Biblical truths that seem to rally Christians together are ones like: “I am saved by grace through faith” and “I am eternally secure in Christ.” While these are both accurate and wonderful realities for the genuine Christ-follower, these same biblically derived statements also have been misused in a way that seems to justify one’s lack of spiritual growth. In other words, many have inappropriately made it seem as if our responsibility to obey Christ is not nearly as important as our ability to rest in the fact that God has done all the work of regenerating and justifying us. Too many Christians have been stunted in their growth as a result of a lackadaisical approach to Christian living. God demands that we live Holy lives and while it is true that our sins are completely washed away it is important for believers to know that we will still be judged for how we lived under the grace that God has extended to us. This is exactly why I have chosen to write this month’s blog post on, “The Judgement Seat of Christ: What No One Seems to be Discussing.”
As a means of adhering to a more universal understanding of the eschatological judgements mentioned in Scripture, most churches (based on website doctrinal statements) seem to affirm the general judgement theory. In other words, rather than see the Judgement Seat of Christ (the Bema seat) and the Great White Throne Judgments as separate events (one for believers and one for nonbelievers), most collapse them together into one final judgment for both the righteous and the wicked.
The goal of this short blog is not to give a thorough study of the Judgment seat of Christ, but to demonstrate quickly that there is such a judgement solely for Christ-followers and that it ought to motivate us to live out our salvation with fear and trembling. The purpose is to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
So the question before us is not simply will Christians be judged? The unequivocal answer to that is yes. However, it is not a pass or fail judgement by which we simply move along into glory due to the unmerited favor of God. As Christians our sins have already been punished and dealt with in Christ. With this biblical reality stated the question truly becomes: what is the purpose of a Christian judgement?
The answer is: to assess how we lived under the justifying grace of God. Under the new popular (not new historically) approach to the general judgement theory the final judgement would simply be the last assessment as to whether or not one is redeemed and will enter into the eternal state with God or be cast into the lake of fire. However, the judgement seat of Christ is a specific judgement for New Testament Saints that have been washed clean by the precious blood of Christ and have been placed on mission to advance the gospel and live according to God’s law which is written on our hearts.
Again, just to be clear, the judgement seat of Christ is not to assess whether or not we are saved, but how we will be rewarded for our commitment to gospel-centered living. For example:
Romans 14:10–12 states:
“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. . . . So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 states:
“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.”
It is clear that each of the passages above are referring to Christians, not unbelievers. The “us” in Romans, contextually is referring to the Church, likewise, Paul states to the Church of Corinth that we all must appear before the judgement (Bema) seat of Christ to be judged according to what we did “while in the body.” The Judgment Seat of Christ involves believers giving an account of their regenerated lives to Christ.
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, believers will be rewarded based on how faithfully we served Christ. Did we commit ourselves to proclaiming the gospel as fervently as we ought? Were we dedicated to overcoming sin in our lives? Did we diligently study and hold fast to the truths revealed in Scripture? These are the types of things that Christians will be held accountable for at Christ’s “Bema” seat. Sadly, many professing Christians today seem to ignore or are ignorant to the fact that we will one day be judged for how we utilized the grace of God.
Paul stated the importance of working diligently under the grace of God in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
In other words, while we (who are in Christ) are saved by grace alone through faith alone, we still may suffer loss at the Judgement Seat of Christ if our work for the Kingdom proves to be lacking. Such a judgement is meant to motivate Christians to keep pressing on toward the prize of an eternity with our Lord. Seeing as how the rewards given for faithfulness to Christ will ultimately be a means by which we are able to offer up praise to Him (Revelation 4:10) we ought to desire to live as Christ with every fiber of our being. This does not mean however, that if we make mistakes that we will have nothing to offer God, we all sin and make mistakes. The overarching question that Christ will evaluate in us is how faithful and sincere were we in our devotion to Him and the Kingdom of God. As children of God it should be our deepest desire to please our Lord. It is as John states in 1 John 2:28
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
May the imminent coming of our Lord and the soon-to-follow “Bema” seat judgement motivate us to be good stewards of God’s grace. May we live by the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12-13:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Soli Deo Gloria!
***For a fuller teaching on the Judgement Seat of Christ and a refutation of the General Judgement Theory, I highly recommend the book The Judgement Seat of Christ: A Biblical and Theological Study by Samuel L. Hoyt.
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.