness and obedience. However, God is not obligated, in a legal sense, to reward believers for their work on his behalf because all believers, as members of the body of Christ, have a function or duty they ought to fulfill. There is no precise correlation between the believer’s works and rewards as in a labor contract. Rather, the idea of legal merit is excluded and mercy is emphasized. God gives rewards to believers who have been faithful servants not because he is obligated, but because he is free to award believers for meritorious and faithful service. Thus, rewards are an expression of God’s grace and are dispensed on a grace basis. God gives every church age believer the means to accomplish his called upon duty by means of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Just as military heroes are awarded medals and decorations for meritorious service and devotion to duty, so too are believers by God for similar devotion and service.
2. Greek etymology and words used to signify reward:
MISTHOS – wages, hire, payment for work done, reward for service, and hence, the reward God bestows for faithful service and good deeds.
THESAUROS- the place where good and precious things are collected and stored, a treasure chest, treasury, that which is stored up, treasure, that which is of exceptional value and kept safe.
EPAINOS- praise, approval, recognition, commendation. Kittel states that the word has the idea of vindication instead of reward.
BRABEION- the award given to the victor in the games, a prize, reward for endurance or achievement, the prize earned by an athlete in a contest.
STEPHANOS- wreath or victor’s crown awarded for triumph in the games or other contests. A wreath of exaltation, it was a reward or prize and a token of public honor for distinguished service, military prowess, etc. It was awarded for achievement in war, and for victory in the games. Thus, it was given on the basis of merit. It was usually woven as a garland of oak, ivy, parsley, myrtle, or olive. The winner of such a prize was often entitled to financial remuneration and other benefits. It was a sign of accomplishment.
ANTAPODOSIS- repayment, recompense, or reward that is given in exchange for what has been done.
MISTHAPODOSIA- recompense, payment of wages, and hence reward.
MISTHAPODOTES- one who rewards or pays wages.
KLERONOMIA- an inheritance, property received by inheritance.
Rewards are always described in Scripture as a future attainment. Hence, there are future judgments for believers of each dispensation. Only works will be judged as sin was judged already at the Cross.
Church age believers are judged at the judgment seat of Christ, which occurs after the rapture; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; Revelation 4:4.
Old Testament believers are judged and rewarded at the 2nd Advent of Christ; Daniel 12:3; Daniel 12:13; Matthew 16:27.
Salvation and rewards must be distinguished.
Salvation from the penalty of sin and the gift of eternal life are a free gift to all who simply believe in Jesus Christ; John 3:16; John 4:10; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9.
Salvation is a present possession; Luke 7:50; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47.
Rewards are earned by works and meritorious service; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 25:14-30; Matthew 25:34-40; Mark 10:21; Luke 19:11-27; Luke 22:24-30; John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:7-8; Colossians 3:23-25; Revelation 22:12.
Rewards are a future attainment; Matthew 16:27; Mark 10:21; Luke 14:14; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12.
Jesus Christ will execute the judgment of the believer’s works; Matthew 16:27; Luke 12:8-9; John 5:22; John 5:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12.
Conditions of receiving rewards and criteria of Christ’s judgment of every believer.
Every believer’s works or deeds, whether good or bad, will be judged; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 2:23.
Good works are those which are done in accordance with scripture and under the control of the Holy Spirit; Galatians 5:21-23; c.f. 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 2:5.
Christ will judge to determine whether the believer’s works were done with pure motivation; Matthew 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 2:23.
Every believer’s faithfulness or devotion to duty will be judged; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 25:14-30; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 19:11-27; Luke 22:24-30; John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:23-25; Hebrews 11:6-10.
Every believer’s words will be judged; Matthew 12:36-37; Luke 12:2-3.
Specific actions or attitudes that will be rewarded.
Acknowledging Christ before others; Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8-9.
Good deeds; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:34-40; Luke 6:35; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:7-8; James 2:21-24.
Leaving families and livelihoods to follow Christ as a disciple; Matthew 19:27-29; Mark 10:21.
Faithful service; see above.
