The Judgment Seat of Christ
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
“For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive the things done in the body,
according to what he has dome, whether good or bad”
(2 Corinthians 5:10).
First we’ll briefly review part one. As we stated, the Bible is a message of our loving Holy Father to us, His redeemed children. It also addresses those who are not His children, because they are threatening those of us who are His children. But for the most part the Bible is a message addressed entirely to His redeemed. So what is the emphasis of this judgment seat of Christ - as far as we the redeemed of the Lord are concerned?
This judgment which 2 Corinthians 5:10 speaks, is for the quality of life we, the believers will occupy in that day. This is an evaluation, appraisal; a review of the life of the believer as far as what bema (reward) the believer will receive in the eternity the Lord has prepared for His Bride. This not a judgment that will send bad believers to hell and good believers to Heaven. This is a judgment concerning 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 - which is regeneration. 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.
God’s design in regeneration is to bring His elect back into conformity with His holy Law. We see this working in the beautiful harmony which exists in the distinctive workings of each of the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. The Father, as the Supreme Governor of the world, framed the Moral Law as a written text of His holy nature and as an authoritative expression of His righteous will. The Son, as Mediator, magnified the Law and made it honorable by rendering to it a personal, perfect and perpetual obedience, and then by voluntarily enduring its curse in the stead of His people, who had broken it. The Holy Spirit, as the Executive of the Godhead, convicts the elect of their wicked violation of the Moral Law, slaying their enmity against it, and imparting to them a nature or principle of the very essence of which the elect are to delight in and serve that Law. “For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man . . . I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:22,25).
A lot of us look at the Law as a catalog of rules which, if we don’t obey we’ll be doomed. But we were not created for the Law, the Law was created for us; the whole of the Word of God was created for us - it is the holy, loving 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 proclamations of damnation to 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.
Reconciling the World
God deals in eternity, not in time. His judgments are eternal. Everything He does has a view for the quality of life for His people in the future, the eternal.
In Colossians, that marvelous epistle, which addresses the headship of the Lord Jesus over all that is and will ever be, we read: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born.” First born here is a cardinal number, not an ordinal number. It addresses His possession in authority. It is not addressing the order of His origin. “He is the first born of all creation for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers - all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” Or cohere. “And He is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first born from the dead.” He is the first one born again, brought out of the grave, in order that His elect too might experience new birth. “. . . And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself . . . by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Reconciling all things unto Himself was the purpose of the Father in the cross. “And you, that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreproved in His sight” (Colossians 1:15-22).
This is a wonderful illustration of the purpose of the Father in the Cross - reconciling the world back to the Father.
The Father judged all sin at the cross. That was the purpose of the Father in the cross: to reconcile the world back to Himself. That was the purpose of the cross, as far as the Father was concerned. There was a penalty for sin. The penalty was death. The Son of God took that penalty on Himself to save His elect. So sin, as far as the Father is concerned, has been taken care of forever. “It is finished,” was the cry of the Son to the Father. In that cry the Son of God satisfied the just requirements of the Father. Jesus took all the judgment of sin on His cross (2 Corinthians 5:19) to reconcile all things to Himself. We, the elect believers, are now ambassadors reconciled to God. Our ministry is to reconcile others to God. But God, the Father, is reconciled to us, and not just to us, but to the whole world. “To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world” - “the world” - “unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” And if you will allow a Dr. Jay phrase here, ‘God was in Christ refusing to count the world guilty because of sin.’
There were sins, Paul tells us in times past God winked at - sins God overlooked (Romans 3) - sins God did not bother to acknowledge. A great example of this is found in the life of David. I have people ask me, “How could men such as David have so many wives? The Bible says, “Since from the beginning He made the two one.” This is a true statement and the former, a valid question. How did men like David (and others) get away with it?
We’ll go back to Romans 3. There were “sins in time past that God winked at.” But now, “He commands all men everywhere to repent.” Yes? So now, at this time, under the time of the grace of God, God is refusing to impute sin unto anyone. He just doesn’t wink at the sin as if it is not there. It’s really not there, as far as God the Father is concerned. “It is finished.” That was the purpose of the cross as far as the Father was concerned. Jesus took all sins forever, and for everyone on His cross. No matter what the 5 spiritual laws tell us. That’s a relieving thing. We need to believe that to be saved, but even it you don’t believe it, it doesn’t change the truth. Truth is truth . . . whether we like it or not!
But what “believing” are we referring to here? If I believe, or say that I believe, is that enough to get me into God’s heaven? No! “Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The mere acknowledging of the truth concerning His person or a lip service of profession will not make any of us worthy of God’s heaven. Even the demons acknowledged Him as the “Son of God” (Matthew 8:29), but what did that benefit them? We should not fool ourselves with the notion that simply because we believe that the Lord lived, died and rose again and we’ve accepted that fact, that we are automatically “sons of God.”
