Over the last several week, we have been studying what the Bible says about the Great White Throne Judgment and the resultant Hell for those who go there. Jesus taught that there are two ways of living, each resulting in a different destiny. A person does not have to end up at the Great White Throne judgment and the Lake of Fire. We can choose to accept Christ as our personal Savior and end up at a different judgment bar.
WHAT IS THE NAME GIVEN TO THIS JUDGMENT.
The Judgment Seat of Christ.
WHO IS BEING JUDGED AT THIS JUDGMENT?
This judgment is not a judgment of unbelievers but of believers. All believers from the Church age - the time from the Day of Pentecost to the Rapture - will appear before God.
Although all believers will be present, this will not be a group evaluation. When I stand before Christ at this judgment seat, my life will be the only one up for review. I won't be able to say, "But what about Joe? Did you see the way Fred acted? I was a lot better Christian than either of those two guys." That conversation will never occur, because each of us will give an individual account to God. Each of us must run his or her own Christian race.
I used to be a distance runner in my younger years, and I can tell you that you were never to look around to see where other runners were. Any runner who keeps looking around is going to lose. Likewise, in our Christian "race," Christians often spend so much time gossiping, analyzing, critiquing, and judging each other, that we wind up slowing ourselves down in the race for the prize. The judgment seat is an individual deal. You and I will give account to Christ for ourselves, not for our neighbors. It will be strictly a judgment of individuals.
WHERE DOES THE BIBLE DISCUSS THIS JUDGMENT?
The Judgment Seat of Christ is mentioned directly in two Passages. Romans 14 and 2 Corinthians 5.
Romans 14:10-12 NKJV
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Notice the second word - "WE". The context clearly indicates that Paul is referring to himself and other believers in Christ. This corroborates what we said earlier, that believers from the church age are those being judged here.
But, someone might asked, "doesn't the Bible say that those who trust in Christ are saved from judgment?"
John 3:18 (NAS)
He who believes in Him (Christ) is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 5:24 (NAS)
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Romans 8:1 (NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation [judgment, punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So how do we harmonize those Scriptures with the fact that all Christians must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ? We need to recognize that in English, the word "judgment" can have different meanings. Our word judgment can refer to:
o A criminal trial, where a defendants guilt or innocence is in question.
o An evaluation of athletes competing for a gold metal or blue ribbon.
An Olympic diver, for example, has 8 to 10 judges who evaluate each dive. The one who has the highest cumulative score is rewarded with a gold medal. This is different from a criminal trial.
WHAT IS ANOTHER NAME GIVEN TO THIS JUDGMENT?
The BEMA judgment.
"BEMA" is the Greek word in each of the two Passages we just read that is translated "Judgment Seat." It is a very picturesque word, and very easily understood by the listener living in the first century.
According to the Strong's Concordance, the word "bema" means:
o a step
o a raised platform mounted by steps
o a platform for seating a tribunal
o the official seat of a judge
Let me show you a couple of pictures of ancient Corinth. An ancient athletic competition held near Corinth, called the Isthmian Games, was the forerunner to the Olympics.
In these pictures you will see one such BEMA, near the agora (Ah-gor-AH) in ancient Corinth. It is a raised platform, some 5 to 6 feet above the surrounding ground, with 6 to 8 steps leading to the BEMA.
In the large Olympic arenas, there was an elevated platform on which the judge of the contest sat. After the contests were over, the successful competitors would assemble before the "bema." There they would receive their rewards. In the early Olympic Games, the reward was a laurel wreath upon their head. The bema was not only the place of recognition for the victors, but it was also the place where a judgment was rendered if there was a question about the rules.
Paul used this descriptive image in describing what happens when the church goes to be with Christ. Paul often used sports and athletes to convey the truths he was writing.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (NIV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown (wreath) that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
The "bema" judgment was not a judicial bench where someone was condemned. All who stood before this seat received a reward. The Judgment Seat of Christ is this type of seat. It is a place of distributing the crowns and rewards to the saints.
Earlier, we looked at "who" is judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we have discussed "where" this judgment will occur. Now let's look at the "when."
WHEN DOES THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST OCCUR?
1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV) will help us understand the timing.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Notice the phrase, "wait till the Lord comes." This speaks of a time immediately after the Lord comes and we rise to meet him in the air.
1 Peter 1:7 KJV
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Luke 14:14 adds:
For thou shalt be recompensed (rewarded) at the resurrection of the just.
ACCORDING TO THIS VERSE, WHEN WILL THE GODLY BE REWARDED?
At the resurrection of the godly.
WHEN WILL WE BE RESURRECTED?
We will be resurrected at the Rapture of the Church.
