“He is coming, and His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.”
Whenever I read or remember these words I see two pictures in my mind, that mean the same thing: I see Jesus, coming, with all His holy ones, redeemed by His blood, around Him, the reward of His suffering, the recompense of His blood. I see Jesus, coming, to give Himself in fullness of glory to all His own. For, we read also, “We do not yet know what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” and, “Righteous Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me, where I am, so that they may see My glory, the glory which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world was.” In Revelations, we read that they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain… for You purchased for God a people with Your blood, out of every nation, language, and tribe, and they shall be a kingdom and priests to our God.”
I believe there is only One who will be praised, honored, and rewarded for His deeds: Jesus Christ. There is only one reward to be looked forward to: the glory of Jesus Christ. This is the goal God has in mind for this world, created in the Son. For all things exist in, for, and through Jesus Christ. All things are held together in Him. All things are to be summed up in Him, for His glory, and thus Jesus prayed the night before He died: “Glorify the Son that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all men, that to all whom You have given Him He may give eternal life. (This is eternal life: that they know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.) I have glorified You on earth, by doing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with you before the world was.”
All the saints, all of us, are the reward of Jesus. Our righteousness, which is His righteousness which He won as Man by His perfect human life and perfect human death, is the reward of Jesus. All our good works, all our acts of love, all our labor of faith, all our endurance in hope, is the reward of Jesus. After all, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The reward of all these good works belongs to Jesus Christ and is His glory. No work is good except in so far as it is done in Jesus Christ, in the strength of His resurrection, by the power of His grace, through His Spirit which lives in us. In fact, every good work is given to us by Him: it is reward and privilege itself, gift of God, to be able to love and serve Him, in His own life, through His own Spirit, by His own grace. This is even so, as St. Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” In the same way, our good works were “prepared beforehand for us to walk in them,” and “They went away rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of the Name.” It is a privilege, it is an honor of which we are not worthy, or rather, of which we are worthy for the sake of Christ and by the merits of Christ, either to suffer for Him or to serve Him. It is such an honor, such a reward – and it is Christ’s reward, and our reward only because it is His reward first, just as our righteousness is ours only because it is His righteousness first and His righteousness only – to do any service, any love, any deed, in His name.
Jesus once told a parable, about a man who had a vineyard, and he went out to hire laborers to work on his vineyard. He went out in the morning, and hired laborers for one day’s wage. Then, he went out some hours later, and found more men hanging around, whom he also hired to work in his vineyard. Finally, he hired some more men at the eleventh hour. Then, when all was done, he gave each laborer a day’s wage. In the same way, there will be no ranking in the order of the rewards of the saints. We will all share one reward: the reward of Christ, the reward of His glory. We will all receive it by grace alone, just as we are all justified by grace alone.
No one will have more of Christ because he suffered more, or less of Christ because he suffered less. No one will more of Christ because he labored more, or less of Christ because he labored less. All is based on Jesus’ merits, His glory, His grace, and He does not glorify us apart from Himself, but glorifies us by uniting us to His glorious cross and resurrection. All the glory is Christ’s, and Christ’s alone, for it is the Father’s pleasure to glorify and exalt His Son. Christ Jesus Himself is the Reward, and nothing can be added to His glory or fullness or taken from it.
This does not mean that everyone will know Christ or see His glory in exactly the same way: we are not exactly the same and were not made to be. There is a difference that is not of more and less, or of better and worse. Every glory is unique: “star differs from star in glory.” There is of virginity, of knowing and serving God thusly all one’s life, one glory. There is of marriage, of knowing and reflecting Jesus through married life and love, another glory. Who shall compare them, or say that one is greater than another? Each is a glory beyond our thought, a participation in the life of Christ. Each is a gift of God. There is no use in speaking of greater and less, and it is the same with amount or weight of service rendered: to one, the grace and glory – even forgiveness – of serving and suffering for the Lord, to another the grace and glory of knowing His love and forgiveness in His free and complete pardon of our failures, covering or filling all with His blood and righteousness: indeed, we each experience both, nor are these graces and glories really divisible. Such comparison is all meaningless: for each one, the greatest glory is the glory that God will give Him in Christ. All will be fitting, and all will be glory, and all be of Christ.
I would like to say, though, that I am particularly surprised by those who take as their banner the Five Solas, and say, “Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone, Solus Christus – By Christ Alone, Soli Deo Gloria – For the glory of God alone.” If justification is by grace alone, if salvation is by grace alone, then also the final consummation, the reward, is by grace alone. Nor will men be motivated to do works that glorify Jesus Christ by thinking that their works add to their reward, and that if they do not do these works they will have less heavenly reward. This is not heavenly thinking. We are motivated by the glory of Jesus Christ. It is His glory we seek, to love Him because He first loved us. Nor would works motivated by such a thought be pleasing to God, for they are not done in His Son, by His grace, for His glory – for Jesus is the Man God delights to honor, that even the Father adores, Jesus is the Beloved Son in whom God is well-pleased. We may be included in Jesus, but we shall not usurp Him, nor shall we seek anything but He Himself and His glory. Anyone whose sole and great delight is not in Jesus alone is fit only for hell and cannot enjoy Heaven.
This verse may be out of context here, but I still think it is appropriate: “For there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for Christ is all and in all.”
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale