“Christ then addressed a word of comfort to those true believers in the Thyatira church who had not followed Jezebel’s false teaching: I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Christ’s unerring judgment would be based on each person’s deeds; those who were innocent would not be punished along with the guilty. That everyone will be judged by his or her deeds is a frequent theme in Scripture.
In Matthew 7:16 Jesus said of false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits.” Speaking of His second coming, Jesus warned, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:27; cf. Rev. 22:12).
God is the righteous judge “who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Paul wrote of his bitter opponent Alexander the coppersmith, “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds” (2 Tim. 4:14).
Works have always been the basis for divine judgment. That does not mean, however, that salvation is by works (cf. Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). People’s deeds reveal their spiritual condition. That is what James meant when he said, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
Saving faith will inevitably express itself in good works, causing James to declare that “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, cf. v. 26). Christians are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Works cannot save, but they do damn.
Judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). But Christ’s judgment will fairly reflect each person’s deeds—a reality that should bring fear to those who teach and practice false doctrine, but comfort and hope to those whose faith is genuine.”
-John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 1-11, 103.