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Monday, May 27, 2019

The JUDGMENT SEAT Of CHRIST – PART 1 of 3


By Lambert Dolphin

The Bema is mentioned in two contexts in Acts and in the Epistles. One use of the word bema was to describe the reviewing stand where competing athletes in a race were evaluated and rewarded by a panel of judges:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

The second use of “bema” in the New Testament is in connection with Roman rule over conquered peoples. The Roman overlords interfered as little as possible in domestic affairs, considering themselves morally superior to the pagans under them. They appointed governors with on-site jurisdiction, and in major cities they erected outdoor law courts where a visiting Procurator could visit periodically to mediate and enforce Rome’s absolutes. Several interesting situations confirming the civic center bema are recorded in the New Testament. The most notable example is in Acts 18.


The significance of teaching about the Bema in the life of young disciples of Jesus is often tragic because the usual, common teaching these days is about running life’s race (i.e., competing selfishly for status or power), and “keeping on keeping on” (in the flesh, by trying harder)—as if God needs our help. But following Jesus does require long obedience and self-discipline (as exemplified in athlete games). Ray Stedman elucidates this in a highly relevant message.

Short answer, Jesus has been running the universe since He created it. He does not need us to add in our feeble efforts. Our feeble efforts often get in the way and slow God’s work in the world. Paul the Apostle ran the race and finished well but by obeying Jesus one day at a time not by living a secular lifestyle emulating the ways of the world.

Christ in you the hope of glory

“...the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:26-29)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

The Judgment Seat of Christ is not specifically about sin but is primarily an evaluation event outside of our time domain affecting all Christians. This event will be administrated when we leave time and enter eternity. That is, we experience the bema either at the time we die or at the Rapture. These happenings are spread out in earth time but synched in eternity. This cosmic event, the Bema, involves all followers of Christ “simultaneously.” Seeing our Lord face to Face, seeing things as they really were all along, might be for some a cause for shame. There will certainly be loss at the bema as we are all cleansed from “dead works.”

Billions of followers of Jesus since the beginning of history will enter “heaven” (New Jerusalem) through this Bema portal. This is a disparity, small or great, between our present perception of reality along with our resultant life-styles now versus the adjustment we will make when we see Jesus as He is now in glory. But the Bema is mostly about the good that Jesus managed to do through us from the cradle to the grave. The evil we did is not brought up, nor our checkered past. But there will be an open full disclosure by Jesus of His assessment of how we lived our lives. God takes seriously our having been justified by faith alone.

Ray Stedman once said, “God saves everything than can possibly be saved. And He destroys everything that cannot be saved.”

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming (parousia). If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (1 John 2:28-29)

To add weight to our tendency to down-play the certainty of our appointment at the Judgment Seat of Christ,

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:
‘As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.’
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:7-15)

Employers usually evaluate their employees from time to time. How else can the non-productive be weeded out, pay raises distributed and promotions awarded? Every coach must know his players well. So, think about the finished product of life which is being worked out every day in every person:

But in a great house (the universe) there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

After the bema we will all know one another for who we have become. Since we each tend to view ourselves too lowly or too highly, the bema will make it clear where we each stand in a group of several billion fellow believers. Jesus Himself will do the reviewing!


C.S. Lewis is surely relevant,

"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
"All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." (from The Weight of Glory)


I beg you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1,2)


Arriving at the Bema Seat: The Rapture

The Lord Jesus leads the rapture event having descended from heaven to meet us in the air. The next event we ALL experience will be the Bema. Every Christian who ever lived will experience a complete file up-date, a clearing of the air, and purging of any unresolved conflicts, burning up of dead works. Every obvious follower of Jesus Christ will pass the Bema, suffering some loss, while other secret followers who know Jesus will be vindicated. The Bema will therefore [be] very personal. It is also the event where all that Jesus did through us will be made known.

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

The Rapture is scheduled to happen at a certain point in time on the calendar. But it is a cosmic event in eternity, when the “the dead in Christ” are raised first. We who are alive when the rapture occurs will be caught up together them immediately while the dead are behind raised with their new bodies “The dead in Christ” who are being raised, have Jesus in them. They have also been justified and sanctified and now glorified as we “who are alive and remain” have. We will know many of these who have gone before. Family, friends and fellow pilgrims. But more: every past saint we have admired and from will be with this.

We will be reconciled with many of these persons but not all. What about all we cheated, mislead, lied to, had illicit sex with, drove away from Jesus, or killed? Motives matter, and we do not always know ourselves well in this life. Yes, there will be a momentary sense of loss but remember 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:

“...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)


The Great White Throne or “Last Judgment” is a separate event! Here is what the Bible says about the Last Judgment:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15

NOTE to READERS from James: We have two series that might interest you, related to the topics covered in this Three-Part series:




Believers already live in New Jerusalem now. We just aren’t wearing our new bodies yet.

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29)


Ray Stedman has wonderful insights into the Bema Seat which should bring closure for anyone who feels the return of Jesus will bring condemnation and shame:


by Ray C. Stedman
"What is there to live for?" That is a question that fills many hearts, both Christian and non-Christian alike, today. These are times of crisis. We feel them very strongly in this present hour. Many are troubled by the bleak look of the future. Teen-age suicide rates are rocketing as despair spreads. So, many are asking the question, "What is there to live for?" There is a wonderful answer provided in this passage from Second Corinthians 5 which we will be studying today. I hope that many will be helped by it.

I was at a conference this week in Southern California where I listened the first evening to a very penetrating and perceptive message by Dr. Charles Malik, a splendid Christian statesman from Lebanon, who, at one time, was President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. He gave a very incisive analysis of where we are today in the world and the factors behind the crisis in which we live. He gave us twelve points that he felt we in the Western world were insufficiently aware of in which dangerous and significant events are creeping up on us.

As he went through these points you could see how, mounting on every side, is the pressure and the danger to our national life and to us as individuals as well. When he finished, as I think often happens in these days of looking only at the things that are seen, he left us with a great sense of almost hopelessness that we have gone too far and there is not much we can do about it. The hopelessness of our age and times has never been more eloquently stated, perhaps, than by that most eloquent of men, Malcolm Muggeridge, speaking at the Hoover Institution here at Stanford not long ago. He summed up the end of Western civilization in these words.

The final conclusion would seem to be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions and providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus, did Western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania (“a delusion in which a person (typically a woman) believes that another person (typically of higher social status) is in love with them”), himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling. And, having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and  polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.

Well, the world of the 1st century looked very similarly bleak, and there was no more reason for hope in the days of the apostles than there is in our own times. Yet when you turn to the pages of the New Testament you never see the reaction of despair. There is a cry of triumph and of hope running through all these pages, although their circumstances did not look any more hopeful than ours.

2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8,16
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Notice how Paul puts it as he introduces this passage to us here. "So we are always of good courage [faint not]"; then again in Verse 8, "We are of good courage [faint not]." That note has been sounded again and again throughout this passage. In Verse 1 of Chapter 4 he says, "Having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart [faint not]"; and in Verse 16 of Chapter 4 he says, "So we do not lose heart."

For more on this, see Chuck Missler's article on this: Our Final Exam, The Bema Seat

Here we will end part One of this excellent teaching, and next time we will recap and continue to part Two! Until next time, be blessed in the BLESSED AND ONLY POTENTATE, the LORD JESUS CHRIST!

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