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Chapter 13

The Bema Seat

Patrick J. Griffiths

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)



THE STORY

God's Story has six acts: God, Creation, Rejection, Redemption, Re-Creation and Worship. The Story ends with a final judgment where God acknowledges the last period on the last sentence. This chapter speaks to the final judgment of separation between the woman's seed and that of the serpent.

REVIEW

The judgment seat of Christ in no way will be dealing with our sin. Many say the judgment seat of Christ will deal with our service and this is perhaps true. However, even here when judgment happens for the works done from a fleshly motive, the fire will consume them and treat them as non-rewarded. There is no sin assigned in any way to our account. Our account against God will be empty.

We should look on the judgment seat of Christ as an occasion of unprecedented joy and celebration. It is here the old nature shall finally receive its just reward. Here the removal of the old nature is final. It is here where one's practice will finally match up with one's position. In that glorious day, "when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).

INTRODUCTION

As we understand all we are in Him and He is for us, there are many loose ends; frayed ends exist. This is an attempt to understand one of those loose ends.

There is much discussion as to what will happen at the Bema Seat Judgment. A direct and immediate connection exists between the Bema Seat Judgment and the believer's future reward.

Listen to the following comments by several popular authors and seek to establish the tone being set.

Many believers (especially in this age) do not realize that the future judgment seat of Christ will also administer severe chastisement for unholy conduct.1

(First John 2:28) These Christians will be ashamed for having neglected to bring forth fruit unto God.2

"The judgment seat will be for revealing and rewarding the kind of Christian life the believer has lived."3

[Many fail] to distinguish between how God accepts a lost sinner by grace through faith alone (i.e. positional righteousness) and how He accepts His own children through faith and works at the future judgment seat (i.e. practical righteousness).4

The New Testament abounds with warnings that carnal Christians will receive chastisement when they stand before their Lord.5

Nevertheless, in spite of semantics, one thing is for certain: whatever one wishes to call the judgment of some erring believers in this life, Scripture plainly teaches that the same type of severe chastisement (and worse) may also be experienced at the future judgment seat!6

Those are punished for a time in purgatory who die in the state of grace but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins (1 Cor. 3:13-15).7

I believe there are good reasons why there will be tears in heaven. When we reflect on how we lived for Christ, who purchased us at such high cost, well might we weep on the other side of the celestial gates. Our tears will be those of regret and shame, tears of remorse for lives lived for ourselves rather than for Him who loves us. (p. 9).

God judges justified sinners. God judges us for unconfessed sin, David reminds us that God judges us for sins that have been confessed and forgiven. Judicial forgiveness is one thing, but the discipline the Father inflicts on His wayward children is quite another. (p. 11)

The purpose of this judgment (i.e., the judgment seat of Christ) will be to evaluate us so that we can be properly rewarded for the way we have faithfully (or unfaithfully) served here on earth. All who appear at this judgment will be in heaven, but the question that needs to be settled is the extent of our rule (if any) with Christ.8

Okay, Tommy, I'm convicted! What Tommy is talking about is a very neglected doctrine of Christian sanctification, which is the doctrine of rewards for the believer. It's a motivating but sobering topic, and it should be.

Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But clearly, passages like the one you've just read about teach that believers will be rewarded for how faithfully they serve Christ.9

In the funeral of the young man who died with AIDS, I don't recall mentioning the doctrine of rewards. It didn't seem appropriate in that context. However, if asked, I would have said that if his wayward lifestyle continued to the end, then he forfeited the right to rule with Christ and the related rewards that he would have received.10

The second interpretation views the promised rewards as things which only some believers will receive. Thus one can get into the kingdom and yet not have these blessings. Hence in the rewards interpretation the Beatitudes are implicit warnings about the possibility of missing out on special honor and fullness of life in the life to come (p. 1).

