My Reward

Title: My Reward

Bible Book: Revelation 22 : 12-16

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Christ, Return of; Heaven, Reward in



As we walked through a cemetery in Scotland, the visitor was reading the date of birth, date of death, and comments he found on headstones. You have seen them: BELOVED WIFE, PRECIOUS CHILD, REST IN PEACE. Then he saw one he had to write down:

Pause as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so you must be;
So prepare yourself and follow me.

Some had taken a pencil and printed under that verse:

To follow you I’ll not be content,
‘Til I found our which way you went.”

The earlier visitor not only had a gift for verse, and a sense of humor, he had a spiritual perspective we all need to maintain. You are going to spend eternity, either in heaven or in hell. Either way, you are going to get your reward - based on what you have done here on earth. The unsaved will receive their reward as they stand before the Great White Throne. No true believer will appear before God in that judgment. That is for lost people. There reward is hell, but there is at least the suggestion that there will be degrees of punishment in hell.

All believers will stand before the judgment bar of God, not to learn whether or not he will go to heaven or hell, but to be rewarded according to their works. I will never appear before the Great White Throne, as one pastor said - “I settled out of court! Believers will be judged according to the Gospel, according to the truth, and according to our works. How do we know that? We have His word on it. Paul was inspired to write that in Romans, chapter 2.I. WE WILL BE REWARDED ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, 22:12.

“Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.”

1) He is coming quickly. Did He mean quickly, or did He mean soon? In human terms, if could have not have meant that He was returning in the time frame those first century believers would have defined as “soon.” Did Jesus not tell His disciples to watch and pray? If He wanted them to watch and pray, what do you supposed He wants us to do today? Some believe this means that once the Lamb returns for his bride, the events of this prophecy will unfold very quickly. I have a feeling that the seven years known as the Great Tribulation, for example, will be both the fastest seven years in history - or the longest, depending upon one’s perspective. Countless faithful saints have looked for His return during their lifetime. Until now, all those saints have died and gone on to be with the Lord, and I doubt that any one of them has been disappointed! What must we do? Watch and pray. I have a confession. At times, when I have prayed, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”, that may not have been so much faith that looked up, but doubt that looked down; not so much the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray because I wanted to be with my Savior, but Satan whispering that this was my only way out of a situation in which I was looking for answers. That is not a confession I am proud of, but it is the truth. Now, I look for His return but understand that my role is to do what He put me here to do and leave the time to Him.

2) He will reward each believer according to his works. I love the story Stephen Olford used to tell. His parents were missionaries in Africa when he went to England and enrolled in the university. He worked on motorcycles to earn money for school. One day, he had a serious accident, so serious in fact that his survival was in doubt. While lying in the hospital bed he received a letter from his missionary father, written some time before his accident. In this letter, his father wrote:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

These words focused young Stephen’s attention on eternity. His father knew nothing of his physical condition at the time, but he was concerned about his son’s relationship with the Lord. I met Stephen Olford when we received our doctorates from Luther Rice Seminary. When I looked into his eyes, I had the distinct impression that I was looking into the eyes of a man of genuine humility and meekness, as well as great power. When I looked into Stephen Olford’s eyes, I knew I was looking into the eyes of a man of God, a man in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt.

Remember that little verse on the headstone in Scotland? Well, I know which way Stephen Olford went! I am also convinced that Jesus has rewarded him, and will reward him according to what he had done on earth. Christianity is not a religion, like Islam, in which people do not know whether or not they will go to heaven or hell until they die, when their good works will be weighed against their bad deeds to determine where they will spend eternity. We are saved by grace, through faith - and we are saved unto good works (Eph. 2:8-10).

I open my hymnal and flip through the pages and look at the song writers: Fannie Crosby, B.B. McKinney, and Charles Wesley. I thank God for calling out such gifted people who lived to honor our Savior. I am also convinced that they have their reward. I think of the great preachers the Lord has called and sent. I think of the apostles, the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the great Bible translators, missionaries, the Puritans, and the evangelists. We look at those we consider some kind of super saint both in history and in the world today, and we can believe they have gone on to receive their heavenly rewards from the King of Kings.

Right now, I would like for us to go beyond those luminaries of the faith, the ones we may single out for praise and assume the Lord is as impressed with them as we are! Billy Graham once told about a man who had traveled a great distance to hear him at an evangelism conference in Europe. This man had been viciously beaten for his faith, crippled by the raging guards where he was imprisoned. He bore in his body the marks of suffering for Jesus. He tried to express his admiration for Billy Graham, and Billy Graham confessed that the man’s faith left him humbled.

