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Section 9B .. The Future

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What And Where is “Heaven”?...
Part VII... The Judgment Seat of Christ and Rewards in Heaven

Unfortunately many Christians, have come to the conclusion that since all our sins have been forgiven, our works cannot possibly be considered at the judgment Seat of Christ. Not true!

Carol Brooks
 

Index To All Six Sections

Part I ...   "Heaven" v. The Promised Kingdom of God

 Part II ... The Location and Nature of Heaven... The Promises and The Prophecies

Part III ... Jesus' Second Coming and The Resurrection of The Body

Part IV ... What The Bible Says About The Resurrected Body

Part V ... A New Heaven and A New Earth

Part VI ... No More Sea?

You Are Here 001orange Part VI ... The Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ, and Rewards in Heaven
 

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For we must all appear before the judgment seat (Gk. bema) of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB)


What Is A Bema Seat?
The Greek word bema means a raised platform accessed by steps. It was used in Athens as a tribunal from which orators addressed the public or argued in a court of law. The bema subsequently became a standard fixture in Jewish synagogues from which a selection from the Torah was read. This ceremonial use of the bema found its way into early Christian church architecture and was originally used as a raised platform with a lectern and seats for the clergy from which lessons from the Scriptures were read and the sermon was delivered. Over time the bema developed into the chancel and pulpit.

However, in the Scriptures the bema was usually but not exclusively used for a raised seat for a judge acting in a official capacity,

    In Matthew 27:19 Pilate sat on the bema seat, from where he decided the fate of Jesus and Barabbas.

    In Acts 12:21-23, Herod arrayed himself in royal apparel, sat on the throne, and made a speech to the people from the bema, but since he did not give God the glory, an angel of the Lord struck him down.

    In Acts 18:12-13, the proconsul Gallio heard charges of wrong against Paul while seated upon the bema (v. 12).

    In Acts 25 when the high priest and the chief of the Jews brought charges against Paul, he was brought before Festus, who had taken his place on the bema, translated "tribunal" in the NASB (See verses 6, 10, and 17)


The Purpose of Christ's Bema Seat - Salvation or Rewards?
Many Christians believe that since all our sins have been forgiven, our works cannot possibly be considered at the judgment Seat of Christ.  Quoting passages that speak against "works" they balk at the idea that believers can earn rewards on earth which they will receive in the life to come. Therefore, it is probably wise to make it clear from the outset that salvation and rewards are two totally different things.

    The Bible clearly teaches that good works will not get us into heaven and that salvation (forgiveness of sin and entrance into eternal life) are based on what Jesus did for us. (See Salvation)

    Romans 5:1 says "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"

    Romans 8:1 clearly states "... there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"

    John 5:24 has Jesus telling us that  "...he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

    John 6:40 assure believers that "the will of the Father" is that "everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life", and Jesus Himself "will raise him up on the last day."

    John 14:21 stresses keeping Jesus' commands - "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (NASB)

The above texts assure us that our faith in and obedience to Christ determines salvation. However, there are other passages that should give us pause for thought... a very long pause. For example the following statement was addressed to believers.

    But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat (Gk. bema) of God. (Romans 14:10 NASB)

Some have argued that since the word bema was used in Greek literature as a seat for the judge watching the contestants in the Grecian athletic games, it implies honor and reward rather than justice or judgment. Thus, they conclude that Christ will use the bema seat to reward and honor the victorious runners in the Christian race.

Although Paul made several passing references to the crown or wreath awarded the winner of the very popular Greek races and games (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 and 2 Timothy 2:5) the word bema was never used in connection with the winners of athletic contests. Much to the contrary, a careful reading of 2 Corinthians 5:10 shows that at the bema seat deeds will be recompensed "whether good or bad".

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat (Gk. bema) of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB)

This is obviously not a rewards ceremony, but a time when believers must give an account of their lives to Christ. All of which brings up two questions -  when this will happen and who and what will be judged. 


