The word reward represents at least a dozen different Hebrew and Greek words with similar meanings. In modern English the word means something given in recognition of a good act. In the English Revised Version, however, it generally refers to something given, whether for a good or a bad act (Ps.91.8; Jer.40.5; Mic.7.3; 1Tim.5.18).
The rich meaning of the reward of faith as it is promised throughout Scripture can be seen in the beginning of the covenant of grace when God said to Abram: “I am your... very great reward” (Gen.15.1), and in the final chapter of Revelation, when Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev.22.12).
The term reward encompasses the Biblical notion of recompense or requital for one’s actions. In the preponderance of citations it is the reward of good for good deeds that is in evidence.
In the Old Testament the obedience of the people of God to their covenant obligations resulted in both spiritual and physical benefits. The Old Testament threefold blessing of (1) the continuance of the descents of Abraham, (2) the settlement in Canaan, and (3) the final culmination of the covenant in the Messiah was included as an aspect of the reward for the faithfulness of Israel. Spiritual blessings were uppermost, while, as in all God’s providential dealings with man, obedience to the law and its structure of the spheres of life brought about material well being. The glory of the Old Testament conception was that God in His mercy (Hebrew חֶ֫סֶד, H2876) substituted another vicarious offering for the sins of His people in the ritual of the sacrifice, and finally in the accomplishment of redemption in His servant: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5).
This same concept is reaffirmed in the New Testament although by the end of the 1st century b.c. Judaism had already fallen prey to the rabid legalism of the Pharisee|Pharisees and the rabbinical party which is demonstrated in the notion of “reward” in the Apoc. and Pseudep. as well as the DSS. The New Testament consistently uses the Greek term μισθόω, G3636, meaning initially “to pay wages earned,” and secondarily as in the New Testament “to reward.” The New Testament presents two separate levels of reward: the spiritual, which may be deserved only by faith in Christ, and the physical, which accrues to all who follow God’s creation ordinances as for example the laws of hygiene. The classic theological distinction which grew out of this insight was between “special grace” and “common grace.” The liberal and existential theological constructions rejecting the Biblical concept of creation and fall, have become involved in the inscrutable problem of human responsibility. Paul makes this clear in regard to all rewards: “So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.” The Scripture teaches degrees of rewards dependent upon the individual’s faithfulness to God’s commands. Such rewards are like all others in Scripture, promised for here and now of life and for the glorification of the believer in the life of the world to come. “As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.” The ultimate reward of the Christian is to be in the presence of Christ.