Pay Back Time

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭NLT

As if John needed another reminder, Jesus took over from the angel to tell him that the time was short. Jesus said that He will be returning soon. The angel had given the same message to John just a few verses earlier. But Jesus said more. He said He will be rewarding all people “according to their deeds”. 

What will these rewards be? They will not, of course, be anything that is materialistic. No elaborate engraved clocks for the mantelpiece here! Neither will Jesus be rewarding us for the good deeds that we do for their own sake. These come under the category of “works”. But we know that our salvation is based on God’s grace alone, not anything we claim to do for Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. In many ways, it will be reward enough to leave this life, with all its difficulties, and instead be with Jesus in Heaven. But Jesus has more for us when we get there. Jesus gave us a hint with the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:21 (AMP) reads, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master’”. So there is one reward we will receive, the joy of knowing that Jesus will be pleased with what we have achieved. Perhaps the closer we are to Jesus in this life, the closer we will be to Him in the life to come. Rewards enough.

When will Jesus repay people “according to their deeds”? After Jesus comes again there will be a time when we will stand before Him, to be judged. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” Note that the judgement here is for the deeds not for salvation. That comes later at the event we refer to as the Great White Throne judgement, when the Lamb’s Book of Life is consulted and everyone’s life is replayed in God’s presence.

Jesus finishes his conversation by reminding John of His eternal presence. He is the Beginning and the End. There’s something reassuring about knowing that God is more permanent than anything around us. One day this world will end in a puff of smoke, but God will still be there. As I write the war in Ukraine still rumbles on. But God is still on His throne. We may have questions – lots of them – but knowing that our God is always present, always has been, and always will be, somehow makes the questions not quite so important. But because God is the Rock on which we stand, that is in itself an answer to our deepest yearning. Knowing God is who He says He is, somehow empowers us pilgrims to get on with the life, the calling, that He has assigned to us. The prophet Habakkuk declared before God the following, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬-‭18‬). He also knew that God is the Beginning and the End. And that was all that mattered to him.

Dear Father God. You are the Alpha and Omega. Your presence is eternal. And we are so grateful that even though much comes against us, only You are relevant. Thank You for the joy that fills us. Amen.

Rewards

“Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this verse, Paul told his friends in Ephesus that, in the end, only two things matter – that one day they will be rewarded for the good they have done, and, by implication, it doesn’t really matter how they were spending their lives, in slavery or freedom, because it was their attitudes that mattered.

Taking the second point first, this is very applicable to pilgrims today. We won’t all have degrees, or be academic wizards. We won’t all be blessed with entrepreneurial prowess or political abilities. Or any other human attribute considered a great to have. All God is asking us is that we use what gifts we have, and set our hands to our work, no matter how lowly a job might be considered, with the right attitudes. We saw in a previous verse that we must do what we do “as to the Lord”, and when we live and work in that way, we are putting our lives into God’s reward zone.

Was Paul implying that there was some connection between our salvation and doing good? This is an error adopted by some Christians, who think they have to earn their salvation. But the reality is that no matter how hard we try, we will never have the abilities or resources to reimburse God for what He has done for us through Jesus. On a scale of one to a thousand, we won’t even move the pointer off zero. In Ephesians 2 we read, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. Seems quite clear to me – we are saved by grace alone. We are saved because of God’s unmerited favour towards us. All we have to do is put our faith in Jesus, that He came to this world to save us. We read in Romans 10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”. No mention here of working for God, or doing good to others, to get into Heaven.

So what did Paul mean that we will be rewarded for doing good? I suppose, logically, doing good to others is part of our commission in sharing the Gospel. Doing good may be as little as sharing a kind word or putting away a neighbours trash bin. Or it may mean visiting a sick friend or neighbour in hospital. The possibilities for doing good are endless. Jesus said in Luke 6, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you”. Pilgrims spend their lives focused on their life-journey and its Heavenly goal, and in the process, we do good to and for others, whether we like them or not. In some inexplicable way, it’s part of the journey.