One of the topics the Bible discusses is judgment. One day, we’ll stand before God to give an account of our lives. There’s a tendency to lump all judgments into the same category, but there are actually two different types of judgment. The unbeliever and the believer will be judged, but the experience won’t be the same.
For Christians, we’ll experience the judgment or bema seat of Christ, which is a judgment for different reasons and a different purpose. However, the unbeliever will experience the Great White Throne judgment mentioned in Revelation.
What is the judgment/bema seat of Christ?
The term bema seat of Christ comes from 2 Corinthians 5:10. We must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat so that each of us may receive what’s due for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. In Greek, the word for judgment is bema, which means judgment seat, judicial court or judicial bench. In the first century, the bema was an elevated platform where judicial decisions or political speeches were made.
If you can picture the imagery as it correlates to Jesus in this verse, Jesus is seated on His elevated throne, and one day, we’ll stand before Him. At that point, He’ll deliver His judicial decision to all who are believers. However, what we should focus on from this verse is the purpose of this judgment. The essential thing to point out is this isn’t a judgment regarding your salvation. The bema seat of Christ isn’t an eternal punishment or a judgment, but it’s a judgment of reward. As Christians, our sins have already been judged because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Since the salvation question has already been settled, God won’t judge us for it again.
This judgment will center on how you lived your life after you came to Christ. How committed were you to Christ’s cause and doing His will? Did you live to please yourself or to please Him? This is what the bema seat judgment is all about and why we should pay attention to Paul’s words in the preceding verse, where he says we should make it our goal to please Him, whether we’re home in the body or away from it. Because we’ll one day stand before the bema seat of Christ, our goal should be to please Him, which is a sobering thought that should cause you to reflect on how we’re living.
Will all Christians experience the judgment/bema seat of Christ?
As we read in 2 Corinthians, all Christians will experience the judgment/bema seat of Christ. One of the other things that’ll be judged is the quality of each person’s work. Consider what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, where he said by the grace God gave him, he laid a foundation and someone else built on it. However, we should all build with care because no one can lay a foundation other than the one he’s laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using costly stones, gold, silver, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is because Judgment Day will bring it to light.
It will be revealed with fire, which will test the quality of each person’s work. If the structure survives, the builder will receive a reward. However, if it’s burned up, the builder will suffer loss but will be saved, even though only as one escaping through the flames. Again, notice that the quality of the work is being judged, not the salvation of those doing the work. Their work may burn up and not receive a reward for it, but they’ll be saved. This analogy serves as a reminder that it’s not just enough to do work for the Lord, but the foundation of the work is equally or more important.
This includes things like why are you doing the work? Whose glory are you concerned about, God’s or yours? Are you building God’s kingdom or yours? On that day, not only your actions but also the motivation behind them will be judged. Everything will be laid out, and there will be escape or hiding. God will show the things that we can’t see, including the attitude of your heart in doing what you do for God. Every person who sets out to do the Lord’s work doesn’t always do it for the right reasons or with the right motives. While those people may be able to hide their motivations now when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ, they won’t be able to hide, and everything will be revealed.
Our response to the judgment/bema seat.
These verses should cause us to do one thing: search our hearts. It’s easy to slide into the position of doing things for the wrong things, meaning you’re building on hay, wood, or straw. However, these won’t survive when God puts His fire on them. This is especially true of people who stand in positions of influence or the ministry spotlight. When you’re the person people look up to or the leader, then you must search your heart even more because you have greater responsibility and temptations.
More importantly, you’ll be judged at a higher level. In James 3:1, he tells his fellow believers that many of them shouldn’t become teachers because who they teach will be judged more strictly. The higher you go or the more people you influence or reach, the more you must check your heart. Get into the habit of regularly bearing your heart before the Lord so He can show what may be in there. Even more so as you recognize that you, and all Christians, will experience the judgment seat of Christ. It’s better to let God search your heart now and show what’s in it so you can fix it instead of waiting until that day because you won’t be able to fix it then.
We should focus on doing His will for His glory and building His kingdom. If this is our focus, it’ll keep our hearts in the right place, and we’ll receive a reward when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.