Judgment: Bema Seat or White Throne? :: By Nathele Graham 

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Some facts in life are hard to deal with. One of the realities is death. After death (or after the rapture for those alive at that time) there will be a judgment. That’s a little unnerving to think about, but it doesn’t have to be a painful event. Not everyone will face the same judgment, but it’s our own choice that determines which judgment we will face. One is the bema seat judgment of Christ, and the other is the White Throne judgment. You make the choice as to which one you will face. Placing your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation will result in the bema seat rewards judgment, but rejecting Christ will set you before God and His judgment of your works.

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

When you first come to Christ, a foundation is laid. That foundation is Jesus Christ. What you build upon that foundation is controlled by you. Study Scripture and learn how to please Christ. He is our example of what a Christian life should look like. He showed love to all people, but stood against anyone who twisted Scripture for their own purposes. Follow His example and begin building a solid Christian life. Instead of making choices that please people, make choices that please Christ. This means you have to humble yourself and put things out of your life that are contrary to His teaching. As you make godly choices and they become habits, you’ll soon have a life built upon the Rock…Jesus Christ. Jesus encouraged doing works with a correct motive.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Only those things done for Christ will last.

Salvation does not come by doing works of any kind. Not baptism, not missionary work, not feeding the hungry. Salvation is by grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus did all that was needed for salvation; He shed His blood as the final sacrifice to take away sin. You need to accept His finished work on the cross in order to receive the gift of grace…eternal life with Him. If you really understand what His death on the cross saved you from, you’ll be overwhelmed with gratitude. The only way to say thank you is to honor Him with your life. That’s where works come in. You earn rewards for the works you do. For instance, if you don’t give into temptation, you’ll earn a crown.

“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).

Peter encouraged men who are called to be pastors to be proper shepherds over the flock. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4).

At the end of his life, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy wherein he said that he looked back on his life and felt he had done good for the Lord. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 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 all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). There are other crowns named in Scripture, but each one has to be earned by works, and only Christians are eligible to receive them.

Very soon, Christians will be called Home in the Rapture. That’s when Christians will receive their judgment. When talking about the Christian’s judgment before Christ, the Greek word used is “bema.” That’s not a seat of condemnation but one where works will be judged and crowns given. “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 Corinthians 5:10). 

Standing before Jesus Christ will be overwhelming. You will look upon God who humbly became a man in order to provide the only way of salvation to this rebellious world. On the day of judgment…the Bema seat of Christ…your works will be judged. This is when the life you built upon the Foundation of Jesus Christ is important.

“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” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).

Jesus knows the motives behind everything you do. You might do wonderful things, but if those works are done for your own glory instead of God’s, then you won’t receive a reward for them. That’s “wood, hay, and stubble” which will be burned up by the fire. If your works were done for Christ, that’s another story. “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” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

The works done for Christ, the gold, silver and precious stones, will survive the fire of judgment. The wood, hay, and stubble will be burned up. Your salvation is secure, but your works will be judged. The same fire that will burn up the things that you did for your own self-gain will reveal the things you’ve done in the name of Jesus Christ. Whether you’ve done great and powerful works of witnessing to crowds of people, or something that might seem insignificant, such as laying a foundation of Christ in the heart of a child, if you’ve done it for Christ it will last. Christ will judge the works, not judge you for salvation. That’s already been settled when you accepted His sacrifice on the cross.

The day of judgment for the Christian will happen soon after the Rapture. John received seven letters dictated by Jesus to be delivered to seven congregations. Those letters describe history in advance… prophecy. They spell out the various Christian eras throughout the ages. We are living in the era of Laodicea, which is the last letter. The next big event in Christian history is the Rapture. According to Biblical prophecy, that day is very close.

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2).

What follows is an amazing account of what John saw in Heaven. There will be no more Christians on earth who are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We will all be around the throne and praising our Lord. Chaos on earth will just be beginning. God’s wrath will be poured out, and those judgments begin when Jesus opens the first seal.

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see” (Revelation 6:1).

What John saw was demonic chaos led by Satan that has never been seen before. He saw plagues, economic collapse, vicious violence that makes the mobs of rioters of today look tame. Through it all there will be a few people who turn to Christ, but they will be beheaded for not following Satan. At the end of seven years of hell on earth, it will be over. The nation of Israel will at long last turn to Christ, their Messiah, and He will fight for them. Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Then, he’ll be set free once again and the final battle of history will take place. Satan loses.

At the end, there will be a judgment of all who have ever rejected Jesus and who think their works are good enough to get them into Heaven. Only the righteous person can stand before God, and only Christians are righteous because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Unbelievers are on their own.

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works” (Revelation 20:11-12).

Instead of putting their faith in Jesus and what He did, they put their faith in themselves. Everything done without Christ at the center is wood, hay, and stubble and is burned in the judgment. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13). 

Nobody at the White Throne judgment will enter Heaven. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).

Sin separates a person from God, but Jesus took our sins upon Himself. After the cross, the only thing that can cause you to face the White Throne judgment is your rejection of Christ prior to death. Jesus paid for all sins; and when you truly accept His sacrifice, you won’t face punishment.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Don’t wait to confess and believe. Time is running out. It’s your choice which judgment you will face: Bema Seat or the Great White Throne.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham




Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

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