1.) When Will This Happen?
Luke 14:12-14 says good deeds will be rewarded at the resurrection of the Righteous

    And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:12-14 NASB)

See Chapter 3 - Jesus' Second Coming and The Resurrection of The Body 


2.) Who and What Will Be Judged?
The purpose of the bema judgment is to reward believers based on how faithfully they served Him. Every man will receive a reward appropriate to their actions in this life. Some will be rewarded, others will be saved but only by the "skin of their teeth". As said by J. Hampton Keathley III... (emphasis added)

    "... though it is tremendously serious with eternal ramifications, the judgment seat of Christ is not a place and time when the Lord will mete out punishment for sins committed by the child of God. Rather, it is a place where rewards will be given or lost depending on how one has used his or her life for the Lord.... While salvation is a gift, there are rewards given for faithfulness in the Christian life and loss of rewards for unfaithfulness. [01]

The Leadership
Although the following verses are often misused as a proof-text for various beliefs (See Footnote) there is no question that when taken in context the following verses are aimed squarely at the church leadership. (See Context is CRUCIAL)

    For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NASB)

Paul used three analogies to make his point. "In verses 5-9, he speaks of the church as a farm, and the apostles as farm workers. In verses 10-15, he speaks of the church as a building under construction with himself as the "master builder" who has laid the foundation. Others now work to complete the building on his foundation. He speaks of the standard for building and the rewards for those who build well. Finally, in verses 16 and 17, Paul speaks of the church as a temple, the dwelling place of God, and the severe consequences for defiling it". [02]

What should be noted is that the fire does not purify the worker but tests their work and, although it is bound to have some relevance, it isn't the amount of work that is going to be evaluated, but the quality. Leonard Ravenhill, close friend of A. W. Tozer and no less outspoken, said it well. The following is an excerpt from his article The Judgment Seat of Christ... (Emphasis added)

    Will our life's work stand the test of the fire when we come before the Lord? Will it have lasting eternal value - or will it end up in ashes? There's an interesting difference between wood, hay, straw - and gold, silver, and costly stones. Wood, hay, and stubble are found above the ground. They catch the eye, just like many people's ministries do. They are quite plentiful and easy to find. On the other hand, silver, gold, and precious stones are found below the ground. Nobody sees them ... They are much harder to come by; in fact,... That's why they are so expensive. They are of much higher quality than many other things, and much more rare too.

In his study guide on 1 Corinthians 3 David Guzik writes,

    God will test the building work of all His fellow workers, each one's work will become manifest. So some build with precious things like gold, silver, precious stones; others build with unworthy materials like wood, hay, and straw... The fire will test each one's work: When our work is tested by God, it will be revealed what kind of work it was. Just as fire will destroy wood, hay, and straw, but not gold, silver, and precious stones, so the work of some will be revealed as nothing on that Day...

    It is a sobering thought: many, many people who believe they are serving God, but are doing it in an unworthy manner or with unworthy "materials" will come to find in eternity that they have, in reality, done nothing for the Lord. Some will be saved, but with a life that was wasted, and receive no crown to give to Jesus, for His glory (as in Revelation 4:10-11). He himself will be saved, yet so as through the fire: Saved, but barely saved, and saved with everything gone. [03]

The Laity
Although the leaders and teachers were the primary subject of the discourse (read chapter 4 for context) 2 Corinthians 5:10 clearly states that at the bema seat everyone's deeds "whether good or bad" will be recompensed. When all believers must give an account of their lives to Christ.

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat (Gk. bema) of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB)

It is a tragic fact that there are believers who take Corinthians 3:15 to mean that they can have their cake and eat it too i.e. they can lead careless, self-indulgent lives and still get to heaven. However, Paul's next words should disabuse them of the idea that although they might lose a reward or two they will at least be there. ...

    Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NASB)

Because God dwells there, the temple is holy, and it must remain holy.

This brings up the question of what the Bible means when it speaks of "rewards".


Rewards
The Greeks word mis-thos' means pay for service. Although we tend to think of "rewards" as being something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior the Bible also uses the word as retribution for evil acts. Speaking of people who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority, Peter wrote that they were

    cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages (Gk. misthos) of unrighteousness; (2 Peter 2:13-15)

In other words, the wicked are also 'rewarded'. However, we are here concerned only with the rewards for good deeds. It is the consistent teaching of the New Testament that God promises to reward believers for their good works. This is explicitly mentioned in several verses...

    For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27 NASB)

    So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward (Gk. misthos) according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:7-8 NASB)

    Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward (Gk. misthos) is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12 NASB)

and implied in many more... For example,

    Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NASB)

    knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. (Ephesians 6:8 NASB)

    Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward (Gk. misthos)". (2 John 1:8 NASB).

