The Judgment Seat of Christ

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).

There are two major judgments to come. You will be at one of them. They are the judgment seat of Christ and the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). The judgment seat of Christ is only for Christians. It comes immediately after the rapture of the church. Christians will give an account of themselves to Christ. The Greek word used for judgment here is "bema," – the same word used for judgment of athletes in the Olympic games. It involved rewarding the winners.

The great white throne judgment is the final judgment of the lost. No Christians will be there. It is only for the lost to decide varying degrees of their punishment. That judgment is at the end of the millennium and all who appear at that judgment go to the lake of fire forever. This will be discussed more fully later.

The judgment seat of Christ is primarily for the purpose of rewarding faithfulness and making assignments of how we will serve our Lord hereafter. While Christians will clearly give an account, there is no consideration of condemnation to Hell at this judgment. That was decided at Calvary. All sins of every Christian were placed in the body of Christ, and our sins regarding salvation were judged in Jesus Christ on the cross. While Christians may earn rewards earlier in life only to lose them later by sin and failure, (2 John 8), salvation may not be lost.

Paul explained the judgment of Christians in I Corinthians 3:11-15. If we receive Jesus as our Savior, we are on the foundation of Jesus, which guarantees us eternal life (Vs. 11). We may build permanent things, i.e., "gold, silver, precious stones" on that foundation, which survive the fire, or we may build temporal things, i.e., "wood, hay, stubble", which are burned up (vs. 12). When we come to the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus is the refiner’s fire (Mal. 3:2-3). That which is temporal, like the "wood, hay and stubble," is burned up, and that which is eternal, such as "gold, silver and precious stones," survives the fire of judgment. Paul explains, "If any man’s work abide which he hath built upon it, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire." (Vss 14-15). Remember that Jesus is the fire. Even if we lose our rewards, we are still saved by Jesus. Salvation is not a reward. It is a gift of God, paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. The Bible mentions rewards like crowns. This could refer to our assignment or place of service in the Millennium and in the new Heaven.

In the parable of the pounds, Jesus told of a nobleman who gave to each of his ten servants one "pound" (this was money) before departing to a far country. When the nobleman returned, he called the servants to account. One servant had multiplied his one pound to ten pounds. Jesus said, "Well done, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:17). Another servant had multiplied his one pound to five pounds. Jesus said to him, "…be thou over five cities" (Luke 19:19). Most Bible interpreters think Jesus was referring to Himself as that nobleman and was explaining how He would reward His servants who were faithful to Him.

In this life, we spend much time in our youth preparing for a career, which may last for thirty or forty years. How much more should we prepare for a career which lasts forever? We prepare by reading our Bibles, prayer and diligent obedience. Rewards are based on our love for God, His calling to us and our faithfulness to His will. Those Jesus can trust will receive great rewards, including significant places of service in reigning with Him in eternity(Matthew 19:28 & 29).

The judgment seat of Christ is also the final preparation for the marriage of Jesus and His Church. It may include our wedding garments (Matt. 22:11). Believe me, you will want to be your best for that wonderful event! Amen.

© 2002 D. B. Martin