THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST IS IN SESSION
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking
Copyright © 2009 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The sufferings of the Christian, if he is following the Lord as he should, are God’s judgments on his life: not a judgment of condemnation and wrath but a judgment of discipline to salvation. We are saved by the judgment of discipline. Apart from Divine judgment we remain sinful, self-centered, and otherwise spiritually immature and subject to the authority of the Lake of Fire.
The Judgment Seat of Christ has begun with the judgment of the house of God. The nearer we are to God the stricter and more immediate is our judgment. Jerusalem always receives double for her sins (Isaiah 40:2). After the accounts of the righteous have been settled Christ will turn His attention to the disobedient.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is in session. The first to be tried are God’s saints. Therefore when we suffer let us hold steady in the Lord. When we are tested we, through Christ’s own Presence, and Virtue, shall come forth as refined gold. Then we shall have no fear. Then we shall have perfect love. Then we shall have boldness in the Day of Judgment.
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST IS IN SESSION
One reason why Christian theology has gotten as far off course as it has is that deductive reasoning is being employed without reference to the whole counsel of God.
A more effective technique for developing a theology is to study all that is said on a matter and then to allow the Holy Spirit to induce truth.
The deductive approach, selecting one verse as a “key verse” and then drawing conclusions from it, treating passages that state the opposite as less important or even suspect and to be avoided, is not a sound procedure to follow. This especially is true because of the several seeming contradictions in the Scriptures. The prevailing custom is to select the preferred leg of the seeming contradiction and to cut off the other. As a result, truth stumps about wildly.
Some of the major seeming contradictions are as follows: Divine election, and “whosoever will”; Paul states we are justified by faith while James teaches we are justified by works; the Scripture declares that all we must do to be saved is to believe and be baptized, whereas Christ told us plainly that in order to be saved we must endure to the end.
The “leg” of the seeming contradiction chosen in our day is the one that leans toward human welfare. In time past the reverse may have been true. Men are becoming lovers of themselves.
Current Christian theology has been developed by means of selecting the preferred “leg” and cutting off the other. Thus we hear much preaching about being justified by faith, little to the effect that we are justified by works (James 2:21). Truth falls flat on its face, being unbalanced.
It is not unusual for the editors of study Bibles to underline the verses they are employing as “key verses.” The student is to leap around in the Scriptures according to the scheme of deductive reasoning without paying attention to the line of thought of the writer of the particular book of the Bible or what he has written elsewhere.
This is why the believers of today may know certain “key verses” (verses removed from their contexts) but are ignorant of the line of thought the Spirit was developing, of which the key verse was a part.
An example of the fruit of this method of “study” is the application of Romans 6:23 and Hebrews 2:3 to the unconverted. These two verses are used today to warn the unconverted of the danger of not being “saved.” In actual fact the two verses are addressed to Christian people concerning their sins and their lukewarmness toward Christ.
Indeed, all the Epistles are written to the “saints,” as Paul terms the believers. Christian people, the saints, do not take these warnings to heart because they believe they are directed toward the unsaved.
One of the principal “key verses” of current Christian theology is John 5:24, a verse we have discussed previously.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.
It is difficult to comprehend the amount of error caused by the employment of John 5:24 as a “key verse” from which conclusions are drawn. We may not be overstating the case to say that the principal doctrine of the Epistles, which is the necessity for our growth toward perfection in Christ, has been sapped of most of its strength by the excessive application of John 5:24 as a “key verse.”
John 5:24 is one leg of a seeming contradiction. John 5:24 states that he who hears the word of Christ and believes in God shall not come under judgment. He has passed from death to life.
It may be an invitation to the humanist to conclude from John 5:24 that the Lord will not judge His people. But this is to create an unscriptural attitude toward the Christian redemption (I Corinthians 11:32, for example). It represents a departure from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
John 5:24 is not referring to a one-time confession of Christ as Savior. We must have “ears to hear” the Word of Christ each day of our pilgrimage and continue to believe in God throughout our days on the earth.