Note: In the verse immediately above, John told his readers to watch themselves so that they may receive a "full reward", which implies that there is something less than a "full reward".


Do Matthew 16:27 and Matthew 20:1-16 Contradict Each Other?
Matthew 16:27 that says "... the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds" tells us that God's rewards are "according to what we have done", but Matthew 20:1-16, makes the point that all the laborers received the same wages or 'reward'?

This is not a contradiction. Matthew 20:1-16 is a parable about workers who were found and hired at different times of the day

When evening came the last group hired were paid one denarius by the foreman. When those hired first came to be paid, they thought that they would receive more money, but each of them also received a single denarius. The parable goes on to tell us that they grumbled at the landowner because they had worked through the scorching heat of the day, but had been paid no more than those who had worked a much shorter time. To which the landowner response to one of them was...

    "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' "So the last shall be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:13-16 NASB)

This parable is clearly about salvation, not degrees of rewards. The emphasis is on the length of time of each man's workday, not on the quality of each man's work, of which we are told nothing. Whether anyone comes to Christ in the tenth year of their lives or on their death beds they all have equal access to Heaven. This may seem a little unfair to those who may have worked for the Lord for many years or even for the best part of their lives however, saving people is what the Gospel is all about. We have to find it within ourselves to rejoice when anyone is forgiven their sins and gains eternal life, even if they did so at the last possible minute.

On the other hand, common sense (and the Bible) tells there has to be a difference between the murderer who repents on death row and the person who has spent their whole lives working for the Gospel. Both will certainly make it to heaven, but once there, what they accomplished on earth count for something through eternity.


The Nature of The Rewards
That God will reward us for good works is certain, but the Bible says very little about what we will receive. Matthew 10:41 talks about a prophet's reward, a righteous man's reward etc.

    "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:41-42 NASB)

Some think that having a larger reward will translate into something like having a larger house in heaven. However, since the Bible says no such thing, it may well be assuming too much. What the Bible does say is that God's rewards seem to include some form of responsibility, with which we will be entrusted. In Jesus' parable of the talents, He spoke of rewarding those who had been faithful by putting them "in charge of many things" in His kingdom

    "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' "Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (Matthew 25:21-23 NASB)

This echoes the parable in Luke 19 in which the Lord rewards the servant who was a faithful steward of his money with authority over ten cities. Another was rewarded with authority over five cities. Revelation 2:26-28 says something similar

    'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. (NASB)


Isn't it Presumptuous to Expect Rewards From God?
If we think we are righteous enough to deserve divine rewards, are in some way entitled to them, or think God owes us, then yes, we are being presumptuous. However, if we understand rewards just as the Bible depicts them, ie. an additional benefit to an already priceless gift, then we are certainly not being presumptuous.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting God to keep His promises, and all believers should do their utmost to merit God's approval. However, the motivation behind our good works should not be how many jewels we can accumulate in our crowns, but what we can do to extend the love of God to our fellow man. How much compassion we have for those that are lost and/or suffering.

 What we all too often forget, is that Christians are supposed to do good works. Right after assuring us that salvation is not by works in Ephesians 2, Paul says this,

    "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".

Yet there are Christians who do little or nothing towards spreading the Gospel, or helping their fellow believers. A selfish motive behind our works will probably not gain us very much at all... since the God who sees all, also reads our hearts.


Losing Rewards
There are verses that make it very obvious that it is possible to lose our rewards, or for someone to take our crown

    Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward. (2 John 8),

    I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown. (Revelation 3:11)

What we need to remember is that when one, or more, people are rewarded for something, those who are not will feel the loss of rewards every keenly. Some may even feel shame at His coming. as John warned in his letter to believers...

    Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. (1 John 2:28 NASB)

Paul told Timothy to... "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth". (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB)  


Redeeming The Time
Ephesians 5:15-17 warns us to make to most of our time. (The KJV translates it as "redeeming the time").

    Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 NASB)

Peter did not mince any wards about how we should live

    If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; (1 Peter 1:17 NASB)

Jesus told the disciples the parable of the ten servants as they were approaching Jerusalem and His final hours on earth. The expectations of the disciples was at an all time high as they supposed the kingdom of God was imminent. In this context the parable not only makes a great deal of sense but should serve as a serious warning to us all.

