The Judgment Seat of Christ

Part 2


Dr. John Hoole – Sept. 21 & 28





Today we embark upon the next part of our mini-series on the Judgment Seat of Christ.  First, let’s review what we have learned thus far.




The BEMA Judgment.  (2 Cor. 5:10;  Romans 14:10).  The word “Bema” is the Greek word translated “Judgment Seat.”




All the Christians who lived between the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture of the Church.  This is a judgment of believers only.




Immediately after the Rapture of the Church.(1 Cor. 4:5;  1 Peter 1:7;  Luke 14:14; 1 John 2:28).  From the standpoint of God’s prophetic plan, the Judgment Seat appears to be the first order of business for the church after the Rapture.




The Judgment Seat of Christ will occur in heaven following the Rapture of the Church.  When the church rises to meet the Lord in the air, as stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, we will be taken by Christ to the home that He has been preparing for his bride as stated in John 14:1-3.




         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, 


So far we have answered the questions, Who, When, and Where.


                   Who?                Only the bride of Christ

                   When?              Following the Rapture of the Church.

                   Where?            In heaven


We have three remaining questions I want to discuss.


                   Why does God hold this judgment?

                   What is being judged?

                   How does God determine the results of this judgment?




In answering those question, I first present you with the fact that  -  It is NOT to determine whether or not we are ready for heaven.  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.


                   The prophet uses a word picture to help us really grasp the reality of God’s forgiveness.


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.


Though it is a tremendously serious occasion, having eternal ramifications, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a place and time when the Lord will mete out punishment for sins committed by the child of God for which forgiveness has been given.


It cannot be stressed too strongly that the Judgment Seat of Christ is totally unrelated to the problem of sin.


Hebrews 9:28 ESV


28     So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.


Take note that when Christ comes again, it is not to deal with sin.  He has already taken care of that issue.


Now let’s look at WHY this judgment is held.  In doing so, we will look at the basis or the criteria upon which judgment is made.  The purpose and the basis is a critical issue that brings us face to face with the practical aspects of the BEMA.  Some crucial questions are:


                  •  Why are we brought to the BEMA?

                   •  Is it only for rewards or their loss?

                   •  Will any punishment be meted out?

                   •  Will there be great sorrow?


         We will try to answer these questions as well as others.




In actuality, only God knows all the answers to this “why” question.  However, I believe He has revealed some of the reasons.  We have already stated that it will be a time of determining the reward each believer receives.  It will also be a time of introspection, deeper than any introspection we have done in the past, with respect to how our life relates to Jesus.  I believe it will also be a time where we will understand his love for us more fully than ever before.


I want to discuss more fully two other aspects of this judgment.  In doing so, we will answer both “why and “what.”


WHY?     It is to judge our faithfulness in stewardship


The issue  at the BEMA is not a question of sin to be punished, but rather a question of service.  The believer’s life will be examined and evaluated in regard to his faithfulness as a steward of the abilities and opportunities which God had entrusted to him.


1 Corinthians 4:1-2 NKJV


1       Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2       Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.




A steward is a manager of somebody else’s property or equipment.  When I came into the family of God, He gave me a sovereign deposit and said, in effect, “Now take it and use it.  Show me what kind of commitment you have.”  A steward is primarily the manager of a household or estate.  A Christian steward is, therefore, one who manages a trust which is committed to them by God and who is responsible to render an account of their faithfulness to the Master.


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, according to 1 Corinthians 4:5, 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… 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.


A primary purpose of the BEMA judgment is to review the believer, but the resultant purpose is to reward him/her for faithful service.


So far, we have looked at the “who,” “where,”  “why” and the “when” of this judgment.  Now we are going to look at the “what.”






                   A believer’s works or deeds are what is judge here.




Our works include anything and everything we do after we became a believer.  If, in Matthew 10:42, Jesus says that giving a cup of water is a good work, then basically everything we do is a work or deed.


God gives us salvation.  He offers it as a free gift through faith in Him.  It is based on what He has done.  But He rewards us for good works.  These are based on what we have done.


God graciously supplies the means by which we may serve Him.  And, in fact, He works in us both to will and to do as we willingly appropriate His grace (Phil 2:13)But the decision to serve Christ, and the diligence in doing so, are our responsibility and our contribution.  And God sees this as rewardable.  While salvation is a free gift, there are rewards given for faithfulness in the Christian life.


Let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:10  (NIV) again.


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/works – 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.


In an earlier lesson, 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.”




         Does it indicate something evil or ungodly?