All believers enter (Rev 22:17). Only overcoming believers will rule and have special privileges (Rev. 22:14).11

God is keeping track of what you do for Him every day. (p. 11)
Picture your homecoming, the moment when all of eternity and all the angels and saints pause for you. Heaven will hush as you stand before your Savior to hear Him say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!' And then heaven will erupt with welcome and celebration as you accept the incorruptible crown that Jesus is reserving for you. It will be your unique moment to bless the heart of God. On that day, you will prove that you valued Jesus' death for you, and you gave Him your heart and life in return. God wants that day, when unseen and eternal things become visible, to be the most wonderful day of your life.12

One reviewer in commenting on the book, A Life God Rewards, had this to say, "The book is an easy read at only 128 pages and should challenge and encourage the everyday believer to strive for hearing the words of our Lord at the Bema, 'well done good and faithful servant.' The sobering thought is that many Christians will experience shame at not hearing those words at all."13

One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions: First, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?' Second, 'What did you do with what I gave you?' The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity.14

While many have chosen to look the other way and ignore the facts, we have not. We dare not. And we are well aware that there is a price to be paid. But each time I stand before the famous Bema Seat in the city of Corinth in the same spot where the apostle Paul once stood, I am forced to think of another day when we shall stand before the eternal Bema at the Judgment Seat of Christ. And when I do, I want to hear, 'Well done!' and I am supremely confident that you want to hear those same words.15

Catholic Christians believe that the New Testament also affirms the reality of purgatory. In 1 Cor. 3:11-15, Paul writes: …This passage speaks about those who have built their lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ. When these people are judged, the 'work' they have done in this life will be tested. If it is good, they will be rewarded. If their work is inferior (sinful), the fire of judgment will burn it up. These people will 'suffer loss,' although they will be saved 'but only as through fire.' Christians in the early church who reflected on this passage came to believe that 'purification by fire' - a purgatory - would come upon those Christians whose lives and works were imperfect in God's sight, although they themselves would be saved.16

As you can see, this topic is no small matter especially in light of the barrage of material by highly visible authors in recent days. We cannot be sure what each author is attempting to accomplish nor do we wish to judge his or her motive for such a presentation as the above material represents, but . . .

QUESTIONS

Is the Bema Seat a time of remorse, regret, penal judgment, and personal shortcoming? Is the Bema Seat about you, or is there something or someone else who will be receiving the spotlight? Is the Bema Seat Judgment a time of reflecting back on failed opportunity and is it possible for the believer not to be ruling with Christ in heaven? How can we ever know if we have done enough? Are we ever capable of really determining whether our actions (let alone our motives) have been pure?

DEFINING THE WORD

In studying the Bema Seat Judgment, it is important that we do not isolate it from the larger body of positional truth found throughout the New Testament just as our preservation, so also our fellowship, cleansing and forgiveness. All this and more is rooted in the merit of Christ and in Christ alone. This has direct application as to how we are to view the judgment seat of Christ ([Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10] Bema).

The word bema is found in twelve verses (Matt. 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 7:5; 12:21; 18:12, 16, 17; 25:6, 10, 17, Rom. 14:10, 2 Cor. 5:10).

As noted, it is used of Pilate at the judgment of Christ (Matt. 27:19; John 19:13). It is used as a "stool" (Acts 7:5), a "throne" (Acts 12:21), and a place of sentencing (Acts 18:12, 16, 17; 25:6, 10, 17).

From the New Testament there is an element of discernment, evaluation, estimation, and assessment contained in the way the word is used. There are two primary New Testament passages as it relates to the believer (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).

"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 of God." (Rom. 14:10).

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).

Notice the following author's comments regarding the bema seat.

In the large Olympic arenas, there was an elevated seat on which the judge of the contest sat. After the contests were over, the successful competitors would assemble before the bema to receive their rewards or crowns. The bema was not a judicial bench where someone was condemned; it was a reward seat.17

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.18

In the exercise of the reward of the believer, it will be Christ and not the believer that is glorified by the reward.19

The question of giving an account can be immediately answered and in short order. There will be an accounting before God of every New Testament believer's life. The evaluation of one's life exists. However, in saying this let us make sure we have our presuppositions in place.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

As we consider the Bema Seat judgment, there are several questions to think through.

