The Bema Seat
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat 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
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. Romans 14:10
When we examine the Christian experience we discover many things that all believers hold in common. We are saved by the same Savior, we are indwelt by the same Spirit, we are all sinners separated by God, the bodily resurrection of our Savior, and the utter necessity of the 66 books of the Bible. There is another commonality that is seldom taught, preached, or even mentioned from the pulpit or in Sunday School.
The Bema Seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ is a part of our Christian experience that does not get much attention but it is vitally important as it is an event all believers in Christ will experience.. As Paul mentioned in both the above Scriptures this is an experience that every Christian will be a part of, the “we must all appear” and “we will stand.” Paul includes himself in the passage.
“We must all appear” means to make apparent, manifest, known; to show openly, etc. In this passage it shows that after the Rapture we must be as an open book before Christ. All believers actions will be made open and clear before Him. We will not be able to hide anything we have done from Him.
“We will stand” To continue with appear affirms our character will be seen, the good and the bad that we have done in this life. All believers will be brought, from their graves, and none will be able to hide from Him. The secret things of the heart that we may have deluded ourselves into thinking that only we knew will be made manifest before Him to be judged.
What the Bema is not
The bema seat will not be a determination of our salvation status. Salvation was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for all believers:
and He Himself is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
Notice that it is Christ that made satisfaction for our sins. Works is not mentioned in 1 John 2:2 though it is predominate in the 2 Corinthians passage, “deeds in the body”.
Our most famous passage concerning salvation as being entirely faith driven:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
All of our sins are forgiven, and will never be brought up again. So if this not a judgment for salvation what type of judgment could it be. Let’s look at different sections of these two passages to give light to what type of judgment all believers in Christ will participate in.
What the Bema Is
Both passages call this the “judgment seat of Christ.” Judgment comes from the Greek word bema Instead of a place of passing sentence the bema was a reward seat. Sale-Harrison writes:
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 the contestants; and here he rewarded all winners. It was called the “bema” or “reward seat.” It was never used of a judicial bench.
Our best example today is to think of the Olympic Games. When the competition is over the best three step up on a platform to be honored with medals. Their judging was based on how they ran the race (“in the body”) and are given the rewards appropriate for how they ran them. The bema is a place of rewards not judgment for sin.
“May be recompensed” is from a Greek word that means to take care of, to provide for, to acquire, to obtain, to receive.
What is Being Judged
“According to what he has done” is a description of what we have done in this body. What we do in this life matters to God. He has given us great resources that we are to be a steward of. Some object because they do not have great wealth or great talent. While this may be true we have all been given a gift to be exercised and if we ignore that gift we can all pray. Every believer can act as an intercessor for the church, for missionaries, for unbelievers, for our government, for anything that God has laid on their hearts. This does not require great wealth or talent. Anyone can talk to God.
“Whether good or bad” indicates that it is not just the actions that are being judged here. We must understand that motive is being judged also. How many will proclaim how they gave into the collection plate every week, but when Christ examines their heart He will discover they did it grudgingly, to be seen by others, or out of a legalistic heart:
7 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 9:7
Giving, just one aspect of our Christian lives, is from a heart that wants to give. A heart that loves to give. This is the heart that will receive reward at the Bema Seat.
What are the Results of the Bema Seat
All of the works we have done will be divided up into one of two categories. Good works, those that bring honor and glory to God, and bad works, which we have done in our own selfish desires.
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. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Loss of Reward
“He will suffer loss”- These are the things that we have done that glorify the flesh in contrast to glorifying God. These are things that we have done that are accomplished in our own strength instead of through God. These works are worthless for when the fire hits them “wood, hay, straw” they are burned up and are gone. They have no eternal value to man nor more importantly, to God.
A Reward Bestowed
“He will receive a reward”- These are the works we have done to the Lord’s glory. We have done these works to magnify His name and to make Him known throughout the world. When the fire comes down to test these works they will remain. They will be identified as “gold, silver, precious stones”. While we do not know exactly what the shape of the rewards will be the New Testament mentions five areas where specific rewards are promised as crowns:
1. A crown for mastery over the old man, to make sure that the old self is the slave and the Holy Spirit is the master. My honest opinion is that this will probably be the least given out crown. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2. A crown for those whose life is characterized by soul winning. Every believer is commanded to preach the gospel but there are those whose every word drips with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the desire to share it with all. 1 Thessalonians 2:19
3. A crown of life for those who endure trials and resist temptations. The passage goes on to explain that they resist and endure because of the love of God. Charles Spurgeon summarized this passage as: “They cannot fall into sin because it would grieve him who loves them so well, and whom they love with all their hearts.” James 1:12
4. A crown for those who loves His appearing. Many are not looking for Jesus to appear. They are comfortable in their large homes, big-screen TV’s, food and entertainment galore. They are believers, they will be raptured, but they will miss out on this great reward since they were looking at what was before them and not looking for their Savior from heaven. 2 Timothy 4:8
5. A crown for those willing to feed the flock. To be allowed to preach and teach the people of God should be an honor that deserves no reward. To stand before believers of every segment of society should be a reward in itself. But our Savior promises a reward for those “willing” to feed the flock. From the construction in the passage it appears there are those for whom the pulpit is only a profession in which one moves up. They will have their reward here on earth. Then there is the one who comes into the pulpit humble and fearful understanding what great responsibility they have taken upon themselves to teach the Word of God. They will have a great reward in heaven. 1 Peter 5:4
Dr. Tony Evans wrote an article for the “Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible” entitled “Rewards for Christians.” His concluding paragraph should make us all ready to go and do great things for God for His glory:
“Are you ready to stand before the bema seat of Christ? Out of your love for Christ and appreciation for the gift of salvation, serve God faithfully now, and you will be rewarded later. The hope of winning crowns from Jesus Christ and reigning with Him should convince a Christian that running a faithful race is worth the effort. Being awarded any one of these crowns or opportunities to rule will be an honor beyond anything we can imagine. Let’s go for it!”
 L. Sale-Harrison, Judgment Seat of Christ, p. 8.
 Dr. Tony Evans, “Rewards for Christians,” Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible,” p. 1234.