Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A CHRISTIAN’S REWARDS AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST” 

 

We live in tumultuous times. We live in times that are confusing. We live in times when there has been a peaceful exchange of power in the highest office in our nation that has left many Americans terrified, that has left many Americans happy, and that has left not a few Americans smug. To all Americans, I wish to issue a warning. Be careful. To those of you who are frightened at the prospect of what our nation’s new leadership has planned for us, I remind you that no ruler fully or finally disposes of matters that he faces. “The king’s heart is” after all, “in the hand of the LORD,” to turn as He chooses.[1] To those of you who are happy at the prospect of what our nation’s new leadership has planned for us, I remind you of the warning that comes from the prophet in Jeremiah 17.5: 

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” 

Christians should be especially mindful of this since our new president is no Christian, with the likelihood that we have had no Christian president leading our country for a long time, maybe not since Calvin Coolidge.[2] Finally, to those of us who might be tempted to display smugness at recent political developments in our country, I point out that none of the politicians on either side of the aisle had any idea what was going on among the voters. I favored one man, while some of you favored others. It was a non-politician, whose campaign was outspent two-to-one, who knew the lay of the land enough to grab the brass ring, showing those with the eyes to see that the most direct route to the Whitehouse was to not be a politician at all.[3]

And that’s just politics. Additionally, there is economic uncertainty, law and order mistrust, and division, cyber warfare foreign and domestic, the presence of Islamic terrorists who are probably even closer to us than the San Bernardino massacre would suggest, and the radicalization of the state of California by voters who elect candidates bent on the destruction of our country, from our former and present California U. S. Senators, to our present governor, to our new state attorney general. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who is preparing to run for governor, is a member of MEChA, “a radical Chicano separatist group with a strong Marxist-Leninist underpinning.”[4]

All of these things might be disconcerting to a new Christian, or to a believer whose disciplines are undeveloped so that by not faithfully reading God’s Word, by not fervently praying for wisdom and grace, and by not frequenting the fellowship of the saints and worship, is tempted to behave like Simon Peter. Remember when he stepped out of the boat onto the water with the Savior but began to sink when he took his eyes off the Lord to notice the boisterous wind and became afraid, Mark 14.29-30? Therefore, the key to peace of mind and heart in the most troublesome times and circumstances is to follow the counsel of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12.1-2: 

1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

To help you fasten the gaze of your faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ, I want to speak to you this morning about “A Christian’s Rewards At The Judgment Seat Of Christ.” Whatever happens in the immediate future, I want to encourage you this morning by reminding you that it will turn out all right, and by setting before you a consideration of the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Five observations from God’s Word in that regard: 

First, THE FACT OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST 

This is a Judgment Seat of Christ. Consider three things related to the fact of the Judgment Seat of Christ:

First, there is form. In God’s Word, we find two methods by which someone occupied an elevated position relative to a crowd or an audience. In the Old Testament, there is the pulpit, mentioned in Nehemiah 8.4. It was an elevated platform made of wood and Ezra the scribe stood on it with several other men to be seen and heard by his audience.[5] In a dozen passages in the New Testament, the word bema is used to refer to an elevated platform, usually fashioned of stone, on which someone in authority who was rendering judgment would sit.[6]

Next, there is function. While the pulpit in Nehemiah 8.4 was a wooden platform on which Ezra stood to teach God’s Word, the bema was an only slightly elevated platform from a Greek word that means step.[7] On that surface, which would be closer to the floor than the platform on which I am now standing, would sit a Greek or Roman official in a chair or on a stool to render a verdict of some type in a case or a proceeding.

Third, there is identification. Of the twelve verses in which the word bema is found in the New Testament, two verses identify a particular kind of judgment seat, Christ’s judgment seat. Romans 14.10 and Second Corinthians 5.10 make reference to “the judgment seat of Christ.”[8] In both passages, the wording clearly shows that a judgment of believers in Jesus Christ is predicted, not a judgment of unbelievers. Thus, reference is made in two epistles written by the Apostle Paul to “the judgment seat of Christ,” establishing the certainty of the Lord Jesus Christ’s rendering of judgment of those who are Christians. Christ’s judgment of unsaved individuals is another thing altogether, referred to the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20.11. 