  • First, if fruit bearing is the basis for evaluation, what exactly is fruit bearing?
  • Second, is it possible for the work of God to fail to such a degree there is no reward-able act in His workmanship?
  • Third, if our performance determines our placement, then when is enough, enough?
  • Fourth, if salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, why does sanctification and glorification demand a different standard?
  • Fifth, how does a theology of future rewards from a man-centered perspective generate the kind of rest mentioned in Matthew 11:28-30? Is initial salvation the believer's only certainty concerning placement?
  • Sixth, what does "overcomer" mean?
  • Seventh, is there a legitimate distinction between entering the kingdom and inheriting the kingdom?
  • Finally, if all we need is in Christ, what more would we want?

Each of these areas will assist us in examining this important area of future rewards, placement in the kingdom and the Bema Seat judgment.

First, if fruit bearing is the basis for evaluation, what exactly is fruit bearing?

In looking at the idea of fruit bearing, it is important to remember that fruit-bearing, good works, obedience, and the New Testament commands are all synonymous ideas. There is no distinction between any of these "actions."

The New Testament uses the word "fruit" fifty-six times. It can refer to either literal fruit (i.e. the kind you would eat), or figuratively to the kind of fruit that is symbolic of one's actions.

  • Repentance is a fruit (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8).
  • The tree (Matt. 3:10) or branch (John 15:2, 6) that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19; Luke 3:9; 13:9).

    Does not this strongly suggest that all good trees/soil produce good fruit? Would not such fruit bearing be certain? What if there is no fruit? Is not the consequence of non-fruit bearing to be cut off and thrown into the fire? How does this align with God finishing what He begins (Rom. 8:29, 30; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23, 24)?

  • Fruit identifies the "tree" (Matt. 7:16, 17, 20; 12:33). The kind of fruit born is indicative of the kind of tree that bore it (Matt. 7:18; 12:33; Luke 6:44).
  • Good fruit is born by good trees and the opposite is equally true, bad fruit is born by bad trees (Matt. 7:18). A good tree cannot bear bad fruit (Luke 6:43).
  • Good ground bears fruit (Matt. 13:8). Bad ground bears no fruit (Mark 4:7).

    If the underlying thought concerning fruit bearing is that a good tree can only produce good fruit, then why are we thinking about our bad fruit? A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, so whatever fruit is born that is bad is of no real consequence.

  • Death to self is the key to fruit bearing (John 12:24). One must die to self in order to be saved (Matt. 16:21-28) and salvation produces fruit.
  • Much fruit glorifies God (John 15:8).
  • God has ordained the believer to bring forth fruit, and that our fruit would remain (John 15:16).

    Ephesians 2:10 speaks of the believer being God's workmanship. The term "workmanship" says we are the product of His hands. He is molding the believer. He is designing us. He is doing the work in us and through us. This does not negate our will to choose, but it does source our will in Him (Phil. 2:12, 13).

  • The believer's fruit is of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9). The believer's fruit is by Jesus Christ (John 15:4, 5; Phil. 1:11).

    If it is not a fruit of the Spirit, then it is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-24). If it is a work of the flesh, it has no eternal value and will be consumed in the day of accounting (1 Cor. 3:15 [if 1 Corinthians 3 is to be used in this way]).

Because of the role 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 plays in the mindset of those who make the Bema Seat judgment a motive for service, we do need to evaluate what this passage is saying.

REIGNING GRACE, THE BEMA SEAT AND THE JUDGMENT OF 1 COR. 3:10-15

In any discussion of the Bema Seat judgment there is immediate reference made to the nature of the believer's works being "gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw" (1 Cor. 3:12). Yet, is this the nature of the judgment depicted? The intent of this short study is to note the paragraph in light of its immediate surroundings.

