As Christians we have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The world grows darker, and at any moment the Lord may come to the air. His shout “come up my love my fair one and come away,” brings “the up-calling of God in Christ Jesus” to its fullness and we are raptured home. We will then, as well, be called to account.
The judgment seat or bema was a well known concept in ancient Rome. Originally a step or a raised place mounted by steps, it was the official seat of a judge. Pilate sat on a bema to judge Jesus. Paul was brought before Gallio who was sitting on a bema, the official judgment seat (Acts 18:12).
The judgment seat of Christ is mentioned twice in the epistles – to the saints at Rome (Rom 14:10;) and to Corinthians (2Cor 5:10), who were well acquainted with it.
What is the nature of judgment at the bema?
As a believer my sins were judged in the past at Calvary and will never again be brought into account (John 5:24; Rom 8:1). Presently, we may be subject to a judgment of discipline from our heavenly Father. This is not necessarily punitive, but may be formative so we may be “partakers of His Holiness” (Heb12:10). Discipline may also be preventative, to preserve us from further failure or falling. But the Judgment Seat of Christ is future and is in relation to our life of service, “the things done in the body” (2Cor 5:10).
Who is present at the bema?
Every judgment has its judge. At Calvary it was a Holy God who dealt with my sin. In every day experience, it is a loving Father dealing with me in discipline. At the bema, it will be the Lord Jesus Christ who scrutinizes my service. He is deeply interested in my personal testimony which will be examined for what it really is in His sight.
At Calvary, I was judged as a sinner in Adam. In daily discipline I am judged as a son in God’s family. At the bema, I will be judged for the degree of faithfulness as a servant of the Lord.
What is assessed at the bema?
“Why do you judge your brother or despise your brother, for we shall all stand before the Judgment seat of Christ/God” (Rom 14:10).
The context shows Paul is dealing with issues that were sensitive to some, relating to eating certain foods and keeping certain days. These matters were inconsequential but were causing difficulties among the saints. We will be examined as to how we thought of others and how we treated them.
It is not our prerogative to criticize or hold in contempt those that view inconsequential matters differently from us. Applying labels of being “unprincipled” on one hand or “narrow minded” on the other, are not helpful. “We shall give account to God,” not me to you, or you to me. We dare not usurp the Christ of God’s own role as judge; that is not our territory. “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom 14:9). No one will be late for the appointment. He sits and we stand, humbly and helpless to change anything, as He examines how we dared to eagerly intrude into His jurisdiction and trampled over His prerogative to be the Judge.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God”(1Cor 4:5).
Paul states earlier that he is not competent to properly judge his own motives. There is an obvious conflict of interest. Neither can we properly assess others. The Lord knows the things hidden in darkness; He knows the inner motives of our hearts. Full account will be given of those secrets and hidden motives. “Everyone will have praise of God,” for what is for Him has eternal reward.
Our Manner or Behavior
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive (back) the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Cor 5:9-10). Every one of us will appear, as though turned inside out and seen as they truly are, with all veneer stripped away. It will be a personal review, one-on-one with Christ. At issue will be, was what we did good, or good for nothing?
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1Cor 3:13).
Teachers in the assembly are in view, but also, by principle, this applies to all who serve Him. All is tested by heaven’s fire (tested with the view to approval). If work is consumed, then the person will suffer loss and will miss out on reward.
What rewards are given at the bema?
There will be compensation in reward for the little we have done for Him down here.
He will fully recompense His people for cost and sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure, right down to the tiniest details.
Consider five distinct crowns:
- An Incorruptible Crown contrasted with withering wreaths of earth (1Cor 9:25).
- A Crown of Rejoicing – The soul winner’s crown (1Thes 2:19).
- A Crown of Righteousness for those who long for His appearing (2Tim 4:8).
- A Crown of Life for patient endurance in trials (James 1:12).
- A Crown of Glory for Shepherds who have been examples to the flock (1Peter 5:4).
There will be commendation from Him, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
There will be cities of administration and responsibilities of rule in the kingdom given as reward. My role in His Kingdom will be based on what I do with what He has given to me here. May the reality of such truth empower us now to give Him our all without reserve.
Bye and bye when I look on His face,
Beautiful face, thorn shadowed face,
Bye and bye when I look on His face,
I’ll wish I had given Him more.