Every day we pass from death to life as we walk in the Spirit of God. Every day of our Christian life, spiritual death and spiritual life struggle for mastery over us. Every day we “hear the Word of Christ,” believe in God, and live without condemnation. The moment we cease abiding in Christ, John 5:24 ceases applying to us.
Here is a seeming contradiction: John 5:24 states that the believer shall not come under condemnation, or judgment, but I Peter 4:17 states that the Divine judgment begins with the believers in Christ. In fact, the entire fourth chapter of I Peter reveals that our tribulations in this world are the judgment of God on us as Christians (also, II Thessalonians 1:5).
Which leg of the seeming contradiction should we stand on? Should we accept the popular view of John 5:24? John 5:24 is reinforced by Romans 8:1 which teaches there is no condemnation resting on those who are abiding in Christ.
Or should we receive I Peter 4:17? I Peter 4:17 is reinforced by II Thessalonians 1:5, which declares that our sufferings are a “manifest token” of God’s judgment which comes on us so we may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God. We are suffering under God’s judgment so we may be found worthy of the Kingdom.
Which is the more important of these two verses? Which should we stress? Which of the two should we employ as a “key verse”? From which should we derive our understanding of the plan of salvation? Which should we use to guide and modify our interpretation of the other? Which of the two verses should we discard as being less inspired?
Obviously we can choose neither one as more important, more valid than the other. Both concepts have proceeded from the mouth of God.
From Genesis to Revelation the Scriptures are inspired by God. No truth of the Kingdom of God contradicts another truth. The seeming contradictions provide the balance of revealed truth. The reason one Scripture appears to contradict another is that we ourselves are lacking in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
We do not arrive at truth by employing favorite verses as “key verses.” We arrive at truth by saying Amen to all of God’s Word and then waiting for the Holy Spirit to make plain to us the several aspects of the doctrine under consideration.
John 5:24 and I Peter 4:17 complement each other. John 5:24 states that the individual who is abiding in Christ, continuing to hear Him and to believe in God, is dwelling under the blood of the covenant. He is free from judgment—judgment in the sense of condemnation and death. John supports this concept.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
In order to remain without condemnation we must be walking “in the light” of God’s will, as far as we know His will. Accepting Christ as our Savior is not a ticket to Heaven. Rather, it is the opening of the door to the “way of righteousness” (II Peter 2:21).
John 5:24 uses the term condemnation, or judgment, in the sense of Divine condemnation and wrath. I Peter 4:17 uses the term judgment in the sense of Divine discipline, of correction to righteousness.
The two ideas of discipline, and condemnation, are brought together in I Corinthians 11:32:
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Judged so we should not be condemned.
The disciplining judgment of God falls on us so we never will come under the condemning judgment of God.
In comparing John 5:24 and I Peter 4:17 we are not relying on any difference in usage of krisis and krima, the two Greek terms employed, but on the manner in which God’s judgment operates under the new covenant.
This present paper has to do with the Judgment Seat (Greek, beema) of Christ. We have inserted this prelude concerning the deductive approach to theology and seeming contradictions because otherwise some of our readers who know John 5:24 may throw out our entire argument as being unscriptural and irrelevant.
As soon as we begin to discuss the scriptural doctrine of the judgment of the believers, and the necessity for de facto righteousness, some of the believers think we are doing away with the atonement made by Christ. Please rest assured we are not discarding the atonement. Rather, we are placing the atonement in perspective so it does not become an excuse for sin.
Let us turn now to the fourth chapter of I Peter for our study of the disciplining of the saints by the Lord Jesus. Our principal thesis, which is based on Chapter Four, is that the Judgment Seat (beema) was established when the Lord rose from the dead and has been in session until the present day.
The beema of Christ will remain in session throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age. It will not be adjourned until after the Judge, the Lord Jesus who is seated on His white throne, makes the final decision as to who is placed in the Lake of Fire and who is brought forward to eternal life in the new world.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick [living] and dead. (Acts 10:42)
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
The tribulations and sufferings we Christians experience are the judgment of Christ on us—a disciplining judgment leading to repentance and a holy life.
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; (I Peter 4:1)
The purpose of suffering is to sanctify us, to make us holy. The Christian who does not arm himself to suffer will be caught off guard when fiery trials come on him and may turn away from Christ.
