Rev. 22:12 – “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. (HCSB)
My reward is with me
Jesus speaks in verse 12: “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” The New Testament often repeats the theme of judgment based on works. For example:
- In Matt. 16:27 Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.”
- In Matt. 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of the coming judgment of the “sheep” and “goats.” He separates those on His right from those on His left and explains that their works revealed their character. The sheep are welcomed into His kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world, while the goats are banished to the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
- In Rom. 2:5-8 Paul writes, “But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness …” While commentators have offered nearly a dozen interpretations of this difficult passage, the most likely one is that works are the outcome of a person’s faith, or lack thereof. Paul quotes from Ps. 62:12 and Prov. 24:12 when he writes, “He will repay each one according to his works.” The believer, indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, lives a life of conformity to the image of God. The unbeliever, driven by the flesh, produces works worthy of eternal separation from God.
- In 1 Peter 1:17, Peter notes, “And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.”
- And in Rev. 20:13, as unbelievers stand before the great white throne, they are judged “according to their works.”
Rev. 14:12 – This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus. (HCSB)
This demands the perseverance of the saints
Verse 12 reads, “This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.” This is similar to the message of Rev. 13:10: “This demands the perseverance and faith of the saints.” In both passages, the Lord reminds the persecuted saints – and perhaps even their persecutors – that He will judge the wicked. Yes, the beast will wield great power, ascend to a worldly throne, and command people of every nationality to bend the knee to him. Yes, he will harangue, imprison, torment and slaughter those who refuse to worship him. At times it will seem that faithfulness to Jesus is unbearable and unrewarded. But those who “keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus” one day will be vindicated. Those who take Christians captive will be imprisoned themselves. Those who harass God’s people will find there is no rest for them in this life or the life to come. Those who take the sword and extinguish the lives of the faithful will long for death themselves but find it illusive as they suffer God’s wrath.
“In the fiery ordeal of persecution which awaits all who will not worship the beast, the faith and patience of the followers of God and Jesus shall be put to the test, and proved” (R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, D. Brown, A Commentary, Critical an Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Rev. 14:12).
The saints who persevere will be rewarded for their godly works at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus urges His followers to lay up treasure in heaven, where it is kept safe and will endure (Matt. 6:20). The apostle Paul informs us that our works of faithfulness, like gold, silver and precious stones, will be refined in the fires of judgment and emerge purified (1 Cor. 3:11-15). And in Revelation Jesus reminds us that our faithfulness will be rewarded (Rev. 2:23; 22:12).
Few passages of scripture cause more controversy among evangelical Christians than Rev. 20:1-10, in which John mentions a 1,000-year period six times. The main point of debate is whether the “millennium” should be understood literally or figuratively.
Generally, those who believe the 1,000 years are literal and in the future are called premillennialists. They look for Christ to return and establish a “millennial kingdom,” or a reign of 1,000 years, after which He puts down Satan’s final revolt, resurrects and judges unbelievers (Christians are judged before the millennium), and creates new heavens and a new earth.
Those who believe Christ is returning after the millennium are called postmillennialists. The 1,000 years are not necessarily a literal time frame, but they represent a period during which much of the world turns to faith in Jesus.
Those who see all references to the 1,000 years as figurative and without merit as a reference point concerning the timing of the Lord’s return are called amilllennialists.
There is diversity within each of these camps as to the order of events surrounding the second coming.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s important to follow a biblical principle for exploring tough passages: Start with the simple and straightforward teachings of scripture, and seek to understand the difficult passages in the light of the simpler ones.
With that in mind, let’s rally around 10 simple truths regarding the return of Jesus.
Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)
The kings … hid in the caves
John lists seven classes of people seeking to escape God’s wrath. Just as God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34) and welcomes people from every tribe, language, people and nation into His kingdom (Rev. 5:9), people of all economic, social and political stripes choose to reject Him and thus partake as equal partners in His wrath. John specifically mentions kings, the nobles (statesmen and high civil officers), military commanders, the rich, the powerful (a reference to physical strength), slaves and free persons.
Those who are most feared on earth become the most fearful, and those who are from the lowliest castes receive no special mercy for having rejected the exalted place offered them in Christ’s kingdom. “No authority, nor grandeur, nor riches, nor valour, nor strength, would be able to support men at that time; yea, the very poor slaves, who, one would think, had nothing to fear, because they had nothing to lose, would be all in amazement at that day” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 6:9-17).
All are sinners; all have rejected God’s Son and His provision for their sin through His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross; all have taken part in abusing His grace and persecuting His people; and now all of them together know that His righteous wrath is falling equally on them. Whether this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, as preterists and some historicists contend, or to the yet-future Day of the Lord, as futurists insist, there is no mistaking that God is bringing His judgment to bear on the world’s wicked.
We would be wise at this point not to overlook the lesson for believers. Though John is describing God’s wrath toward the wicked, He holds us accountable for our stewardship as saints. Before we become too smug in our satisfaction as we watch unbelievers get their just desserts, Paul reminds Christians that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). The apostle John indicates that some of us will be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28), while Paul writes that some of us will emerge from this judgment like a person escaping a burning house (1 Cor. 3:15). For believers and unbelievers alike, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Next: “Fall on us and hide us” (Rev. 6:12-17)