Should I be concerned about the Judgement Seat of Christ?
In considering this question let us first state clearly what we mean by the ‘judgment seat of Christ’. The expression is found twice in the scriptures, Rom. 14. 10; 2 Cor. 5. 10, although other scriptures directly or indirectly allude to this event.1 The Judgement Seat of Christ refers to a personal interview that every believer will have with the Lord Jesus Himself, with the purpose of reviewing their life here on earth, and, in particular, the ministry in which they have been involved for Him. The result of that interview will be reward, and hence the Judgement Seat of Christ is closely linked with the numerous crowns mentioned in the New Testament for believers, which relate to different aspects of service.2
Let us also state clearly what the Judgement Seat of Christ is not. It is not the occasion where sin in the life of an individual believer is identified and the just penalty for that sin is administered, or where even a rebuke is given by the Lord. Such an occasion is described for unbelievers, Rev. 20. 11-15. It is called the ‘great white throne’ and so terrifying is this event that we read ‘the earth and the heaven fled away’ from the Lord Jesus who will sit on this throne. No true believer will ever face this great white throne judgement. This is because the penalty for our sins was borne by the Lord Jesus once and for all at the cross. The Lord Jesus faced a throne of judgement Himself as He stood before Pilate’s judgement seat, John 19. 13.3 Thus, there is nothing to fear or be anxious about in relation to the judgement of our sins. They are gone and gone forever!
But should we be concerned about the Judgement Seat of Christ and this personal and detailed review of our lives? Paul describes his motivation for his evangelistic ministry in relation to the Judgement Seat of Christ, and says, ‘Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men’, 2 Cor. 5. 10, 11. While Paul could be referring to the terror facing the unbelievers he is trying to persuade (i.e., the judgement of God), it is more than likely Paul is describing his own reverential fear for God, a better rendering than ‘terror’. Thus, Paul was motivated by both reverential fear and love for the Lord in his ministry, v. 14. There is a sense, then, in which we should be concerned about facing the Lord Jesus personally one day, not with a cowering fear, but rather with a reverential desire to please Him, being conscious that we are accountable to Him alone.
One feature of the Judgement Seat of Christ that we should be concerned about is that it will be a time when hidden things will be made known. One aspect of this is the quality of what we have done for the Lord. Paul alludes to this in 1 Corinthians chapter 3. He describes the teaching ministry of those following him, referring to building materials of various qualities, such as gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble. It will be a day in which ‘every man’s work shall be made manifest’, vv. 12, 13. The Judgement Seat of Christ is also a time when our motives will be made known. We read that it will be a time when the Lord Jesus, ‘will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God’, 1 Cor. 4. 5. A parable the Lord Jesus gave illustrates the importance of motives for service, Matt. 19. 27 – 20. 16.
The Judgement Seat of Christ will be a time, therefore, when the quality of what we have done for the Lord, and our motivation for doing it, will be revealed to us. Although our sins will not be brought into question, ulterior motives, such as trying to gain the approval of others, will be revealed. Paul stopped short of making a judgement of his own ministry for the Lord before that time. He said, ‘I judge not mine own self’, 1 Cor. 4. 3. In Romans chapter 14, he also stressed the importance of refraining from judging the motives of others. In doing so we are judging another man’s servant and usurping the place of Christ as the sole person to whom all judgement of the human race has been committed, John 5. 22, 27.