In 2 Corinthians 5:10, the apostle Paul indicates that when the believer’s works are made manifest, they will fall into one of two classes:  AGATHOS of PHAULOS, that is, good or bad!  The Greek term that Paul used fore “bad” was not the usual word for that which is morally evil or corrupt – KAKOS.


There are a few Bible translations that render “Phaulos” as “evil.”  But by far the most render the translation as “bad.”  Gromacki, a theologian I use in other areas, comments on the meaning of phaulos “the word for “bad” used here does not mean that which is wicked or sinful.”  He adds: “It means something which is worthless or not up to par.”


Frederick Tatford, another theologian agrees, and writes:


“The examination at the judgment seat will determine what is acceptable and what is worthless.  Phaulos, the word translated “bad” does not imply what is ethically or morally evil, but rather what is worthless.”


Again, as I have stated several time, Paul does not use the common term for moral evil or wickedness.  This judgment is not for the purpose of punishing sin.


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 and eternal value, and thus are worthy of reward.  Other things we have done were just worthless, useless, inconsequential, having no eternal worth for which we will receive no reward.


Again, I want to emphasize that this judgment is not conducted to determine whether or not we are a child of God.  And since, as I stated earlier, none of the New Testament judgments are to determine whether or not we belong to God, then let me quickly give the reason for the Great White Throne Judgment.


We don’t have to guess at the answer this issue.  The Bible is very specific and clear.  And it is found in the only passage that actually uses the phrase:  “Great White Throne”.


Revelation 20:11-13 NKJV


11     Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

12     And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13     The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.


Did you see it.  We are told twice what is being judged at this judgment.  Both the Judgment Seat of Christ and the White Throne Judgment, are judgments of the deeds or works done while they were alive in their body


Now, let return to our discussion of the Judgment Seat of Christ.  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 other 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.


REVIEW:  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.


We have one more question that must be addressed.  The question of HOW? – How does Christ conduct this Judgment?  We will also need to discuss:


                   •  what is it that gets rewarded?

                   •  what does it means to “suffer loss?”


The most explicit description of the elements of this judgment is given in 1 Corinthians 3.


1 Corinthians 3:11-15  (NIV)


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.


We need to notice that verse 13 twice says it is a person’s works, or deeds, will be evaluated.  The passage helps us understand the details of this judgment.  We will examine:


                    •  What method is used by Christ to assess the believers works.

                   •  The criteria by which the judgment is made.

                   •  The results for each person.


In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses the analogy of constructing a building.


Pictures of the BEMA Judgment


In the New Testament three descriptive pictures are given to us of what this judgment will be like.


                   •        An Athlete


                   •        A Steward


                   •        A Builder


As an athlete, we are to exhibit dedication and commitment to winning.  We are to run the race to win, but we must obey the rules God has given us.


As a steward, eventually the master will return, and He will evaluate that which He has put under your management.  We will be required to give account of our use of what He had given us to manage until He returns.


Now, in the verses we just read in 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul uses the picture of a builder.  The building of our life must be on the right foundation, and the superstructure we have built on that foundation will be assessed by the building Inspector, Jesus Christ.


Let’s read verses 11 – 13 again, where the apostle Paul uses the picture of a builder.


1 Corinthians 3:11-13  (NIV)


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.


In this passage, he introduces two new players into the details of this judgment.  First are the elements – gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, straw.  So, the first new thing introduced here concerns the materials used to build upon the foundation.


The second item introduced here is mentioned twice in verse 13FIREVerse 15 also speaks of the flames of this fire.


Gold, Silver and Precious Stones or Wood, Hay and Straw


Paul indicates, in his analogy, there are six things that can be used in constructing a building.  In doing so, the apostle is speaking of two types of building materials, one that varies in quality but survives the fire and one that varies in quality but is consumed by the fire.


Paul taught that the survivable category includes nuggets of gold, silver bullion, and costly stones.  That which is not survivable in the fire included boards of wood, chopped hay and straw.  He is trying to illustrate a point that one group perishes when subjected to fire and the other group of material endures the flames.  We learn from these verses that the true character of the believer’s service will be examined in order to determine what is rewardable.


Gold, Silver and Precious Stone


         These are indestructible and worthy objects which will survive and actually thrive in the fire.


Wood, Hay and Straw


         These are those destructible and worthless objects which will be totally consumed in the fire.




It is in 1 Corinthians 3:13 that we learn the means by which Christ will test our work.  It will pass through His refining fire, and only what is worthwhile will survive the flames.  And if your works remain standing before Him, you will receive a reward in Heaven.


The use of fire for smelting and purifying purposes has been around for a long time.  I have visited the remains of King Solomon’s copper mines in the Israeli Timna Valley.  Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient smelting apparatus with a furnace.


