"For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, 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)
"According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. 11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
The Word of God clearly teaches that after transformation, there is going to be an examination. The Bible clearly teaches that after the resurrection of the saints, the rapture of the survivors, and the reunion in the sky, that there is going to be a reckoning for God’s servants. Every believer will have to give an account for our Christian life upon this earth. There are three judgments for the believer.
First, We Were Judged Yesterday as Sinners—When Jesus gave His life for our sins, we were judged at the Cross. We were judged as sinners. That’s why Paul could write in Romans, "There is now therefore no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus." Our sins were judged on the Cross. We were judged yesterday as sinners.
Next, We Are Judged Today as Sons—The Bible says in Hebrews 12:6, "For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and He scourges every son who He receives." We were judged yesterday as sinners, we are judged today as sons, and in the future we will be judged as servants.
Third, We Will be Judged in the Future as Servants—We will be judged in the future by the way we have used our talents and treasures the Lord has given us. We will be judged according to what we did with what we had. We are going to be judged as stewards and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There has been a mentality in the Church recently that I feel is most alarming. That mentality says, "It doesn’t matter how I live, how I act, or what kind of life I live here on earth. All that matters is that someway, somehow I make it into heaven by the skin of my teeth." Now, I ask how much skin you have on your teeth? If you’re like me you don’t have very much. If you think you’re going to make it into heaven by the skin of your teeth, you are probably not going to make it in at all. Many Christians think they will never have to give account for how they have lived.
I believe in the imminent return of Jesus, that He could return tonight. The Bible indicates that the first thing that happens for Christians after the rapture is that we will give account for the kind of Christian life we lived upon the earth.
FIRST, THE PLACE OF THE JUDGMENT
I draw your attention to two major lessons about the Judgment Seat of Christ found in our text. The first lesson concerns the place of the judgment for Christians. Later, there will be a judgment for sinners, found in Daniel & and Revelation 20. Daniel saw the Ancient of Days seated upon a Great White Throne judging millions upon millions of people. I believe the saints will be at the Great White Throne to see the judgment of the Lord upon people who rejected Jesus as Savior, and hear Him say, "Depart, I never knew you."
In the text, Paul is talking about the bema judgment. Bema means "raised platform." What Paul is doing in Corinthians is drawing some things from normal lifestyles of his day and his time for comparative purposes. At the Olympian Games, the judge would sit on a raised platform from which he could look down upon all the athletes. Those who were victorious would receive a floral wreath that would last a few days before it would perish. Paul is saying those athletes were being watched by an earthly judge as the Lord is watching us. The Lord watches how we perform, how we run the race. And, at the end of life’s journey, we too will be rewarded for how we ran the race.
Many believers disregard this teaching and live very carelessly. They are defeated by sin and Satan. Their lifestyle is corroded with sin and they are hindered in their race. There choose not to take up their cross in the race for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Are you running with discipline, dedication and determination in the race that is set before you? There is coming a day when we will give account for the kind of life we have lived. On October 31, 1983, the pilot of a Korean jet airliner wrongly entered the last two coordinates for his oversea flight. When flight 007 took off from the United States, it was one and a half degrees off course. Nobody noticed, but with every passing mile the plane strayed farther and farther off course. In time, the jetliner entered Russian airspace and was shot down by a Russian fighter as a plane that was on a spy mission. That slight miscalculation resulted in the deaths of 269 passengers.
There have been many who have started out on the right track, but somewhere got a little bit off course. Maybe it was their attitude, or their lack of respect for authority, or their refusal to serve where and how God wanted them too. Ignoring the warning signals from the Word and the Spirit, they eventually ended in turmoil and tragedy. We must get our eyes off of people, material things, and the temptations of this world’s system if we intend to stay on track with the Lord. It is true; all roads do lead to Jesus—to the Judgment Seat of Christ for judgment of believers, or to the Great White Throne judgment for the unbelievers.
