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Tag: The Judgment of the believers

The Judgment of the Believers

The Judgment of the Believers

God has a prophetic program for the church beginning with the rapture. After the church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air, the judgment of the believers will follow at the judgment seat of Christ. Every believer will stand before the Lord to give an account of their lives to Him.

When the great American statesman Daniel Webster was once asked about the greatest thought to ever enter his mind, his response was, “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is my accountability to God.” What gripped Webster was the knowledge that one day he would stand before God.

We too have an appointment to stand before God someday; every believer will be judged. So we need to get ready, and part of getting ready is understanding what the Bible has to say about the future event known as the judgment seat of Christ.

What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?

The judgment seat of Christ is one subject about which there is much confusion among believers. We all know that there is such a thing as the judgment seat of Christ but most of us picture it as some dreadful scene wherein all of our hidden sins committed during our lifetime will be revealed.

There are two passages of Scripture that mention the judgment of the believers at the judgment seat of Christ: Romans 14:10-12 & 2 Corinthians 5:10.

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.Romans 14:10-12

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

To better understand its meaning, we will divide the judgment seat of Christ into six key elements: the judge, the participants, the period, the place, the purpose and the preparation and go through each of them one by one.

I – The Judge

From the two Bible passages above (Romans 14:10-12 & 2 Corinthians 5:10), we can easily tell that this judgment will take place before Jesus, the Son of God. It is called the judgment seat of Christ because Jesus will be the Judge. John 5:22 also says that the Father judges no one because He has entrusted all judgment to the Son.

It is none other than the Lord Jesus who will execute judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. And the fact that Jesus will be the judge gives us assurance that the judgment will be objective and completely righteous, individual and thorough.

Jesus is a righteous judge

God’s judgment will be totally fair and impartial in that the rewards will not be based on the length of service, but rather on what each person did with the resources, opportunities and time he was given to serve Him, however great or small. God does not show favoritism and there is no partiality (Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25).

It is also evident that the judgment will be individual. Notice how Paul moves from the plural to the singular in Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10. And the judgment of the believers will be thorough. God will literally turn us inside out and all hidden deeds, thoughts and motives will be exposed and will appear for what they really were (1 Corinthians 3:13).

II – The Participants

The judgment seat of Christ is for believers only, and it’s not optional. No believer is exempt. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that “we must all appear before Christ to be judged.” In this statement, Paul was referring to all believers in Christ, including himself.

All church age believers – the time between the birth of the Church on Pentecost Day and the Rapture – will appear individually before Jesus Christ to be judged. What about the Old Testament believers? They will be resurrected and rewarded after the Second Coming, which takes place at the end of the 7-year Tribulation (Daniel 12:1-3).

III – The Period

1 Corinthians 4:5 places the judgment of the believers right after the Lord comes at the Rapture. It is also apparent that the judgment must take place after the rapture because reward follows resurrection. This principle is made clear in Luke 14:12-14.

In this passage, Jesus, in conflict with the Pharisees, encouraged his hosts to invite the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind to their banquets, because although these people won’t be able to pay them back, they will be repaid at the resurrection.

So there is coming a time when all the righteous deeds must be recompensed which will take place when the believers (righteous) are resurrected. That time of reward is the judgment seat of Christ.

IV – The Place

Since the judgment of the believers will take place after the rapture, it makes sense that it will take place in heaven.

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus comforted His disciples by assuring them that He will come again to take them to be where He is in John 14:1-3. When Jesus comes in the clouds for His saints at the rapture, He will bring them straight to heaven for the judgment and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The Greek word for judgment seat is “bema” which refers to a raised step or platform. It’s like a stage at the athletic games from which the rules were enforced and rewards are distributed to the winning athletes or participants.

In the same way, the bema or the judgment seat is the place where Christ will reward those who have finished the race and faithfully obeyed all the rules. Believers will appear at the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded while unbelievers will appear later at the Great White Throne Judgment to be condemned.

V – The Purpose

The purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is two-fold but before discussing them, it is important to clarify some misconceptions about the judgment of the believers.

First of all, the judgment seat is not to determine whether people will enter heaven or hell, neither is it to punish sins. This ultimate issue is decided when a person makes a conscious decision to accept or reject Christ.

The issue at the judgment seat is not salvation but rewards. Salvation is based exclusively on what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His suffering, death and resurrection. We are saved by grace, through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

1. Review

At the judgment seat, the Lord will review the life of every believer and will evaluate their actions after coming to faith in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says every believer must be judged “according to what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.”

But what does Paul mean by “good or bad?” What are these bad works? Bad works here do not actually mean “evil” but they are bad in the sense that they are worthless or inferior in quality. These works are good things in themselves but what makes them bad or worthless is if they are done for selfish reasons or with the wrong motives. God is an omniscient God; He knows everything. He knows not only what we do, but why we do it.

Good works vs. bad works

We can often fool people about our service and motives, and they may think we are doing some great things for God. But we can never fool God. At the judgment seat of Christ, all these impressive works will disappear for God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5). God’s rewards will be based on His right evaluation of our words, actions, attitudes and motives.

“People maybe pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” – Proverbs 16:2 (NLT)

2. Reward

The second purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is to reward those who have faithfully served the Lord and poured out their lives to Him. The last part of 1 Corinthians 4:5 says “each one’s praise will come from God.”

