John Chrysostom talks about the overwhelming rewards that martyrs will receive after death. Chrysostom acknowledges that God is “a generous giver and loves humankind”, but names another important reason why martyrs are not only honored on earth, but also rewarded immensely in heaven (Chrysostom, 129). He says that since these people are dying for the sake of God, God is “in their debt” (Chrysostom, 129). God “freely gave eternal life” to everyone and Jesus “was crucified and shed his blood for” even “those who hate him” (Chrysostom, 129). If God gives such rewards to those to whom he owes nothing, then the rewards he gives those to whom he is in debt must be incredible. The idea of God being in debt to a human is interesting because it seems to create a shift in a power relationship that would otherwise be thought of as eternally unchanging. An individual with another individual in debt to him is in a position of power. This puts a martyr in a position of power over Christ and God. This seems completely out of the ordinary from anything else we have read.
But perhaps Chrysostom did not mean it in exactly this way. Maybe this was just his way of explaining the idea in terms that could more easily be understood by the common person. The way he uses athletic metaphors seems to serve the same purpose. Chrysostom uses this imagery to take the focus off of the gruesome and painful deaths that martyrs often suffer and creates an idea of a noble battle in which earth is the battle ground, dying in the name of God is a defeat of the Devil, and Heaven is the reward. He uses the image of an individual boxing the Devil and defeating him in this earthly boxing ring. Unlike a victorious wrestler, however, who is “proclaimed winner and crowned all in the same pit of sand”, the individual “proved superior” to the Devil is given his reward in the afterlife to come.