SECOND, THE PURPOSE OF THE JUDGEMENT
A) The Revelation of Believers—There is a three-fold purpose for the Judgment Seat of Christ. The first purpose is the revelation of believers. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, "…but he that judges me is the Lord. Therefore, judge nothing before the time until the Lord come." You and I are not to judge or to condemn each other. Paul is saying, "I am not going to judge others and I don’t want others to judge me, because the Lord Jesus is going to judge us all when He comes." Paul says we’re not supposed to judge each other because our judgment toward brothers and sisters is not objective, it is subjective. Only Jesus can judge objectively.
"Therefore, judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then every man shall have praise of God." Paul says that Jesus is going to judge "the hidden things of darkness." Others may not know, but Jesus knows all about it.
Not only is He going to judge or reveal what we did, but He is going to reveal why we did it. Did you notice that Paul referred to the counsels of the heart? God is not only interested in what we do, but why we do it. He is not just interested in our actions; He is interested in our attitudes. If you and I do anything for the Lord Jesus Christ to receive praise and glory from men, we are doing to it for the wrong reason. On one occasion, Jesus taught, "Do not give in the offering like the Pharisees who sound a trumpet. They already have their reward." If we do things for God and the Church just for the praise and glory of men, we might as well enjoy it, because that is going to be all the reward we ever get.
A lot of people do a lot of good things in the Kingdom of God, but they do them for the wrong reasons. They do it to get praise and glory for themselves, not for the Lord Jesus Christ. The day that Jesus takes us away to go be with Him, He will reveal the attitudes of the heart.
A pastor friend of mine shared about a banquet that was held at the end of a Vacation Bible School for all the children, parents and church folks. The bulletin that was given to everyone as they entered the banquet listed the names of all the workers who helped during the Bible school. One church lady saw that her name was missing from the list and told the pastor about it on Monday morning.
"Pastor, I want you to know that I’m not appreciated around here, that nobody loves me or appreciates my faithfulness and all I do to help." She continued to tell the pastor that she had decided to quit the church, and that she would go somewhere else where she would be appreciated.
I ask you, did she work in the Vacation Bible School because she loved the boys and girls and wanted to see them come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, or did she work for the praise and glory of men? Many people have heard of D.L. Moody, but do you know the name George Kimball? George Kimball was a Sunday school teacher with a godly love for his students. He had a burden for D.L. Moody, and one day went to the shoe store where Moody was stocking shoes. There, in the back room of the store, he shared Jesus with him. Before he left, both men knelt on the cement floor and prayed. After that, many people came to know the great preacher D.L. Moody, but at the Judgment Seat of Christ everyone will know of George Kimball. Our attitudes and our actions must line up with the teachings of the Word of God.
B) The Review of Believers—We’ve seen the revelation of believers, now let’s look at the review of believers. Paul says, "Every one will receive the things done in his body according to that he had done, whether it is good or bad." There are two categories in the mind of God—good service and bad service. Our service falls into one or the other. And Paul wrote in the other passage that we read, "Now if any man build upon this foundation (the Lord’s foundation) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble, every man’s work shall be made manifest. For the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is." Gold, silver, and precious stones represent good service. Wood, hay, and stubble are identified as bad service.
Gold service is spiritual service. It is what is accomplished when you and I depend solely upon the Spirit of God, letting Him lead and direct us. The things we accomplish not in our own might or energy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Silver service is sacrificial service. In the Old Testament, silver was associated with the atonement and redemption of mankind. Silver service represents that thing we do which brings about the salvation of the lost.
Precious stones service is stable and steadfast service. Often, we think of precious stones as being diamonds, rubies and sapphires. However, in Paul’s day, precious stones were marble and granite, used for the foundation of the temple and other large buildings. Let me ask, how much of what goes on in the Church today is spiritual, sacrificial, stable and steadfast service? Our service must be spiritual, resulting in the salvation of souls. Not deterred by obstacles or discouragement, but stable and steadfast. That is the kind of service that will bring about rewards. If it doesn’t fit into this category, then it falls in the next category.
Wood service is careless service. It represents a man’s limited skills and power. It is what you are able to do in your own might. If you are trying to live the Christian life and doing the things for God in your own rationale, power, and might, then it falls as careless service.
