A Question of Rewards and Remission of Sin
Question: In Revelation:22:12, Christ says, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” What kind of rewards is He talking about?
Response: Entrance into heaven is not in question here. But what about the reward that the Christian will receive in heaven for his or her works done on earth—the crowns we will cast at the feet of our Lord who redeemed us (Revelation:4:10). Paul explains, “For we must all appear [in heaven] before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done [i.e., works] in his body, according to that he hath done [worked], whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians:5:10).
It is possible to grow cold in one’s love for Christ and to live for self instead of for Him and in His service for others. Such carnality causes the loss not of salvation but of a crown or crowns previously won: “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation:3:11). Salvation is by grace alone. The reward received, however , is based upon works, which will be tested and their quality revealed at the judgment seat of Christ.
Paul likens the Christian life to running a race for a prize: “They [athletes] do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible [crown]” (1 Corinthians:9:25). Paul called his converts his crown of rejoicing (Philippians:4:1; 1 Thessalonians:2:19). There are other crowns to be earned as well: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy:4:8); “Ye shall receive a crown of glory” (1 Peter:5:4); “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation:2:10).
As for verses such as Matthew:5:8 and Hebrews:12:14, Scripture is clear in stating that we cannot by our own efforts attain to a personal holiness or purity that qualifies us for God’s presence. We are purged of sin, not by our own suffering here on earth nor by means of an invented purgatory. It is through faith in Christ and His blood that was shed for our redemption: “when he [Christ] had by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews:1:3).
John reminds us that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth [purges] us from all sin” (1 John:1:7). Of the redeemed during the Great Tribulation period, we are told that they had “washed [purged] their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Christ]” (Revelation:7:14). There is no reference here or elsewhere in the Bible to a purging that had occurred in some place called purgatory or by any other means than the shed blood of Christ.