There is an appointed day in which the appointed Judge will judge all men, both living and dead, believer and unbeliever, according to appointed principles and standards. The appointed purpose of this day is reveal the true character and works of each person, rendering public reward or punishment to each individual and vindicating the righteousness of God.
“And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He (Jesus) who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.”Acts 10:42 NKJV
Appointment With Eternity – For the Believer
The timing and nature of this day of judgement differs for the believer and the unbeliever. For the believer, whose sin has already been judged at the cross, this will be a day of revealing and reward.
The Judgement will take place at the ‘bema’, or ‘judgement seat of Christ’, and occurs sometime before the millennial reign of Christ (commentators differ on the exact timing. Those who believe we will be raptured prior to the great tribulation (Pre-Trib) generally place it sometime during the seven year period after the rapture and before Christ’s return. Others see this judgement occurring at Christ’s second coming (ie: at the end of the tribulation period and directly prior to the millennial reign of Christ). One thing is certain however, every believer will stand before the ‘bema’ of Christ.
Prior to this day the saints are raised from death in preparation to present themselves before their Lord.
“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”Romans 14:10 NKJV
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”2Corinthians 5:10 NKJV
W E Vine describes the ‘judgement seat’ in this way:
Topic: Judgment Seat “bema”
Primarily, “a step, a pace” (akin to baino, “to go”), as in Acts 7:5, translated “to set (his foot) on,” lit., “foot-room,”
Was used to denote a raised place or platform, reached by steps, originally that at Athens in the Pnyx Hill, where was the place of assembly; from the platform orations were made. The word became used for a tribune, two of which were provided in the law courts of Greece, one for the accuser and one for the defendant; it was applied to the tribunal of a Roman magistrate or ruler, Matt. 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 12:21, translated “throne;” 18:12,16,17; 25:6,10,17.
In two passages the word is used of the Divine tribunal before which all believers are hereafter to stand. In Rom. 14:10 it is called “The judgment seat of God,” RV (AV, “of Christ”), according to the most authentic mss. The same tribunal is called “the judgment seat of Christ,” 2 Cor. 5:10, to whom the Father has given all judgment, John 5:22,27.
At this bema believers are to be made manifest, that each may “receive the things done in (or through) the body,” according to what he has done, “whether it be good or bad.” There they will receive rewards for their faithfulness to the Lord. For all that has been contrary in their lives to His will they will suffer loss, 1 Cor. 3:15. This judgment seat is to be distinguished from the millennial, earthly throne of Christ, Matt. 25:31, and the postmillennial “Great White Throne,” Rev. 20:11, at which only “the dead” will appear.
The judgment-seat of Christ will be a tribunal held “in His Parousia,” i.e., His presence with His saints after His return to receive them to Himself.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a judgement seat concerning the Believer’s salvation, which was settled at Calvary, but rather a judgement of his/her works and service for the Lord.
The Victor’s Crown
In Grecian games, after the games were over, the winners were assembled before the “judgement seat” of the Judge and were rewarded the victor’s crown. Some of the contestants received no crown. In the same way, believers will be both judged and rewarded by degrees.
The Lord desires that we live in such a manner that we will have great boldness on that day, and not be ashamed at His appearing.
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”1John 4:17 NKJV
All believers will be judged according to their works and character. Some will suffer loss because their service or character, or the motive behind their works in Christ’s name, has been deficient. It will be a day of both great joy and great regret.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, The work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done. If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire.”1Corinthians 3:11-15 AMP
“For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing]. Therefore, being conscious of fearing the Lord with respect and reverence, we seek to win people over [to persuade them]. But what sort of persons we are is plainly recognized and thoroughly understood by God, and I hope that it is plainly recognized and thoroughly understood also by your consciences (your inborn discernment).”2Corinthians 5:10-11 AMP
In application, we must NOW choose to follow Christ, and serve Him with a pure heart and motive. If we continue in the faith, where we will spend eternity is assured, but our conduct here and now will determine how we will spend our eternity. Our rewards then are determined now.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.”1Corinthains 9:24 AMPLIFIED
The Rewards of Believers
God is a Rewarder (Hebrews 11:6) both in time and in eternity. The word “reward” is used over 100 times in the New Testament, and such rewards act as an incentive in our service for the Lord.
Consider the following Scriptures which speak of rewards that will be given and why:
- Matthew 25:21-23
- James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
- 1 Peter 5:2-4
- 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Daniel 12:3
- 2 Timothy 4:7-8
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
- Matthew 10:41-42
- Revelation 10:17-18
““And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Rev 22:12 NKJV)
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”(Luke 6:23 NKJV)
Appointment With Eternity For The Unbeliever
There is an appointed day also for the unbeliever. No work of man will go unpunished, and God’s justice will not be insulted.
This judgement takes place at the Great White Throne at the close of the 1000 year period of Christ’s earthly reign.
“Then I saw a great white throne and the One Who was seated upon it, from Whose presence and from the sight of Whose face earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. I [also] saw the dead, great and small; they stood before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is [the Book] of Life. And the dead were judged (sentenced) by what they had done [their whole way of feeling and acting, their aims and endeavors] in accordance with what was recorded in the books. And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades (the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works]. Then death and Hades (the state of death or disembodied existence) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s [name] was not found recorded in the Book of Life, he was hurled into the lake of fire.”Revelation 20:11-15 AMPLIFIED
This is the final and eternal judgement of the ungodly. All will be judged according to their works from books that have detailed their deeds.
“A stream of fire came forth from before Him; a thousand thousands ministered to Him and ten thousand times ten thousand rose up and stood before Him; the Judge was seated [the court was in session] and the books were opened.”Daniel 7:10 AMPLIFIED
“It was of these people, moreover, that Enoch in the seventh [generation] from Adam prophesied when he said, Behold, the Lord comes with His myriads of holy ones (ten thousands of His saints) To execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious (unholy ones) of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed [in such an] ungodly [way], and of all the severe (abusive, jarring) things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”Jude 1:14-15 AMPLIFIED
Cities and nations will be judged also:
“Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”Matthew 10:15
“Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.””Matthew 11:20-24 NKJV
The Rewards of The Ungodly
Like Balaam and Judas, the ungodly will also receive their ‘reward’.
“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;”2Peter 2:12-15 KJV
“Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”Acts 1:18 KJV
Principles of judgement
Kevin Conner in “Foundations of Christian Doctrine” outlines the following principles of divine judgement:
- Men will be judged with righteous judgement (Acts 17:31; Psalm 96:13)
- Men will be judged according to God’s holy standards (Romans 2:6,10,11,16; Revelation 22:12)
- Men will judged according to their attitudes toward Christ (John 12:48; Luke 12:8-9)
- Men will be judged according to the measure of light and opportunity given to them (Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 12:48). Many try to sidestep their own personal responsibility by asking about those who have had no opportunity to hear the gospel, suggesting that God would be unfair to judge such an individual. Scripture tells us that no man is excused because all of creation testifies of His existence (Romans 1:20). The question we need to ask ourselves is not, “what about this other”, but rather, “How will I respond to what I have heard and seen in regard to the gospel of God?”
- Men will be judged by the infallible and all-knowing Judge, Jesus Christ. There will be no possibility of mistaken judgement as He sees and knows all things (Hebrews 4:13)
- Men will be rewarded or punished in different degrees (Luke 19:16-19; 12:47-48)
- Men shall be thoroughly convinced of the righteousness of God’s judgements upon them, and the justice of their sentence (Jude 15)