From the first chapter of 1 Corinthians it becomes apparent division existed in the local body. The division centered on personalities (1:10-17). This same problem is in chapter three. The personalities noted were all people in positions of leadership (Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc. [1:12]).

In unraveling the dilemma, Paul makes several points.

  • First, all leaders, regardless as to their giftedness, are tools. Some plant and some water (3:6).

  • Second, God is the one who causes growth (3:6, 7).

  • Third, each of those who labor (whether planting or watering) will receive their own reward (3:8).

  • Fourth, 3:9 says leaders are fellow-workers together for God. Those among whom they labor are God's field, God's building and God's Temple (vv. 16, 17).

    God is the one (3:6, 7) who causes His field, building, and Temple to grow.

  • Fifth, knowing this enables us to consider verses 10-15.

    Paul is the one used of the Lord to lay the foundation on which the building will be built (3:10, 11). The foundation is poured only once. Afterward we build on this one foundation.

  • Sixth, "What is being built in verses 10 and 12?" Based on verse 9, the church (people) is being built.

    This text has singular relevance to the contemporary church. It is neither a challenge to the individual believer to build his or her life well on the foundation of Christ, nor is it grist for theological debate. It has particular relevance . . . to those with teaching/leadership responsibilities. It is unfortunately possible for people to attempt to build the church out of every imaginable human system predicated on merely world wisdom, . . . . But at the final judgment, all such building will be shown for what it is: something merely human, with no character of Christ or his gospel in it.20

  • Seventh, "Who is doing the building?" The leadership within the church is doing the building (v.10b). This is the same idea in Ephesians 4:11-13.

    Now he speaks to the teachers themselves, who succeeded him in the church of Corinth, and in this regard to all that were after or will be pastors of congregations, seeing that they succeed into the labor of the apostles, who were planters and chief builders.21

    In response to this question, Alfred Barnes says it is "every man who is a professed teacher."22

    Although the passage has a primary interpretation and application to the professional ministry, in principle it can also refer to any believer who has an influence on others.23

    Verses 3:6 and 7 tell us that God builds His church. If this is true, is it possible for the purpose of God in the building of His church to fail?

    The apostle goes to the farthest extreme here (3:10-15), but in the next chapter he shows that there will be no believer of whom that is actually true. [He cites 4:5] He will find something in every believer's life that He can reward." (134) [Commenting on 4:5, he goes on to say] "If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you, and in that coming day it will be manifest that every Christian has accomplished something for God for which he can be rewarded.24

  • Eighth, the emphasis does not appear to be on the individual, but on the assembly. It is not an individual evaluated, but the work of the leadership within the church.

    Here is another paragraph that has suffered much in the church from those who would decontextualize it in terms of individualistic popular piety (i.e., how I build my own Christian life on Christ). 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.25

    It is common to interpret verses 12-15 in terms of an individual Christian's quality of life as revealed on the Day of the Lord. In its context Paul is, in fact, describing the quality of workmanship done by those contributing to building up the church at Corinth.25

    Paul is, of course, thinking of teachers, preachers, and messengers of the gospel. The one who has built permanently and well on earth, with abiding results for good, will receive a reward. But he who builds poorly the church of God will suffer the loss of special rewards God has prepared for labor well done.27

  • Ninth, the emphasis appears to be on body unity versus body division. If you divided the body you will not receive the reward for that area (v.15).

    If you destroy the Temple through division, you will be destroyed (3:17).

    The one who destroys will be destroyed. The one who corrupts will be corrupted. This probably refers to an unsaved man, to one who is not on the foundation at all, to the mere professor.28

    The people in 3:1-3 are not building but destroying the temple. Their work will fail (v.13).

  • Tenth, the gold, silver, precious stone is a contrast to wood, hay, and straw (3:12).

