The Judgment Seat of Christ - Blood on Your Hands, Tears in Heaven, Chapter One

Edited by Tom Waters

Until otherwise noted, all following this paragraph will be quoted from, Things to Come, by J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids Michigan 49506. This book is a "must" in the home of every student of the Scriptures. If provides detailed commentary on Biblical Prophecy concerning the Rapture, Tribulation, and Millennium. Following the quoted material cited above, additional Scriptures and comments by STIR STICK MINISTRIES will be printed to demonstrate why it is in error to preach or teach that Christians will have blood on their hands and have tears in their eyes at the the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne Judgment. All Christians are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, therefore, "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him," Rom 5:9. To be JUSTIFIED means to be made as if you had never sinned.

Quoting from Things to Come, pages 219-226:

The Judgment Seat of Christ:

In 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Romans 14:10, although in the latter passage the corrected reading is "judgment seat of God," it is stated that believers are to be brought into an examination before the Son of God. This event is explained in more detail in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15. A matter of such seriousness demands careful attention.

  1. The meaning of judgment seat. There are two different words translated "judgment seat" in the New Testament. The first is the word criterion as used in James 2:6; 1 Corinthians 6:2, 4. This word, according to Thayer, means "the instrument or means of trying or judging anything; the rule by which one judges" or "the place where judgment is given; the tribunal of a judge; a bench of judges." Hence the word would refer to the standard or criterion by which judgment is meted out or the place where such judgment is meted. The second word is the word "bema", about which Thayer says:

    "... a raised place mounted by steps; a platform, tribune; used of the official seat of a judge, Acts 18:12, 16 ... of the judgment seat of Christ, Romans 14:10 ... of the structure, resembling a throne, which Herod built in the theatre at Caesarea, and from which he used to view the games and make speeches to the people ..."

    Concerning its meaning and usage Plummer writes:

    "The ... (bema) is the tribunal, whether in a basilica for the praetor in a court of justice, or in a camp for the commander to administer disciple and address the troops. In either case the tribunal was a platform on which the seat (sella) of the presiding officer was placed. In the LXX [Septuagint] ... (bema) commonly means a platform or scaffold rather than a seat. (Nehemiah 8: 4 ...) In the New Testament it seems generally to mean the seat platform on which the seat was placed. On the Areopagus the ... (bema) was a stone of comparing the Christian life to warfare, he is not likely to be thinking of a military tribunal here."

    According to Sale-Harrison:

    "In Grecian games in Athens, the old arena contained a raised platform on which the president or umpire of the arena sat. From here he rewarded all the contestants; and here he rewarded all winners. It was called the "bema" or 'reward seat.' It was never used of a judicial bench. "Thus, associated with this word are the ideas of prominence, dignity, authority, honor, and reward rather than the idea of justice and judgment. The word that Paul chose to describe the place before which this event takes place suggests its character."

  2. The time of the bema of Christ. The event herein described takes place immediately following the translation of the church out of this earth's sphere. There are several considerations that support this.

    1. In the first place, according to Luke 14:14 reward is associated with the resurrection, Revelations 22:12. Since, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, the resurrection is an integral part of the translation, reward must be a part of that program.
    2. When the Lord returns to the earth with His bride to reign, the bride is seen to be already rewarded. This is observed in Revelation 19:8, where it must be observed that the "righteousness of the saints" is plural and can not refer to the imparted righteousness of Christ, which is the believer's portion, but the righteousnesses which have survived examination and have become the basis of reward.
    3. In 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; and Revelation 22:12 the reward is associated with "that day," that is, the day in which He comes for His own. Thus it must be observed that the rewarding of the church must take place between the rapture and the revelation of Christ to the earth.
  3. The place of the bema of Christ. It is scarcely necessary to point out that this examination must take place in the sphere of the heavenlies. It is said in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 "that we shall be caught up ... in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Since the bema follows this translation, the "air" must be the scene of it. This is further supported by 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, where Paul is describing events that take place when the believer is "absent from the body, and ... present with the Lord." Thus this event must take place in the Lord's presence in the sphere of the "heavenlies."

  4. The Judge at the bema of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 makes it clear that this examination is conducted before the presence of the Son of God. John 5:22 states that all judgment has been committed into the hand of the Son. The fact that this same event is referred to in Romans 14:10 as "the judgment seat of God" would indicate that God has committed this judgment into the hand of the Son also. A part of the exaltation of Christ is the right to manifest divine authority in judgment.

  5. The subjects of the bema of Christ. There can be little doubt that the bema of Christ is concerned only with believers. The first personal pronoun occurs with too great frequency in 2 Corinthians 5:1-19 to miss this point. Only the believer could have "an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Only the believer could experience "mortality ... swallowed up of life." Only the believer could experience the working of God, "who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." Only the believer could have the confidence that "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." Only the believer could "walk by faith, not by sight."