The sufferings of the Christian, if he is following the Lord as he should, are God’s judgments on his life: not a judgment of condemnation and wrath but a judgment of discipline to salvation. We are saved by the judgment of discipline. Apart from Divine judgment we remain sinful, self-centered, and otherwise spiritually immature and subject to the authority of the Lake of Fire (Revelation 2:11; 20:6).
The Lord God of Heaven disciplines every son whom He receives and the discipline consists of fiery testings and tribulations. These are part of the normal Christian experience. They are decisions made at the Judgment Seat of Christ at which our personalities are being revealed.
The judgment has begun already and is abiding on the living and the dead. We are the living. After we are born again and filled with God’s Spirit, having died and been raised again in the spiritual sense, the work of judgment begins. We have been brought forth from the tomb, as was Lazarus, and now it is time for the unwrapping of the graveclothes.
Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick [living] and the dead. (I Peter 4:5)
The pattern is for people to die and after this to be judged. But here we find that the Lord is ready to judge both the living and the dead. The idea seems to be that the Lord desires His saints get as much as possible of their judgment accomplished before they die physically so the way will be clear for the judging of the sinners among the Lord’s people and the wicked of the world.
Perhaps this is what Paul meant by striving to attain the resurrection that is out from among the dead (Philippians 3:11). Perhaps Paul was seeking to draw near to Christ until every aspect of his personality had been cleansed by the flame of God’s Personality.
It appears from Paul’s statements in the fourth chapter of II Timothy (verses 7,8) that his warfare had been accomplished, his wickedness pardoned. He had been revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and through the pardoning and transforming grace of Christ had been found not guilty. All that remains for the Apostle Paul is the resurrection to righteousness, bodily immortality, and glory.
It is our point of view that only the victorious saints will be raised in the first resurrection from the dead—that which will occur when the Lord returns. How could it be possible for an unjudged, undisciplined, rebellious believer (of which there are many) to be changed suddenly into immortality and rise to be ever with the Lord? The Spirit of God still is contending with him concerning his sins and self-will. How, then, can he be caught up to Christ as one of His kings and priests without first having these issues settled? (Revelation 20:4-6).
Perhaps a work of judgment is being accomplished now in both the spiritual and physical realms so that when Jesus appears all members of the true Israel, the Seed of Abraham, will be prepared to be ever with the Lord. One thing is certain: no individual will be brought into eternal life in his body until he has passed through the judgment of Christ.
No one can eat of the tree of life until he has overcome sin and rebellion. We cannot get past the cherubim guarding the tree of life or the flaming sword flashing back and forth until no sin is found in us.
Let me put it this way. As we overcome a particular sin or rebellion, we are given to eat of the Tree of Life, which is the body and blood of Christ. And then another sin, and then more life. This process continues until we have been set free completely from the spirits of sin and rebellion.
The Prophets teach us clearly that when Christ comes He will purify us by fire so we will walk in de facto righteousness (actual righteousness of behavior). De jure (legal; imputed) righteousness is not at issue here.
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)
Christ has come and has begun to purify His Church by fire.
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)
Christ baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, and then with the fire of disciplining judgment. This is what Peter is describing.
Christ performs all the judging of people. The term beema, translated judgment seat, is used consistently in the New Testament to mean a raised throne where those accused of crimes are brought for judgment. Each human being is accused of sin, having been born of Adam and possessing a desperately wicked, profoundly deceitful personality.
Each of us was born dead in sin. We were doomed to hear only Guilty! at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But Christ has come from God to save us from our sins.
Christ saves us from our sins by washing us in His holy blood so we can be received of God. Then Christ, the Judge of Heaven, begins the work of separating us from our sins. He reveals our sins to us and then gives us the opportunity to confess them, repent of them, and overcome them through Divinely imparted grace.
The Judge is our Savior and our Savior is also our Judge. If we will allow the Judge to do so He will save us from the sins of which He accuses us. The Judge becomes our Savior.