“It is finished” is the finished work of Christ Jesus. But do those blessed words signify that Christ so satisfied the requirements of God’s holiness that that holiness no longer has any real and pressing claim upon us? Did Christ magnify the Law and make it honorable that we might be lawless? Did He fulfill all righteousness to purchase for us an immunity from living for God with all our hearts and serving Him with all our faculties? Did Christ die in order to secure a Divine indulgence that we might love to please self? Christ died not to make our sorrow for the hatred of sin useless. Christ died not to absolve us from the full discharge of our responsibilities unto God. Christ died not so that we might go on retaining the friendship and fellowship of the world. The finished work of Christ profits us nothing if our heart has not been broken by an agonizing consciousness of our sinfulness. It avails us nothing if we still love the world (1 John 2:5). It benefits us nothing unless we become a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I remain staggered at the inability or the unwillingness of the people of God to understand the degree to which we have been forgiven. But in that forgiveness we must walk in holiness and in righteousness. There is nothing that you can add to the grace of God or better still, to the righteousness of God, which will make it any better than it is. It’s perfect. There is nothing you can take from it to lessen its strength and integrity in you, because it has been imputed to you by Christ Jesus Himself. It has nothing to do with you. It is His righteousness in you. You were given it because you truly believed. Now start enjoying the freedom you possess in Him. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t understand why so many people have so much trouble with grace. It seems as if we spend more time trying to scare believers out of hell than to get unbelievers into heaven. God doesn’t judge anyone on the basis of sin, but rather on the basis of faith: our faith and belief in His Son. It is not what we’re doing or what we’ve done (“all have sinned and fall short of God.”), but rather on Who we know and believe.
Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not suggesting we should do away with discipleship. My love for the Word of God is great - I began that love through discipleship. But I am suggesting we do away with actors. There is nothing you can do, if you are a believer, to keep you out of heaven. The sin you haven’t gotten to was nailed to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago. You bare it no more. Bless the Lord! So what does forgiveness do? It works a response of obedience in us. “It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.” Not threats. Threats do not lead to repentance. Threats may change a man momentarily until the threat is gone then he’ll go back to doing the same old thing he did before he heard the threat. Look at what happened to America on September 11, 2001. We were threatened. So we changed. But when we perceived that the threat was gone, we went back to doing the same old things we did before the threat. Why is that? Because the heart must be changed. In the words of the Psalms, “Because they have no change, therefore they fear not God.” So the basis of this New Covenant relationship is: I have been born again by the Spirit of God; I am still the same failure I ever was but my response to the goodness of God and to the love of God changes what I want to do. Again, it may not change what I do always. But it changes what I want to do (Romans 7). A marked difference. It doesn’t change what I feel like doing. But it changes what I want to do.
When Jesus judged sin at the cross, He judged all sin, in every age, in every person, so the basis of judgment (as far as eternal hell or heaven is concerned) in the future, would not be predicated on the first man Adam, who brought us into this mess, but rather it would be predicated on the last Adam, Jesus, who is now in the presence of the Father.
When we stand before Him in that day, at His Judgment Seat, it will be absolutely because of His shed blood. “For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” The import of that verse is the fact that we have been made all of the righteousness that God is. Or, we are as righteous as God is. Don’t let that frighten you. For if we in anywise fall short of the righteousness of God, there is no entrance for us into His kingdom. Sin is coming short. So the righteousness we receive from Him must be an absolute righteousness or no righteousness at all. That’s why Isaiah said, “all of our righteousness are as filthy rags.” That’s why we must have another’s righteousness. That is why Paul cried out, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Paul is crying the cry of all of the elect of God - our life in Christ in our flesh (our “body of this death”) in tow. Paul goes on to say, “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then, with the mind.” That is the mind of Christ. “I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin.” Paul understood he was going to deal with his dying body as long as he lived on the earth. So do we. That is why we need to learn of God so we can walk in God - to walk as His people realizing that “there is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh” - doing whatever we feel like doing - “but after the Spirit,” doing what we want to do. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1,2). Glory!
Martin Luther said, “A man cannot be thoroughly humbled until he comes to know that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsel, endeavors, will and works. And absolutely depending on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of another. That is of God only.” I like that. It takes all the pressure off, and lets us walk in His life as freeded men totally on the basis of our faith in Him. Nothing more. No works, free will, self will or whatever, but totally because of Him who loved us first.
We are in covenant with God through the Lord Jesus. The issue of covenant is transferable, as in Abraham to Isaac. The book of Galatians states that: I give what I have to Him, and He gives what He has to me. Like the old hymn says, “I gave Him my old tattered garment. He gave me a robe of white.” It’s covenant. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes on Him is not condemned; but he that believes not is condemned already.” Now here is the clincher. Here is why men are condemned. “Because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17,18 AV). He is not condemned because he is a sinner. He is condemned because he did not believe “in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” Jesus.