  6. The basis of the examination at the bema of Christ. It is to be observed carefully that the issue here is not to determine whether the one judged is a believer or not. The question of salvation is not being considered. The salvation given the believer in Christ has perfectly delivered him from all judgment (Romans 8:1; John 4:17). To bring the believer into judgment concerning the sin question, whether his sins before his new birth, his sins since his new birth, or even his unconfessed sins since the new birth, is to deny the efficacy of the death of Christ and nullify the promise of God that "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). Pridham writes:

    "A saint will never again come into judgment on account of his natural or inherited iniquity, for he is already dead judicially with Christ, and is no longer known or dealt with on the footing of his natural responsibility. As a man he has been weighted and found wanting. He was born under condemnation, to a natural heritage of wrath, and nothing good has been discovered in his flesh; but his guilt has been obliterated by the blood of his Redeemer, and he is freely and justly pardoned for His Saviour's sake. Because Christ is risen from the dead, he is no longer in his sins. He is justified by faith, and is presented in the name and on the merits of the Just One before God; and of this new and ever-blessed title to acceptance the Holy Spirit is the living seal and witness. Into judgment, therefore, on his own account he cannot come ..."

    (Personal Comment: May I interrupt quoting from the book, Things to Come, to comment on what it means to be justified. To be justified means more than just being forgiven. For example one person could slap another person and could later be forgiven for that painful deed. However, if that person repeats the act of slapping, the person who forgave quickly recalls the first slap. How much better relationship and fellowship would be between the two individuals if the slap or slaps never happened! Justification means that we (the saved) are not only forgiven, but we are as if we never, never, never sinned.

    The Scripture teaches, "... by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his (God's) sight ..." (Romans 3:20). However, there is hope for God has provided a way that all men may be justified. His provision for you and I to be justified and gain eternal life is to be "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," Romans 3:24. The Scripture goes on to say in Romans 5:9, "Much more then, being now justified (as if we have never sinned) by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. And in conclusion to this comment on justification, we can red to our hope and joy Romans 5:1, which states: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Keep in mind, it is the JUSTIFIED that will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Now let us return to reading the quote from Things to Come.

    This whole program is related to the glorification of God through the manifestation of His righteousness in the believer. Kelly commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:10 says:

    "So again it is not a question of rewarding service as in 1 Corinthians 3:8, 14, but of retribution in the righteous government of God according to what each did whether good or bad. This covers all, just or unjust. It is for the divine glory that every work done by man should appear as it really is before Him who is ordained by God Judge of living and dead.

    The word translated "appear" in 2 Corinthians 5:10 might better be rendered "to be made manifest," so that the verse reads, "For it is necessary for all of us to be made manifest." This suggests that the purpose of the bema is to make a public manifestation, demonstration or revelation of the essential character and motives of the individual. Plummer's remark: "We shall not be judge en masse, or in class, but one by one, in accordance with individual merit," substantiates the fact that this is an individual judgment of each believer before the Lord.

    The believer's works are brought into judgment, called "the things done in his body" (2 Corinthians 5:10), in order that it may be determined whether they are good or bad. Concerning the word bad (phaulos), it is to be observed that Paul did not use the usual word for bad (kakos or poneras), either of which would signify that which is ethically or morally evil, but rather the word, which, according to Trench, means:

    "... evil under another aspect, not so much that either of active or passive malignity, but that rather of its good-for-nothingness, the impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it... This notion of worthlessness is the central notion ..."

    Thus the judgment is not to determine what is ethically good or evil, but rather that which is acceptable and that which is worthless. It is not the Lord's purpose here to chasten His child for his sins, but to reward his service for those things done in the name of the Lord.

  7. The result of the examination at the bema of Christ.

    In 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 it is declared that there will be a twofold result of this examination: a reward received or a reward lost.

    That which determines whether one receives or loses a reward is the trial by fire, for Paul writes "Every man's work shall be made manifest (the same word used in 2 Corinthians 5:10): for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try very man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:13). From this statement it is evident, first of all, that it is the realm of the believer's works that is undergoing examination. Further, it is seen that the examination is not an external judgment, based on outward observation, but rather on a test that determines the inner character and motivation. The entire purpose of the trial by fire is to determine that which is destructible and that which is indestructible.

    The apostle has affirmed that there are two classes of building materials which the "labourers together with God" may use in building the edifice upon the foundation already laid. The gold, silver, costly stones are indestructible materials. These are the work of God, which many only appropriates and uses. On the other hand, the wood, hay, and stubble are destructible materials. These are the work of men which man has produced by his own effort. The apostle is revealing the fact that the examination at the bema of Christ is to determine that which was done by God through the individual and that which the individual did in his own strength; that which was done for the glory of God and that which was done for the glory of the flesh. It can not be determined by outward observation into which class a "work" falls, so that work must be put into the crucible in order that its true character may be proved.

