How God Judges and Rewards Our Work
Though we consider the apostle Paul the greatest missionary in history, he received more lashes and stones than honorary banquets, and spent more time in jail than in mansions. How did he continue under such duress? He looked ahead to God’s reward: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Why would Moses leave the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace for the harshness of the desert? Because he considered the “reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Serving God yielded Moses a vast storehouse of heavenly reward, though it meant a lifetime of struggle.
Every act, word, and thought will be credited by Christ: “Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8). If we seek to glorify God with a diligent and humble spirit, our laurels will multiply. If we seek merely to please others and reap their praise, then our rewards will shrink.
Rewards are not limited to the hereafter. Whenever we follow the principles of Scripture, we enjoy the blessings of obedience: “He who fears the commandment will be rewarded” (Prov. 13:13).
When Peter reminded Jesus that he had left everything behind to follow the Messiah, Christ responded, “There is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29, 30).
When one knows and serves God, every product of his or her life will be rewarded, either in this life or in heaven. God watches over all our ways, and He has promised to perfectly reward us. All those who “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24) will be rewarded, either positively or negatively, on the day of judgment of believers. The Christian who seeks to please God lays up treasures that can never be devalued or depleted.
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (22:12)
The speaker is no longer the angel, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who repeats His declaration of verse 7, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” As noted in the introduction to this chapter, Jesus’ statement means that His coming is imminent. It teaches the same truth that He expressed in Mark 13:33–37:
Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, “Be on the alert!”
When He comes, Jesus will bring His reward … with Him, to render to every man according to what he has done. Believers’ eternal rewards will be based on their faithfulness in serving Christ in this life. Their works will be tested, and only those with eternal value will survive (1 Cor. 3:9–15; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The rewards believers enjoy in heaven will be capacities for serving God; the greater their faithfulness in this life, the greater will be their opportunity to serve in heaven (cf. Matt. 25:14–30). Knowing that, John exhorted believers, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).
The knowledge that Jesus could return at any moment should not lead Christians to a life of idle waiting for His coming (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10–12). Rather, it should produce diligent, obedient, worshipful service to God, and urgent proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers.
12 Once again (see v. 7) Christ announces that he is coming soon. This time, however, he replaces the beatitude with the promise of reward. He will bring with him a reward for each person based upon what each has done. The distribution of rewards on the basis of works is taught throughout Scripture. Jer 17:10 is representative: “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Paul teaches that God “will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom 2:6), and Peter declares that God “judges men by their actions” (1 Pet 1:17, Phillips).20 The reward will be spiritual blessedness to the righteous but judgment for those who are evil. It is the quality of a person’s life that provides the ultimate indication of what that person really believes.
12. And—in none of our manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian omit it.
behold, I come quickly—(Compare Rev 22:7).
my reward is with me—(Is 40:10; 62:11).
to give—Greek, “to render.”
every man—Greek, “to each.”
shall be—so B in Mai. But B in Tischendorf, and A, Syriac, read, “is.”
Ver. 12.—And, behold, I come quickly. Omit “and” (cf. vers. 7, 10, etc.; see also on ver. 11). Note also that once more the words are spoken as by Christ himself (cf. ver. 7). And my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be; as his work is, according to the best authorities. This is one of the fundamental truths enforced throughout the book; cf. the epistles to the seven Churches (ch. 2:5, 10, 16, 17, 22, 26, etc.). Similar language is found in Isa. 40:10; 62:11. The infinitive phrase seems to be explanatory of the idea contained in the word μισθός, “reward;” the double nature of the reward being thus indicated.
12 Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, καὶ ὁ μισθός μου μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ ὡς τὸ ἔργον ἐστὶν αὐτοῦ, “Indeed, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay to each in proportion to his or her behavior.” While vv 10–11 seem to be attributed to the angelus interpres whom John attempted to worship in vv 8–9, this abrupt saying must be attributed to the exalted Christ. It is no less abrupt than the saying in 16:15, which was similarly inserted into an existing narrative. The demonstrative particle ἰδού, “indeed, behold,” functions here as a marker to indicate the truth and reliability of the saying that follows (see Comment on 1:7a).