Love for others; Luke 6:35; John 15:14.
Self-control (Filling of the Holy Spirit); 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:5; 1 Peter 3:8-9.
Endurance; 2 Timothy 2:12.
Love for Christ; 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
Faith and patience; Hebrews 6:12.
Confidence; Hebrews 10:35.
Believer’s who seek Christ; Hebrews 11:6.
Reproach and suffering; Hebrews 11:24-26; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.
Believer’s who overcome; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:25-29; Revelation 3:5-6; Revelation 3:11-12; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 21:7.
Description of rewards that will be dispensed to faithful servants.
Many scriptures attest that God will recompense, remunerate, reward, or pay wages for the faithful service of his followers; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 20:1-16; Luke 6:35; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:7-8; Hebrews 11:26; 2 John 8; Revelation 22:12.
Believers are promised an inheritance. They become co-heirs with Christ and inherit the kingdom. Such inheritance undoubtedly, includes many facets some of which are a richer experience of life in the millenium and eternity; ruling with Christ and participation at his wedding feast; and possession of their promised rewards. See notes on inheritance and Matthew 5:5; Matthew 19:27-30; Matthew 25:34; Acts 20:32; Romans 8:16-17; Colossians 3:24-25; Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:17; Hebrews 11:6-9; James 2:5; 1 Peter 3:8-9; Revelation 21:7.
Rewarded believers will reign with Christ; Matthew 19:27-29; Luke 19:17-19; Luke 22:29-30; Romans 8:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-29; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 20:4.
God will offer commendation and praise as a reward; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23; Luke 12:8-9; Luke 19:17; John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 2:23; 1 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:10-11; Revelation 3:5-6; Revelation 3:11-12.
Believers can store up Treasure in heaven; Matthew 6:19-21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:32-33; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Those who overcome are promised special intimacy with Christ; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:17; see notes on manna.
Victor’s crowns or wreaths (stephanos), the prize (brabeion), awarded for victory in the games or military achievement will be awarded to believers for specific acts.
The imperishable wreath; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. This wreath will be awarded for self-discipline and self-control or victory in fighting the battle with the flesh. It will apparently be awarded to those who fulfill Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25; and Ephesians 5:18. God honors those who labor according to his standards; 2 Timothy 2:5.
The wreath of rejoicing; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19. It appears that God will honor those who have faithfully labored at bringing people to Christ.
The wreath of righteousness; 2 Timothy 4:7-8. This wreath will be awarded to those who have loved Christ’s appearing. It is apparently for those who long for Christ’s return at the rapture and live their lives in view of that event. It also speaks of any believer wanting to meet the Lord face to face after having finished his life and having kept the faith.
The wreath of life; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10. This wreath will be awarded to those believers who persevere in suffering and trial, even to the point of death, and who love Christ. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends; John 15:13.
The wreath of glory; 1 Peter 5:4. This wreath is awarded to those pastors and elders who are good shepherds and examples to their flocks. This is a reward for faithful service in discipling others.
Believers can lose their rewards and suffer loss at the judgment seat; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:23-25; 2 John 8. Believers can be disinherited because of disobedience; Hebrews 12:16-17.
Commendation and praise are denied to those who deny Christ; Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9.
Rebellious, lazy and disobedient servants will not reign with Christ; Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; 2 Timothy 2:12.
Believers who remain carnal and out of fellowship will lose reward and suffer loss; John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5-6.
Believers who suffer loss of reward at the judgment seat will experience shame; 1 John 2:28.
There are numerous warnings in the New Testament regarding the loss of rewards; Hebrews 2:1-2; Hebrews 6:4-12; Hebrews 10:26-27; James 2:12-13; 2 John 8; Revelation 3:11. Believers are also warned to abstain from practicing certain sins in order not to lose their rewards; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5-6; 2 Timothy 2:12.
While a believer may lose his reward through disobedience, energy of the flesh, and persistent carnality or reversionism, he can never lose his salvation; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. The believer will not be condemned for sin as all sin was judged on the Cross; John 3:18; John 5:24; John 6:37; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 11:32.