By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I’ve been reading about the judgment seat of Christ where we will receive awards according to how profitable or unprofitable our lives have been on earth. It seems to me as I read these passages that some will be ashamed at how poorly they have done. Could that be true?
Yes, I think that some will be ashamed.
Revelation 22:12 introduces the fact of rewards for the believers:
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I
will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
There is coming a time when we will be judged on the basis of what we have done as Christians. This is known as the “Judgment Seat of Christ” which occurs during the seven-year tribulation on earth.
2 Corinthians 5:8-10 summarizes our evaluation before Christ:
“Whether good or bad. “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:8-10).
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Should a Christian Work for Rewards?
The answer to this question seems self-evident. However, not everyone seems to feel that way!
“You know, I don’t think we ought to talk about rewards – we ought to serve the Lord because we love Him.”
“I don’t care about the crowns, I just care if I get there!”
“I’m not working for rewards; I’m just working for Christ!”
All of these statements are good rhetoric. However, they are very poor theology. We ought to serve Christ because we love Him. Nevertheless, we have every incentive to seek the very best rewards that we can for ourselves.
Moses worked for his rewards (Hebrews 11:23-26).
Paul was looking to his rewards (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
We should be working and looking for ours as well.
What the Judgment Seat of Christ Is Not
First, the Judgment Seat of Christ does not determine whether we go to Heaven.
If we have Christ as our Lord and Savior, we go to heaven. If we don’t have Christ we go to Hell. There is no St. Peter at the pearly gates.
The average person thinks that there is only one big judgment at the end of time where people are judged on whether they have more “goods” than “bads.” If they have more “goods” than “bads,” you go to heaven. On the other hand, if you have more “bads” than “goods,” you go to hell.
5 Different Judgments
The Judgment Seat of Christ is one of at least five different judgments that take place at different times and in different places.
1. Judgment of Sin – (Isaiah 53:6, the four gospels) – 30 AD Christ on the cross.
2. Judgment seat of Christ – (2 Corinthians 5:9-10) – evaluates the profitability of a Christian’s life on earth.
3. Judgment of Israel – (Ezekiel 20:33-44) – occurs at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation – when God purges all rebels out of Israel.
4. Judgment of the nations – (Matt 25:31-46) – occurs at the end of the Tribulation.
The criteria are based on how each nation responded to Israel’s needs during the Great Tribulation. Believing and unbelieving Gentiles are separated here as well.
5. “Great White Throne Judgment” (Jude 6; Revelation 20:11-15) – Judgment of Satan, his demons, and all those who never received Christ the Savior while they were alive; all are cast into The Lake Of Fire. The Books of Works demonstrate to all of the lost that they are not good enough for heaven.
The Judgment Seat of Christ does not punish believers for all the sins that they have committed since salvation.
Can you imagine the horror of God publicly judging all of your sins as they were flashed on the big screen at the movie theater! “Here’s Roger! Look at him in sin when he was 14 years old – what a horrifying thought!
Fortunately, the Bible teaches that our sins will never be seen again.
Isaiah 38:17 says that God has put our sins” behind our backs”. The word literally means, “behind our shoulder blades.” Have you ever tried to look back there?
What Happens at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
“Bema” is the Greek word for “throne” which best represents the judgment place where winners in the Corinthian and Olympian games climbed that raised platform to receive their crowns and rewards.
Athletes came from all over Greece in the hopes of mounting that raised platform of honor and dignity.”
Only winners receive rewards. Losers do not mount up on the Olympic Stand to receive rewards.
By grace, every believer will stand upon the honor stand. Christianity is the only thing I know of where everybody wins, and nobody loses.
1 Corinthians 3:10-16 Gives a Detailed Picture of This Judgment
Let’s imagine that we are going to build a building and it’s going to be a Temple of God:
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own way: you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The foundation is Jesus Christ.
It is impossible to build a meaningful life on anyone or on any other than Jesus Christ. He is foundational.
The building materials can be placed into two categories.
Indestructible objects – gold, silver, precious stones = “valuable.”
Destructible, worthless objects – wood, hay, and stubble = “worthless.”
Imagine an empty lot. Jesus Christ is the foundation in the middle of the lot. On that foundation, you’re going to build your life.
