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The Judgment (BEMA) Seat of Christ

1 Corinthians 5:10 NLKV, “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.”

Romans 14:10-12, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

What is the “Judgment seat?”

The “Judgment Seat,” also known as the “Bema Seat” is a raised place mounted by steps, a platform, the official seat of a judge. The term “Bema” is used generally of an elevated platform from which a ruler could review the games, make speeches, or render judicial decisions. Herod built a structure resembling a throne at Caesarea, from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people. It is used of the place where Pilate judged Jesus (Matthew 27:19; John 19:13).

The “Bema” used in the Grecian games to award the winning contestants. So our “Judgment seat” is a place for giving out rewards for our service to Christ. If there is anything that could represent punishment or grief it would be the fact that we do not receive rewards! And as we shall see, we will give our crowns in a worship act to Jesus. What a disappointment if I have nothing to bring to Him in that day.

The idea of a public examination before the Judge is a daunting thought. It is very scary to think that my life may be exhibited before the Judge of the universe certainly should give incentive to awaken the saints of God. “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

Believers can stand at the Bema because Christ stood at Gabbatha, meaning, “a raised place, height, the ridge of the house, the temple-mound.” John records Pilate's passage of judgment on our Lord, “When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha)” (John 19:13 MSG).

There has been much confusion as to the nature of this “Judgment seat.” Is this the time and place that the Lord will mete out punishment for sins committed by His children? From some of the teaching I have heard you would think that this is where God gets out His whip and pours out His wrath on His children. Or is this a place where rewards will be given or lost depending on how one has used his or her life for the Lord?

“The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.”–

“God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the Bema seat of Christ.” –J. Vernon McGee

“The purpose of the Bema seat is an evaluation of the believer’s life. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says the Lord will come and “bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.” God gives rewards to the victors; He does not whip the losers. We know that He won't condemn us for our sins at that point, because Romans 8:1 says, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.’” –John MacArthur (slightly edited)

So the “Judgment seat of Christ” primary purpose is to examine the Christian’s whole life. We will be rewarded for the deeds we have done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). The term used refers to a summing up and estimation of the total pattern of a believer's life. This overall focus should keep us from worrying over every stupid thing we've ever done, or thoughtless sin we have committed. It's a time of reward, not punishment.

This will be a time when the true character of our works will be revealed. If there is a judgment it will be the loss of reward, not punishment. Believers will receive a reward, “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8b), or forfeit his reward. Two types of materials are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Gold, silver and precious stones represent the Spirit of God working through the believer’s life, while, wood, hay or straw represent the fleshly works of the old nature.

Did you ever wonder why it is so important to live for Christ, committing your all to Him? It is actually very important, why? because one day we are going to stand before Christ to receive a heavenly reward. God says, “Those who honor Me—I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30). The Bible speaks of 5 crowns that can be awarded to the faithful believer on the day when Jesus returns for His church. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). “Crown” in Greek is stephanos, a wreath, garland, representing honor, and glory.

1) The Crown of life, also called, the Martyr’s Crown. is for those believers who persevere in their faith even under persecution. The believer must love God even more than his own life and be faithful unto (not necessarily until death).

James 1:12 NLT, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Revelation 2:10 ESV, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).

The first Christian martyrs were the Apostles. There are traditions that have been handed down through the centuries, claiming that most of the 12 Apostles were martyred for their beliefs.

•Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword.

•Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

•Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.

•Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to church tradition because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

•James the Lord’s brother, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat him to death with a club.

•James the son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem.

•Bartholomew, also known as Nathanial, was a missionary to what is present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia when he was believed to have been flayed to death by a whip. He may have also been crucified.

•Andrew was crucified Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony.

•Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church.

•Jude, the brother of Jesus, was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

•Matthias, tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned in Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.

•Phillip was crucified.

•Paul was believed to have been tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.

And you may remember some more modern day martyrs, the five missionaries killed in the Ecuadorian jungle on January 8, 1956. Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian. They all received the “Crown of life.”

During the coming Great Tribulation many will receive the “Crown of life” as they are martyred for the word of God and their testimony for Christ.

2) The Crown of Glory. The Pastor’s Crown. “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).

There are many awards given for sports, movies, education, et al, but like all earthly honors they fade away quickly. The Olympian laurel wreath withers, and the medals and trophies rust, tarnish and decay. Much of the time we can't remember last year's winners. Can you imagine, being given an honor that will last for eternity? The “Crown of glory” is just that! Not only is this an eternal prize, but it is an award ceremony that never ends. It is an award event that never ceases. It’s a crown that never loses its luster.

