Once again open in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and the subject that we are going to be looking at this morning is the judgement seat of Christ or as it is called in Greek, the Bema which refers to a raised platform. You think of a court room, where the judge sits on a chair that is elevated higher than everyone else in the room. That is the judgment seat!
In 2 Timothy 4:1 The Apostle Paul tells us that when Jesus appears to set up His Kingdom He will judge the living and the dead. And as we pick up in verse 9 you may remember how we ended last we how to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Look at 2 Corinthians chapter give starting in verse nine - “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 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. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
So I’m going to break this mornings sermon down into three points. -In regard to the Judgement seat of Christ
Point # 1 Who will participate?
Point # 2 What is the purpose?
Point # 3 How Can a person prepare? So, participation, purpose & preparation.
So point # 1 Who will participate? What does Paul say here in 2 Corinthians 5, He says “we must all appear” so that means everyone right? All means all, every human being will stand before the judgment seat of Christ……wrong! The word all must be taken in context, all of what? All human beings who ever lived, all believers? All of who? Turn to Romans chapter 14. Romans 14 is the only other place in the English Bible where we find this phrase “Judgement seat of Christ” so if the answer of who will participate is not clear from 2 Corinthians 5, it should be clear here in Romans 14.
So who will stand before the judgement seat of Christ?
Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 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. 11 For it is written:
“As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God
So who will participate, who will be present at the judgement seat of Christ? We get the context here in verse 10, when Paul says “we” he is referring to brothers. The brethren, he is talking about fellow believers so point # 1 who will participate? The judgement seat of Christ is for believers only. Therefore, this is different from the Great White Throne judgement mentioned in Revelation chapter 20. Only the damned appear at the Great White Throne judgement for they all are cast into the lake of fire, so this leads us to point # 2 what then is the purpose of the Judgement seat of Christ?
If the Great White Throne is a judgment unto condemnation, we could say the judgment seat of Christ is unto commendation and rewards. How much commendation, and how many rewards, well that depends. Paul says in verse 12 “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
To illustrate this….
Many people in their places of employment are familiar with annual reviews. You maybe have to fill something out, and or go before your supervisor, before your boss and they evaluate you based on your conduct and job performance. With the Great White Throne judgement you would be getting fired (no pun intended) but the judgment seat of Christ you could think of it as a review of your performance. If you’ve been saved for “X” amount of years the judgement seat of Christ will be an examination of how well you did during those years.
Back in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul says “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.” So since you’ve become a Christian you’ve done some good for the right reasons and you’ve done some good for not so much the right reasons. Or maybe you thought you were doing good but perhaps you were misguided, and it turned out bad.
Now let’s remember, if your saved, your saved. If Jesus’ blood has forgiven you of your sin, then it’s forgiven, you are not going to have to pay for your sins at the judgment seat of Christ, but as for the things that you have done in the body you will receive accordingly, or you will not receive accordingly.
So, it’s important to remember, unbelievers are judged for their sin at the Great White Throne Judgement, the sin of believers was judged at Calvary. So, believers at the judgement seat of Christ, this is about rewards. The judgement seat of Christ is about rewards.
Now turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 3.
So point # 1 who will participate at the judgment seat of Christ? This is a judgement for believers and believers only. And of course Christ is participating as the judge.
Point # 2 what is the purpose? To give an account, to receive the things done in the body, so….this is a judgment of rewards and that appears to be what Paul is describing in this passage from 1 Corinthians 3, let’s begin reading in verse 10
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
So what have we learned so far, that when Christ returns, He will judge the living and the dead, deceased believers will be resurrected and stand before the judgement seat, the living will be raptured and translated and they also will stand before the judgement seat, and all will give an account, and each one will either receive a reward for their work or they will suffer loss but even if a man suffers lost the Scripture says “he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Now that statement is on the one hand comforting but also somewhat troubling. It’s comforting because a believers salvation is secure even if they’ve to a degree wasted their gifts and abilities, but standing before Christ and being saved yet so as through fire….. Maybe that’s why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5 “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
So being saved yet so as through fire, that’s not our goal amen? We don’t want that, we want the well done good and faithful servant, not a ‘watch out” while WHOOOSH! Everything you’ve done goes up in smoke!
