The Judgement Seat of Christ- Part 1
The Christian's Reward for Faithful Service
The Bible clearly states that one day "every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." The Scriptures also plainly teach that one day judgement will take place for sin. There will be those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior who will not receive eternal life. Rather they will spend eternity separated from a holy God in hell. But there is another judgement day that is solely for the believer. It is not a day to determine salvation and to decide between heaven or hell. Rather it is a judgement to mete out rewards for faithful service for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul calls this particular event the Judgement Seat of Christ.
I. Scriptural Passages About the Judgement Seat of Christ
The passages where we find the term "Judgement Seat of Christ" include Romans 14:10 and II Corinthians 5:9,10. In I Corinthians 3:10-15 we have that same day mentioned, though the term itself isn't used. In each of these passages Paul is talking, not to unbelievers but to those who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. In each case he says that all believers will one day face this time of judgement.
II. Judgement Not to Determine the Believer's Salvation
Once again, this is not a decision to go to heaven or hell. If that were the case, then Jesus' sacrifice on the cross would have been in vain. Scripture plainly teaches that salvation is by grace, through faith, plus nothing. Just look at passages like Ephesians 2:8, 9 ; Titus 3:5; John 3:16; John 3:36 and Hebrews 10:14 and you will realize that works has nothing to do with receiving, or maintaining salvation.
III. The Bema Seat of Christ
In order to fully understand this day, we need to know what Greek word Paul chose for judgement here. He chose the word bema. It is at the Bema seat of Christ that the believer will be judged. While bema is used in the gospels and in Acts of the raised platform where a Roman magistrate or ruler sat to make decisions and to pass sentence, this doesn't appear to be how Paul uses it. He is, intead going back to its original meaning. If you read the Pauline epistles he frequently looks at the believer as a competitor in a spiritual contest. The term bema was taken from the Isthmian games where the contestants would compete for the prize under the scrutiny of the judges watching. Part of the job of the judges was to make sure that the contestants played by the rules of the game.
At the end of the competition, the victor who played by the rules was lead by the judge to the platform called the bema. There a laurel wreath was placed on his head to demonstrate his victory. And just like the Greek athlete won a perishable prize, the Christian will receive an imperishable reward for service done for the Lord. Notice that there is no punishment meted out here. In I Corinthians 3:15 Paul says that we will suffer loss for things not done for the Lord. However, the loss here is a loss of reward. The punishment for sin was taken by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
There is much more to be said about this great day, but I would like to save that for another installment. However, in order to sum up the study that we have just seen, I'd like to quote a small rhyme. Someone has said: "Only one life, twill soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last." If you are a Christian, this day is ahead of you. It is my hope that everyone who names the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will want to please Him with your life. Not just for the reward that He promises, but because of all that He has done for you. At the end, God will receive the final glory for what He has accomplished. Let us give Him the glory He deserves.