And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. Hebrews 9:27
One of the topics the Bible speaks about is judgment. One day everyone will stand before God to give an account for their life. There is a tendency sometimes to lump all judgment into the same category, but there are actually two different types of judgment. The believer and the unbeliever will be judged but the experience will not be the same.
The unbeliever will experience the Great White Throne judgment mentioned in Revelation. For Christians, we will experience the judgment seat or Bema seat of Christ which is a judgment for different reasons and for a different purpose.
What Is the Bema Seat/Judgment Seat of Christ?
The term Bema Seat of Christ is a term that comes from 2 Corinthians 5:10.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The word for judgment used in the Greek is the word bema. The word bema means judgment seat, judicial court or judicial bench. In the first century, the bema was an elevated platform from which political speeches or judicial decisions were made. If you can picture the imagery as it relates to Christ in this verse, Christ is seated on his elevated throne and one day we will stand before him. At that point, Jesus will deliver his judicial decision to all who are believers.
What I want you to focus on from this verse is the purpose of this judgment. The most important thing to point out is this is not a judgment regarding your salvation. The bema seat of Christ is not a judgment for sin or eternal punishment, this is a judgment of reward. As Christians, your sins have already been judged because of the sacrifice in Christ. Since the salvation question has already been settled God will not judge you again for that.
This judgment will focus on how did you live after you came to Christ? How committed were you to the cause of Christ and doing his will? Did you live to please him or live to please yourself? This is what the bema seat judgment is all about. That’s why you should pay attention to what Paul said in the preceding verse.
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 2 Corinthians 5:9
Because you will one day stand before the bema seat of Christ your goal should be to please him. This is a sobering thought which should cause you to reflect on how you are living.
Will All Christians Experience the Judgment Seat (Bema Seat) of Christ?
As we just read in 2 Corinthians, all Christians will experience the judgment seat or bema seat of Christ. One of the other things that will be judged there is the quality of each person’s work. Consider what Paul also wrote to the Corinthians:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Notice again that the quality of the work is being judged, not the salvation of the one doing the work. Even though their work may be burned up and they receive no reward for it, they themselves will be saved. This is a reminder to you and me that it is not enough just to do work for the Lord, what is equally or probably more important is the foundation of the work.
This encompasses things like why are you doing it? Whose glory are you concerned about, yours or God’s? Are you building your kingdom or God’s kingdom? On that day not only will what you have done be judged but also the motivation behind it. Everything will be laid bare and there will be no hiding or escape. God will reveal the things that we cannot see, which includes the attitude of your heart in doing what you do for God.
Every person that sets out to do the work of the Lord does not always do it with the right motives or for the right reasons. While those types of people may be able to hide their motives now, when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ there will be no hiding for everything will be uncovered.
Your Response to the Bema Seat/Judgment Seat
Verses like these should cause you to do one thing… search your heart. It is very easy to slide into the position of doing things for the wrong reasons, which means you are building on wood, hay, or straw. These will not survive when God’s fire is put to them.
This is especially true of people who stand in the ministry spotlight or positions of influence. When you are the person people look up to or you are the leader then you must search your heart even more because you have greater responsibility and also greater temptations. More importantly, you will be judged at a higher level. Here is what James says.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1
The higher up you go or the more people you reach or influence the more you must check your heart. Get into the habit of always laying your heart bare before the Lord so he can reveal now what may be in there. Even more so as you recognize that you as well as all Christians will experience the judgment seat of Christ. I encourage you to let this prayer be the continual prayer of your heart.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
It is far better to allow God to search your heart now and reveal what is in it so you can fix it now as opposed to waiting to that day and he reveal it, because you won’t be able to fix it then. I encourage you to focus on doing his will, for his glory, and building his kingdom. If this is your focus it will always keep your heart in the right place and you will receive reward when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Let the words of Paul be the words we say on that day.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Photo Credit: ©Kate Smith
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.