There are countless committed believers behind the Bamboo Curtain. In fact, I read that there are now more Christians in house churches in China than there are Communists in that country that has persecuted and slain the faithful. Those who are martyred for their faith will receive the reward Jesus has for them.

Tonight (11-1-05), I received an e-mail message from my first cousin, Juanita Temple, who lives in Meridian, Mississippi. I had asked about our first cousin, Merle Ellis and her husband Bob. I had heard that they had lost their beautiful new dream home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, along with an incredible collection of antique furniture collected over the years. The good news is that the developer who bought their house in Jackson, Mississippi will let them stay in that house for six months for one dollar per month. The bad news, is that, though they have property and investments, they lost not only their dream house, but also all those pictures, and records that are so important to all of us. While picking up some supplies from one of the disaster teams, Merle noticed a Bible and said, “Bob, we don’t even have a Bible.” She called and told Juanita about this, and the news resonated with her in ways Merle could not have anticipated.

Juanita had given a box of things to someone who lives in Calhoun City, MS, and the lady called her and said, “I believe you made a mistake. There is a Bible in this box and it has names in it. Juanita drove to Bruce, MS to pick up that Bible. What made it so special? It had been a personal gift to Merle’s parents in 1962. Under their names was the note, “This book will keep you for sin, but sin will keep you from this book.” The concerned person who had given them that book? Juanita said, it was signed by Aunt Claudine. My mother! I called my sister Linda and told her what Juanita said someone written, and before I told her who had written it, she said, “It was from Mother.”

If you had asked me for a good definition of a Christian when she was living, I would might have pointed to my mother. A lot of people would say that about their mother. It is a sentimental thing to say. With Mother it is more than sentiment. I preached a revival in my hometown ten or twelve years after Mother had gone to be with the Savior she loved so much. I could not believe the things people told me about my mother. One lady said, “Your mother was the best friend I had in this world.” I didn’t know she knew Mother, other than to recognize her when she saw her. A business man said, “Your mother was the best Woman I have ever known.” Ten to twelve years after that, my brother James went home for a school reunion and went to an area church for the Sunday morning service. One of the deacons came to him after the service and talked with him about how highly respected his parents were in the community.

Jesus said, “My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” There is not doubt in my mind that those great missionaries, pastors, and evangelists will receive their reward, but our Lord’s rewards are not reserved for the super saints who get all the attention. I really believe R. G. Lee, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and all the other heroes of the faith will have their reward in heaven - but let me assure you of this one thing, I know my mother had a great treasure stored up for her in heaven. I have no doubt others can share a testimony about the faith of a loved one. Our Lord rewards those who humble themselves before Him, trust Him, serve Him, worship Him, and witness for Him. The Lord does not hold you accountable for opportunities you do not have. He rewards those who are faithful with the opportunities He gives them.

We had a neighbor when I was growing up who once made the statement, “I am not planning to have a mansion in heaven, I just want to get there.” That was not humility speaking! He explained that didn’t care if he just barely made it, as long as he made it. He was trying to justify a life of compromise, immorality, greed, covetousness, and hypocrisy. He was also confusing grace and works. I cannot answer all of our questions about the treasures stored up for the saints in heaven. We do have the Lord’s promise and for now that is sufficient: “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).


“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

1) He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (vs. 13). We have seen this claim before. Isn’t interesting that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End of the universe, human history, our salvation, and the Book of Revelation. We are introduced to Him as the Alpha and Omega in chapter 1, and as we close out the Apocalypse, we find that identification again. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last, so the further identification here is for amplification. In Geneses 1, we read that God created the heavens and the earth, and then that if followed by the most amazingly succinct account of creation imaginable. The wisdom of God is seen in the construction of the account. If I had done something like that, I believe would have gone into a lot more detail. God told us what we need to know. In John 1, we learn that Jesus was the Agent of creation. He created from nothing all things that exist, a full grown universe, and for those who hold some kind of compromise theory which accommodates both evolution and creation, let me stress here that evolution would have been an extremely inefficient method. If you believe in evolution, you are rejecting what Jesus is saying right here. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and everything that comes in between.