Next, THE TIME OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST 

First, consider Romans 14.10-12: 

10  But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

11  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 

Since Jesus Christ is Lord, Christians should not judge one another or look down on one another, since we shall all someday stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. That is Paul’s message just read. This judgment will take place in our dispensation’s collective future, meaning it will occur following this era in which we live, what we often refer to as the Age of Grace. Paul affirms the certainty of this future judgment by quoting Isaiah 45.23 and 49.18.[9] Since the Judgment Seat of Christ will fulfill Isaiah’s predictions, the timing of this judgment will not be during our present dispensation. Rather, it will coincide with the seven years of tribulation known as Daniel’s 70th week.[10]

Next, consider Second Corinthians 5.10: 

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 

Again, those judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ are clearly shown to be believers, since the “we” in the verse are Christians including the Apostle Paul, just as the “we” in Romans 14.10 are clearly seen to be Christians from Romans 1.7. As to the timing of the judgment, consider that the Judgment Seat of Christ will be an evaluation of those deeds the Christian has done in the body. Therefore, such evaluation cannot take place presently, or at any time during our present era, because some Christians are yet to live out their lives and perform their deeds. This judgment must, therefore, take place following the lifetimes of all Church Age Christians.

Allow me to corroborate what I have said and save quite a bit of time by quoting the well-known J. Dwight Pentecost concerning the timing of the Judgment Seat of Christ in his classic book Things To Come

The event herein described takes place immediately following the translation of the church out of this earth’s sphere. There are several considerations that support this. (1) In the first place, according to Luke 14:14 reward is associated with the resurrection. Since, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, the resurrection is an integral part of the translation, reward must be a part of that program. (2) When the Lord returns to the earth with His bride to reign, the bride is seen to be already rewarded. This is observed in Revelation 19:8, where it must be observed that the “righteousness of the saints” is plural and cannot refer to the imparted righteousness of Christ, which is the believer’s portion, but the righteousnesses which have survived examination and have become the basis of reward. (3) In 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; and Revelation 22:12 the reward is associated with “that day,” that is, the day in which He comes for His own. Thus it must be observed that the rewarding of the church must take place between the rapture and the revelation of Christ to the earth.[11] 

Thus, for those of us who understand the Bible in dispensational ways, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar will be the Rapture of Church Age believers in Christ, which will be followed by the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

Third, THE PLACE OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST 

Let me suggest three considerations to arrive at a conclusion about where the Judgment Seat of Christ will be conducted:

First, there is the comforting promise of the Savior to His apostles, John 14.1-3: 

1  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2  In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 

Recognize that this promise made by the Lord Jesus Christ the night before His crucifixion cannot be fulfilled at His Second Coming. The Second Coming will be Christ’s coming back here to reclaim what is rightfully His by conquest with force. This passage refers not to the Savior’s coming here so much as His taking us there to be with Him in the place He is now preparing for us. Thus, this passage is fulfilled by the Rapture of Jesus Christ’s own and not the Revelation of Jesus Christ at His Second Coming.

Next, there is the comforting prediction of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonian Church, First Thessalonians 4.13-18: 

13  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18  Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 

To allay the fears of the young Christians in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul comforts them with an explanation of the Rapture that will result in them, either while they are living Christians or dead Christians, being in heaven with the Lord forever. No Christian misses out on anything by dying in Christ before Christ’s coming for us, and His coming for us will feature us meeting the Lord in the air, showing it to be the Rapture and not the Second Coming.

Third, there is the comforting propriety of the glorified Lord Jesus rendering such judgment. There is a reason why the Judgment Seat of Christ will take place on a bema rather than a raised wooden platform called a pulpit. A pulpit is for proclamation, for declaration, and for instruction. The bema, on the other hand, whereon is seated someone in authority, is a place where consideration, evaluation, and judgment is exercised. Where will the Judgment Seat of Christ take place? For Scriptural reasons and for consideration of propriety, where else could the Judgment Seat of Christ take place but in heaven? It is in heaven that the Lord Jesus Christ is enthroned. It is in heaven where His loyal and faithful subjects, the Christians of this age, will be brought before Him for His evaluation of our service done in the flesh since our conversion. Thus, it could only be in heaven that the Judgment Seat of Christ will be conducted following the Rapture of the Church Age believers. 

