Imagine with me for a moment that you have been called before a congressional subcommittee to give an account as an expert witness who was directly involved in the issue at hand. You are under oath and subject to a polygraph so there is complete assurance the truth will come to light.
You aren’t testifying as a criminal; you are simply giving an account of the facts as they relate to you. You are in the spotlight before the authorities and as they recall the events, people, and places leading up to this day—you will have to stand there and listen as the matter is recalled from beginning to end in vivid detail.
What are you feeling? Are you nervous, ashamed, relieved, exposed, or happy? When it’s over, will you receive honor and be rewarded for what took place inside the congressional chambers or will you feel relief just knowing there is no punishment for you because you have been previously declared not guilty?
There is a day coming in which every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. On that day we will see our Lord face to face and He will give us our rewards based on what we do for His kingdom now in this life. With that sobering thought in mind, we need to examine our heart and our motives to be intentional about Bema Seat living.
Bema is the Greek translation for judgment seat. In the day of the Apostles you would go into a town and find a raised platform and a judgment (Bema Seat). Generally at the end of a sports event, it was the place where the prize or reward was given to the winning athlete.
Before we continue, let me quickly differentiate between the two key judgements mentioned in the New Testament regarding the end times. There is the Great White Throne judgment. This is where all of those who did not repent and rejected Gods’ gift of salvation through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross for their sins will be judged guilty. No Old Testament era saint or follower of Jesus will be at this judgement because it is for the unrepentant.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).
The other judgment that is key in end time events is the Judgment Seat of Christ; we will refer to as the Bema Seat. This is where Church Age saints (you and me) will stand before Jesus and our work for Him will be tried by fire. Let me reiterate, this is where the works and deeds of born again believers will be rewarded or where we will suffer loss.
The Bema Seat judgment will not determine where you will spend eternity because that was settled when you repented and by faith, trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That beautiful thought alone should bring our hearts joy knowing we belong to Him. Let’s see what the Word of God says about the Bema Seat.
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before thejudgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9).
Now that we see the difference between these two distinct times of judgment, let’s examine why we should prepare for the Bema Seat and what “Bema seat living” looks like.
Going back to our opening scenario before the congressional sub-committee:
The truth came out, motives are exposed, and the matter of guilt and culpability is settled. It will be a similar situation at the Bema Seat. The end result will be rewards given to us by the Lord Himself if our works stand the test. Unlike worldly judges and authorities, the Judge at the Bema Seat knows everything. Nothing is hidden from His sight and He knows the intentions of our heart. Each of us will have to account for our time, talents, resources, works, and giving we did for the kingdom.
I used the subcommittee scenario to shed light on the seriousness of the matter, but no imagery from this world comes close to the reality of standing as an individual before the piercing eyes of the Lord.
The Bible makes it clear that we will be rewarded based on our work—whether good or evil. Obviously, the evil work being spoke of here is not a matter of doing evil, but rather it’s worth. If we do work and our intent is anything other than God’s glory…its worthless and will be burned up.
What is the benchmark for our work, deeds, or labor for the kingdom? When we look back at1 Corinthians 3:12, we look at its context to find our answer.
(Jesus) is the foundation of our work. So any work that is placed upon the foundation is tried by fire. The fire will test every single work that has been done. If the work is gold, silver, or precious stones it will become evident at the Bema Seat judgment. If the work is wood, hay, or straw, when the fire reveals the work, it will be consumed.
It is not my intent to get into specific rewards in this article, but we know there are crowns mentioned. We are looking at the quality of the work we performed on earth, why it matters, and how we should live in light of the Bema Seat and its certainty in our future.
When we boil it right down to the basics, the quality and authenticity of our work here in this life centers on one word:motives.
Is it possible for a born again believer to get caught up in the fast pace business of fellowship, programs, activities, small group, serving, and church? Is it possible to lose perspective and work with the wrong intentions and goals? I believe the verses listed above make the answer a definitive yes. It is easy to start off in any work or act of service with the simple motive of bringing glory to God.
What happens over the years if the newness of salvation turns into apathy or drudgery? We take our eyes off of the reason we are doing what we do. We must examine our heart and ask the Lord to give us a renewed desire to glorify Him. He needs to be the reason we are doing the kingdom work we do.
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,but theLORDweighs the spirit” (Proverbs 16:2).
If we volunteer to serve, help, give, and work for any other motive but the glory of God, we are not engaged in Bema Seat living. If I’m seeking to bolster my standing in the local church by being seen in all the right places, doing all the right work, in front of all the right people, then (who) receives the glory?
I can recall dozens of places in Scripture where the one who seeks only to glory of God is intentional about it. This saint is purposefully discreet in giving, in prayer, in fasting, in serving, in reputation. They make much of God and nothing of themselves.
The believer who engages in “Bema Seat living” is a biblical model of humility. Am I saying it’s wrong to serve with a group of people because they will know about your good works? Of course not, but the common denominator is always the motive of the heart.
Along the lines of God’s glory and our motives we need to remember, the church is no place for bravado driven self congratulatory applause from other believers for good works and service.
We come together for one reason and it’s to exalt Jesus—not our programs or each other.
Jesus gives a perfect and practical example of a heart motive below:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.‘Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy,do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:1-2).
I try to imagine the glory of the Rapture and our being caught up in the air to be with Jesus forever. I think of the moment we will be with our Lord and the unspeakable joy that follows. I cannot think too far before I realize that I must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where all of my work will be laid upon the foundation and it will be tried by fire.
Once the fire is poured out, will anything be left?
Only that which was done to the glory of God will remain. Will I suffer loss? If my work was for anything else but God the answer is yes; I will be saved, but only as through fire. In the Bible, there are certain rewards and responsibilities given to us based on the purity of our work here. It is consistent with Scripture to know that if we are faithful to the Lord with what he has entrusted us with in this life, then we will be entrusted with more in His kingdom.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
Many years ago, I heard an excellent message on how we should live in light of the Bema Seat. I was challenged to live with the reality of the Bema Seat in mind. Since we have looked at the certainty of the Bema Seat, I want to ask you a question:
What would happen to your walk with the Lord if you live each day with the Bema Seat as the starting point and not look at it as something that will occur way off in the distant future. If we really begin to comprehend the amazing rewards and joys Christ has planned for us at His judgment seat, we would be increasingly focused on what brings Him glory and not settle for an apathetic Christian walk.
One other thought on the Bema Seat: We will stand before the Lord. Our Savior will be seated and the radiance of His beautiful face will be like looking at the noonday sun.
Will he gesture with His nail pierced hands and will He comfort us as only He could? Will we place our crowns at His feet? It’s only glorious conjecture for us at this time, but one day we will all stand before Him…..the one who has given so much.
He is the one who should receive the glory for everything we do here. I pray that our words, actions, deeds, work, and motives are centered on Christ and His glory. That is Bema Seat living.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).
All for Him,