The writer of Hebrews, in describing the basic principles of our faith, lists “eternal judgement” as one of the foundations. Understanding “The Judgement Seat of Christ” and what will happen at this judgement is very important for our lives.
We will look at two places where the Bible speaks of the Judgement Seat of Christ:
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-11
It is generally believed that the Judgement Seat of Christ is only a time for rewarding the believer and that the White Throne Judgement is the judgement for rewarding (punishing) the unbeliever (the dead) for their sins. While I believe this to be somewhat true, I do not believe this to be complete or fully representative of scripture. Let’s us look to God’s word to gain more insight about who will appear before this judgement and what will happen.
In 2 Corinthians Chapter 5, we learn some important things.
- Paul speaks of being accepted of Him – What will happen if we are rejected of Him?
- Paul also states “For we must all appear”
- Paul states “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”
Finally, Paul concludes the Chapter by speaking of reconciliation and the salvation of the world. Recently, I engaged in a discussion about who will appear before this judgement. However, I found due to strongly held opinions, we are often unable to ask, much less to answer difficult questions due to deeply held beliefs or traditions. Here are several questions from those verses:
Questions from 2 Corinthians Chapter 5:
- What will happen if God does not accept us at this Judgement?
- Is it our works or our person that will be accepted?
- Why did Paul switch from “we” used at the beginning of the Chapter, to “we must all”? Paul uses the greek – “tous gar pantas hemas” which is a more inclusive term.
- If the Judgement Seat of Christ is only about rewards why is there “TERROR” at this Judgement? The word for “Terror” is the word “Phobos” meaning “extreme fear”
- What are we persuading men to do? To do good works for rewards?
These are some very important questions that we must answer to get a better understanding of the “who” and the “what” of the Judgement Seat of Christ.
Let us look at Romans to see if we can get further clarification about the “who” of this judgement:
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:10-12
As we can see from the verses above, Paul is addressing an issue between believers, this has traditionally caused many to immediately conclude that this adds further evidence that the Judgement Seat of Christ is only for believers. However, let’s us look carefully at these verses.
We notice once again that Paul states, “For we must all”. Again, Paul uses inclusive terms to include all. However, for those who may not be Greek scholars (including myself), this may not provide sufficient evidence. Now the early Church did not have a New Testament Bible, so whenever someone made a “God statement”, just like today, they had to prove it from the Word of God – essentially from our Old Testament.
So Paul made a statement about not judging your brother and then he said we must all stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ. A listener would say, “Paul prove from the Bible what you are saying is true!” In Paul’s defense, he quotes scripture and says, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” As we all know the word “For” is there for a reason.
Paul is probably one of the best scholars you would ever meet; so where did Paul get his proof or where did that scripture come from? This scripture can give us more information on who will stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ. This verse comes from the Book of Isaiah:
Let all the world look to me for salvation!
For I am God; there is no other.
I have sworn by my own name;
I have spoken the truth,
and I will never go back on my word:
Every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will confess allegiance to me. Isaiah 45:22-23 NLT
It is quite interesting that in the verse Paul quoted, it is totally clear that God is speaking to the whole world. Isaiah says, “All the World”, or “all the ends of the earth”. It is one of the most inclusive statement you can ever make.
I believe the scripture is clear that the whole world will appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ to be accepted or rejected of Jesus.
It is a time of mercy, where mercy triumphs over judgement and it is part of the Good News of the Gospel.
The terror of this judgement is, as Paul concludes in 2 Corinthians 5 by saying Jesus paid or reconciled our sins and if we reject Him, that we will have to pay for ourselves.
Why is this doctrine so important? Many Christians may think that they are already saved and could live their lives in any fashion being unaware that we can be accepted or rejected by Jesus based on our faith. We know that sin hardens the heart and can cause us to walk in unbelief. It would be a sad thing to be expecting rewards only to hear Jesus say, “Depart from me.”
Beloved, let us live righteous lives, if we have indeed been made righteous by faith in Christ.
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
Image 1 Credit: stutterstock/Benjamin Haas
Image 2 Credit: stutterstock/sergign
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