So the purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is about rewards for faithfulness in the Christian life, so the question that everyone wants to know is what are the rewards, what will that look like? Do you get a bigger mansion in heaven? No, I don’t think so, I’m going to share with you my understanding on the nature of these rewards.
Turn to Matthew chapter 19. Matthew 19. From years of study with acknowledging that there is a lot we don’t know regarding these rewards, it certainly does seem that the 1,000 year Kingdom is when rewards are first handed out and then exercised.
Here is Matthew 19 Jesus has just encountered the rich young ruler. Look at verse 21
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. So the apostle Peter hears this and the gears in his brain start turning, skip down to verse 27
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, (this is found in Revelation chapter 20, the first resurrection, the establishment of the Kingdom age) Jesus says in the regeneration when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
This is not heaven, this is Christ’s Kingdom that will be established upon the earth. When Jesus returns Peter, James, John, Andrew, Thomas, Nathaniel, Matthew…..the apostles will be resurrected, they will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and they will be given their reward. And what’s helpful about this passage is we get specifics, we know what their reward will be. They will be the judges, or the governors of the 12 tribes, so the apostle Peter, he may govern the tribe of Judah or whatever the case, because they were faithful, they will hear the words spoken by Jesus - “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Matthew 25:21).
Our former pastor Larry Riddle, some of you will remember this, he used to say that in the Kingdom, when rewards were handed out he wanted to be the mayor of Moores Corner.
Not mayor of Moores Corner Church, mayor of the village of Moores Corner, and you say, but Moores Corner doesn’t have a mayor….. Not yet! It might, in the regeneration.
And when he would say that people would laugh, but if he was kidding he was only half kidding because I really don’t think it’s unreasonable thought.
From what I understand that’s essentially what the rewards are, the rewards are tied in with a person’s position, authority and or responsibility. Just think of how rewards are described. They are described as crowns are they not? And what does the Scripture tell us:
There is the incorruptible crown, the crown of life, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness and the crown of glory. And I want to briefly look at each of these so turn now to 1 Corinthians chapter 9. As you’re turning there the word translated crown in Greek is the word stef-a-nos and it means – a crown, a mark of royal or exalted rank.
Also refers to a wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games.
This is also tied in with the word Bema, or judgement seat. Think of the Olympic games, those who win gold, silver and bronze metals stand on a platform with steps, they stand on a bema, today they are given metals, in antiquity they were given crowns of greenery.
Alright, let’s look at the first crown that you could receive at the judgement seat of Christ, the incorruptible crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. That is, they are disciplined in their training, Paul says Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
So if you are disciplined and can exercise self control and continual faithfulness in your Christian walk you can receive this crown called the incorruptible or imperishable crown. Now turn to James chapter 1:12, if it takes you too long to turn there, you could just jot down a few notes with the Scripture references and search these things later on.
The Bible doesn’t mention anything about receiving a crown for memorizing the books of the Bible in order, but I would strongly encourage you to do that, it may sound challenging but it’s not that difficult and it’s a reward in and of itself. Okay, James 1:12
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
So if you love the Lord and you can endure and overcome temptation, the crown of life can be yours. Now turn to 1st Thessalonians 2:19. And as you’re turning there remember what Jesus said how He came that His followers might have life and life more abundant. Overcoming temptation prevents sin, life without sin is the way it’s suppose to be, it’s the key to experiencing the fullness of joy, enjoying life to the fullest, endure temptation and receive the crown of life.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? This is the crown given for evangelism, for winning souls, the Apostle Paul won the Thessalonians to Christ so when Christ appears, at the Bema seat they will be his crown of rejoicing.