One of the leading Hebrew scholars of his day once explained to me that the name God gave Moses for Himself, I AM, means that He is the self-existent One - the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is to be. He is the uncaused Cause of all that exists. As the Hebrew scholar explained, I AM also carries the idea in Hebrew that He is not only the source of His own existence, He is the cause of our existence.

2) “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates” (vs. 14). If you want to be blessed, here is the key: wash your robe. How do you do that? In 7:14, we find the answer: “They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). Not all believers wash their robes in the blood - they are washed but their robes are not:

“But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev 3:4-5).

“Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11).

White, in apocalyptic literature, stands for righteousness. We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. That is justification. Justification is once for all. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit begins conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8). That is sanctification. The One who saves us sanctifies us as we walk in the spirit. As long as you are walking with Him, which involves prayer, Bible study, and yielding to the Holy Spirit, you are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Lost people must come under the blood for the cleansing of salvation. Saved people must come under the blood for sanctification.

Let me stress that, though we are commanded to wash our robe in the blood, we can no more wash away our sins in the flesh than we could save ourselves in the first place.

“This reading takes away the pretext for the notion of salvation by works. God’s first and grand gospel “commandment” is to believe on Jesus. Therefore, our right to the tree of life is due, not to our doings, but to what he has done for us. The right or privilege is founded, not on our merits, but on God’s grace” (New Commentary on the Whole Bible).

3) “Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Vs. 15). Outside means outside the Holy City, New Jerusalem. This verse brings to mind Rev. 21:8: “But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Those people whose lives are given over to these sins are not simply outside the city, trying to find their way inside. They are the ones who are cast in to hell where there is conscious, eternal torment.
Look at the people who will never inhabit New Jerusalem.

(1) The dogs. Of course, this does not mean the family pet, or even scavengers. It denotes those who are immoral Let us examine Deuteronomy 23:18 in the KJV and the HCSB:

“Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (KJV).

“Do not bring a female prostitute’s wages or a male prostitute’s earnings into the house of the Lord your God to fulfill any vow, because both are detestable to the Lord your God” (HCSB).

America is swimming in the filth of immorality today. According to one report, thirty-five percent of the babies born in 2004 were born out of wedlock. I have always found it interesting how liberals have always insisted that we cannot legislate morality. Now, courts are legislating immorality, promoting same-sex marriage, unspeakable immorality in bars. What most people once called filth, is now entertainment. We are condemned by Muslims around the world for indecency in dress, speech, and entertainment. Groups like the ACLU fight to protect the rights of these vile people, crying, “freedom of expression.”

(2) The sorcerers. This word denotes anyone who attempts to contact supernatural powers to determine mysteries or answers to things normally hidden to human beings. They are often looking for answers concerning future events. The practice was widely spread throughout the Middle East in ancient times, and New Age religious movements have spread it across America. That was especially true in ancient Egypt and Babylonians, where those who practiced the divination were held in high regard. In Ezekiel 21:21, we read, “For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.”

All those who are involved in the occult are not involved in sorcery. There are other expressions of this sinful behavior. When I was still in school, I heard a very well known denominational leader make the statement, “The devil would make every man a drunk and ever woman a prostitute.” Today, I think we may add that he would see both men and women addicted to drugs. A lady told her pastor about a daughter who was addicted to hallucinogenic back at a time when most people knew very little about drug addiction. She told him that her daughter had been under the control of a witch they called Mammy in a nearby city. This witch brought together boys and girls and set up some kind of exchange of sex for drugs. But there is more to the story.

The young girl was finally persuaded to go home with a cousin who was studying for the ministry in school somewhere in the north. She committed herself to the Lord and then called home and asked her mother to go into her bedroom and destroy all the occult paraphernalia. They took pictures, lights, and other things out to their burn barrel and set them on fire. Everything burned except the daughter’s Ouija Board. It would not burn. They stopped and got down on their knees and prayed for God to destroy it, and the next time it ignited and burned.

Some time later, the daughter returned home and her mother took her to a well-known cafeteria, where they went through the line, got their food, and found a table. The daughter was relaxed for a while. Then, she jumped and declared, “Mammy is here!” The mother looked around the restaurant and assured her that Mammy was not there, but the daughter insisted, “She is here!” The mother kept insisting that Mammy was not there and the terrified daughter continued insisting, “She is here, I know she is!” The mother looked around again and saw Mammy walking along the sidewalk, heading for the cafeteria. When her daughter sensed her presence, Mammy had been walking behind a brick wall. Her deliverance was so complete that when Mammy walked by their table she looked at them and showed no recognition. For months, she had been calling to try to locate her.