    A nobleman who was preparing to depart for a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself gave his ten servants one mina each (50 shekels) to trade with. On returning from his travels, the master asked his servants for an account of the money given them.

    We are only told what three of the servants did. The first doubled the nobleman's money making ten minas. He was rewarded with a 'well done' and given authority over ten cities. The second made five minas and was given authority over five cities. The third who is the central figure of the story (not its hero) had hidden his mina in a napkin for safekeeping which he returned to his master. The nobleman was extremely displeased and the servant was then 'rewarded' with loss of even the one mina he was originally given which was given to to the servant with ten minas.

    Jesus summed up the parable by saying I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away". (Luke 19:12-26 NASB)

 Although the disciples expected the kingdom to be established almost immediately the parable should have told them that there would be a delay. The time it took for the master to return was an opportunity for his servants to prove themselves and show how wisely (or not) they used the money that had been entrusted to them. The delay in the coming of God's kingdom enables gives His servants the opportunity to prove themselves. Those who have used the time wisely will be rewarded and given greater authority in the kingdom.

 So the question is...

What are you living for? Is entertaining yourself with hobbies and such something that you do on the side, just occasionally? Or is your relationship with God something that you do on the side, just occasionally? There's a dark, decaying world around us, going to Hell. Are you salt and light?

After you die, what will you be remembered for? How many sports statistics you had memorized? How many jokes you knew and how easily you could get people to laugh? How many beers you could drink in a sitting? How well you managed your company or served tables at a restaurant? How much you were loved just because you were born into a particular family, even though you never did much else other than being born? Read Don’t Waste Your Life

The prophet Daniel was told:

"those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" - Daniel 12:3

    How brightly will you shine? Will you in this late hour cause your life to have worth, or will you slink away into the shadows and squander it?

    Either way, you will be counted.

    Either way you will receive the rewards (or just dues) at the Bema seat of Christ.

     

    Also See The Myth of Faith Alone
    Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins, and thus inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross. What one never, or very rarely, hears is that anything other than faith is required to be saved. In fact the suggestion that anything other than faith is required for salvation, is not only militantly opposed by most of Christendom, but denounced as an unbiblical, works based, false teaching. But is this true? While it is certainly a fact that the Bible teaches that faith is an essential ingredient, without which it is impossible to please God, it never ever teaches that faith is the only requirement for salvation. In fact the Scriptures point to a number of things by which a person is saved.


    Footnote
    1 Corinthians 3:5-17 says

      What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. (6)  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  (7) So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (8)  Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  (9) For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.  (10)  According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. (11) For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. (14) If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (15) If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (16) Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (17) If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:5-17 NASB)

    As said by Bob Deffinbaugh

      Our text is one we must carefully study (as with all Scripture), for it is misused as a proof-text by many:

      Here is another paragraph that has suffered much in the church (cf. 2:6-16; 3:1-4): from those who would decontextualize it in terms of individualistic popular piety (i.e., how I build my own Christian life on Christ), to certain Protestants who have used it as grist for the Calvinist-Arminian debate over the security of the believer, to those in the Roman Catholic tradition who have found in it the single piece of NT evidence for the doctrine of purgatory. Paul addresses none of these issues, not even indirectly. His concern is singular, that those currently leading the church take heed because their present work will not stand the fiery test to come, having shifted from the imperishable 'stuff' of Jesus Christ and him crucified.44

      Let us listen well, for we are all builders. Paul's words offer great encouragement to us to be good builders, as well as a reminder that our building must be on the foundation laid by the apostles, and according to the standards Paul has set down. The quality of our work will be revealed at the coming of our Lord. The rewards are great, but so are the consequences for living in such a way as to defile the dwelling place of God. [04]


    End Notes

    [01] J. Hampton Keathley III, The Doctrine of Rewards: The Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christ.
    https://bible.org/article/doctrine-rewards-judgment-seat-bema-christ

    [02] [Bob Deffinbaugh. A Different Look at Leadership (1 Corinthians 3:5-17)
     https://bible.org/seriespage/different-look-leadership-1-cor-35-17]

    [03] David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 Corinthians 3. Carnal Christians And Godly Ministers.
    https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-1Cr/1Cr-3.cfm

    [04] [Bob Deffinbaugh. A Different Look at Leadership (1 Corinthians 3:5-17)
    https://bible.org/seriespage/different-look-leadership-1-cor-35-17]

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