Next turn to 2 Timothy 4:8. As we’re going through these maybe you can identify what reward or what crown you think you may receive. Of course it’s not up to you, it’s up to the judge, Christ will sit on His throne and He will evaluate our works, He determines what is wood, hay or stubble vs what is gold, silver and precious stones.
But still, even now we should evaluate what we are doing, what are we accomplishing, ask ourselves will it endure? Am I building on the rock? What are we doing? Are we doing the right things, for God, for others, for the right reasons?
The things we do, do they just benefit us, does it benefit others, are we having a positive impact on people? In 2 Timothy 4:8 we see the 4th crown, Paul writes - Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. As you probably know there are Christians who eagerly anticipate the return of Christ, they’re looking for it and then there are others who don’t seem to anticipate it, they don’t talk about, well, if you love and live in anticipation of His return, this crown will likely be given to you! The crown of righteousness.
And finally turn to 1 Peter chapter 5, so far we’ve looked at the incorruptible crown, the crown of life, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness and finally the crown of glory. 1 Peter chapter five, we’ll start reading in verse 2 for some context “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
This is the one crown that seems to be specifically reserved for pastors who are faithful in the ministry. So, what’s the title of this message? The judgement seat of Christ. I know when people hear the word judge they think condemn, so judgement = condemnation, no! Not always, and certainly not here, so point
Point # 1 who will participate? Saved believers only
Point # 2 what is the purpose? The giving of rewards.
Going back to the analogy of people at their place of employment, a person may have reviews from time to time, to see what their reward will be, how much of a raise they will get. Image if over the past year a person did a lousy job, they knowingly and intentionally did not do the work that was expected of them, they had been doing a poor job, they knew it and their boss knew it, are they going to be looking forward to that meeting where they are going to have to give an account? I don’t think so, maybe they know their job is secure, maybe their part of a union or whatever, doesn’t matter, they’re not going to look forward to it…..So how much more an unfaithful believer standing before the judge of heaven and earth.
The judgement seat of Christ, this is serious business. This should motivate us!
And this leads us to point # 3 How can a person prepare?
Now often times when there is an evaluation an employer will first ask you to evaluate yourself, and I think this sermon can help us to do that. Both Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:10 tell us that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so this is going to happen. Are you ready?
When Christ returns or upon death, things are sealed, can’t do anything to affect the outcome after that, but we can do something in the here and now to affect the outcome. I remember a few years back, talking to someone, they said to me “I don’t care about rewards in heaven, I just want to make it to heaven.” Hey! That’s the wrong attitude! You should care about rewards, you should want rewards.
Yes salvation is by grace through faith, you don’t have to work for that, so if you don’t care about rewards what are you saying? Your saying I’m lazy and unfaithful and I don’t feel like doing anything great for God!
God forbid we have attitude. So here are a few closing thoughts. First (in how to prepare) let’s explore our own hearts, and our motives. Why do we do what we do? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says whatever you do do for the glory of God!
So first let us explore our hearts. Next we should look at our methods. Why do we do the things we do, and then how do we do the things we do? Do you remember what the multitudes said about Jesus, they said “He doeth all things well.”
Can people say that about us? So we should evaluate our methods.
And finally turn back to 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and that is where we will close.
We should evaluate our manner of life. How does your life stand up under the scrutiny from the Book?
When it comes down to it, have you given God your best? Maybe some people have, and certainly some people have not, but here is the good news if you haven’t. If you haven’t given God your best in the past, you can give Him your best today. You can give him your best moving forward.
Start building upon that solid foundation.
2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we make it our aim - This is our goal! We make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to Him. Why?
10 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. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
So, if you were to stand before the judgment seat of Christ today, what would be the outcome? Would you see all your works and deeds go up in smoke? Or would you hear the Lord say, "Well, done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."? One final comment, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:31 if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
Now is the time to make any necessary changes to ensure that you will get your full reward.
Let close in prayer.