What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?

by Tommy Nelson

“For we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body whether good or bad.”  2 Cor. 5:10

It is called the Bema or the Judgment Seat of Christ and is, in my opinion, the most untaught area of Christology.  It’s not because its teaching is not known in the Bible but it is just not taught.  Maybe it’s because we as Christians are so delighted to know that we have escaped judgment through Christ who removed our judgment that the notion that we still will be judged for our “works”- not sin, mind you, but what we did with our Christian lives- is unnerving to us.

The Bema occurs after the Rapture and before the 2nd Coming.  It occurs at the beginning of our 7 year honeymoon in glory with our Bridegroom in the house He has prepared for us, the New Jerusalem.  The term Judgment Seat or Bema was well known to those in Corinth, the church where Paul introduced the term “the Bema.”

The Bema was a judicial place where an athlete who had competed in the games- the Isthmian games- had to stand before the judge and attest that he had “competed according to the rules”- rules of diet, training, and moral purity.  The Bema was an old time drug testing.  If you did not run according to the rules you do not get the prize. In the same way the Christian will be judged- not for sin as that was settled in Christ- but for our faithfulness.

It doesn’t mean you are or are not in “the ministry.”  One can be in the ministry for worldly reasons and as Paul said “it profits me nothing.”  One can however do the most menial of tasks for the glory of God and as Paul said of Christian slaves “whatever good thing each one does this he shall receive back from the Lord whether slave or free.” (Eph. 6:8)

“Each of us shall give account of himself to the Lord.” (Rom. 14:12)

Paul spoke of this in 1 Cor. 3 as a Christian building project.  A Christian’s life can use the wisdom of the world (wood, hay or straw) or the wisdom of God (gold, silver, precious stones).

What did you build on?

“The day will show it because it be revealed with fire and the fire will test the kind (or quality) of each man’s work.” (1 Cor. 3:13)

“If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up he shall suffer loss (i.e. of reward) yet he himself shall be saved, yet as though through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:14-15)

What do we mean by “reward”?  It is that which will continue into the coming kingdom of Christ.  It is what Jesus meant by “seek first the kingdom of God” and “make for yourselves purses that do not wear out.”  It is what Paul meant by “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  It is what he meant by “an imperishable wreath.”  It is what John meant by “that you might receive a full reward.”  It is what Paul meant by “I seek for the profit that increases to your account” and “we shall reign with Him.”

In some sense our place of rule in the thousand year reign of Christ will be affected by our faithfulness now.

Every act from Adam on in some sense will be requited, recompensed or punished in Christ on the cross or in hell.

To me however the most precious text is from Rev. 19:7-8.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”

“It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

Our garment and its splendor will come from the Bema and the reward from Christ (not punishment mind you) for what we have “done in the body.” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Every good deed shall be brought to light.

If you would like a good application of this read Revelation 3:14-22 about a worldly church that was successful in all the wrong things, the church of Laodicea.

It may be cliché but it’s true.

“Only one life, twill soon be past

Only what’s done for Christ shall last.”

Let’s live for the smile and “well done” at the Bema of our Incomparable Christ.

www.dbc.org. Used by permission.

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