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The Judgement Seat of Christ- Part 2
The Bema Seat: Rewards or Loss
In our last installment we talked about the Judgement Seat of Christ being a place where believers receive rewards for service to the Lord in this life. The word for judgement is actually the Greek word bema. The Bema seat of Christ, like the bema in the Greek Isthmian games, is not a place of punishment, but a place of rewards. Salvation is not decided here. Jesus Christ died to save us. Our works can never add to that finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. His death, burial and resurrection took care of our eternal destiny, if we accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
The interesting thing is that it is God who saved us and God who sanctifies us. He gives us the power to live a godly life. And at the end of that God-empowered life, he promises to reward us for service done for Him. We have a gracious and wonderful God.
I. The Participants and the Time of Judgement
The question that we must answer is, who are the people who will stand before the Bema seat of Christ, and when will it take place? The participants are members of the Church, the Body of Christ. That is all of those who are living and have died in this age of grace that we have been experiencing for over 2000 years now. God has temporarily cast aside His people Israel (Romans 9-11) and has given salvation to all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. And He has placed them in the universal Church. All who trust Jesus Christ by faith are in that Church. And it is to the Church that the Apostle Paul was writing when he spoke of the Bema Seat of Christ.
The resurrection and rewards of the Old Testament saints are to be after the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year period of time in which God's wrath and judgement are poured out on sin. It is also called the Time of Jacob's Trouble, because it will be a time when God will begin once again to deal with Israel and bring them back to Himself. Paul teaches that the believer in this Church age will be delivered from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 5:9-11). And Paul, earlier, in I Thessalonians 4:13-18, teaches that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The Rapture, or catching up of the Church, is God's way of delivering us from the wrath, so it will take place before the Tribulation. And the Bema seat of Christ will follow the Rapture.
II. The Judge of the Bema
The righteous judge that we will stand before, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Romans 14:10 Paul calls this time of examination, the Bema of God, and in II Corinthians 5:10 he calls it the Bema of Christ. So Jesus, who is God, is our examiner and our rewarder.
III. The Criterion and the Rewards
As we have stated, works which we have done for the glory of God will determine the believer's rewards. We learn in Ephesians 2:8,9 that a man is saved by grace, through faith. But verse 10 says that he is saved to do good works. Good works follow a true salvation experience
In I Corinthians 3:11-15 our lives are compared to a building. Jesus Christ is the only foundation. What we build on that foundation is up to us. We can choose to build our lives for God's glory. These are the lasting materials called gold, silver and precious stones. When these things undergo the fires of judgement, they are refined and not destroyed. They get rewarded.
On the other hand, we can choose to build on the foundation things done for our own glory. These are likened to wood, hay and stubble. These works, when tried by the fire, are burned up. Nothing is left of them. Paul tells us that if we build nothing but wood, hay and stubble, we will lose it all. However, because the foundation of Jesus Christ remains, we will be saved, "yet so as through fire." Though getting into heaven is much better than Hell, what a sad day it would be to see your whole life completely go up in smoke. To me that would be embarrassing to have nothing but wood, hay and stubble to offer the Lord on that day. Though we don't really know what the rewards ultimately will be, they will be glorious things to receive from the hand of the one who deserves all of our praise. And it would indeed be a loss to receive none.
IV. The Incentive
The expectation of rewards should be a wonderful incentive to give our whole lives to the Lord and His service. And the negative aspect of this is a desire not to have the Lord displeased with the life that we have to offer Him on that day. If we truly are grateful for what the Lord has done for us on the cross of Calvary, we will ultimately want to hear Him say: "Well done, good and faithful servant." What a wonderful thing to hear from our Savior.
For those who know the Lord Jesus Christ, I hope that you are continually building on the foundation, things that will last for all eternity. To those who have never accepted Christ, now is the time to make Him the foundation of your life. There is no other foundation that will not ultimately collapse. To borrow from an old commercial: "Jesus: don't leave earth without Him."