And this Crown goes to every faithful pastor-shepherd, for whom heaven will be an eternal award ceremony. There faithful pastors will lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus the “Chief Shepherd” (Revelation 4:9-11). This reminds us that we are only under-shepherds, accountable to the “Chief Shepherd,” Jesus Christ. We are admonished to, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…” “Feed them, lead them, protect them, purify them, set an example for them and some day when Jesus appears the Chief Shepherd will reward His faithful shepherds with eternal glory. What a calling.” –John MacArthur

3) The Crown of Rejoicing. The soul-winners crown. “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?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). “Who do you think we’re going to be proud of when our Master Jesus appears if it’s not you? You’re our pride and joy!” (1 Thessalonians 2:19 MSG).

The apostle Paul looked upon those whom he had won to Christ as his crown! “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (Philippians 4:1). In the book of Daniel we read, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3 NLT). People whom we influence for Christ are our crown, our joy, our glory.

All of heaven rejoices when one sinner comes to Christ. “I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7 AMP).

The winning of souls is every believer’s responsibility! Although every person to whom we witness may not respond, we are to keep on sowing the precious of the word of God. Paul writes, “ I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Keep on planting!

4) The Crown of Righteousness. “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” (2 Timothy 4:8). “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13).

It is a “Crown of righteousness!” Righteousness is the quality of being right, thinking right, and doing right. “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…” (Titus 2:12).

This crown is for “…all who have love His appearing.” By the time Paul wrote Second Timothy he knew that his life's work was nearly over. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:6,7). He looked back on all that God had done through him, and he had a certain degree of satisfaction, knowing there may be crowns awaiting him.

This “Crown of righteousness” isn’t just for Paul. It is for all who believe in Christ who are looking forward to his glorious return, on that day when our faith is turned to sight and our hope is fully realized. If you belong to Jesus Christ and are living a life that brings honor and glory to him, and if you are eagerly awaiting His return, then rejoice; there’s a “Crown of righteousness” waiting for you!

5) The Incorruptible Crown. The Victor’s Crown. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-17)

This is the crown that is given to those who practice self-control over their impulses and desires. Those who get victory over their body, which belongs to God, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).

Paul says, “I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…” He is saying, “I beat my body into subjection,” it literally means, “I beat my body black and blue!” Bible scholars are pretty much in agreement that it refers to a punch under the eye, an "uppercut" to use modern boxing language. To strike in this manner is generally considered to be a “knockout” punch by the ancient Greek boxers. Since this is in the present tense speaks of this as Paul's continual practice which clearly implies a continual need. “The athlete’s disciplined self–control is a rebuke of half–hearted, out–of–shape Christians who do almost nothing to prepare themselves to witness to the lost—and consequently seldom do.” –John MacArthur

Why would Paul discipline his body? “…lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26,27). He isn’t afraid he will lose his salvation, but that he might be disqualified, adokimos in Greek, refers to that which is rejected after a trial or examination because it fails the test. Also, unapproved, rejected, worthless or counterfeit. When one is disqualified from an athletic competition it is because he didn’t stay in bounds, he didn’t keep the rules, “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).

"Many believers start the Christian life with enthusiasm and devotion. They train carefully for a while but soon tire of the effort and begin to ‘break training.’ Before long they are disqualified from being effective witnesses. They do not have what it takes, because they are unwilling to pay the price. The flesh, the world, everyday affairs, personal interests, and often simple laziness hinder spiritual growth and preparation for service. Even good things can interfere with the best. Fulfillment of freedoms can interfere with fulfillment of love. Following our own ways can keep others from knowing the Way. Souls are won by those who are prepared to be used when the Spirit chooses to use them.” –John MacArthur

The crowns some will receive when Jesus comes again are not ours to brag about, or for our permanent possession, they are part of our adoration worship of the One who sits on the throne. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He is worthy of our everlasting praise and worship! Therefore, we will have the joy of casting our crowns at Jesus’ feet when we get to Heaven. “The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created’” (Revelation 4:10,11).

“The elders’ response is most likely the way we will all respond when we receive our reward from Jesus. We will be so overcome with gratitude because of what He has done for us that worship will be spontaneous. Regardless of what we endured on earth, a priceless crown will seem a paltry offering, but it will be the best gift we can give Him. Although the Scriptures do not state it specifically, it is likely that we will all follow the example of the twenty-four elders in casting our crowns at Jesus’ feet.” –

A crown will seem but an insignificant gift to present to the One who gave His life for us!

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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