If we refuse to allow the Savior to save us from our sins, our loving, tender, merciful Savior becomes the Judge who decides whether or not we are worthy of eternal life.
The Lord Jesus is as severe a Judge as He is a loving Savior. The believers of today do not understand the severity of the Lord because of the errors in Christian doctrine.
The Father, God, judges no one (John 5:22). The disciplining fire that comes on the saints proceeds from the white throne of Christ as He works to save us from our sins. We are not speaking of the guilt of our sin, for that was forgiven on the cross of Calvary. The problem now is the presence of sin; not the guilt, but the presence of the sin in us—the sin that dwells in us, as Paul says.
All disciplining of the Christian is performed according to the judgment of Christ. Christ judges that we need to be rebuked and chastened. When there is no more sin or rebellion in us, the chastening ceases (Revelation 3:19; I Peter 5:10).
The concept of Christ judging both the living and the dead raises another issue. There is a continuity between the physical realm and the spirit realm. The Lord does not regard our physical death as being spiritually significant. It appears that our disciplining and instruction take place whether we are physically alive or dead.
When Christ rose from the dead He began the work of purifying His elect by means of fiery tribulations and testings. The work of Divine judgment, according to our understanding, has been taking place ever since that time in history (He is ready to judge the living and the dead). It is our point of view that the judging of the saint is independent of whether the saint is in the spiritual or the physical realm.
We are not suggesting that the saints in the spirit realm are suffering fiery tribulations and testings. They experienced those while they were alive on the earth.
Nevertheless the patriarchs cannot be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:40). This means Abraham and the other heroes of faith cannot be made perfect in righteousness apart from the other members of the Body of Christ. The whole Body is moving toward perfection, being built up by that which every part supplies.
The whole Body of Christ, the Church, the Wife of the Lamb, is moving toward perfection as one organism. It is not of significance whether the member of the Body of Christ is alive on the earth or living with God in the spirit realm.
We Christians always have believed that the members of the Body of Christ will be judged in the spirit realm. Isn’t it possible that we can also learn from Christ and grow in righteousness in the spirit realm? Certainly we do not believe spiritual growth is impossible in the spirit realm!
One of the immature concepts of Christian thinking, it seems to us, is the “freezing” of the Kingdom of God after we die physically. The idea is fostered that we can learn only in this world, and our change into the image of Christ is limited to only that which is accomplished during our lifetime on the earth.
Let us hasten to add that the Christian who postpones to life after death his growth in Christ and his service to Christ, hoping to obtain the best of both worlds, will face an angry Christ. He has not been faithful with that which is least—the opportunities given to him in this life. Let him be assured he will not be trusted with the true riches.
God cannot be mocked. When the unprofitable servant dies he will go to be with the other lazy, careless individuals who have neglected the part of the Kingdom work that was entrusted to them.
While a rough hewing takes place on the earth, much refining still will be required after we leave this arena of strife and tears. Our real life will commence with the new heaven and earth reign of the Lord Jesus, and we shall be being prepared for our new, real life from now throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
We envision a growth in the image of Christ taking place in us throughout the eternities to come. “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).
Being “saved” does not mean we have been given a ticket to a paradise in the sky. Being “saved” means God has given us the opportunity to escape the image and works of Satan and to lay hold on the image and works of Christ. The faith and diligence with which we respond to our opportunity will determine our eternal destiny. This is the thesis of many of our writings. A thorough reformation of Christian thinking is necessary if our thesis is to be established as a guiding principle of Christian doctrine and practice.
It is our understanding that both the physical and spirit realms are places of instruction for us. We believe also that God’s purpose in creating the physical realm is that through it He may reveal His will to all His creatures.
While the revelation of God’s Person takes place in us to a certain extent during our sojourn in the present era, it may require many millennia before the unique revelation of the Lord God that each of us is has begun to approach maturity.
Before we can participate in the program of revealing the invisible God we must be willing to die to all we are, to come forth as a naked spirit before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and through His judgment of us be brought into newness of life.
No witness, no revelation of God can come through the human personality but only through the new man who is the unique union of Christ and the individual. All of the first personality must be so burned by the Divine fire and infused with Christ as to constitute a new creation.
