Will I be a Winner or a Loser at the Bema? – Part 1

Will I have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom or will I be saved by the skin of my teeth? 2 Pet. 1. 11; 1 Cor. 3. 15. Will it be reward accompanied by rejoicing, or will it be reward tinged with regret?

The believer of the church age is judged on three levels:-

a b c
As a sinner As a son As a servant
in the past in the present in the future
by God by the Father by the Son
John 5. 24; Rom. 8. 1 John 15. 1-6; Heb. 12. 5-11 John 5. 22

‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all [future] judgment unto the Son’, John 5. 22.

There are seven aspects of judgement where divine persons are responsible for meting out judgement:-

  1. Christ at Calvary was judged by God on account of human sin and guilt.
  2. Believers, at Calvary, representatively in Jesus Christ.
  3. As sons we are chastened or child-trained by our heavenly Father, Heb. 12. 5, 6; John 15. 1-6.
  4. As stewards or servants at the bema or tribunal, by Christ, Rom. 14. 10; 2 Cor. 5. 10.
  5. The nation of Israel in the wilderness, by Messiah, Ezek. 20. 33-44.
  6. The ‘living nations’ in the valley of Jehoshaphat by Messiah, Matt. 25. 31; Acts 17. 31.
  7. The unsaved at the Great White Throne, by Christ, Rev. 20. 11-15.

Of these, only two take place away from earth, the bema and the Great White Throne. Notice first, their similarities and then their differences.

The bema The Great White Throne
Similarities A future event
Undertaken by Christ
Do not take place on earth, not in heaven, but in between
Verdicts do not affect the place of eternal destiny. This is already determined
Have to do with awards
Subject has to give account
Differences Only saints present
At the commencement of the Day of the Lord
Degrees of praise – award based on works
Heaven – eternal
Only sinners present
At the conclusion of the Day of the Lord
Degrees of punishment – award based on works
Lake of Fire – eternal

The bema, Judgement Seat or tribunal, was a marble table or dais with a seat for the judge. Both Pilate and Herod are associated with a bema in respect of dispensing judgement. Paul uses this word of the adjudicator’s chair and platform at the Grecian games, in the context of prize-giving. The phrase ‘the judgment seat of Christ’ occurs twice in our King James Version of the Bible, 2 Cor. 5. 10, Rom. 14. 10. Literally, the first reference is ‘of Christ’, the second is ‘of God’, and, by inference, the deity of Christ is borne out.

We must be clear that the bema has nothing to do with our sin, or our salvation, but it has everything to do with our service and stewardship as Christians. By asking certain questions of the scriptures we can arrive at a sound understanding of this event.

1. THE SEASON – When does it take place?

‘And thou shalt be blessed … for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just’, Luke 14. 14. ‘His wife hath made herself ready …

the fine linen is the righteousness (plural – ‘righteous acts’) of saints’, Rev. 19. 7-8. The church has been judged and is arrayed in the garment of righteous acts which have been designated as such at the bema. The bema must, therefore, take place after the resurrection but before the marriage of the Lamb.

The bema is closely associated with the Lord’s coming and our resurrection, as demonstrated in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 8, ‘a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day’, where ‘that day’ is His appearing and, again, in 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 5, ‘Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come … and then shall every man have praise of God’.

2. THE SITE – Where does it take place?

It is patently not on earth. It takes place after resurrection. After being raised and changed, we meet the Lord in the air (the atmosphere). He is about to take us to His Father’s house and the many mansions. But the adjudication of our service has to take place first. Is it likely that it takes place in heaven? The answer has to be, ‘No’. The judgement seat is accompanied by suffering loss. While the overall ethos will be one of rejoicing and reward, there will be regret and even remorse as the fire tries everyone’s work of what sort it is. Regret for not having given our all for Christ; remorse at seeing the effects of the fire. As heaven itself is devoid of pain, sorrow and tears, there is only fullness of joy in heaven, the bema must take place after the believer’s resurrection but before we enter glory.

