Then he replied, “I would like to hear the Lord say, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant.’ But I don’t think He will.”
Surely Graham, who preached around the world and won thousands to Christ, understated his situation. Obviously, what he had in mind was appearing at the Bema — the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. ...
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
— Paul the Apostle
We do not hear very much about Christians being judged after the glorious Rapture. Nonetheless, the Holy Scriptures are clear in their testimony of the coming examination. This will not be a judgment for our sins, for they will have been forgiven and forgotten.
It will be a solemn review of our works. It is an examination of such vast importance that the Holy Spirit moved upon men of God inspiring them to fully discuss it in the Scriptures.
The phrase “the Judgment Seat of Christ” appears twice in the New Testament (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and what will happen there is referred to many times.
It is a doctrine of such weighty import to the believer that he should carefully heed what the Bible says about it. The classic passage referring to that judgment is found in 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10.
It states: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
In this reference Paul is not writing to unbelievers, but rather to “the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1).
Hence, the doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ is designed for and includes only the believer. It has nothing to do with the sinner.
Nor is it a judgment to determine our salvation, for we will already be in heaven. It is purely a judgment of our service to the Lord.
Herod the Great finished building the coastal city of Caesarea 17 years before the birth of Christ. Among other structures in his new city, he included a temple, a theater, and an amphitheater.
The city, located on the Mediterranean Sea, 64 miles from Jerusalem, became the Roman capital of Palestine and a good deal of its ruins can still be seen there.
History holds that in the theater Herod built a structure resembling a throne from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people.
Such a seat in biblical times was called the BEMA, and the person sitting on the bema gave out rewards to the participants; he did not pass severe judgment upon those defeated in the contests.
Likewise, when the New Testament writers refer to the judgment seat of Christ they use the Greek word BEMA, meaning “reward seat.”
As we study about the judgment seat of Christ, we should keep in mind that this is not referring to the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-13).
That judgment will take place after the Millennium, and it, too, will be to judge men’s works; but only the unsaved will appear there. You and I will have no part in that judgment. Nonetheless, we do face judgment.
Pastor Lutzer gets right to the point: “Imagine staring into the face of Christ! Just the two of you, one-on-one! Your entire life is present before you; in a flash you see what He sees.”
Lutzer continues: “No hiding. No opportunity to put a better spin on what you did. No attorney to represent you. The look in His eyes says it all.”
OUR FORMER JUDGMENT. Before we turned to our Lord we were already judged to be lost (John 3:18); but, praise God, that judgment is passed. We are not longer estranged form God; we are now His children.
OUR PRESENT JUDGMENT. As sons of God, we are subject to the Father’s discipline and rule. We are not our own; we are servants of the Lord.
In the letter to the Hebrews, Paul stated: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son’” (12:5, 6).
OUR FUTURE JUDGMENT. Just as our past judgment had to do with us as sinners and our present judgment has to do with us as sons, our future judgment will deal with us as servants. That judgment will take place at the bema of Christ, and that judgment is discussed by numerous New Testament writers.