    Perhaps a church built on wood, hay, and straw is a church not founded on the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Such a church would not stand the "test."

  • Eleventh, the conclusion to this whole matter is found in verses 21-23, "Do not boast in men, boast in Christ."

CONCLUSION

It is possible to see growth that produces numbers without producing Christians. Such a work will not endure and is nothing more than wood, hay, and straw.

THE BEMA SEAT JUDGMENT AND THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Let us pick-up our previous thought concerning the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

If the two are synonymous, why are we looking at the New Testament imperative as something we do, whereas the fruit of the Holy Spirit as something He does?

There is no question the believer should choose obedience over disobedience, but it should be equally true that whatever obedience is produced is because the Holy Spirit is bearing that particular fruit in us and through us.

  • The believer should desire to bear much fruit (Rom. 1:13; Phil. 4:17).
  • Part of fruit bearing is the pruning process (Heb. 12:11).

Hebrews 12:11 is like Job 23:10.

"But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

Second, is it possible for the work of God to fail to such a degree that there is no reward-able act in His workmanship?

Because of the certainty of fruit bearing, the work of God cannot fail. There is nothing like a so-called "fruitless" believer. The implication of this is every believer will be reward-able. This is the point of Romans 14:3, 4.

"The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:3, 4).

This is the point of 1 Corinthians 4:4, 5

"For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God" (1 Cor. 4:4, 5).

The scenario of Matthew 25 is clear enough. There are only two kinds of people, saved and lost. There is not a third category of saved lost people or dark light.

If Matthew 25 can apply, then every believer will hear, "Well done my good and faithful servant." If this is not true, then the alternative is tragically confusing (Matt. 25:30). Because of our understanding of fruit bearing (Mark 4; Gal. 5) every believer will have "works" that are "gold, silver and precious stone" (if 1 Corinthians 3 is to be used in this way). Joy and reward awaits all who appear in that day.

THE BEMA SEAT JUDGMENT AND MATTHEW 24 AND 25

Matthew 24 and 25 and the difference between hearing "Well done" and being "Well done"

While many have chosen to look the other way and ignore the facts, we have not. We dare not. And we are well aware that there is a price to be paid. But each time I stand before the famous Bema Seat in the city of Corinth in the same spot where the apostle Paul once stood, I am forced to think of another day when we shall stand before the eternal Bema at the Judgment Seat of Christ. And when I do, I want to hear, 'Well done!' and I am supremely confident that you want to hear those same words.29

Many believers are under the impression hearing well done is an affirmation for earthly faithfulness to obedience. Its reception is tentative and uncertain. It is heard only by those who have "totally surrendered" to Christ. Because only the obedient receive it, some might not hear it. Yet, is this how we are to view the idea of hearing, "Well done?"

The desire of this short study is to put the statement in its context and see if this is how we are to understand it. We will use Matthew 24 and 25 as providing the foundation for the idea.

The exact phrase is found in Matthew 25:21, 23, and Luke 19:17.

"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" (Matt. 25:21).

"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" (Matt. 25:23).

"And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:17).

We will note its usage in Matthew before looking at Luke 19. The statements in Matthew 25 exist in the larger context of Matthew 24. The context for 24 and 25 is that of the Mount of Olives discourse. His statement is in the larger context of answering a question asked of Him by His disciples.

The question is in response to His statement in 24:2 concerning the future destruction of the Temple. The question rests in, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" (v. 3).

In response to the question, He runs through a series of events preceding the end. He then says, "Then the end will come" (v.14). He speaks of the Tribulation of those days and the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 15-31). He also speaks of the days of Noah being like the days in which the Son of Man returns (vv. 36ff).

He then paints a picture of contrasts between those who are ready and those who are not ready. What follows is a table depicting the two contrasting groups.