The first phrase (“Indeed, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me”) appears to have been loosely based on LXX Isa 40:10 (with the bracketed portions omitted), ἰδοὺ [κύριος μετὰ ἰσχύος] ἔρχεται καὶ [ὁ βραχίων μετὰ κυριείας, ἰδοὺ] ὁ μισθὸς αὐτοῦ μετ! αὐτοῦ [καὶ] τὸ ἔργον [ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ], “indeed, [the Lord] comes [with strength] and [his arm with lordship; indeed,] his reward is with him [and] his behavior [before him]” (cf. Isa 62:11 and Wis 5:15). It has been reformulated from the third person to the first person and supplemented with the redactional phrase ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, “indeed, I am coming soon,” characteristic of the Second Edition of Revelation (2:16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). The second phrase (“to repay to each in proportion to his or her behavior”) is an allusion to a widespread proverbial expression found in Prov 24:12 (ὃς ἀποδίδωσιν ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, “who will repay to each according to his or her behavior”), as well as in numerous other places in OT and early Jewish literature (Pss 27:4 [MT 28:4]; 62:12 [LXX 61:13]; Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; Jos. As. 28:3; Pss. Sol. 2:16, 34; 17:8). The same saying is cited in Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6 (quoting Prov 24:12); 2 Cor 11:15; 2 Tim 4:14; Rev 2:23; 18:6; 20:12, 13. In all these passages, however, the plural form τὰ ἔργα, “the works (i.e., ‘behavior’),” is used. Both phrases are combined only here in Rev 22:12 and in 1 Clem 34:3:Ἰδοὺ ὁ κύριος, καὶ ὁ μισθὸς αὐτοῦ πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ, ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ, “Behold, the Lord, and his reward is before him to repay to each according to his or her work” (also quoted in Clement Alex. Strom. 4.22).
The view that 1 Clem 34:3 is based on Rev 22:12 (J. B. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers 1/2:104; Charles, 2:221) ignores the striking verbal differences between the two texts (emphasized by D. A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome, NovTSup34 [Leiden: Brill, 1973] 61–62). Yet the unusual combination of Isa 40:10 and Prov 24:12 requires explanation. The similarities, however, are too striking (including the omission of common phrases from Isa 40:10) to suggest that the authors of 1 Clement and Revelation each combined these two passages independent of a traditional combination (Prigent, 354; Lindemann, Clemensbriefe, 106). Hagner correctly suggests that the combination may derive from a common source, perhaps a lost apocryphal writing (Clement of Rome, 62, 93, 270–71). Certainly the author’s inclusion of the redactional phrase ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, “indeed, I am coming soon,” suggests adaptation from an existing source. Similarly, the term ἔργον, “work,” occurs nineteen times elsewhere in Revelation, but only in 22:12 in the singular. This also suggests that the saying is based on a traditional proverbial formulation.
This saying of the exalted Christ clearly indicates that he functions as judge, for he promises to repay each person in a way proportional to his or her behavior. This saying stands in some tension with the depiction of God as judge in 20:11–14, where it is explicitly stated that “each person was judged [i.e., by God] according to their works [κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν]” (as in Rom 2:6; 1 Pet 1:17). The role of Christ as judge is found in a variety of passages in the NT, usually within an eschatological context (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; Rom 2:16; 2 Thess 1:7–11). The motif of judgment according to works or behavior is attributed to the exalted Christ in Revelation only here in 22:12 and in 2:23 (see Comment there also), though Christ as judge occurs in a variety of other ways (1:16; 2:12, 16, 22–23; 3:3; 19:15). The saying in Rev 2:23 is also formulated as an utterance of the exalted Christ: “I will give to each of you in accordance with your behavior [δώσω ὑμῖν ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ὑμῶν]” (suggesting that both passages belong to the Second Edition). Outside Revelation, the closest parallel is Matt 16:27, where it is the Son of man who will function as judge: “For the Son of man is about to come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, and then he will repay each person in accordance with his or her behavior [ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν πρᾶξιν αὐτοῦ].” Since the motif of the returned Son of man judging each person according to his or her behavior is found only in Matt 16:27 (but cf. Matt 13:41–42; 25:31–46), it is obviously not part of the Son of man tradition in the NT (Tödt, Son of Man, 84–87; Hare, Son of Man, 156–58), nor is it part of the Son of man tradition in the Similitudes of Enoch (Theisohn, Der auserwählte Richter, 260–61).
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Re 22:12). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 604). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.