3. THE SURVEYOR – Who is the judge?

The terms ‘judgment seat of Christ’ and ‘judgment seat of God’ are pertinent to our question. The judge will be the Lord Jesus Christ in His deity. John chapter 5 and verse 22 reveals the assessor as the Son of God, ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son’. Paul in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 8 describes Him as, ‘the Lord, the righteous judge’.

We are not left in any doubt as to the identity of the adjudicator. It is our blessed Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

4. THE SUBJECTS – Who is judged?

Romans chapter 4 verse 10 declares, ‘We shall all stand’, that is, all believers from this church era will be present and give account. Again in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 10, ‘For we must all appear’ – be made manifest, that is, every child of God from the day of Pentecost to the rapture, without exception, will be at this tribunal.

5. THE SERVICE – What is judged?

‘Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful’, 1 Cor. 4. 2. Our service, our life’s work, will be scrutinized for faithfulness. This will include our manners, our ministry, our materials and our motives.

Manners – how have we treated our fellow-saints, Rom. 14. 10-13? Have we been guilty of criticizing one another? Have we put a stumbling block in our brother’s way? These and other matters in Romans chapters 14 and 15 will be called into question and reviewed.

Ministry – how have we built for God? ‘Take heed how he buildeth thereupon’, 1 Cor. 3. 10. Paul makes reference to the building up of the local assembly on the foundation that has been laid, Jesus Christ. Care is to be exercised in the matter of building up a local assembly. Here it is ‘how’ not ‘what’!

Materials – what have we built into the assembly? Have we built in that which God regards as valuable or have we gone for volume? Have we looked for quality – gold, silver and precious stones. Or, have we looked for quantity – wood, hay and stubble. It is readily apparent which burns and which remains, vv. 9c-17.

Motives – why have we done what we have done? ‘Until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart’, 4. 1-5. It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Equally, our motives may be gold but our methods tin. God is not interested merely in what we have done but why we have done it.

6. THE SCRUTINY – How is it judged?

The thoroughness of His scrutiny is shown in the term ‘give account’, Rom. 14. 12 – not ‘an account’ or ‘the account’ but ‘account’; ‘made manifest’, 1 Cor. 3. 13 – to become apparent or visible; ‘declare it’, v. 13 – to make it plain; ‘revealed’, v. 13 – to uncover; ‘tried’, 1 Pet. 1. 7 – to prove.

The righteousness of His scrutiny is declared in 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 8, ‘the Lord, the righteous judge’.

There are three principles demonstrated in this regard in the Gospels.

The principle of equal responsibility as seen in the parable of the pounds, Luke 19. 11-27.

Each person was given one pound, with the expectation that they would use it to the best of their ability until their master returned. It is clear that the servants were rewarded according to their effort rather than by results. The third servant went unrewarded, as he made no attempt to make any kind of return for his master. His unused pound was given to the servant who had achieved most. What effort are we putting into the service of our Lord? We are equally responsible.

The principle of differing abilities as seen in the parable of the talents, Matt. 25. 14-30.

The lord gave three typical servants five talents, two talents and one talent according to his assessment of their ability to trade with them. Two doubled their talents by using them on the lord’s behalf. The third buried his and only had one talent to show at the end. This was evidence that he was not a genuine servant at all. Our Lord has entrusted us with ‘talents’ according to our varying ability. What will we have to present to our Lord and Master at the end of the day?

The principle of divine assessment as seen in in the parable of the labourers in the harvest field, Matt. 20. 1-16.

The labourers began work at differing times and the duration of their working day varied. The earliest workers struck an agreement with their employers for one penny per day. Those taken on later in the day left it to their employer to pay them as he saw fit. They were all paid the same sum irrespective of their hours. This irritated the all-day workers however they negotiated the settlement! Far better to leave rewards to the discretion of our Lord than to seek to negotiate. ‘Whatsoever is right I will give thee’, v. 4.

To be continued.


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