As it is true that the judgment of the saint can take place in either the physical realm or the spirit realm, so it is true that the wicked can be judged in either realm. The wheat and the tares are growing together, not only in the physical realm but also in the spiritual, as we understand it. Certainly Satan and his followers are maturing in evil.
Physical death does not change anything of significance, because human beings are eternal spirits, not fleshly animals that perish in the dust. We are alive somewhere, and the process of redemption through judgment continues, or else will continue in the Day of the Lord.
The Divine judgment will not have been concluded until the saints descend from Heaven as the gloriously perfected Wife of the Lamb, the nations of saved peoples of the earth are walking in the Light of God’s Presence shining in the saints, and the wicked have been thrown into the Lake of Fire. The Divine judgment, which began with the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, will continue until that time.
For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (I Peter 4:6)
Christ entered the spiritual prison and brought the Gospel of the Kingdom to the spirits confined there. Those spirits then were required, as we are, to choose to receive Christ as both Lord and Savior. They were judged as we are, although they were not at that time alive on the earth.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. (I Peter 4:7)
Was Peter incorrect in believing he was living at the end of the age? Not at all. When Christ died and rose again the end of the age had come. The Day of Judgment had arrived and it began with the saints.
God’s judgment began with Christ’s death on the cross. By associating themselves (not in theory only but in a daily embracing) with Christ’s death on the cross, the saints obtain deliverance from the wrath of God. The righteousness of the Law of Moses is imputed (ascribed) to them, having been fulfilled in Christ (Romans 8:4).
We still are in the same era, the same period of Christ’s judgment, as was true of Peter. Nothing has changed. The end of all things is at hand. The Judgment Seat of Christ is in session. The wheat and the tares, the righteous and the wicked, are being brought to maturity as part of the work of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:12,13)
What, then, is the significance of our fiery testings and tribulations? The fourth chapter of I Peter points out three areas of significance:
- They motivate us to cease from our sinning.
- They are a judging, a disciplining of us so we will not be condemned with the world.
- They are a part of Christ’s sufferings, which we are to share.
Are these three areas parts of one whole? Yes, they are. They are three aspects of the one method of redemption God is employing to save us. We are being redeemed, being saved from the bondage of wickedness, by judgment.
Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. (Isaiah 1:27)
So great is the wickedness of man that even those of righteous character are saved with difficulty, requiring prolonged periods of tribulation for the perfecting of their spirits in the sight of God.
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just [righteous] men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)
To those who may claim we are changing the character of the Christian salvation from one of salvation by grace through faith to one of salvation by suffering, our answer is: read what Peter said and decide for yourselves. It does not matter what our traditions state or what we think must or should be true. It matters only what the Scriptures state.
The doctrine of the redemption of God’s elect by judgment may go against our traditions and ideas but it is found throughout the Scriptures.
Which is [persecutions and tribulations] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:5)
It is being taught today that Christ suffered for us so we never shall be required to suffer. However, the Scripture teaches we are to enter the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. We are to enter His death on the cross and be changed into that death in our daily living.
The teaching that Christians are not to suffer comes from the heart and mouth of Antichrist. Satan knows it is only through suffering that Christ can be formed in us. Satan prefers we Christians save our life—even our life of religious activities. The one thing Satan fears is that we Christians will die to our own life and Christ will come forth in us and destroy Satan’s kingdom in the earth (Mark 8:31-33).
Let us examine the purpose for our fiery trials.
Every human being is born guilty of sin. We are born dead. We bear the guilt of Adam’s sin. In addition we possess a human nature that is rebellious against its Creator. The human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
Every human being at some point in his existence must stand before the Judgment Seat (beema) of Christ.
The term beema is employed twelve times in the New Testament. A beema, according to New Testament usage, is an elevated throne where people accused of crimes are brought for judgment. Pilate judged Christ at a beema. Paul stood before the beema of Festus and requested that he be brought before the beema of Caesar.
No individual is brought before a beema unless he is accused of a crime.
