THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST (EXCERPT OF IT IS TIME FOR A REFORMATION OF CHRISTIAN THINKING)
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking
Copyright © 1991 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Of the many errors in current Christian theology, one of the gravest, the most displeasing to the Lord, may be the doctrine that no Christian will be punished at the Judgment Seat of Christ. How upsetting and frustrating it must be to God to see His Word being mutilated in this manner! How grievous an error it is that leaves multitudes of believers unprepared for what they will be facing in the Day of the Lord!
Because of this error concerning the Judgment Seat, the fear of the Lord has been removed from the believers. The truth is, appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ will prove to be a terrifying experience for all except those believers who are totally consecrated and obedient to God (and a sobering experience even for them although they have gained some degree of boldness).
The Spirit of God intends that the terror of the Judgment Seat be one of the motivations that cause the believers to serve Christ with diligence.
For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] 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. (II Corinthians 5:10)
Of the many errors in current Christian theology, the gravest, the most displeasing to the Lord, well may be the doctrine that no Christian will be punished at the Judgment Seat of Christ. How upsetting and frustrating it must be to God to see His Word being mutilated in this manner! How grievous an error it is that leaves multitudes of believers unprepared for what they will be facing in the Day of the Lord!
After the Apostle Paul spoke of the Judgment Seat of Christ he said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
Men, including the Apostle Paul, are to be persuaded by the “terror of the Lord.”
But the fear of God has been removed from Christ’s churches. The fear of the Judgment Seat has gone and in its place has been installed the false assurance that no matter how we neglect or abuse the things of Christ we shall be given a crown of glory (“by grace”) at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We have nothing to fear.
Appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ will prove to be a terrifying experience for all except those believers who are consecrated and obedient to God (and a sobering experience even for them although they have gained some degree of boldness).
The Spirit of God intends that the terror of the Judgment Seat be one of the motivations that cause the believers to serve Christ with diligence. The altering of the doctrine to mean Christians will receive only blessing at the Judgment Seat of Christ is a serious perversion of Divine truth.
The current doctrine invites an unfounded assurance that our present-day self-centeredness, spiritual laziness, and neglect of our great salvation will not result in any pain on our part; our lack of obedience to the Word of Christ will not receive its due consequences; we will not reap what we are sowing.
Of the many misunderstandings that attend the “lawless grace” and “rapture” doctrines of our day, the idea that the Judgment Seat of Christ will be similar to a sports award banquet may be the most deadly as far as the destiny of the believer is concerned.
It is taught by some that the term beema, the Greek word for judgment seat, is used in the New Testament to indicate a platform of some sort where contestants in a contest receive their laurels.
To the contrary, the term beema, which is used twelve times in the New Testament according to our concordance, never refers to a place where trophies are awarded. A Beema was an elevated seat where a person accused of a crime was brought for judgment.
Can you imagine the chagrin, remorse, and terror of the modern Christian teachers and preachers when they stand with their followers before Him whose eyes are as furnaces of fire, and all their thoughts, words, and deeds are brought before them and measured against the written Word of God? Surely there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!
The careless believers have only themselves to blame. The Scriptures are clear concerning the Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. Each human being, including each Christian, will pass before the white throne of Christ and be judged according to his or her works. The Father has given the authority and power of judgment to Christ (John 5:22,28,29; Acts 10:42; Revelation 20:12,13).
Where, then, does grace fit in? First of all, Divine grace is not an excuse for the sins of Christians. All mankind will be judged, will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. All of us will be judged according to our works. The Scriptures are clear on this point.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Revelation 22:12)
“I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
There is one statement the risen Lord Jesus Christ makes to each of His seven churches: “I know your works”!
Consider carefully the Lord’s declaration concerning the resurrection of the dead:
“and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:29)
“Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life”! Have done good to the resurrection of life!
There is a relationship between good works and eternal life (Matthew 25:46; Romans 6:22).
It is not the purpose of Divine grace to provide an alternative to godly living. If the purpose of Divine grace were to provide a permanent alternative to godly living, the new covenant would be inferior to every past dealing of God with man.
God’s goal is sons who are in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, who walk in righteousness and holiness before Him and perform His will sternly and diligently.
The purpose of Divine grace is not to bring sinning, self-willed people into Paradise, thus making Paradise a branch of Hell. Rather, Divine grace forgives our sins so we can approach God and receive the power and wisdom from Heaven that will enable us to live righteously.
Apart from such repentance and transformation into righteousness there is no redemption. We have received the grace of God in vain. The purpose of Divine grace is to bring many sons to glory, to righteousness, holiness, obedience, and everlasting power and glory, and to untroubled fellowship with the Father.
How terribly distorted is the doctrine that teaches we are given God’s grace in Christ so no matter how we live, God will receive us to everlasting joy when we die! A multitude of Christian believers are living in sin because of this doctrine.
In actuality, we are saved so we may show in our personalities the works of righteousness that are the light of the world.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Apart from such good works the grace of God becomes an excuse for wickedness.
The issue of the new covenant is not that of going to Paradise when we die. The issue is eternal life—life lived in the Presence and Person of God. It is the righteous who inherit eternal life, who inherit the Kingdom of God. The New Testament writings stress this fact (Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Romans 2:7).
When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, believing in Him for salvation, He gives us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit immediately begins to guide us in paths of righteousness. It is not true that salvation is an amnesty that forgives us whether or not we abide in Christ; whether or not we walk in the Spirit.
