The Judgment Seat of Christ.
In John 5, the Lord Jesus explained that God the Father has chosen to give up His right to judge men, so that the Son of man will have that place exclusively. Judgment as a whole, and in all its forms, is committed to the Son; "that man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:31). The reason for the Son's being invested solely with this authority is given in John 5:27; because He is the Son of man. Read more... As the judge of all men, the Lord Jesus Christ will hold a solemn tribunal, or judgment seat. The Greek word is 'bema' (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10), which means ‘raised platform’, or ‘dais’. The same word is used in Matt. 27:19 and John 19:13 for the raised platform that Jesus stood on accused before the Jews, called Pavement, or in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It is the same word for the platform Herod sat on in Acts 12:21 on that fateful day when he refused to give God the glory. Every bema-seat of worldly monarchs has been corrupt. One day, Christ will have His true bema-seat, and He will judge righteous judgment (Isa. 32:1). Who will stand before that judgment seat? All men, believers and unbelievers, will appear before the judgment seat, and their lives will be reviewed. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”
(2 Cor. 5:10). When will the judgment seat take place? Will all men appear before the same judgment seat together? I believe scripture teaches that the judgment seat will take place in three great sessions of judgment.
- For believers, the judgment seat will most likely take place after we are caught up to be with the Lord at the rapture. This session is different from the other two, because the believer’s destiny is secure, and there is no fear of judgment. In fact, it never says that the believer will be judged, but “manifested” and called to “give an account”. God has chosen not to remember our sins. The blood of Jesus Christ, the very one sitting on the bema-seat, has cleansed us from all sin. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). We shall not come into judgment (John 5:24). The Judge is the very One who is our righteousness before God (1 Cor. 1:30), and who is presently our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)! The judgment seat of Christ for believers will not take up the issue of righteousness or guilt, but rather of approval or disapproval. Even in society today, the idea of judgment is not limited to criminal justice. There are also judges at fairs, art shows, etc. A judge in that sense would show whether or not a contestant met the expectations of the committee, etc. This is the character of the judgment seat of Christ for believers.
- For the living Gentiles, those who live through the tribulation judgments, the judgment seat will take place at the beginning of the Millennial kingdom of Christ. “But when the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit down upon his throne of glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before him…” (Matt. 25:31-33). The criteria by which the Gentiles will be judged is according to their treatment of the faithful remnant. Every living Gentile will be brought to Palestine and judged by the Lord Jesus Christ, and either send them “into eternal punishment” or “into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). This is the judgment “of the quick”, which takes place at the beginning of the Millennium, as opposed to the judgment “of the dead” that will occur at the end of the Millennium. Read more…
- For the wicked dead, the judgment seat will take place at the end of Millennium, after the elements melt and heaven and earth pass away. It is called the “great white throne” judgment (Rev. 20:11). Just before the elements melt, the second resurrection will occur, when all who have died in their sins without faith throughout the entire history of man (from Cain to the end of the Millennium) will be raised. Then they will all be brought before the final installment of the bema-seat. It is the last event in time, and the first event in eternity. The “books” will be opened, containing the evil works of men, and the Lord Jesus Himself will judge the wicked dead out of the books. Read more…
For believers, what kinds of things will be reviewed? The scripture takes up a number of areas that will be reviewed at the judgment seat.
- Our actions. I believe we get the broadest scope of what will be reviewed in 2 Cor. 5:10, “the deeds done in the body”. This would include all of our actions, reaching back to before we were saved.
- Our service (1 Cor. 3:10-15). God will review the character of our service in the temple of of God; i.e. related to the assembly. Are we serving according to the Word of God? Or are we applying man’s wisdom? Many acts of service appear great in the eyes of this world, or in the eyes of Christendom, but they are not according to the mind of God. “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” God will count what we have done for His people as service for Him; “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).