Every human being will be made manifest at the beema of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ was brought before the beema of Pilate; but one day Pilate will be revealed before the beema of Christ. How will Pilate feel when he stands before Jesus? What will he say? What will the judges of this world say when they stand before the saints whom they found guilty of the crime of being a Christian and then assigned to imprisonment, torture, and death?
Where does the atonement made by Christ fit into this picture? If Christ made an atonement, a reconciliation for us, why is it necessary for us to be saved by fiery judgment?
If any human being will choose to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, the Lord will extend to him forgiveness—forgiveness made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus. The full penalty for sin fell on Jesus, the Lamb of God. Jesus had not sinned. Therefore, according to God’s righteousness, Jesus can declare to be guiltless whomever He will.
If a person will repent of his sin, place his faith and hope in Christ, and be baptized in water as Christ has commanded, Christ will declare him to be righteous in God’s sight.
The substitutionary death of Christ has made us acceptable to God. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is the Lord, the chosen One of God. We must believe in our heart that Jesus has been raised and is alive eternally—positive proof that whoever believes in Him is righteous in the sight of God.
After having received Christ as our Lord and Savior, our personality is divided into two parts. Our old personality, our original soulish nature and physical body, remains on the earth. Our new born-again spiritual nature is raised in the Spirit and is hidden with Christ in God.
We by faith, in obedience to the written Word of God, are to assign our entire first personality (the good and the bad of it—all that was born of our human parents) to the cross of Christ. Our new life in Christ has been raised with Christ to the right hand of God.
We attain the first resurrection from among the dead by allowing the Spirit of God to press our earthly personality into the death of the cross. We learn to cultivate and nourish, and to live in, our new resurrection life in the Spirit of God. We are to look always to the Lord Jesus for guidance and consolation.
God does not just hand eternal life to us. Rather, God makes it possible for us to enter life. The atonement, the reconciliation, is not only a legal state we accept by faith. The atonement is an opportunity for us to bring down to death the enemy of God in us, and to enter eternal life by receiving Christ who Himself Is the Resurrection and the Life.
Meanwhile, the blood serves as the propitiation (appeasement of God’s wrath) for all of our sins—past, present, and future. The atonement is one whole. We cannot avail ourselves of the propitiation and then refuse to enter Christ’s death and resurrection. Yet that is the impression being left by current teaching. It is as though we could receive the forgiveness of sins apart from a sharing in the Life and sufferings of Christ, apart from experiencing Divine judgment on our personality.
We experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Death, and life! Death, and life! Death, and life! If we choose to save our soulish, fleshly life, our first personality, we will die spiritually. If we choose to walk in the Spirit we will attain eternal life.
The cross is the place of Divine judgment. When we assign our fleshly nature to the cross we are handing it over to Divine judgment.
Our soulish personality, our “old man,” hates and rejects the life of the Spirit. Therefore God subjects our old nature to the fiery trials of the cross of Christ. God casts down our whole first personality, the evil and the good of it, until we can say in truth, “I am crucified with Christ.”
This is how the sufferings of the cross of Christ, which are the sufferings that proceed from the righteous judgment of God, save us from sin. It is necessary for Christians to suffer. We must suffer because we possess a human nature that is sinful, deceitful, and rebellious. The sufferings of the cross that we share in Christ slay our sinful nature. They purify our soul and spirit and teach us obedience to God.
We are exhorted to believe to the saving of our soul. We are required to endure to the end of our appointed tribulations and imprisonments.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
When we die, our soul passes into the spirit realm and appears before the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have walked on this earth in humility, obeying the Lord throughout the fiery testings that have been our portion, we are ready to walk with Him in white.
If we have not walked in stern obedience to the Father but have resisted the crosses and prisons He has sent for our perfecting, we will be disciplined at that time—perhaps being cast away from His Presence and assigned to the flames of Hades, or to outer darkness.
Some may ask, might not God decide to accept us anyway, even though we have walked in disobedience?
Only Christ will decide on whom He will show mercy. Jesus has warned us clearly that he who disobeys God’s will shall receive lashes (Luke 12:47).