If you’re going to build a building, granite or marble would be good. A solid marble building overlaid with gold and silver would be nice!
But do you know what many Christians do? They build out of wood! They use wood for the door frames and door jams, then use hay mixed with mud for bricks and then top it off with a stubble roof!
So here are two Christians with the same resources, the same spirit, and the same power. The one who built with wood, hay, and stubble says, “Here it is God. How do you like it?”
The other says “Here it is God, gold, silver, precious stone.”
God says, “Well…wood, hay, stubble are not evil, they are just not worth much. You’re still a Christian but it isn’t really proper to put a mud hut on the foundation of Jesus Christ.”
The Judgment Seat of Christ will have a simple Test.
There’s coming a day when God takes the buildings to the judgment seat. God’s going to light a fire to see what it left.
Wood, hay, and stubble burn.
Marble, granite, gold, and silver do not.
At the Judgment Seat, we will be judged on what we’ve done of eternal value for Christ. Were we profitable? Or, unprofitable the kingdom. Christ is concerned with what we’ve done of lasting value.
Obviously, some will be ashamed as described by Jesus in Matthew chapter 25.
Some Christians will watch their houses go up in a great conflagration! They suffer the loss of crowns and rewards; but notice that no one suffers the loss of their salvation.
There will be gold Christians and there will be stubble ones. But all are Christians because they have one foundation. Jesus Christ.
Our rewards will be based upon our love for God and others, our purity, holiness, behaviors, motives, values, and service. He will consider how well we have followed Christ as our Lord and Savior. Of course, he will notice the maturity of our Fruit of The Spirit. Certainly, He’ll want to evaluate how well we lived out the Beatitudes. How well have we followed God’s will for our lives is very important to him. He will evaluate our generosity and how well we responded to the needs of the poor and needy.
Of course, we are describing a lifestyle, not a checklist, which God will use to evaluate our profitability.
The key to the evaluation must be John 15:5. We simply live out the normal Christian life and all will be well.
“I am the vine may: you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” NIV
Our Christian lifestyle is critical.
A chaplain visited a new inmate in prison. “Say, Chaplain, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” “You have, why?” “Well, you see, I’m a preacher, too!” “You are! Then what are you doing in here?” “Well,” he started into a long explanation. When he finished, the chaplain said. “Please, just do me one favor.” “What’s that?” asked the inmate. The chaplain replied, “Don’t tell anyone here that you’re a preacher. You’re bad advertisement.”
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6 Crowns Will also Be Distributed at the Judgment Seat
The Diadem is a crown for Jesus.
The Stefanus is a laurel wreath that we will lay at Jesus’ feet.
2. Crown of Rejoicing (Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 2:18-20): this is the Soul Winner’s crown given to those who lead lost people to Christ.
3. Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:1-8): Loving Christ’s Second Coming
5. Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:1-4): Pastor’s Crown – available to all who shepherd Jesus’ spiritual sheep.
6. Incorruptible Crown (1 Cor 9:24-27): Crown of self-denial.
Exactly what is the nature of the rewards that we receive from Jesus at the Bema. No one knows for certain. However, there is no doubt that those who have been profitable on earth will receive more than those who did not do so well.
In heaven according to the profitability of their actions will there be perhaps a greater capacity for praising and honoring God?
Perhaps this ties into the Parable of Talents. Jesus says in Matthew 25 that If we do well here, we may have greater rewards and abilities in Heaven.
We don’t want to get to heaven by the skin of our teeth! We ought to be sacrificing to get the gospel to the ends of the earth! The King’s Business requires the very best that we have!
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What Will We Do with Our Rewards?
Will we build a trophy case?
Will we count the number of stars in our crowns?
Will we compare crowns? No!
“They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “you are worthy Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:10-11).
If I read it right, it’s the believers, Jesus’ Bride, laying down their crowns at the feet of Jesus. The Crowns are indicative of how much we love Him.
“If Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
These rewards were one of the greatest motivating factors in the life of Paul! So shall it be in ours.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time is come for my departure. 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).
Paul prepared for his appearance before Christ – and so should we! It’s not that Paul was crass or that he only wanted glory and honor – it was simply that if he were going to be involved in serving Jesus, he was going to give Him his best!