The pages of history and fiction are populated by the labors, sacrifices, and heroic deeds of countless men and women who were rewarded in a variety of ways, ranging from material prosperity to requited love, glorious victory in battle, and even immortality. The Bible is likewise adorned with references to reward, from God telling Abram that He would be his “exceeding great reward,”1 to Jesus’ descriptions in His Sermon on the Mount of the spectrum of rewards that His followers could expect.2
“Reward” in most cases refers to either payment for services rendered, or payback for wrongs or grievances.3 God’s justice is often affirmed in Scripture by His faithfulness to reward everyone according to their works.4
Since believers are said to be joint heirs with Christ,5 I find the rewards attributed to Him to be of particular interest. In Hebrews 12:26 it says that “for the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross,” and we read something similar in Isaiah 53:117: “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.”
Jesus used the pains of labor imagery in John 16:21, when preparing His disciples for His coming death, and Paul cosmically extended the metaphor: “We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”8
As the marvels of modern medicine can enable expectant parents to view an ultrasound image of their unborn baby and anticipate the new life that is developing, so we can peer into God’s Word and contemplate, “like puzzling reflections in a mirror,”9 the joy that will be ours when the labors of all believers come to fruition.10 On that day, we will enter into the joy of our Lord11 and join His celebration—like parents are overcome with wonder, relief, and ecstatic thankfulness when they finally hold in their arms the new life they helped create.