    (Personal Comment: May I interrupt again quoting from the book, Things to Come, to make a point of clarification. For those that could possibly be lead astray into thinking that God has to use or will use a "crucible" or some other "tool" such as are found in medical laboratories in order to determine which works are worthy for reward and which are worthy of total destruction; allow me to say GOD IS THE CRUCIBLE. The character of works which we do even before we actually do them in time; God knew about their character and what they would be BEFORE THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH. Yes, it is true that the character of the saints' works will be revealed at the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ. However, the character of the works will only be revealing to the saints themselves and the angels that are present. The character of the works will not be revealed to GOD, for nothing is hidden or unknown to HIM!

    Consider what Henry C. Thiessen wrote in his book, Lectures in Systematic Theology, concerning God's Omniscience. "God is infinite in knowledge. He knows himself and all other things perfectly from all eternity, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future. He knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively, and truly."

    There are many verses in God's Word which testifies to His All Knowing (Omniscience), such as: Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 147:5; Hebrews 4:13, and Matthew 10:30. The Omniscience of God is a worthy and interesting study in itself.

    Now let us return to reading the quote from Things to Come:

    1. On the basis of this test there will be two decisions. There will be loss of reward for that which is proven by the fire to be destructible. Things done in the strength and for the glory of the flesh, regardless of what the act might be, will be disapproved. Paul expresses his fear of depending on the energy of the flesh rather than the empowerment of the Spirit in the light of this fact when he writes: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, which I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway," 1 Corinthians 9:27.

      When Paul uses the word castaway (adokimos) he is not expressing fear that he will lose his salvation, but rather than which he has done shall be found to be "good-for nothing." On this word Trench writes:

      In classical Greek it is the technical word for putting money to the ... (dokime) or proof, by aid of the ... (dokimion) or test ... that which endures this proof being ... (dokimos) approved), that which fails ... (adokimos, disapproved or rejected) ...

      To safeguard against the possible interpretation that to suffer loss means the loss of salvation, Paul adds "he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15).

    2. There will be a reward bestowed for that work that is proved to be indestructible by the fire test. In the New Testament there are five areas in which specific mention is made of a reward: (1) an incorruptible crown for those who get mastery over the old man (1 Corinthians 9:25); (2) a crown of rejoicing for the soul winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19); (3) a crown of life for those enduring trials (James 1:12); (4) a crown of righteousness for loving his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8); and a crown of glory for being willing to feed the flock of God (1 Peter 5:4).

  8. These seem to suggest the areas in which rewards will be bestowed.

    Something of the nature of the crowns or rewards is suggested in the word used for crown (stephanos). Mayor says of it that it is used:

    1. For the wreath of victory in the games (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5); (2) as a festal ornament (Proverbs 1:9; 4:9; Cant. 3:11; Isaiah 28:1); (3) as a public honour granted for a distinguished service or private worth, as a golden crown was granted to Demosthenes ...

      In contrasting this word with diadema Trench writes:

      "We must not confound these words because our English "crown" stands for them both. I greatly doubt whether anywhere in classical literature ... (stephanos) is used of the kingly or imperial crown ... . In the New Testament it is plain that the ... (stephanos) whereof St. Paul speaks is always the conqueror's and not the king's (1 Corinthians 9:24-26; 2 Timothy. 2:5) ... The only occasion on which ... (stephanos) might seem to be used of kingly crown is Matthew 27:29; cf. Mark 15:17; John 19:2.

      "Thus the very word Paul chooses to describe the rewards is that associated with honor and dignity bestowed on the overcomer. Although we will reign with Christ, the kingly crown is His alone. The victor's crowns are ours.

      "In Revelation 4:10, where the elders are seen to be casting their crowns before the throne in an act of worship and adoration, it is made clear that the crowns will not be for the eternal glory of the recipient, but for the glory of the Giver. Since these crowns are not viewed as a permanent possession, the question of the nature of the rewards themselves arises. From the Scriptures it is learned that the believer was redeemed in order that he might bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 6:20). This becomes his eternal destiny. The act of placing the material sign of a reward at the feet of the One who sits on the throne (Revelations 4:10) is one act in that glorification. But the believer will not then have completed his destiny to glorify God. This will continue throughout eternity. Inasmuch as reward is associated with brightness and shining in many passages of Scripture (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43; 1 Corinthians 15:40-41, 49), it may be that the reward given to the believer is a capacity to manifest the glory of Christ throughout eternity. The greater the reward, the greater the bestowed capacity to bring glory to God. Thus in the exercise of the reward of the believer, it will be Christ and not the believer that is glorified by the reward. Capacities to radiate the glory will differ, but there will be no personal sense of lack in that each believer will be filled to the limit of his capacity to "show forth the praises of Him who hath called you our of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9)."

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