1 John 2:28 NIV
28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming
The Judgment Seat of Christ will occur in heaven immediately following the Rapture of the Church. He is referring to our resurrection, which will occur at the Rapture of the Church. The giving of rewards seems to be the first thing on the agenda after our resurrection.
WHO IS THE JUDGE AT THIS JUDGMENT BAR?
It is Jesus Christ. It is called the Judgment Seat Of Christ.
John 5:22 NKJV
22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.
Verse 27 goes on to tell us that the Father...
27 …has given Him (Christ) authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Acts 10:42 NKJV
42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.
As the judge of the living and the dead, Christ has the final say at the final review. There will be no jury deliberation. The ultimate verdict concerning our faithfulness will be His and His alone. Because Jesus is "the Righteous Judge," (2 Timothy 4:8) who, with the authority of the Father, will judge "without respect of persons" (1 Peter 1:17), we will not have to worry about receiving a fair trial. Let me put it this way: He who was in all points tempted like as we are and yet without sin is to be our judge.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST?
In answering this question, I will present you with 2 purposes it is NOT. I will follow that with two purposes for this judgment.
It is NOT to determine whether or not we are ready for heaven.
This was determined at their conversion. For the believers, this ultimate issue was already decided at the cross.
In an earlier lesson, I presented the 7 judgments mentioned in the Bible. Each of these judgments have a different purpose. And some of these judgments have already taken place. Let me list them for you again.
1. The Judgment of a Believer's Sin
The Bible assures us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Every person who becomes a believer and enters Heaven must have their personal sin judged and punished according to the holy law of God. If you have appropriated the blood of Jesus Christ to your life by accepting Him as your Lord, then your sins have been judged and forgiven.
WHERE DOES THIS JUDGMENT TAKE PLACE?
This took place at Calvary. All of our sins were placed on Jesus as He hung upon the Cross, and the wrath we deserved was poured out upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The judgment of your and my sins took place at Calvary.
2. The Judgment of the Believer's Walk
The second judgment mentioned in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32.
For if we would JUDGE ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are JUDGED, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
If we haven't taken the time to judge ourselves and the walk we have before the Lord, He will do it.
WHERE DOES THIS JUDGMENT TAKE PLACE?
This occurs here on earth, prior to our death. And it is a continuing judgment throughout our daily life where the Holy Spirit awakens our conscience to an active obedience to the will of God.
3. The Judgment of Israel
This judgment takes place here on earth in the middle east. Part of the judgments of God during the Tribulation is purposely focused on the Jewish people as their focus.
4. The Judgment of the Gentile Nations
WHAT IS ANOTHER NAME FOR THIS JUDGMENT?
The Sheep and Goat Judgment.
The details of this judgment is mentioned in Matthew 25:31-46. It is also mentioned in a number of Old Testament prophecies as well. Joel 3:2 says God will bring the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat to judge them for conspiring to destroy Israel and divide the land. This judgment takes place following the Second Coming and brings an end to the Battle of Armageddon.
5. The Judgment of Fallen Angels
All the angels that joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God, will stand before God in judgment. We know, according to Revelation 20:10, that Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and this happens shortly after the Millennium. In all likelihood, this is when the fallen angels will meet their judgment as well.
6. The Judgment Seat of Christ
This is the judgment we are discussing in this lesson. We have already established this judgment occurs shortly following the Rapture of the Church.
7. The Great White Throne Judgment
This judgment takes place after the close of the 1,000-year millennial reign of Christ.
When I presented these seven judgments in an earlier lesson, I asked you to take a close look at them. Then I told you, "not one of them is to determine whether a person is saved or not." At the judgment seat of Christ, we will each give an account of ourselves. But we will not give an account of our sins here.
Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Jesus will appear the second time without reference to sin. Hebrews 10:17 tells us that our sins and iniquities He remembers no more.
God will not bring up our past sins at this judgment. All of our sins were judged at the cross. Therefore, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment to determine salvation. When a person becomes a Christian, past sins will never again be brought into judgment. Any person at this judgment will already have been washed in the blood of Christ.
So, the first thing about the purpose of the Judgment Seat is that it is NOT to determine a person's salvation.
2. It is not to punish the believer for sins committed either before or after their salvation, for which forgiveness has been asked.
Psalm 103:10-12 NKJV
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
When you were very young, and you did some things you shouldn't have, did you ever have someone say to you, "one of these days all your sins will be flashed on a big screen?" That scared the life out of me (and that may have been good). As I grew and studied the Bible, I learned this is not the case. If you have been redeemed, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, your sins will not only not be shown on a big screen, they will never again be mentioned.
