The Judgment Seat of Christ
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
“Many seek the ruler’s favor,
But every man’s judgment
Comes from the Lord.”
We, as the Church, routinely employ within our personal exchange, terms, words and phrases - related metaphors, which are more designates of accommodation, rather than words or phrases taken directly from Holy Scripture. In other words, we, as the church, say things, which do not really find their strict authority in the Bible. Yet, those words and phrases of accommodation at times do find their truth in the word of God.
For example, we use the word trinity when describing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the one triune God. But the scripture says nothing about trinity. That is to say, the word trinity is not used in the Bible as such. Scripture affirms the Trinity: the three persons of the Godhead, but the word trinity is not in the Bible. Yet, we recognize from our study of the Holy Scripture, that there is, in reality, a triune God, a Trinity; One God manifested as a unity, in three persons. “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord thy God is a unity (One), and you shall worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) “In the beginning God (Elohim – a plural noun in form but singular in meaning) . . . ” (Genesis 1:1). The Trinity is the truth of God.
We also, do not find the word rapture, in the Holy Scripture - in most of our English translations. We recognize the truth of the rapture; the fact that we, the church, will be “caught up” (the phrase “caught up” and the word “rapture” are synonymous in the original Greek) to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). But the word rapture is not represented as such in our English Bible. It is another expression of accommodation based on Biblical truth. (Author’s note: Please do not misconstrue my intention here. I am not teaching a pre-millennial rapture of the believers. To do so, I would need to use sophistry as an interpretation protocol. Pre-millennialists use superficial cursory logic to prove their point - which I am not, nor will I use. We will be "caught up" to be sure, but when, where and how that will take place is the Lord’s prerogative, not mine.)
So, there are many terminologies, phrases, expressions and words, which we use for our accommodations - which are not always specifically found in scripture. We use the broader definitions of the words, the terms, the expressions, and the terminologies to accommodate ourselves to a broader thought. Our broadest use, our most accommodating terminology is found in the word judgment.
In His Holy Writ, God has employed different Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words, which for our accommodation, we have translated into our English word, judgment. Some were translated from the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament, some from the Hebrew Bible, some from the Vulgate, a Latin version of the Scriptures - but all these metaphors do not have the same meaning.
When we see or hear the word judgment, I know you my dear reader do not do this, but what is the first thought that comes to some of our minds? Hell? Of course. At least some of us think, “Hell,” or at least “Eternal Damnation” - most of us, if we are honest, have thought in those terms at one time or another. My thought at one point in my Christian walk was exactly that: “If the Bible speaks of judgment, it must mean sending someone to Hell!” I was a good Arminian once.
The Apostle Paul declares in no uncertain terms; “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). When I first read that, I was certain the Lord was going to send some believers to hell because they just didn’t measure up! But is that what Paul is asserting here?
If the word judgment is always rendered “Eternal Hell” or “Damnation,” we’re all in trouble. Because none of us will be able to measure up if the Lord Jesus, on that day, will be weighing our good deeds against our bad deeds in order to get us into His Heaven. If we are judged on deeds alone, who of us could enter into His glory? No one! If the Lord makes His decision to let us in, or keep us out of His Holy Zion by that method of judgment . . . we’ll all go to Hell! For none of us will be able to out-weigh our bad deeds, done in the body, with our good deeds, done in the body. For “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So the question must be asked, “Will anyone be sent to hell at the judgment seat of Christ?” The answer is simply, No! That is not the objective of the word judgment, as stated in the, “judgment seat of Christ.”
As the Psalmist writes, “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment nor the sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5); therefore our assessment in eternity is made the more clearer. This “judgment seat of Christ” is not for sinners, but rather for the righteous. Our righteousness is given us from the Lord, it is His righteousness we enjoy, not our own and it is His own righteousness we will stand before Him with at His judgment seat. No sinner can stand before the Lord, only the righteous. We will be judged, to be sure, but not on the basis of our sin, but rather, on the foundation of His righteousness. We can not interpret the word judgment as always indicating damnation because of sin.
The number of times the word judgment is used in terms of God dealing with His people, so far outweigh the few times, by comparison, when God is bringing someone into eternal hell or condemnation by His judgment - the scale is immediately tipped. The word, judgment, the Apostle Paul penned in 2 Corinthians 5:10 is the Greek word bema. The word means reward. It is “the reward seat of Christ” the redeemed will face on that day - not a condemnation seat - not a judgment seat, which will send some believers to hell and some believers to heaven. Every believer will be in Heaven with the Lord, but we first must be critiqued for our behavior done in the body, and rewarded for such. We’ll all get rewards, some copious, some meager, but we’ll all get something. That’s good news! Some of us may receive the reward of just making it into His Heaven; because of His righteousness given us - getting in by the skin of our teeth so to speak - “Hating even the (our) garments spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).
