In Rev. 7:9-14, it is written,

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,

“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

First, I assume that "wash their robes" is the correct translation of the Greek phrase «ἔπλυναν τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν». If it is correct, and it relates to the saved people that experienced the great tribulation (cp. v. 14), and in consideration of the statement of the Lord Jesus Christ in Rev. 22:12 that his reward is with him, here is my question:

Can this passage be interpreted to mean that:

  • the church is the reward which the Lord Jesus Christ brings with him;
  • the blessed ones who washed their robes are the additional saved that came out of the great tribulation; and,
  • the Lord Jesus Christ along with these two groups of saved people are going to the judgement together

2 Answers 2


The Identification of the Reward

The phrase "my reward is with me" («ὁ μισθός μου μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ») in Rev. 22:12 is an allusion to Isa. 40:10 and 62:11 wherein the Hebrew phrase שְׂכָרוֹ אִתּוֹ (sekharo itto) is translated into the LXX by the Greek phrase ὁ μισθὸς αὐτοῦ μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ, both of which translate into English as "his reward is with him."1

Isaiah 40:10

10 Behold, the Lord Yahveh will come with strength, and His arm will rule for Him! Behold, His reward is with Him, and His wage is before Him!

י הִנֵּה אֲדֹנָי יַהְוֶה בְּחָזָק יָבוֹא וּזְרֹעוֹ מֹשְׁלָה לוֹ הִנֵּה שְׂכָרוֹ אִתּוֹ וּפְעֻלָּתוֹ לְפָנָיו

Isaiah 62:11

11 Behold, Yahveh proclaimed unto the end of the earth, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your salvation comes! Behold, his reward is with him, and his wage is before him.'"

יא הִנֵּה יַהְוֶה הִשְׁמִיעַ אֶל קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ אִמְרוּ לְבַת צִיּוֹן הִנֵּה יִשְׁעֵךְ בָּא הִנֵּה שְׂכָרוֹ אִתּוֹ וּפְעֻלָּתוֹ לְפָנָיו

In these verses, שְׂכָרוֹ (sekharo) and פְעֻלָּתוֹ (peʿullato) are synonymous,2 and it is also noteworthy that both are occasionally translated into the LXX by a declension of μισθός.3

Franz Delitzsch commented on Isa. 40:10,

Delitzsch, Vol. 7, p. 395, Isa. 40:10

But, we should not assume that μισθός only possesses a positive connotation, for it is used in the New Testament both in a positive and a negative sense.4 Hence, when the Lord Jesus Christ states that "my reward is with me," it can and perhaps does refer to what he will give to both the righteous and the unrighteous for their work,5 for the preceding verse states,6

He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; and, he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; and, he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; and, he who is holy, let him be holy still.

Therefore, the notion that the "reward" (μισθός) is the Church itself appears to ignore the immediate context which rather suggests that the reward is what the Lord Jesus Christ gives to each individual, be they righteous or unrighteous, according to their work. Thus, Rev. 22:12 is congruent with Rev. 20:12,7 wherein it is written,

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them, and every man was judged according to their works. 15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Thus, the reward of the unrighteous is eternal torment in the lake of fire, while the reward of the righteous is the incorruptible body that is no longer affected by death or pain,8 partaking of the water of life,9 partaking of the tree of life,10 and dwelling in the holy and heavenly New Jerusalem.11


1 The difference being that the individual whom the prophet prophesies of in Isa. 40:10 and 62:11 is speaking in Rev. 22:12, hence the change in personal pronouns from 3rd person to 1st person.

2 Lev. 19:18 cp. Deu. 24:15

3 פְּעֻלָּה ► μισθός cp. Lev. 19:13; 2 Chr. 15:7; שָׂכָר ► μισθός cp. Gen. 15:1, 30:18, etc.

4 While the positive connotation is more common, the negative connotation occurs in other verses: Matt. 6:2, 6:5, 6:16; 2 Pet. 2:13, 2:15; Jude 1:11.

5 Hence, the last clause of Rev. 22:12 states, «ὡς τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ ἐσται», that is, "according as his work shall be."

6 Rev. 22:11

7 One should remember that recompensing one for his/her work indicates a judgment. Thus, Rev. 22:12 is related to 20:12 wherein the Great White Throne judgment occurs and everyone is recompensed according to their works.

8 Rev. 21:4, 22:17

9 Rev. 21:6

10 Rev. 22:2, 22:14

11 Rev. 21:24 cp. 21:27, 22:14


Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Martin, James. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. (146)


Why they had to wash their own robes

Revelation uses white robes as a symbol of being right with God (or justified, if one prefers Latin-sounding words). For example:

“He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life” (Rev 3:4-5).

So, if people are saved by grace through faith, why did these people have to wash their own robes (Rev 7:14)? This is not the only place in Revelation where it seems as if people must work for their own salvation (their white robes). For example:

“He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments” (Rev 3:4-5).

“His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7).

“The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8).

“Blessed is the one who … keeps his clothes” (Rev 16:15).

It seems, therefore, in Revelation as if people will be judged by their deeds (cf. Rev 20:12). This may seem to contradict the typical Protestant explanation of how people are saved but it is consistent with the teaching of the whole Bible (e.g., Matt 25:35-36). It is sometimes said that Paul taught something different, but he also taught that people will be judged by their deeds. For example:

“God … will render to each person according to his deeds: To those who by perseverance in doing good … eternal life; but to those who … obey unrighteousnmess, wrath and indignation” (Rom 2:5-8; cf. 2:9-13)

"If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Rom 8:13). See Smashing Idols for a much longer list.

The Works of the Law

But if people will be judged by their deeds, why did Paul teach that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Rom 3:20)? The reason is that the "deeds" by which people will be judged are very different from "the works of the law." These “works of the law” must be read in their historical context. In Paul's day, some Pharisees who became Christians argued:

"Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).

"It is necessary to circumcise them (the Gentile Christians) and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:5).

In the view of these Christian Pharisees, sins are washed away by the external ceremonies and rituals of the law of Moses. It was to these ceremonies and rituals, of which circumcision is the main example, that Paul referred as “the works of the law.” To oppose this error, Paul stated that nobody is “justified” by the “works of the law.” For a more detailed discussion, see – Judged by deeds; not justified by the works of the law.

Saved through Faith.

But, if we are judged by our deeds, why did Paul also write, “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8)?

To be saved "saved through faith" is the same as to be judged by our deeds. Deeds are but the external manifestation of an internal faith:

Firstly, to be saved “through faith” does require God to judge the person’s faith.

Secondly, our "deeds" are not only what we do. That God judges our deeds means that He sees and judges the entire being, including the words, deeds, thoughts, motives, and desires. All of these things reflect the “faith” of the person.

By Grace

People are judged by their deeds but saved by grace. We are all doomed if we are to be judged by our deeds alone, for we have all sinned. God’s people DO NOT EARN salvation through their deeds. "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 6:23). Similarly, when “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel,” the angel of the LORD (Jesus?) gave instruction that the filthy garments be removed from Joshua and he said to Joshua: “See, I have taken your iniquity away" (Zech 3:3).

Judgment by deeds determines WHO must be saved. By grace is HOW those people are saved.


People dislike the idea of being judged by their deeds because they know that their deeds are evil. But faith must replace that fear. To have faith in God does not only mean to know that He exists; it also means to trust Him. We must be concerned about our sins but we must put our trust in God. We must know that He loves us and we must trust His promises (e.g., John 3:16).

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