No man is condemned because of sin! The man who will spend eternity in Hell will be there because he did not believe on that name, Jesus! The question all men must deal with is, “What have you done with Jesus who is called Christ?” Because that is the basis of all judgment. When Jesus went to the cross to bear sin; past, present and future, He did so to transfer the guilt of sin from the first man Adam, to His own person. Now, what do we do with Him?
Now, as I have said, all judgments are eternal; with benefit or result. God always deals with all men on the basis of His righteous principle. God is a just judge. He judges in righteousness and in honor to His Word in all things and in all people. But to call on the Lord for redemption requires an initial work on the part of the Holy Spirit of God Himself.
The natural man, the sinner from the first man Adam is spiritually impotent and his case hopeless so far as all self-effort and help is concerned. He can do no more to quicken himself to accept the salvation of the Lord Jesus and become a “new creature in Christ” than can a rotting corpse in the tomb spring to life. A dead man is powerless, and that is precisely the natural condition of every member of the human race, religious and irreligious alike: “dead in trespasses and sins.” The individual concerned in it contributes no more to his “new birth” than he did in his first. This is expressly why the Lord insisted that, “which were born not of blood (descended from godly parents), nor of the will of man (by a persuasive preacher), but by the will of God” (John 1:13). There must be an act of Divine creation - a preliminary quickening, or work of the Holy Spirit - before anyone is made, or can be made a “new creature in Christ.” This is election. God the Father chose us “before the foundation of the world” to be in Christ Jesus.
I realize that the very word, election can be a vector of affliction to many, but the truth of God still stands. We are the elect of God. God chose us we did not choose Him. The truth is God foreknew that if He had left us to our pleasure, none would ever accept Christ (Romans 9:29), and therefore He made sovereign and unconditional selection from among all mankind. Had God not eternally chosen me, I certainly would have never chosen Him. Salvation is the gift of the Triune God to His elect: the Father planned it, the Son purchased it, the Spirit communicates it.
All of God’s dealings - His judgments and work - are eternal and just. The way in which He deals with His children, the redeemed, is eternally for our good. The issue here (as I am now back to it) in the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema seat judgment is not concerning eternal hell or heaven. It is the believer walking before the Lord in His righteousness and in His justice. It is God dealing with His people on the issue of His standards and decrees - His Moral Law.
So the Judgment Seat with which the believer is faced, is not one of hell or heaven, but of position in eternity - which is why we work in the Lord. We teach. We preach. We sweep the Sunday school floor. We do whatever our call is. We “study to show ourselves approved.” Because it is our responsibility in the Lord. We are not out for rewards. We are out for our utmost in Him. We are sons. And sons are responsible. So we live.
The judgment the believer will face is a judgment of rewards. Not wrath. Not death. But Life. Everlasting. The need for us, His people to accept the love and forgiveness of the Father is great. I will always remain staggered at the inability or the unwillingness of the people of God to understand - or accept - the degree to which we have been forgiven. There is nothing we can add to the grace of God which will make it any more complete than it is. It’s perfect. There is nothing you can take from it to lessen its strength and integrity. It has nothing to do with you. It is His righteousness in you. Now start enjoying it!
A little Word Study
As stated before the Greek word, Bema, which is translated, Judgment Seat of Christ, in 2 Corinthians 5:10, is not the same word translated as judgment elsewhere in the Word of God. There are many varying words which we have translated, for our English tongue, into the word, judgment. Such as:
Krisis, whereby we find our word crisis. It is the point of judgment. When God brings us to a point in our experience where we face the fruits of our doing. It is God dealing with us in an area; a crisis.
Krima, our word for criminal. Which should be self-explanatory. This is a fact of judgment. Matthew 7, “For with what judgment you judge, ye shall be judged.” In Romans 11:33, God is addressed as that great and righteous judge in the earth.
Kriterion, whereby we have our word criterion. It is the basis of judgment of those things which are brought together to bring us to a particular conclusion. It is used as a noun, verb or adjective. “The One who judges, the discerner of the thoughts of our hearts” (Hebrews 4:12).
Krino, a noun, is an act of judgment. Again in Matthew 7, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”
There are many more judgments found in the Holy Word of God, which I have not applied to this list. The one suggestion I would give to you, my beloved reader is: read. Read the Word. Look up this stuff. Feed on the Word. Get yourself a Greek, Hebrew and Latin expository dictionary or two. Maybe an exhaustive concordance and a complete English dictionary. Read. Seek the Lord.
One of my favorite verses in Holy Writ states, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the honor of kings to search it out.” Solomon said that. Another favorite is, “Seek ye out the Book of the Lord, and read.” Isaiah said that. You can consider that the “mouth of two witnesses.” Discern, for yourself, the meaning, the intent of the manifest glory of our Father in Heaven, which He has hidden for us within His amazing Book. Everyone will be amazed at how simple even the ancient languages are to learn (or at least understand), when they are perused through the power of the Spirit of Life.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
(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 Two)
Published: 1 June 2010 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
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