Future Rewards, part 1

“He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” – Hebrews 11:26

As a gracious Father, God delights in blessing His children. As a wise Father, God knows that His children—redeemed, but nevertheless creaturely and fallen—often need encouragement to do what is right. Therefore, He has arranged the world so that human happiness would be a “by-product of wholeness and holiness.”[1] We enjoy God most when we glorify God most.[2] Yet when we look around us, it does not always seem that the holy are happy and the unholy unhappy. Believers who have been called to make extraordinary sacrifices for the kingdom may wonder at the lack of fruit they have to show for this. Wouldn’t it be preferable to be a plump and comfortable Christian, rather than encounter so much discouragement and pain in continual fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil?

In the face of injustice here on earth, it is vital for Christians to be taught the principle of future rewards, so that they will not lose heart in doing good. I hope to demonstrate, first, that the Gospel of Matthew does in fact teach that there are varying degrees of reward awaiting believers in the next life. I will do this through examining five key passages as well as the overarching purpose of this Gospel. Secondly, I will address the neglect and opposition that this doctrine has sometimes encountered in evangelical and (perhaps particularly?) in Reformed circles. I hope to demonstrate the errors behind this neglect and offer some biblical correction. May this doctrine of future rewards encourage us, individually and corporately, to press on toward Christ.

The Theme of Future Reward in Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel uses μισθός (misthos), the most common Greek word used to indicate “reward” in Scripture, more than any other Gospel and more than any other book of the New Testament. In fact, in every English translation I have examined, the Gospel of Matthew contains more instances of the word “reward” than any other book of the Bible.[3] For instance, in the NIV “reward” appears 13 times in Matthew and only seven times in the Psalms—the book with the second highest number of occurrences.[4]

I believe “future reward” is an important theme in Matthew, not simply because the word is used so frequently, but because the concept is taught in many passages, even those that lack the word. I will discuss only the five most important passages: Matthew 5:11-12, 6:1-21, 10:40-42, 19:27-30, and 25:14-30, all of which are the words of Jesus.

Next we’ll take a look at these passages…


[1] Williams, 5.

[2] John Piper, somewhere and everywhere.

[3] NIV, NASB, NLT, RSV.

[4] Goodrich, s.v. “reward.”

Posted on February 18, 2010, in Theological Studies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: