Judgment Seat Of Christ
The Bema Seat at Corinth
Bema is a Greek term meaning "judgment
seat." In the city of Corinth, a stone platform was constructed to support the
Bema seat (judgment seat) of the local officials. The seat was used to give out
awards to athletes for their competitive performances (usually a crown wreath
of leaves), but also to address legal charges brought against individuals. The
great Apostle Paul was quite familiar with this seat. This is where he was brought
before Gallio, who was the proconsul of Achaia at the Bema seat (Acts 18:12).
This seat was also what Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 as the
"judgment seat of Christ." In this context, Paul explains to us that
this is where the Christian will receive an evaluation for works done in the
body, whether good or bad.
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted
of him. 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. Knowing therefore the terror of
the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also
are made manifest in your consciences." 2 Corinthians 5:9-11.
Who will be Judged at the Bema Seat?
Judgment Seat of Christ, is reserved for the judgment of Christians only. Born
again believers in Christ Jesus. If a person is unsaved and dies in sin, he
will be judged at the great white throne judgment, following Christ's millennial
reign on earth. As already mentioned, 2 Corinthians 5:10 tell us "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."
In addition, Romans 14:10-12 reads, "But why dost thou judge thy
brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand
before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith
the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
So then every one of us shall
give account of himself to God. In the context of
both Scriptures, it is clear that those judged at the Bema seat are Christians,
not unbelievers. The Judgment Seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers
giving an account of their lives to Christ.
When will the Judgment Seat of Christ Occur?
The Judgment of believers will occur immediately following the rapture. The
rapture is a future event, an imminent event, when all born again believers
will be caught up in the air by Jesus and taken home, by Him, to Heaven. The
timing of the Judgment Seat of Christ is given in the following scriptures:
14:12-14, reward is associated with the resurrection and the rapture is
when the church is resurrected. The term Church refers to believers.
19:8, when the Lord returns with His bride at the end of the tribulation,
she is seen already rewarded. Her reward is described as fine linen, the
righteous acts of the saints undoubtedly the result of rewards.
Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, rewards are associated with "that
day" and with the Lord's coming. Again, for the church this means the event of the
the order of events will be (a) the rapture which includes our glorification or
resurrection bodies, (b) exaltation into the heavens with the Lord, (c)
examination before the Bema, and (d) compensation or rewards.
the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall
be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal
[must] put on immortality." 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
Who will Judge the Believer, and What is the Purpose of this Judgment?
5:22 states, "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment
unto the Son." When we also consider that Christ Jesus is God, we must conclude
there is no conflict between this passage and other biblical scriptures which
say that Christ will judge believers at His Appearing.
Although it is tremendously serious with eternal
ramifications, the judgment seat of Christ is not a place or time when the Lord
will mete out punishment for sins committed by the child of God. Rather, it is
a place where rewards will be given, or lost, depending on how one has conducted
his life for the Lord.
It is important to emphasize that the Judgment Seat of Christ does not
determine salvation; that was determined by Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the
blood bought believer (1 John 2:2), and the believer's faith in Him (John
3:16). All confessed sins are forgiven and believers will never be
condemned for them (Romans 8:1). To say otherwise would deny the
efficacy of the death of Jesus Christ, and nullify God's promise that "their
sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17).
Instead, the purpose of this bema judgment by Jesus Christ
is to reward believers based on how faithfully they served Him (1
Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Even so, this judgment will also deal
with a loss of rewards. Again, Paul tells us, in his letter to the Corinthians,
"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." The Greek word translated as "bad" in
this phrase, is based upon the Greek word Phaulos. According to Strong's
dictionary (#5337), the primary definition of Phaulos is "easy, slight,
ordinary, mean, worthless, of no account."
Again, the purpose of the bema judgment is not to determine
the moral goodness or evil of our earthly deeds, but whether each deed is
acceptable or worthless to the Kingdom and Glory of God. That is why 1
Corinthians 3:13 says that: "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for
the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire
shall try every man's work of what sort it is." What is deemed worthless by
Jesus will be burned up in that fire. The works that survive the fire are the
deeds for which believers will be rewarded.
"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest:
for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the
fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 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. I Corinthians 3:12-15.
What works will be judged?
In general terms, the works that will be judged are: (1) how
well one obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), (2) was
victorious over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and (3) how well one controlled his
tongue and behavior towards others. (James 3:1-9).