ReferenceSavedResultUnsavedResult
24:40
Two men
One left*One taken
24:41
Two women
One leftOne taken
24:45-51
Two servants
Faithful and Wise ServantBlessed
Set over all His
possessions
(vv. 46, 47)
Wicked Servant (v.48)**Cut in pieces
weeping and gnashing
of teeth (v.51)
25:1-13
Two groups of virgins
Five WiseReday, Went in (v.10)Five Foolish**I do not know you
(v. 12)
25:14-30
Two kinds of servants
Faithful Servants
5 Talents 2 Talents
Well-done, good,
and faithful servant,
Enter into joy
(vv.21,23)
Wicked, Slothful,
worthless servants**
(vv. 26, 30)
1 talent
Talent removed,
cast into outer darkness,
weeping and gnashing
of teeth (vv.29, 30)
25:31-46
Two nations
The SheepRight hand,
blessed,
inherit the kingdom (v.34)
The GoatsLeft hand,
cursed into the eternal fire,
go away into
eternal punishment
(vv.41, 46)
*It is neither clear nor particularly important whether 'taken' means 'taken in judgment' (v.39) or 'taken to be gathered with the elect (v.31)'.30

**Like the unworthy servant in 24:48-51, he too would be eternally separated from God.31

It appears His point would be, "Be ready so that when I come you do not find yourself unsaved." If this is correct, then every saved person falls into the first category and every unsaved person falls into the second category. Because of the parallelism, every saved person rules over all His possessions, are ready, will hear, "Well done," is good and faithful, will sit at God's right hand, and will inherit the kingdom. This is consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, and Philippians 1:6 and John's usage of the idea of every believer being an overcomer. Not to hear well done is to find oneself in a place of eternal fire and punishment.

How does this mesh with Luke's usage of the concept in chapter 19? In Matthew, the story follows His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Luke, it precedes the event. Both accounts, however, precede the unfolding of His Passion.

In Luke's account, the parable is to answer a misconception concerning the establishment of the kingdom of God and its immediate fulfillment (19:11). Thus, both Matthew and Luke are speaking of end time truth. In Matthew, it appears to precede His coming and the establishment of His Kingdom. In Luke, it follows the receiving of His Kingdom. Both are the same, nevertheless, because they address the accounting that will take place when the King returns in the establishment of His Kingdom.

Ten ServantsResult
1 = 10 minas (v.16)Well done
Authority (v.17)
1 = 5 minas (v.18)[Well done]
Authority (v.19)
1 = 1 mina (v.20)Wicked Servant (v.22)
Enemies of mine
Slaughter them (v.27)

There are certain parallels between the two. What you do not want to be is the one who has nothing and does not hear, "Well done!" The potential difficulty in both passages is trying to read out of the stories more than is intended. Each story is intentional, but neither one is to be broken down and dissected minutely. Parables provide a primary point. Each one serves its purpose. "Either hear well done or be well done."

Prophetic literature has lost its power to appeal to us, partly because we have been prone to trifle over details, instead of gathering up the great messages of Christ to His people. . . We must not attempt to carry these parables farther than they go.32

An additional problem exists in both Matthew and Luke. Both accounts follow the Tribulation and both coincide with the coming of Christ for the establishment of His Kingdom. If there is a rapture of the church, then neither one of these passages refer to the church unless the Bema Seat judgment does not take place until after the Tribulation. If there is only a post-tribulation coming, then the passage could refer to the Church. However, either way the believer will hear, "Well done."

Clearly the church, the body of Christ, cannot be in view in these statements. The Lord was not describing the Rapture.33

This thought harmonizes with the idea of rewards. Service receives rewards. Service is a fruit of the Spirit. Each one bears the amount that corresponds to the portion of faith given. This is in keeping with Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. This explains the differing amounts ("thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold) of fruit born by the good soil (Mark 4:13-20).

Every saved person will have service that is reward-able (1 Cor. 4:5). To be sure, this is but an initial attempt at answering an area that is large and complex. The answer is consistent with the doctrines of grace, one's position in Christ, and the certainty of God's rule over man's will. It is not an exhaustive look, but it does provide "food for thought."