Let me add one point here. In the Revelation, we are told that some people will receive the mark of the beast in their forehead or hand (possibly the wrist). Jesus will place His mark on the forehead of believers. No, I am not going to add my speculation about computer chips being implanted in our wrist today. I am perfectly happy leaving that to the Lord. What I want to stress right now is that you are either walking around with the mark of Satan on your life, or the mark of Jesus Christ in your life. If you are a genuine Christian, you bear the marks of Christ in your life. I stress, genuine Christians, meaning a born again believer. Bill O’Reilly had a Reverend so and so on his program on 11-2-05, who had written a book with the word Conversion in it. When asked what he meant by conversion the “reverend”, who O’Reilly said, had advised Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, explained what he meant by conversion: “I advise both Republicans and Democrats. We need to be converted to the poor.” He proceeded to proclaim a social gospel. Bill O’Reilly reported that 80% of Americans profess to be Christians. That makes you wonder whether O’Reilly or the “reverend” know what it means to be a born-again believer. A genuine Christian is both salt and light the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus is the true light, believers reflect that light. Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit and that marks them as a slave of Jesus Christ.

Lost people produce the works of the flesh, and that marks them as slaves of the devil. A shocking number of children have been marked by sexual abuse. John Walsh reports that there are 550,000 registered sexual predators in America alone - and 150,000 missing (the have not registered when they moved). Internet porn defies belief, but it is never more detestable than when it involves children.

Alcohol leaves its mark on people, and let’s face it, smoking does, too. Drugs leave the mark of a satanic beast on the lives of those addicted to them. Some will have hallucinations as long as they live. A woman who smokes marijuana at any time in her life can give birth to a child with some degree of brain damage. Cocain leaves its mark. Suddenly, some person loses a lot of weight - diet or drugs? This week, I sat with my son John at a funeral home in Jackson, Mississippi, talking about what he sees among young people that parents don’t know, the church doesn’t know, and pastors don’t know. He said, for example, when you see a teenager with his teeth rotting out, you are looking at a teenager who has been using Methamphetamines. The mark of a satanic beast!

(3) The sexually immoral. Now, back to the story about the lady with the daughter who was addicted to various drugs. The mother asked the girl’s younger sister to talk with the pastor about her sister’s addiction and he involvement in the occult. The younger girl did talk a little about her sister. She spoke openly about immorality, drugs, and some of the problems they caused. At one point, the pastor stopped her and asked, “Are you talking about your sister, or yourself? The teenager said, “My self. Mother doesn’t know about me.”

Then, the younger sister proceeded to tell her pastor how she and friends would get permission to spend the night with each other, and then they would meet at the apartment of a young adult couple, who got things kicked off by spraying carburetor ignition spray into a paper bag and then sniffing it. She told a shocking tell of immorality and drugs. At one point the pastor asked, “How did you afford the drugs?” She looked at him like she could hardly believe he asked such a dumb question, and then added, “I’m a girl. I didn’t have to worry about paying for them.” Immorality is a serious problem in America. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount condemned, not only the practice of immorality, but also lust that leads to the behavior. Suggestive language, pictures, indecent dress, vile language, and pornography available to anyone who is on-line have contributed to a more immoral nation.

(4) The murderers. We have always had murderers in every society. High profile murders, like that of Natalee Holloway, a teenaged girl from Alabama who was allegedly raped and killed in Aruba, claim the attention of the media, but every age has had its share of murderers. Sadly, the news is filled with accounts of violence. Suicide bombers are glorified in Islamic countries, but if the news called them what they are - murders - the terrorists might have a little more trouble recruiting them.

(5) The idolaters. Technically speaking, idolatry is the worship of an idol of image of some god. Practically, idolatry is anything that comes between you and God. Someone took Bill O’Reilly to task for not calling a pagan a pagan. O’Reilly smirked, “Come on, he was a Buddhist”, meaning that he did not recognize Buddhism as a false religion. The media is very soft on Islam today, but Anis Shorrosh warns that while Muslims are peaceful and quiet when they are in the minority, when the become a majority, you had better watch it. When they take over, there is no freedom of religion.
America is filled with strange religions - and sooner or later we will see them featured on the “Faith and Values” page of the local newspaper.