Hay service is worthless service. Haystacks are often big, bulky and showy. Let me ask, how much of what goes on in the Church is built around bigness, bulkiness, and showiness? How much today is built around the stardom mentality? How much is built around name-brand Christianity? These only bring praise and glory to man—and are worthless.
Stubble service is useless service. When you remove the hay, all that is left is worthless stubble. Some people will have only the ashes of a wasted life to lay before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There are going to be many embarrassed men and women there, who will have served the Lord here for the wrong reasons.
One hundred years ago in America the stagecoach business was big business. One man was offered a first, second or third-class ticket. Thinking that there was not much difference in the dust and ride of the three types of tickets, he chose the cheaper, third-class ticket. It was not until the stagecoach stopped at the base of a very steep hill that the passenger discovered the differences between the three prices of tickets. The driver announced that all first-class ticket holders should stay on board. All second-class passengers were told to get off and walk. The third-class passengers were told to push.
Everybody wants the biggest bang for his buck, but whatever happened to our willingness to get dirty in the process of helping someone else? Whatever happened to the mentality that we just serve because we love the Lord? The only thing that ought to matter is that you love Jesus and want to serve Him. I want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of the Lord."
C) The Reward of Believers—There are three purposes for the Judgment Seat of Christ:
The revelation of believers, the review of believers, and, finally, the reward of believers. Paul said, "If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward." There is coming a day when the Lord is going to reward His people. I want to receive the reward that Jesus has for those who faithfully serve Him.
It will be a crown of righteousness according to 2 Timothy.
It will be a crown of life according to James, chapter 1.
It will be a crown of glory according to 1 Peter, chapter 5.
It will be a crown of gold according to Revelation 4:4.
It will be the kind of crown that will never pass away. In Paul’s day that floral wreath crown would last only a few days before it would wilt and be thrown away. Men’s rewards always pass away, their praises fade, and their glory ceases. However, there is coming a day when Jesus will give rewards to His people that will never pass away. There will be no more weary trials and tasks, no discouragement and troublesome times, and no more disease and death. What a day it’s going to be when Jesus Christ comes for you and me.
More than one hundred and thirty years ago, God called a man named John Williams to go to the South Pacific Island of Aramonda as a missionary. John Williams, and his friend Mr. Harris, set sail one day to take the Gospel message to a cannibalistic tribe that had never heard about Jesus Christ as Savior. Upon landing, the tribal chief drew a line in the sand and said to the men, "You cross that line and you will die." Together, both men crossed the line, and that night they were slain and eaten by the people of the island.
It was some time later before the news of their deaths reached their home church back in Spain in the year 1870. The call of God was then answered by George and Ellen Gordon who went to the same island and met the same fate.
A single man, named James McNair, was the next from that church to answer the call of God. Before darkness of the day of his arrival, he saw seven men accept Jesus as Savior before others slew him also.
By the year 1872, word reached the home church, and James Gordon, the brother of George Gordon, was the next to answer the call of God. He too began to work among the tribesmen but soon was killed like the others.
The mother of George and James Gordon went to church early on Sunday after hearing about the death of her second son. Others gathered around the altar where the lone mother had been praying and weeping. Then she said to them, "I am not weeping for my sons who have died, although I feel much sorrow for their loss, but I am weeping that I do not have another son to give." She wept not for the loss of her sons, but for the lostness of the world.
In 1985, the first missionaries of the Assemblies of God were sent to the island of Aramonda. Today, more than one hundred and thirty years after the arrival of the first missionaries, there is a thriving church. Many former cannibals are now finding Jesus as their personal Savior because others paid the ultimate price earlier.
Soon, around the Judgment Seat of Christ, the throng in heaven will know about John Williams, Mr. Harris, George and Ellen Gordon, James McNair, James Gordon, and a host of others who faithfully ran their race. They did not receive the praises of men, but they will receive the praises of God. If there’s ever been a time when we as believers need to evaluate what we do and why we do it, it is now. Jesus is coming soon!
-Dr. James Davis
GPN President & Co-Founder