THE BEMA SEAT JUDGMENT AND FUTURE REWARDS

Third, if performance determines placement, when is enough, enough?

(This will tie in with point four) Is it ever possible for the believer to know when enough is enough? If salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, why does sanctification and glorification demand a different standard?

Although, as Evangelicals we identify salvation as being a monergistic work, why have so many made sanctification and our ultimate placement in glorification a synergistic work? If we could not contribute then, why do we think we can now? John 15:4 and 5 clearly speak of not being able to do anything apart from Him. The cross swallows completely the "I" of self. This appears to be the point of Romans 6, Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:1-4.

What seems so right is, in fact, heresy - the one I consider the most dangerous heresy on earth. What is it? The emphasis on what we do for God, instead of what God does for us."34 He continues on page 23 with the following, "'Why not emphasize how much I do for God instead of what He does for me?' Because that is heresy, plain and simple. How? By exalting my own effort and striving for my own accomplishments, I insult His grace and steal the credit that belongs to Him alone.35

Listen to what Bob George calls "an affront to the cross!"

We reason that now that we are in Christ, it's up to us to walk the straight and narrow and to name our sins one by one. What an affront to the cross! 36

But today people think it is more important to be involved in doing things. 'Let's get busy for the Lord' is the prevailing theme. But the body of Christ is not an organization; rather, it is a living organism. We've substituted activity for Jesus and for the learning of truth.37

Sometimes it's embarrassing to admit to ourselves that we cannot love. But that is exactly what God wants us to see. Without Him, we have no valuable abilities.38

Fourth, what does "overcomer" mean? Is there a legitimate distinction between entering the kingdom and inheriting the kingdom?

By far the author John dominates the New Testament usage of the word nikao (overcomer). His usage and our understanding of it are crucial.

  • First, Jesus speaks of having overcome the world (John 16:33).

    For us, our union with Him (see most of the above material) makes what He is ours (1 John 4:17).

  • Second, John speaks of the believer having already overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13, 14).

  • Third, as a child of God we have overcome the spirit of the antichrist.

    Again, this is true because of our identity being in Christ (1 John 4:4). This has nothing to do with performance or obedience.

  • Fourth, it is our faith in Christ that identifies us as one who overcomes the world (1 John 5:4, 5).

  • Fifth, the implication of not being one who overcomes is more than a failure to reign (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

What is this second death experienced by those who do not overcome?

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." (Rev. 2:11).

The second death is nothing less than damnation to hell and separation from God (Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8). Only the most creative hermeneutic can get around this plain point. Revelation 3:5 gives a stern warning of failing to be an overcomer.

"He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (Rev. 3:5).

What happens to the individual who does not possess the proper garment? Such an individual is removed in Matthew 22:11 and 12. Revelation 4:4, 6:11, 7:9, 13, and 19:16 reference the white garment. What color would we have if not white? Would we be naked?

The same questioning works for the book of life. Christians have their names in the book of life (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27). Non-believers do not have their name in the book of life (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 22:19). To have your name removed from the book of life is to lose your salvation. Such a prospect is impossible.

The one who overcomes inherits all things (Rev. 21:7). Since we are sons and daughters, we are heirs (Gal. 4:7). In fact, we are joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Such talk to the contrary is unscriptural.

F.J. Huegel seeks to establish in his chapter, "The Savior Speaks to the Overcomer," that all who are of faith are overcomers (Forever Triumphant, 22-30). "With Christ as our life, we could no more be defeated [i.e., non-overcomers] Christians than we could be beggars and be children of a multi-millionaire" (page 29).

CONCLUSION

The judgment seat of Christ in no way will be dealing with our sin. Some suggest the judgment seat of Christ will deal with our service and this is perhaps true. But even here when the works done from a fleshly motive are judged they will be consumed by fire and treated as non-rewarded.