(6) Everyone who loves and practices lying. It is very obvious that God hates lying. One is never behaving more like the devil than when he lies. You will observe that Jesus does not distinguish between white lies and black lies. One problem with lying is that it is usually married to some other sin, and that union usually reproduces vile and vicious offsprings. Lying and stealing go together. Lying and immorality go together. And lying and lying go together. People tell one lie to cover an other lie. There will be no liars in heaven - not one who loves lying and no one who practices lying.

Yesterday (11-2-05), former President Bill Clinton was one of the speakers for the seven hour funeral service for Rosa Parks. This is the same Bill Clinton who lied about seeing all those black churches burning back in Arkansas (researchers found that no black churches burned in Arkansas at the time he mentioned). He lied again at the funeral yesterday when he announced that he had gone to a segregated school when he was 9 years old, and had ridden a segregated bus to school every day of his life. He said he and two friends approved of Rosa Parks so much that they decided if Blacks could move to the front of the bus they could go back and sit at the back of the bus. People cheered, not realizing he was lying again. If he was going to a white school with white students, there were no Black students on the back of the bus. God hates lying, even when one is trying to promote a just cause.

My Daddy was a man of integrity. You could trust him with your money, your property, or your secret. You did not ask him for an opinion if you didn’t want to know. He was a quiet man, but a strong, courageous man. I was shocked once when I heard a neighbor tell my Daddy that a third person said that Daddy had said something about him. Daddy simply said, while working on a part for a tractor, “No, I didn’t say that.” The neighbor, was feared by some people because of trouble he had been in, proceeded to tell Daddy something else “James” said. Daddy looked up and said, “Tim, you are lying!” Tim denied it, and Daddy repeated, “Tim, you are lying.” Every time the neighbor insisted that the third party had made the statement, Daddy said, “Tim, you are lying.” Finally, Tim gave up and went home. Knowing this man had a history of violence, I was concerned about my Daddy. I asked him, “How did you know he was lying?” He said, “I knew one of them was lying and considering the two I knew it had to be Tim.”

My friend Bob Moore bought a place and considered commuting to Port Arthur, where he supervised draftsmen for Texico. He kept his house in Nederland and bought a mobile home to see if his family would like living an hour away from Nederland. Bob told them that they would not know what it was like to be a part of the community unless they were totally involved in the local church. His teenagers wanted to move back to town and they made their plans. The pastor of the local church drove out to try to persuade Bob to stay, but when he saw the decision had been made, he said, “Since you are going to be moving, I would like to know what you think of my preaching.”

Bob answered, “Now, I want you to know that I would never have mentioned this if you had not asked me, but since you asked my honest opinion, I feel obligated to tell you the truth. I don’t like your preaching. You do all right for about fifteen minutes and then you run out of material and begin pounding on the pulpit. That may appeal to some people, but not to me.” I decided that if Bob wanted me to know about what he thought about my preaching, he was going to volunteer it! Bob collected stories about integrity and valued truthfulness. If Bob Loves honesty, I can assure you, God does too

4) “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star” (vs. 16). Jesus has sent His angel to reveal His plans and provisions. Jesus has spoken and He has sent his angel to attest to the things revealed here. John had given his testimony that this Book was the Revelation of Jesus, and by Jesus.

Jesus identifies Himself as the “Root and Offspring of David. The Genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew proves this point, and Jesus adds his affirmation to it here. He is the same one Who was born in the City of David, Who walked the roads of the Promised Land, preached the Gospel and taught the people the Word of God. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and saved the lost. He was crucified and buried, and on the third day He arose. He ascended in the presence of a large multitude of people. He sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us today, waiting for the time when He will return for His church.

Jesus is the Bright Morning Star. In Revelation 2:28, Jesus promises the morning star. If He is the Bright Morning Star, He is offering Himself. Listen to Peter’s testimony:

“For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:16-21).


We have gone through Revelation, looking for the blessing promised in the first chapter. Now, we are seeing more clearly just how blessed all the redeemed of the Lord will be - forever. And ever! Jesus Himself speaks here, “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.”

It is as clear as a bell - no, it is as clear as the crystal clear walls of New Jerusalem: you are either going to spend eternity in heaven of hell. That issue must be settled here and now. There will be no opportunity for change once this life is over. If you do not know Jesus as Savior you will spend eternity in hell. If you receive Him by grace, through faith, you will spend eternity with Jesus in the place He has prepared for you.

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