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
When we serve God we bear the fruit of holiness. The end of holiness is eternal life. The wages of sin is death whether or not we believe in Christ.
eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; (Romans 2:7)
According to the Word of God (above), eternal life is the result of “patient continuance in well doing.”
It is impossible for any human being by “well doing” to save himself from sin. The guilt of Adam’s sin passed on to him plus the guilt of his own sins prevent this. Also, no human being can serve God in his own strength. But Christians do save themselves by well doing through means of Christ’s grace. This is possible because God forgives their sins and the Holy Spirit teaches them to shun wickedness and practice righteousness, in accordance with the written Word of God.
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (I Timothy 4:16)
There is a forgiving grace and then there is a transforming grace. Both are essential to our redemption. True saints of God are not just forgiven, they are new creations.
We are free to leave the works of the Law of Moses and be “married” to Christ. When we confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ, believing that God has raised Him from the dead, God gives us His righteousness.
The error that has destroyed the churches of Christ is that God no longer judges our behavior. While such a perversion of truth can be gleaned from the reaction of the Protestant Reformers against religious works, coupled with a few passages of Scripture, the bulk of the exhortations of Scripture, Old Testament and New, inform us that neither God nor His Christ have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness—Christian or otherwise.
No individual pleases God except the one who fears God and walks in righteousness.
“But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:35)
God gives us His righteousness when we confess Jesus and believe in His resurrection. But such confession and belief must be coupled with the most sincere repentance and followed with a life of sanctification and service.
If the confession of Jesus and belief in His resurrection are not coupled with repentance and followed with holiness and service, no salvation has taken place.
To be saved is to be delivered from Satan, our enemy. The person who does not pursue holiness and service is not being saved from Satan. He is not pleasing God. He is calling Jesus, Lord but not doing what Jesus commands. He is building his house on the sand. He shall fall in the day of judgment.
To maintain that Divine grace is no more than an eternal amnesty for immoral, rebellious people, that faith is mental assent to theological facts, that to be saved is merely to go to Paradise when we die, that the behavior of Christians is not judged, that once an individual has confessed the lordship of Jesus and has recognized that God indeed has raised Jesus from the dead God will reward him with Paradise regardless of his behavior, is to be in line with current doctrine.
It is also to misunderstand the doctrine of the Apostle Paul. It is to miss entirely the purpose of the new covenant, which is to produce righteous, God-fearing people.
Let us look once again at II Corinthians 5:10 and see if the Scriptures state that all believers will receive the full inheritance at the Judgment Seat of Christ:
For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] 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.
Is it clear that the above verse is stating that every Christian will receive the crown of glory? Is this how it appears to you?
“We all” includes each of us. The term “appear” does not mean stand. It is not that we all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Rather it is that we all must be made manifest in the sight of God and Christ as to our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Keep in mind that the Greek term (beema) translated judgment seat is used in the New Testament for an elevated throne where those accused of crimes are brought for judgment. Pilate sat upon a ’beema (judgment seat) when Jesus was brought before him for judgment. The outcome of that beema was crucifixion, not a laurel wreath.
It is the “things done in his body” that are at issue. It is according to the actions of the body that we are judged, and it is in the body that we shall be rewarded or punished. The physical body is an important part of our redemption and our destiny. How we behave in the body is of the utmost significance.
If the current Christian understanding were correct, the final part of the verse would read, “so he may be rewarded for the works he has accomplished for Christ.”
Thus the passage would read:
“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, so that he may be rewarded for the works which he has accomplished for Christ.”
The next verse would state:
“But he who has done nothing for Christ, or who has spent his days in fornication and drunkenness, has no need to fear; because all who believe in Jesus shall enter with exceeding great joy into the Presence of Christ.”
This is how the passage is being interpreted by many Christian teachers and preachers of today. They have added to and taken away from God’s Word without regard for the consequences to their hearers or to themselves.
The teachers and preachers claim they are giving “assurance” to some who have trouble placing their trust in Christ. The truth is, they are giving an assurance that is unfounded. It would be better to tell of the severity of God and then teach the believers how to stand in Christ.
The final part of II Corinthians 5:10 provides little comfort for the careless believer:
“according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Again, works are the issue.
Each of us shall receive the good he has practiced in his body.
Each of us shall receive the evil he has practiced in his body.
Every Christian shall receive the good he has practiced in his body.
Every Christian shall receive the evil he has practiced in his body.
But Satan whispers, “You shall not surely die!”
The next verse does not teach us that no Christian need have any fear of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Instead, it commences: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;….” The term “terror” is currently being translated reverence. There is a very great difference between terror and reverence.
Well, which is it? One cannot speak with authority from the Greek term, for it could be translated terror or reverence—or so it is claimed. We must search out what the Lord Jesus and His apostles said concerning the believer who has practiced evil in his body. Using the passage concerning the man who buried his talent being forced into outer darkness, as one example of many such warnings, we conclude that the word “terror” is a much more accurate translation than “reverence.”
Our conclusion is that in order for the fear of God to be returned to the churches, with an accompanying repentance and return to righteous, holy behavior, we must understand we all shall be revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ that we may receive the good and the evil we have practiced in the world. Other passages inform us that if we already have repented of the evil and, with Christ’s help have turned away from us, it will not be mentioned to us at the Judgment Seat.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
(“The Judgment Seat of Christ”, 3607-1)