We should look at the judgment seat of Christ as an occasion of unprecedented joy and celebration. It is here the old nature shall finally receive its just reward. It is here one's practice will finally match up with one's position. In that glorious day, "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

There are several observations.

  • First, the coming of Christ is a day of great celebration and joy.

    This is why we call His return the Blessed Hope. Those who will be ashamed are those found to be without Christ.

    "Tapestry"
    My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
    I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
    Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I, in foolish pride,
    Forget He sees the upper, and I, the underside.

    Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
    Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
    The dark threads are as needful in the skillful Weaver's hand,
    As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

  • Second, we see the Bema Seat Judgment as a time for removing forever the old nature.

    The old nature will be the wood, hay, and stubble consumed on that day. Our old nature was judicially pronounced dead when we received Christ as our Savior. At the Bema Seat, our old nature will be experientially removed for good forever.

  • Third, we believe every believer will receive in that day a reward for service (1 Cor. 4:5).

  • Fourth, because we believe it is a day for the removal of the old nature we cannot help but believe it will be a day of incredible rejoicing.

Friend in that day we will lose forever our old nature. The idea we will be ashamed and downcast is a great disservice to the nature of the event. May God open our eyes to the sufficiency of His work in our behalf. May we see the day of accounting as a day in which He receives His glory in the church.

ENDNOTES

.....1Faust, The Rod, (Hayesville NC:Schoetle Publ. Co., 2002), 45 [emphasis his]
.....2Faust, The Rod, 46
.....3Source Unknown
.....4Faust, The Rod, 48, 49 [emphasis his]
.....5Faust, The Rod, 52
.....6Faust, The Rod, 53, 54 [emphasis his]
.....7Understanding the Catholic Faith, 1954, 130.
.....8Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, (Chicago:Moody Press, 1998), 19.
.....9Bailey, "Should Christians Think About Rewards?," VERITAS, Dallas Theological Seminary, Vol. 3 No. 4 October 2003, p 7.
.....10Wilkin, "A Great Opportunity To Proclaim the Gospel," Grace In Focus, Mar/Apri 2003, 4.
.....11Wilkin, "Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven," Grace in Focus, July/Aug 2003, p. 4.>
.....12Wilkinson, A Life God Rewards, (Multnomah Publ., 2002), 117.
.....13Book Review, Ray Loupenay in Chafer Newsletter, Vol. 1, Iss. 1, January 2005.
.....14Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 2002), 34.
.....15William E. Sutter, "The Friends of Israel" Newsletter, January 2004.
.....16Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, 197.
.....17Lehman Strauss, God's Plan for the Future, 111.
.....18J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1977), 223.
.....19J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 226.
.....20Gordon Fee, First Corinthians, 145.
.....21The Geneva Bible Notes
.....22Albert Barnes' NT Commentary
.....23Gromacki, Called to be Saints: First Corinthians, (Ann Arbor:Baker Books, 1977), 48, 49.
.....24H.A. Ironside, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 147.
.....25Fee, First Corinthians, 136, 137.
.....26David Prior, The Message of I Corinthians, 59.
.....27Millard J. Berquist, Studies in First Corinthians, 26
.....28James L. Boyer, For a World Like Ours : Studies in I Corinthians, 52. See also Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 70 and S. Lewis Johnson, "First Corinthians," The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, 1235.
.....29William E. Sutter, "The Friends of Israel" Newsletter, January 2004.
.....30D.A. Carson, "Matthew," The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 8:509.
.....31Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., "Matthew," Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1:80.
.....32G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Matthew, 288, 289.
.....33Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., "Matthew," Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1:79.
.....34Swindoll, Grace Awakening, (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991), 19.
.....35Swindoll, Grace Awakening, 23.
.....36Bob George, Faith That Pleases God, (Eugene:Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 131
.....37Bob George, Faith that Pleases God, 206.
.....38Bob George, Faith that Pleases God, 207.