More specifically, the earthly deeds of believers which will be judged at
the judgment seat of Christ will include the following actions:
Doctrines and the degree of intellectual honesty exhibited by a person when
deciding their doctrinal beliefs. (Romans 2:14-16, 14).
Conduct, behavior, and attitude toward other people. (Matthew 18; Romans
Carnal traits. (Colossians 3; Romans 1-2, 8:1-13, 14:1-23).
Every word that is spoken. (Matthew 12:32-37; Romans 14).
Behavior traits that affect others, such as slander, quarrels, idle words,
foolishness, dishonesty, broken promises, wrong dealings, and so on. (Romans
1:29-32, 12, 1-21, 14:1-23; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians
3; Ephesians 4:1-32, 5:1-33).
Personal characteristics, including lost or neglected opportunities, wasted
talents, loose living, and lack of spirituality. (Romans 2:14-16; Hebrews
2:1-4; Galatians 5:1-26, 6:1-10, Colossians 3).
Spiritual traits and proclivities such as disobedience, rejection, failure
to cooperate and yield to the Spirit, and spiritual attitude. (I Corinthians
12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4:1-32, 5:1-33).
What Rewards will be Received?
The Judgment Seat of Christ will be a crowning day for
those Christians who will receive rewards for their works. (1 Corinthians
9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Unlike the laurel and ivy crowns received from
officials at the Bema seat of the Olympics in Corinth, the child of God will
receive eternal crowns from the Lord Jesus Himself. There are five such crowns
to be rewarded:
- "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now
they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." (1
Corinthians 9:25). Once again, Paul has in mind the athlete in the Roman
arena. Before the contest, each participant practiced self-discipline, being
temperate in all things. As is true of the world today, there were doubtless
many pleasures and pastimes that the athletes might have entered into and
enjoyed, but they denied themselves these things in order to do their best, and
receive the crown of the victor. The incorruptible crown for the Christian is
the victor's crown for those who keep under the body and bring it into
subjection. It is a conquering of the old nature.
Crown of Rejoicing. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of
rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at
his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
This is the soul-winner's crown. The first thing that a Christian should pray
for and seek to cultivate is the desire, ability, and wisdom to win lost souls
to Jesus Christ. Paul was confident that when he would stand before the
Judgment Seat of Christ, the Thessalonian converts would guarantee a crown for
all those who shared in bringing them to Christ. Every time an individual is
converted, there is joy in Heaven; but at the day of the giving of rewards, the
soul-winner will be exceedingly joyful, when those are presented to God whom he
had won to Christ. What is our hope of reward as Christ's witnesses? The answer
is in those who will be in Heaven because of our prayers, gifts, preaching, and
Crown of Righteousness. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at
that day: and not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing" (2
Timothy 4:8). Here the character of the reward corresponds to the character
of the Giver. Both are said to be righteous. The doctrine of our Lord's return
is regarded very highly by God. In spite of the fact that Jesus said He would
come again, there are many people who scoff at the thought of Christ's
appearing. This and kindred truths have brought suffering and hardship, and in
some cases death, to those who insisted on preaching and teaching them. But how
wonderful to know that God has prepared a special reward for all who look for
that blessed hope, who wait for His son from Heaven, and who love His
Crown of Life. "Blessed
is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the
crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (James
1:12). "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the
devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall
have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a
crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
Crown of Life is reserved for those who have given all their lives for the sake
of the Gospel. Not all of our Lord's witnesses have been called to suffering
and martyrdom. Not all would be willing to pay with their lives to take the
message of salvation to the lost. How thoughtful and just our heavenly Father
was when He prepared a martyr's crown for those who suffer persecution for
Christ's sake! Though some of us will not receive the Crown of Life, we will
rejoice with those who refused to count the cost and have died proclaiming the
Gospel of Christ.
The Crown of Glory. "Feed the flock of God which is among you,
taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy
lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but
being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall
receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit
yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be
clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the
humble" (1 Peter 5:2-5). There are many who have been called and
ordained by God to preach and teach His Word. These are the under shepherds who
care for the flock of God during the absence of the Chief Shepherd.
A good summary of how we should think about the Judgment Seat of Christ
comes from James 1:12, "Blessed is the man that endureth
temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the
Lord hath promised to them that love him."
And also, to one day hear the words a prior
servant heard, "His lord said unto him, Well
done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few
things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy
lord." Matthew 25:21.
Strong's dictionary online: http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html