The fire referred to by the apostle Paul is metaphorically used to represent Christ’s judgment which will test or evaluate the believers works in order to determine of what sort or of what quality it is.


Another piece of information concerning the fire is to realize Paul was not speaking of fire in a purgatorial or punishment sense.  This is not an avenging fire but a refining fire.  It does not burn people – it tests their lives.  It is not disciplinary in character – it is discerning.  It is an instantaneous fire that will disclose immediately if the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives.


Here is the issue.  Each of us begins our new lie in Christ with the same foundation – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Each of us is responsible to build upon that foundation.  And the selection of materials with which we build is our own choice.  We can choose what we build, and we can choose what impact our life has on eternity.  The Lord will evaluate us, the fire will test us, but no one will be able to say that we weren’t given ample opportunity to earn a full reward.


The description of Christ in the first chapter of the book of Revelation tells us, “His eyes are like a flame of fire.” - Revelation 1:14,  Those flaming, searching eyes are going to examine each Christian’s life.  He is going to see what you have been made of, and the material we have been building with.


Now, before going further, I must say it is my opinion nobody who is a Christian will not have some degree of gold, silver and precious stones.  But there can also be a lot of wood, hay and straw in our building as well.


We need to apply the words written by John in 1 John 2:28, which says: “Let us so live that we shall not be ashamed before him at his coming.”


God’s concern is that we use the right materials as we build our Christian lives.  We have two choices:


                   •  Gold silver, and precious stone are indestructible.


                   •  Wood, hay and stubble, which will go up in smoke when the fire hits them.


         The first three materials are valuable, but the second group of three are of little or no value.


If your works are like gold, silver and precious stones, they will abide the fire and each person will receive a reward for his works.  If they are like wood, hay and straw, they will be burned up and the person will suffer loss of reward, yet he/she will be saved from loss of his/her soul.


All of our lives are going to be filled with a lot of things which will bring us no reward.  Some things are just neutral.  They are neither moral or immoral.  They’re just stuff that gets burned up.


Then there are other things that could have received a reward, but we did them with the wrong motive or wrong attitude.  Like the Pharisees, if you gave to the Lord to receive the applause or praise of others, then they will not survive the fire of testing.


After the testing by fire, all that is left are those things we did that equate to the gold, silver, and precious stones.  And your reward will be based on these items that survive the fire.


Even though we are redeemed and even though we are the children of God, and even though our hearts have been changed and transformed and our desires are right, because we are still incarcerated in the unredeemed flesh, we can fill our lives with stuff that really has no eternal consequences.  And those things will be totally burned away.


But keep in mind, this is not the fire of judgment.  It is the burning away of the dross and chaff of our lives, and purifying the real stuff that is to be rewarded.  No one at this judgment is sent to hell.  Some people will lose rewards, but they are still saved.


MOTIVES (The Attitude of Heart)


If we are honest, probably most of us see ourselves, at least to some degree, as represented in the attitude of the “unfaithful servant” mentioned in Luke 12, who buried his talent and was reprimanded by his master.  As we ask God to search our hearts, we see little that is good and much that is tainted.  Is there any hope that we will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


The mere thought of a thorough examination that exposes and reveals our hidden motives and private thoughts may be more frightening than comforting.  We would rather not face our dismal performance on earth.  Since everything we have thought, done, or said since our conversion will have input into the outcome, we are not sure whether we want to be there.


The Judgment Seat of Christ is not merely an external judgment which considers only the observable.  Rather, it examines the essential character and underlying motives of each believer.  Not only what the believer has done, but also why the believer did it will be exposed.


Underneath every action we take on this earth are our intents and motives.  There is always a reason for everything we do on this earth.  The believer’s motives can be either selfish or selfless.  Such acts can be done to bring glory of ourselves or to glorify God.  1 Corinthians 10:31 has advice for us in all the things we do.


1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV


31     Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.


We may see the results of a person’s actions, “but God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  The true quality of a work is not only revealed in what is done, but why it was done.  All self-seeking and fleshly motivations will go unrewarded.


Look at how Christ speaks to this in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6.


Matthew 6:1-4 NIV


1       "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2       "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

3       But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4       so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”


If our acts are done to be seen by other people, we have received our reward in full already.  But if our giving is done to glorify God and extend His kingdom, our Father in heaven will reward us.


Whatever the fire is that tries our lives, or whatever form it takes, its purpose is to test “what sort of work each one has done” (1 Corinthians 3:13).  Many Christians are constantly involved in a whirlwind of activity for the Lord.  But we are building with nothing more than wood, hay and straw if our motives are for the praise of others rather than to the praise of God.  How much we do is not as important as to how and why we do them.