Fourth, THE PURPOSE OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST 

The purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ is clearly seen:

In Romans 14.10 the Apostle Paul declares the Judgment Seat of Christ to the Roman Christians, and in Romans 14.12 he states the purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ: 

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” 

Of course, we already know that Second Corinthians 5.10 provides somewhat more information: 

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 

But it is in First Corinthians 3.9-17, in his metaphor of the Church congregation as the temple of God and Church members as craftsmen constructing the temple that Paul most fully explains the basis for the evaluation that occurs at the Judgment Seat of Christ: 

9  For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

10  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13  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.

14  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

16  Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 

This passage likens a Church congregation to God’s building (not the structure, of course), verse 9, most particularly the congregation being the temple of God, verses 16-17. This is not to be confused with the temple of the Holy Spirit, First Corinthians 6.19, which is the individual believer and another thing entirely. Gold, silver, and precious stones are the proper building materials of a temple, while wood, hay, and stubble are appropriate only for a shack. These various materials represent the quality of each Church member’s life’s work and ministry in and on the temple of God, the congregation, that will be judged by fire to try every man’s work of what sort it is. The believer’s work will be consumed by the fire of judgment if it is of poor quality and will survive the fire of judgment if it is of good quality, and that believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ will receive a commensurate reward. Important to notice, however, is that the only consideration at the Judgment Seat of Christ if First Corinthians 3.9-17 is properly understood is the context of service and ministry of the congregation, the temple of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. The idea of a temple craftsman being rewarded for laboring across the street from God’s building is ludicrous in this allegory. 

Finally, THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST 

There are two kinds of consequences resulting from the Judgment Seat of Christ, considered immediately and eternally as well as considered personally and corporately:

By immediately I refer to what happens at the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Each Church Age Christian, having been Raptured and brought to stand before the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will be evaluated according to the criteria outlined in First Corinthians 3.9-17 and other passages. In short, sins will not be considered at the Judgment Seat of Christ because the Christian has been promised that his sins and iniquities will be remembered no more, Hebrews 8.12 and 10.17. Only works of service and ministry in the context of the Church congregation will be evaluated, and will then be rewarded. For the absence of prescribed service and ministry, and for the failure of the Christian to live up to his potential as a Christian and to avail himself of God’s grace for obedience and service, there will be a loss of rewards, but there will be no punishment. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered our punishment on the cross of Calvary. What are the rewards that will be given? They are described by Paul, James, and Peter as crowns. Five kinds of rewards are described in the New Testament as crowns. A description of the crowns given as rewards to believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ is found in Pentecost’s classic work Things To Come. He writes, 

  1. There will be a reward bestowed for that work that is proved to be indestructible by the fire test. In the New Testament there are five areas in which specific mention is made of a reward: (1) an incorruptible crown for those who get mastery over the old man (1 Cor. 9:25); (2) a crown of rejoicing for the soul winners (1 Thess. 2:19); (3) a crown of life for those enduring trials (Jas. 1:12); (4) a crown of righteousness for loving his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8); and (5) a crown of glory for being willing to feed the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:4). These seem to suggest the areas in which rewards will be bestowed. 

Something of the nature of the crowns or rewards is suggested in the word used for crown (stephanos). Mayor says of it that it is used: 

(1) For the wreath of victory in the games (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5): (2) as a festal ornament (Proverbs 1:9; 4:9; Cant. 3:11; Isa. 28:1); (3) as a public honour granted for a distinguished service or private worth, as a golden crown was granted to Demosthenes. . . 

In contrasting this word with diadema Trench writes: 

We must not confound these words because our English “crown” stands for them both. I greatly doubt whether anywhere in classical literature ... [stephanos] is used of the kingly or imperial crown. . . . In the New Testament it is plain that the ... [stephanos] whereof St. Paul speaks is always the conqueror’s and not the king’s (1 Cor. 9:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:5). . . . The only occasion on which ... [stephanos] might seem to be used of a kingly crown is Matthew 27:29; cf. Mark 15:17; John 19:2. 