Paul, here in Corinthians used what was known, to convey what would be in the spirit. The Bema Seat was a seat of rewards, an assembly of tribute on Pnyx Hill in ancient Athens where orations and awards were given out to soldiers after battle. One soldier may have been great in battle, one not so great, yet both received an acknowledgment of service - “good or bad” - a reward, a judgment.
The Bible is a message from our loving Holy Father to us, His redeemed children. It also addresses those who are not His children, because they are threatening those who are His children. So the emphasis of this judgment seat, this Bema seat is not on “Hell” or “condemnation,” but rather on the “blessings” we, the people of God will enjoy in the heaven that our Father has prepared for us.
We are saved by grace and we live by grace - not a group of rules. Grace is the vitality of the life of the Lord Jesus, which is the substitute to the Law. Under the Law someone could walk in holiness by obedience; grace requires relationship to promote holiness, fellowship, and love.
A lot of us look at the Bible as a catalog of rules which, if we don't obey, we'll be doomed. But we were not created for the Bible, the Bible was created for us; it is the message of our loving Father to us His children. So the judgments found in our Father’s Book are for a greater part addressed to His children’s place of reward and blessings in the heavenlies, rather than damnation of those who do not believe. A believer couldn’t go to hell even if he wanted to! That’s why we believe on that name! Isn’t it?
This judgment of which 2 Corinthians 5:10 speaks, is for the quality of life the believer will occupy in that day. The white throne judgment - the word is krino (judgment) - found in Revelation 20, gives reference to the positions the unredeemed will occupy in that day, which is “Eternal Hell” and “Damnation.”
There are differences in the positions and responsibilities of the redeemed, so also the unredeemed. The one who “knew his master’s will and did it not, will be beaten with many stripe’s. The one who did not know His master’s will be beaten with few stripes” (Luke 12:47,48). They are both beaten, but it depends upon the light given to each one.
Let me say here, that a saint is free to fail, but a saint is not free to be irresponsible. We are “sons” of God. Sons are responsible. We must learn responsibility. We are judged - rewarded - by our responsible actions done in this world, in our physical bodies, for our position in eternity. All judgments are eternal. All give benefit, or results.
Many who sit under antinomian preaching (the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law) are led to believe that God is willing to save sinners without them forsaking their idols, throwing down the weapons of their warfare against Him; without repentance. They do not recognize that salvation is not only a passport to heaven, but that it is a first deliverance from the love and dominion of sin, that the grace of God which brings salvation is a holy principle that effectually teaches its subjects to “deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age” (Titus 2:11,12).
Conversely, there is a large group of people today whose desire is that we would begin to observe and live by the Ten Commandments. They believe this will stop us from sinning. Yet, the Ten Commandments have never stopped us from sinning, but only made the sins we commit evident. I love the Ten Commandments. They are the moral Law of God. They were given by God for us; the people of God. They are His moral, ethical rules, which remind us that we have broken and continue to break them on a daily, yes hourly basis. The Ten Commandments have not stopped us from sinning, but rather remind us that we do.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, showed that He requires in the character and conduct of His disciples something radically different from and far superior to the religion of the leaders of His day. “Except your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees. . .” - the Pharisees took it upon themselves to judge others while being blind to their own faults. The Pharisees stressed, “The Sabbath day is to be kept holy, in it you shall do no work.” Jesus enlarged that to say, works of piety, of mercy, and of necessity are lawful.
So what are the Ten Commandments for today? Why are they still in place?
Let’s say the Lord finds a good gentleman who is upright and law abiding. He questions him, “Do you observe My Ten Commandments?” And the good gentleman tells the Lord, “Yes, I do. From a child I have observed Your Commandments.”
“So,” says the Lord, “you don’t have another God before Me, you haven’t made or worshiped an idol, you haven’t taken My name in vain, you remember the Sabbath day, you honor your father and mother, you don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness?”
“That's right,” says the good gentleman.
“Okay,” says the Lord, “then stop contemplating infringing upon any of those first nine and you can say truthfully that you have kept My Commandments. But if you imagine committing adultery or consider taking what isn’t yours or mull over harming your neighbor or if you’ve formed a wrong mental representation of Me in your heart, then you have broken My last Commandment, ‘you shall not covet.’ If you observe all of My Commandments outwardly and sin in your heart, you have broken all My Commandments. So as soon as you stop thinking about doing anything amiss, then and only then, will I call you a good law abiding, righteous man.”
So, unless we stop looking, thinking, contemplating, observing, regarding - i.e. living in these sinful fleshly bodies - we won’t, nor can we, cease breaking God’s Ten Commandments. So what are those Ten Commandments for today? Basically God gave them to us and still has them in place, to stop us from killing ourselves.
End of part one.
(For more on this subject, see Ch. 12 in: A Brief History of Redemption by Dr. Jay Worth Allen.)
The Judgment Seat of Christ (Part One)
Published: 10 May 2010 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
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