Our disobedience and self-love will have left their marks on our soul. Would we be happy in the Kingdom of God, living with people who love the Lord and who obeyed Him while on the earth to the point of martyrdom? Would we not be ashamed and miserable? We have not enjoyed the company of such while on the earth, why would we desire to be with them around the Throne of God?
Throughout history the people of God have suffered. They have been as sheep for the slaughter. Their tribulations are an evidence of the righteous judgment of God. The saints of God suffer so they may be deemed worthy of the righteous Kingdom that is coming from Heaven (II Thessalonians 1:5).
The sufferings of the cross strike down our human personality causing the new creation of God to be brought forth in us. Apart from such sufferings we cannot be made new creatures in Christ.
If we suffer the judgments of the cross we will rule with Christ.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17).
The beema (judgment seat) of Christ was instituted in the first century, according to the Apostle Peter. All human beings have been accused of sin because of Adam and therefore each must appear before the judgment seat.
God has devised a plan for the salvation of His elect and of all who will accept His provision. God has sent Christ as a sin-bearer so that whoever places his trust in Him may be saved.
God’s plan includes the forgiveness of sins that are past, through the atoning blood of the sin-bearer, and also Divine grace by which the believer, while he is continuing to be forgiven by the authority of the atoning blood, may work out his salvation. The believer works out his salvation by confessing his sins, as the Holy Spirit brings them before him, and then, through the Spirit’s help, by ceasing to practice them.
Thus the believer is revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ. He names his sins and asks the Lord to forgive him (I John 1:7-9). Then, by the Lord’s help, he overcomes them.
This procedure is an eternal judgment of sin. When a Christian confesses his sin to God, God is faithful and righteous to forgive that sin and to cleanse the Christian from all unrighteousness.
If the saint, through God’s help, ceases to practice the sin he has confessed, he then is freed from it—delivered from its guilt and power by the grace of God. He never will have to answer for the sin again. It has been revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ and has been forgiven. Since, by God’s grace, he no longer is practicing it, it never will be mentioned to him again.
But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. (Ezekiel 18:21,22)
In this manner a believer may walk in confession and subsequent victory until he has been cleansed. He can complete, while on this earth, his court appearance concerning sin, or come close to completing it. All that remains in the way of judgment is for the Lord to evaluate the decisions he has made as a believer—his faithfulness in serving the Lord. He will be rewarded according to his faithfulness and diligence and the fruit he has borne.
The Christian who is not walking in the light of God’s Presence, who is not confessing and gaining victory over his sins and self-love, who is disobeying God’s will, who is neglecting his salvation (as is true of many Christians of our day), is facing a terrifying scene—either in this world, if God is merciful, or else when he dies and stands before the Lord Jesus Christ in Person.
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26,27)
The writer of the above passage is addressing lukewarm Christians.
The Judgment Seat of Christ has commenced with the judgment of the house of God. The nearer we are to God the stricter and more immediate is our judgment. Jerusalem always receives double for her sins (Isaiah 40:2). After the accounts of the righteous have been settled, Christ will turn His attention to the disobedient.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved [is saved with difficulty], where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (I Peter 4:18)
It requires the body and blood of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Word of God, much prayer, the fellowship of fervent saints, and prolonged fiery trials in order to save those of godly character. What will it be like when the ungodly and the sinners appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ?
The New Testament writings exhort us to live in the fear (not “reverence,” as the modern translators would have it) of God. The holy fear of the Lord is a wise, wholesome attitude for each of us to maintain. The true saints fear and love the Lord Jesus and serve Him from both motivations.
We work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because of the countless snares and temptations that confront us each day. To overcome our fleshly lusts, our miserable self-centeredness, the world, Satan, Antichrist, and lukewarm believers, is no minor undertaking. We can overcome sin but we do so with the greatest difficulty. However, the rewards for conquering sin are great.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is in session. The first to be tried are God’s saints. When we suffer let us hold steady in the Lord, knowing that when we are tested we, through Christ’s own grace and Virtue, shall come forth as refined gold. Then we shall have no fear. Then we shall have perfect love.
Then we shall have boldness in the Day of Judgment.
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:3,4)
(“The Judgment Seat of Christ Is in Session”, 3435-1)