Isaiah 38:17 NKJV
You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
Isaiah 44:22 NKJV
22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
God's Word is clear that his children will never be judged for their sins. John 5:24 says:
I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
3. It is to judge our faithfulness in stewardship
1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV
2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
The question to each of us will be, "Have you been faithful?" That is the one requirement given to all Christians. To answer that question, we will undergo a thorough examination focusing on several areas, which will include "the hidden things of darkness" and "the counsels of the heart." Only God can see these areas of our lives. Revelation 2:23 tells us that Jesus is the one who searches the minds and hearts.
With regard to being faithful as stewards, 1 Peter 4:10 tells us:
Minister…..as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Faithfulness covers every aspect of the Christian life: -- church attendance, giving, praying, witnessing, etc. What type of steward am I with what God has given me? Have I been faithful with his Word and his message? There are eternal consequences to our deeds and actions. This includes even the words that we speak.
Matthew 12:36 (NIV)
36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
Christians will give an account of every idle, or useless, word we have spoken. Our words are very powerful, having the ability to speak life or death to another person.
So far, we have looked at the "who," the "where," and the "when" of this judgment. Now we are going to look at the "what."
WHAT IS IT THAT IS BEING JUDGED AT THIS JUDGMENT?
A believer's works or deeds are what is judge here.
4. The judgment seat of Christ is an examination of a person's works.
Once again, I want to read 2 Corinthians 5:10(NIV).
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
That which is being evaluate at this judgment are the things we did - our deeds - while we were still alive (in our body).
I will say more on these deed - works - in a few minutes, but, before leaving this verse, I want you to notice something.
Earlier I asked you to notice the second word - "we". I wanted you to recognize that Paul was speaking only about Christians at this judgment. Now I want you to notice another word - the last one. The word "bad." Of the dozen or so translations I have, only one does not translate that word as "bad."
WHAT DOES THE WORD BAD MEAN TO YOU?
Does it indicate something evil or ungodly? The RSV, unfortunately, does translate it as "evil."
The Greek word which is translated "bad" is the word "PHAULOS" (FAW-los). It really means "useless, worthless." It is not "KAKIA," which means evil, wicked.
What is being evaluated here are the deeds, the works, that each of us did while we were alive. Some of the things we did had spiritual value, and thus are worthy of reward. Other things we have done were just worthless, useless, inconsequential for which we will receive no reward.
Again, this judgment is not conducted to determine whether or not we are a child of God. Like the Great White Throne Judgment, this is a judgment of the deeds or works done while we were alive in our body (2 Cor. 5:10)
There are a number of Bible Passages, in both the Old and New Testaments, that tell us our deeds will be examined, after which we will be rewarded.
Psalms 62:12 (NKJV)
12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work.
Romans 2:6 RSV
6 For he will render to every man according to his works:
Matthew 16:27 NKJV
27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Revelation 22:12 (NIV)
12 Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
Proverbs 24:12 NKJV
He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
All through the Scriptures, we have been promised rewards, The Word of God declares that God remembers our works of love.
Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
I don't think there is any doubt that each of these verses speak of judgment of the individual's works and deeds.
Earlier, we read the two Passages where the phrase, "the judgment seat of Christ," appears. The judgment seat of Christ is also alluded to in many passages. Anywhere there is a discussion of a believer's stewardship, accountability or the possibility or promise of reward, it is speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ, as far as the church is concerned.
The most explicit is given in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Again, we need to notice that verse 13 twice says it is a person's works, or deeds, which are being examined and tested by fire. And, in verse 14, each person at this judgment will be rewarded.
Let's review what we have learned today.
WHO: Only Christians are at this Judgment Seat.
WHEN: Immediately after the Rapture of the Church.
WHERE: In Heaven, where we will be taken after rising to meet Christ in the air.
WHY: To review (judge) the lives of Christians and reward them.
WHAT: The believer's works and deeds while they were alive on earth.
HOW: By God's refining fire
We will say more about the HOW in our next lesson. We will also discuss:
o what goes into making works of gold, silver and precious stones.
o what it means to "suffer loss."
The Judgment Seat of Christ (Martha Snell Nicholson)
When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ,
And He shows me His plan for me;
The plan for my life as it might have been,
Had He had His way, and I see -
How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there;
And I would not yield my will -
Will there be grief in the Savior's eyes -
Grief, though He loves me still?
He would have made me rich, and I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing
Down the paths I cannot retrace.
Then my desolate heart will well nigh break;
With tears that I cannot shed;
I shall cover my face with my empty hands,
I shall there bow my uncrowned head.
Lord, of the years that are left to me,
I give them to Thy Hand;
Take me and break me, mold me to
The pattern Thou has planned.