Thus the very word Paul chooses to describe the rewards is that associated with honor and dignity bestowed on the overcomer. Although we will reign with Christ, the kingly crown is His alone. The victor’s crowns are ours.[12] 

What will then immediately be done with the rewards given to Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ shortly after the Rapture? Take note of Revelation 4, where we will read verses 4, 10, and 11: 

4  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 

10  The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. 

Again, the scene is heaven soon after the Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ, though the later is neither mentioned nor alluded to in this passage. The elders represent Church Age Christians because Old Testament saints are never said to be rewarded with crowns and angels would not be wearing white raiment representing the righteousness of the saints. The crowns are of the type we have been considering. Notice what the newly judged and rewarded saints do straightway. We will fall down before our enthroned Savior, casting our crowns at His feet as a testimony that all we will be rewarded for doing was made possible by His grace alone, and then we will praise Him. Thus, while we will individually be judged and rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ, our immediate collective response will be to give to Him the glory and praise He alone deserves in unified fashion.

Consider now the eternal consequence of the Judgment Seat of Christ both individually and corporately. It is thought by many respected commentators that the crowns given at the Judgment Seat of Christ represent the relative glory of each Christian after the resurrection we will each experience. This may be since Paul writes about respective or differing glories in the resurrection in First Corinthians 15.41 that relate to the differing measures of grace each of us is given in Christ, Romans 12.3 and Ephesians 4.7. Thus, while each of God’s children will experience great bliss in eternity, we will not each shine forth with the same brightness of glory. One of us will shine with the brightness of one star while another of us will shine with the brightness of another star, no two of us being the same in our capacity to glorify God through the ceaseless ages of eternity. That is our individual eternal consequence of the Judgment Seat of Christ. What will our corporate eternal consequence be throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity? Ephesians 3.21 says it all, showing the eternal end of what has begun in the Church of Jesus Christ this side of heaven: 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” 

There is a reason why every sinner needs to come to Christ. Apart from Christ, there is only eternal damnation. But once a sinner comes to Christ it is important to obey the Great Commission of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, which begins when one trusts Christ, which advances when one becomes a member of the Church of Jesus Christ through believer baptism, and which continues as one continues through life this side of eternity as a Church member both teaching and being taught, both serving and being served, but through it all glorifying God in Christ in the Church. That is why every Christian needs to become a Church member. It is demonstrably God’s will for every Christian.

Once the child of God passes through death’s door to eternity and arrives safely in heaven the saint awaits the Rapture when the dead in Christ are caught up along with those believers who are still alive to experience the resurrection just as our Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected.[13] Then comes the Judgment Seat of Christ followed by the casting of the crowns by those rewarded as we have seen. After that, all the Christians of the Church Age will be incorporated into the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, Hebrews 12.23, if my chronology is correct. Then, as the bride of Christ who has made herself ready, the marriage of the Lamb will take place and our eternal reign with the Bridegroom will begin, Revelation 19.7. Shortly after that, the marriage supper of the Lamb will commence, but not until after our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to earth in power and in great glory to establish His millennial kingdom. The millennial kingdom will be the marriage supper of the Lamb.

So you see, despite the chaos and concern of this present hour, it turns out well. History, even recent history, is nothing but His story unfolding precisely according to His plan of the ages. Are you a child of God? Wonderful. Take to heart the words of our Savior in John 14.1 and 27: 

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 

But what if you are not a Christian? Then you must come to Christ to be saved from the wrath to come.

Let me close by admitting to you that this sermon contains far too much to absorb and digest. That understood, I have prepared and presented it to you to be a resource you can either refer to online or reread in pamphlet form. Either way, take heart. God is still on the throne and Jesus Christ rules and reigns over all.

__________

[1] Proverbs 21.1

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/03/10/why-calvin-coolidge-faith-was-secret-to-his-success.html

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2016-presidential-campaign-fundraising/

[4] http://keywiki.org/Antonio_Villaraigosa 1/20/2017

[5] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 154.

[6] Matthew 27.19; John 19.13; Acts 7.5; 12.21; 18.12, 16, 17; 25.6, 10, 17; Romans 14.10; 2 Corinthians 5.10

[7] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 175.

[8] Newer translations reflect the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, Ed. XXVI, (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1985), page 434. I favor the reading of The Greek New Testament According To The Majority Text, edited by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, Second Edition, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), page 505.

[9] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), page 493.

[10] Daniel 9.27

[11] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), pages 220-221.

[12] Ibid., page 225.

[13] 1 Corinthians 15.23

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org