The Seemingly Insignificant


I want to address those who think they have done little for the kingdom of God, and fear they will have little to show for their life before Christ at the BEMA.  Quite often, these thought come when comparing themselves with other Christians.  Or maybe they see their labors as insignificant against the backdrop of the whole plan or work of God.  An act of love and sacrifice may be regarded by the doer as inconsequential in comparison to the occasions of great advancement by the Christian community around the world..


Although God is interested in both the quality of the believer’s service as well as the quantity, the fire will try every man’s work “of what sort it is” not “how much it is.”  Many believers have labored unknown with little visible results to show for their efforts.  They have, however, been faithful in the work God gave them to do.  Outward results can be deceiving, but the Lord’s omniscient scrutiny will examine not only the outward results but the inward character.  Many believers have labored unknown with little visible results to show for their efforts, but they have been faithful to the call of God.


Consider the man Noah, who was faithful, yet had no converts except for his own family to show for one hundred and twenty years of service.  God will reward on the basis of faithfulness not fruitfulness.


Consider this – quantity is decided primarily by God as He gives us opportunities to work for Him.  On the other hand, it is the believer who determines the quality in how the service is conducted.


Fire does not give heed to quantity – a mountain of wood and stubble is quickly consumed.  Gold, however, is purified by the fire.  Quality is the underlying criterion for reward.  God is concerned with the character of the work, not just the amount.  The work that is worthy of reward is that which is done for the glory of God, by the enabling of the Spirit of God according to the will of God.


Jesus spoke of the significance of the apparently insignificant when He instructed His disciples in Matthew 10:42.


Matthew 10:42 NIV


42     And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."


         Christ promises such an one a reward no matter how inconsequential the acts might have seemed.


Sometimes being faithful requires little of us – a hug, smile, words fitly spoken.  Other times being faithful requires us to make a sacrifice.




In the Christian’s life there are not only deeds that in themselves seem insignificant, but there are also those deeds which are done in seclusion and escape the public view.  While the worldly system of business and success bring the plaudits of men, believers are encouraged to serve the Lord with the understanding that God notices even that which goes unnoticed by other people.  God has promised to bestow rewards for such faithful service.


Earlier, we took notice of what Christ said in the middle of His Sermon on the Mount.  We are not to give our offerings to be seen of men.  He says the same about praying or fasting.  Jesus is not against giving, praying or fasting, but He is against doing them for the sake of being seen.  Our motives and attitude of heart do matter.




I want to close our lesson today by returning back to one of the three pictures the apostle Paul uses to describe what the BEMA judgment will be like.


         •  Athlete, Steward and Builder.


The apostle Paul was fond of making comparisons between the Christian’s life of service to the Lord and a runner competing in a race.


Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV


13     Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14     I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


Games and athletic contests were common in the areas in which Paul traveled and ministered.  Undoubtedly he would have been familiar with the Isthmian Games held near Corinth.  They were held every two years, so Paul may have attended such an athletic event.


Hebrews 12:1 counsels us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Philippians 2:16 (NKJV) adds:  holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.


Paul knew the importance of these games and of winning.  The winner knew that years of training and faithfulness to his discipline had finally paid off.  No winner who stood before the BEMA were lazy, undisciplined, or out of shape.  The Greek word for “race”AGON – is the root of our word “agony.”  You had to endure to conquer.  Having won the race, the pinnacle of athletic achievement, was awarded to the runner.  A victor’s laurel was place on the winners head.


As Paul viewed these frequent athletic contests, his mind was naturally drawn to the race in which he was involved - The race of the Christian life.  It is understandable that he would compare the two races and especially the laurel that awaits the victors.  He says, in 1 Corinthians 9:24“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.”


Any competitor knows, the purpose of running a race is to win.  Here is the good news about the Christian’s race.  Unlike athletic contests, we are not competing against each other.  Every Christian can win the prize at Christ’s judgment seat.


That’s good news because there will always be someone out there faster, stronger, or smarter than us.  But that’s OK, because you and I are running against the opportunities God gives us, not what He gives other Christians.


The race God has set before you is different from my race.  But we can both win the prize.  But it will take discipline on both of our parts.  For instance, nobody runs a 100-meter race wearing ankle weights.  Each of us must deal with the things that hinder us from running the race.


2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV


7       I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

8       Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.


Unlike the crown at the Isthmian Games, according to 1 Corinthians 9:25, “Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”


May you and I finish the race well !!