Do not think that you won’t get anything and will probably walk away from the judgment seat empty-handed. Even if you have been a believer only for a few years, months or weeks when you come face to face with God to be judged, the Lord will surely find something in your life to praise and reward.

Reward or crown for the believers

But while rewards are given at the judgment seat, there is also the possibility of the loss of reward for some believers. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, the apostle Paul says he disciplines his body like an athlete, training it to do what it should, for fear that he might be disqualified even after preaching to others.

Contrary to how some Bible readers interpret this passage, Paul is not expressing that he might lose his salvation. Rather, he is expressing the possibility of standing before the judgment seat of Christ and being “disapproved.” Paul is talking about receiving rewards and he does not want to come before the Judge and be disqualified for receiving a reward.

*There are 5 rewards or crowns that will be given to the believers when they are judged at the judgment seat of Christ:

a) The incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) for those who practiced self discipline and self-control.

b) The crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) for those who are eagerly looking for the Lord’s appearing and are living a righteous life in view of this fact.

c) The crown of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) for those who have faithfully endured and persevered under trial.

d) The crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19) the soul winner’s crown which is given to those who win people for Christ.

e) The crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4) the shepherd’s crown for pastors, elders and church leaders who lovingly, graciously and faithfully shepherd and oversee God’s people.

VI – The Preparation

How do we prepare for the judgment? We know that in school, the most important day is test day or examination day. During exams, everything is different. The whole mood and atmosphere change. During ordinary days, students are relaxed and just goofing around. But when the teacher announces the scope of the exam, everybody suddenly becomes attentive.

What about the exams day for the believers? How are we supposed to prepare? Based on the five crowns that will be given, I believe we already have an idea of some of the areas that will be examined when we stand before the Lord.

Other areas include:

1) How we treat other believers and the people of God (Israel).

Galatians 6:10 says, “whenever we have the opportunity let us do good to all especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We may differ in minor theology with other believers but that should not be our reason to be hostile towards them. We belong to the Body of Christ and we should love one another as Jesus commanded us (1 John 4:7; John 13:34-35).

And Matthew 25:40 speaks of the way we treat the nation of Israel. Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escaped the Nazi Holocaust during WW2, said this, “You cannot love God without loving the Jewish people.”

2) How we use and employ our God-given talents and abilities.

Are you using your gifts and talents to honor and serve God? Or are you using them for self gratification and worldly pleasures? I really admire some celebrities who, after coming to faith in Christ, have either become picky with the kind of roles they play onscreen or have decided to totally give up their acting careers in order to honor God.

3) How we spend our time.

Are you spending time to pray, worship God, read the Scriptures and share the Word? Or do you spend more time watching TV and on social media?

4) How we use our money and resources.

God owns everything; we are simply stewards, managers and caretakers of the Lord’s property. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the issue for the manager is faithfulness to his master. In the same way, God as our Master is looking for faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

When God judges us at the judgment seat of Christ, He will evaluate how we used the treasure and talents He entrusted to us. God will not reward us based on how much money or talent we possessed, but rather how faithful we were with what He has given us. And those who have been faithful managers will receive the Master’s praise: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

5) How we run the race God has marked out for us.

In the same way that an athlete needs focus, discipline and commitment in order to win the race, believers must also be committed and dedicated in running the race of faith. This is illustrated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 when he said that he disciplines his body like an athlete.

He’s saying that if athletes are willing to subject themselves to the suffering and demands of rigorous training to get a corruptible crown (trophy made of plastic, wood or metal), how much more should Christians be willing to sacrifice for an incorruptible reward in heaven at the judgment seat of Christ.

“The same commitment and dedication that make a winning athlete will make a winning Christian.”

Conclusion

We all have an appointment to stand before God someday to be judged. We cannot escape it. The only question is, which judgment will you face? Will you face God as one who trusted in Him or rejected His gift of eternal life? We should all want to participate in the judgment that will take place in heaven immediately after the Lord comes at the Rapture – the judgment of the believers in Christ.

Run the race with perseverance.

As we prepare to appear at the judgment seat of Christ, may we live our lives with a purpose, dedication, self-control and discipline as we give maximum effort in diligently pursuing the prize. As Paul said, let us forget the things which are behind us and reach forward for the things that are ahead (Philippians 3:12-14).


*Recommended Resource: 

Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgement Seat of Christ 
By Erwin W. Lutzer

Publisher’s Description:

When we reflect on how we lived for Christ, we might weep on the other side of the celestial gates.

To their own detriment, many Christians have emptied the judgment seat of Christ of its meaning, living like they will never meet His knowing gaze. For this they may have tears in heaven.

In this provocative book, Dr. Erwin Lutzer argues that remorse in heaven awaits those who don’t live fully for God on earth. Exploring the often-overlooked Scriptures about reward and judgment for Christians, Dr. Lutzer answers questions like:

  • How will believers be judged?
  • Do rewards for faithfulness vary?
  • If heaven is perfect, why do rewards even matter?

His answers are immensely practical. Your Eternal Reward will prompt you to live more faithfully, whether in your conduct, your speech, or even your use of money, that you might enjoy heaven all the more.

What is sown on earth is reaped in heaven, and Dr. Lutzer will have you taking this truth to heart.