Are You Ready for the Final Exam? The Judgment Seat of Chirst
As we continue our study of Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book, The End, we come to his chapter on the judgment seat of Christ. This event will occur immediately after the Rapture of the church and will include all believers in the church age. Here is a quote by Dr. Erwin Lutzer from his book, Your Eternal Reward, that helps us realize the seriousness of living each day for the cause of Christ. “Many of us appear to be winning in the race of life, but perhaps it is all “pretend.” Standing before Christ we will soon see the difference between an actual victory and wishful thinking. We will see what it took to win and what it took to lose. We’ll discover that we were playing for keeps.”
Dr. Hitchcock explains the meaning of the judgment seat of Christ under seven headings: the period (when it will take place), the place of the judgment (where it will take place), the participants (who will be there), the purpose (why we will be there), the principles (the five basic principles by which Christ will judge our lives), the pictures of the judgment (three images Scripture uses to help us be ready), the preparation for the judgment (some of the main areas of our lives that will be examined when we stand before the Lord).
1. The period (when it will take place) -“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns (for the church –the Rapture). For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) The judgment seat of Christ will occur immediately after the church is raptured to heaven.
2. The place of judgment (where it will take place) – Both the judgment seat of Christ (for believers only) and the white throne judgment (for unbelievers – Revelation 20:11-15) will take place in heaven. The Greek word for seat is “bema” and in ancient times it often referred to a raised platform where rules were enforced and rewards were distributed at athletic games. So the judgment seat of Christ is the place where Christ will reward believers for works done for His glory and where He will withhold rewards from believers who have been unfaithful. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
3. The participants (who will be there) – All church-age believers in Christ – no one will be exempt. There is a separate judgment for Old Testament saints and tribulation saints.
4. The purpose (why we will be there) – First of all, it is important to know that this is not a judgment to determine whether people will go to heaven or hell or to punish sin. God’s Word is clear that those who trust Jesus for salvation will never be judged or condemned for sin. (John 5:24; Romans 8:1) But though we are not saved by works we will be judged and rewarded (or not) for works done for Christ after we are saved. “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) The “fire” tests our works and even the motives for our works done for Christ. In Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16, Jesus warns us that if we do our “Christian” works for the applause of people we will lose our eternal reward for those works. Most of us will have to admit that we may rarely do anything for God with 100% pure motives but Jesus will be able to even see and reward whatever percent was done out of our love for Him and for His honor. As it says in 1 Corinthians 4:5, the Lord will find something in the life of every believer to praise and reward. Here are five specific and two general rewards listed in Scripture: 1) The incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:24–27) – This crown will be given to those who practice self- discipline and self-control for the sake of becoming more like Jesus. (Also see 1 Timothy 4:8); 2) The crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8) – The crown of righteousness is a reward for those who eagerly look for the Lord’s coming (the Rapture) and live a righteous life in view of this fact; 3) The crown of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) – The sufferer’s crown is given to those who faithfully endure and persevere under the trials and tests of life; 4) The crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19 -20) – The soul winner’s crown is given to those who win people for Christ and influence people to increasing Christ-likeness; 5) the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1–4) – The shepherd’s crown will be given to those pastors, elders and church leaders who lovingly, graciously, and faithfully shepherd and oversee God’s people. What will we do if we receive any of these crowns? We will cast them at Jesus’s feet knowing that it is only by His grace that we were enabled to do works that please and glorify Him. (Revelation 4:10–11) In addition to these specific crowns there appear to be two other rewards for faithful ministry for the Lord. The first one is greater responsibility and authority in the coming Kingdom. This present age is training time for reigning time. Believers will occupy various positions of authority in God’s Kingdom based on how we lived our lives here on the earth. (Luke 19:13–26.) The second reward may be an increased capacity and ability to reflect the Lord’s glory. Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.”
5. The principles (the five basic principles by which Christ will judge our lives) – 1) Believers will be judged fairly. The Lord will reward us based on what we did with the time (after we are saved) talents, treasures (money) and truth He gave to us. The faithful praying grandmother may receive as many rewards as Billy Graham; 2) Believers will be judged thoroughly. God is “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”(Hebrews 4:12-13); 3) Believers will be judged impartially. God shows no favoritism. (Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25) Yet He does judge teachers of the Word more strictly because of the greater influence for good or bad they have on others. (James 3:1); 4) Believers will be judged individually. (Romans 14:10, 12). “It’s not like being in a choir where you got a whole bunch of people that could drown out your bad voice; you’re going to have to sing solo before God.” (Hitchcock) 5) Believers will be judged graciously. See 1 Corinthians 4:5 above showing us that every believer will receive praise from God at the judgment seat.
6. The pictures of the judgment (three images Scripture uses to help us be ready) – God tells us to look at our life like a building, a steward and an athlete. The materials we use to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ may be wood, hay or straw (no eternal value) or gold, silver and precious stones that have eternal value. The latter speaks of works done for the Lord for His glory and honor. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). As a steward we know that all we have comes from God and we will be held accountable for how we manage His resources. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul makes the point that the same commitment, sacrifice and dedication that make a winning athlete will make a winning Christian.
7. The preparation for judgment – Knowing what’s going to be on the exam helps prepare us for test day and God gives us the test questions so we can be prepared. Here are some of the main areas that will be examined when we stand before the Lord. How we treat other believers (see Hebrews 6:10). How we employ our God-given talents, abilities, and opportunities (see Matthew 25:14–29 and Luke 19:11–26). How we use our money (see Matthew 6:19). How we endure suffering and trials (see James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10). How we spend our time (see Psalm 90:9–12 and Ephesians 5:16). How we run the particular race God has given us (see 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Hebrews 12:1). How effectively we control our body (see 1 Corinthians 9:27). How many souls we win for Christ and influence to Christ-likeness (see 1 Thessalonians 2:19–20). How much the doctrine of the Rapture means to us (see 2 Timothy 4:8). How humble we are (see Matthew 18:4). How faithful we are in our vocation/careers (see Colossians 3:22–23). How we use our tongue (see Matthew 12:36). We are to live each day in view of that Day – the Day we will meet our Lord.
Until He Comes,
Len and Kristen
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