- Our choices (Romans 14:10). When it comes to matters of conscience, each one of us will stand before the judgment seat and give an account of the choices we’ve made. In Romans 14, there were some Jewish believers who had extra-biblical convictions about eating certain meats, or observing certain holy days. We are to make our choices in faith and with a good conscience. To choose to do something we feel is wrong is to sin; “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin”. On the other hand, to judge our brother who doesn’t have the same convictions is also wrong. Each one of us is individually responsible to our own Master.
- Our words (Matt 12:36). Every word we speak will be reviewed at the judgment seat, and we will give an account for them. Every helpful, kind, and faithful word will be rewarded. But on the other hand; “every idle word which men shall say, they shall render an account of it in judgment-day”. You might say something in anger, but never follow it up with an action. Still, you will give an account for what was said.
- Our motives (1 Cor. 4:5). In 1 Cor. 4, we find that the Corinthians were judging Paul’s entire service, both actions and motives. Paul explains that the only one competent to give a final judgment is the Lord, and He will judge – not according as man sees, but as God sees – two things: (1) “the hidden things of darkness” which are actions that no one else saw, and (2) “the counsels of hearts” which are the secret motives. Man doesn’t see those things, but the Lord does. When He exposes those things (particularly the motives), “then shall every man have praise of God”, not from man.
- Our faithfulness. Another thing that will be reviewed at the judgment seat is our faithfulness concerning our responsibilities. Paul considered the preaching of the gospel to be a stewardship (1 Cor. 9:17)… something he was responsible before God to do. Timothy was told that the truth of God was committed to his trust to keep (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14). We are responsible to use what God has given us wisely (Luke 16:1). Those who are leaders are responsible to watch for the souls of Christ’s flock, “as stewards of God” (Titus 1:7), and “as they that must give account” (Heb 13:17). Our faithfulness in all these matters will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ.
Furthermore, there will be nothing in us – no flesh – to shrink from being manifested. What a comfort to the believer, to know that nothing will be concealed for eternity. All will be brought into the light; every matter settled. He will show us, and we will see, our own motives as we never have before. But our standing will be “in love”
(Eph. 1:4) – our nature perfectly suited to His presence; we will want
to be in the light. If we have not judged ourselves on earth, we will pass judgment then. God will use the “fire”
of the judgment seat to teach a final lesson in the school of God; for it says of the worldly-minded Christian; “he shall be saved, but so as by fire”
). How much better to live now in view of that day? God too will be justified before us as to His ways with us in grace, and the circumstances through which He has passed us.
What about rewards? The Lord is so gracious. After giving us the works to do (Eph. 2:10), the willingness to do them, and the strength, at the judgment seat He will reward us for those very deeds! What form will those rewards take? Firstly, they will take the form of praise from God; “then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 4:5). Think what that would mean! Just to hear those words “Well done, good and faithful servant” would be more than enough reward. Secondly, He will give us an inward joy as a result of our service for Him; “then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Gal. 6:4). Thirdly, He will distribute crowns to each one; i.e. the crown of life, the crown of glory, the crown of rejoicing, etc. We will then cast our crowns back at His feet in humble adoration (Rev. 4:4). Fourthly, He will reward us with various positions of responsibility in His Millennial kingdom; “thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:23). It should be carefully noted that rewards are never given to motivate our service, but they are presented to us for encouragement in the pathway. Matt. 20:1-16 so carefully guards against the thought that we are laboring for reward, and instead reminds us that God retains His sovereignty in giving out rewards!
When the review of our lives takes place, we will be left with a sense of wonder at God’s perfect wisdom, love, and power towards us. The Queen of Sheba had many hard questions, and Solomon was able to answer them. Surely, a Greater than Solomon will answer our questions too! We will then know even as we are known; “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:10-12). This will undoubtably produce eternal praise and thanksgiving; “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! etc.” (Rom. 11:33-36).
There with what joy reviewing
Past conflicts, dangers, fears,
Thy hand our foes subduing,
And drying all our tears,
Our hearts with rapture burning,
The path we shall retrace,
Where now our souls are learning
The riches of Thy grace.