Within the Christian theology, discussions about the final judgments often revolve around the ominous imagery of the Great White Throne Judgment depicted in the Book of Revelation. However, amid these discussions, a distinct and equally significant event often gets overlooked—The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. This unique evaluation marks a crucial aspect of the last days and holds profound implications for believers only.
Table of Contents
The Time: Day of Christ (aka The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ), A Distinct Last-Day Judgment
The New Testament alludes to the Day of Christ six times, emphasizing the significance of this judgment for the church (I Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; II Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16). It’s vital to differentiate this event from the final Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11) that occurs after the old universe’s destruction. Additionally, there’s the judgment of nations preceding the Millennial Kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:4).
The Judge: Christ Himself
The Intensity of Evaluation by the Heavenly Judge at The Bema Seat Judgment of Believers
The intensity of this judgment is described vividly in the Scriptures:
1. A Day of Fire
The Day of Christ will reveal and test each one’s work with fire (1 Corinthians 3:13). In that day, Paul says our work will become evident. The quality of our work will be obvious to everyone, including us. Somehow the Lord will make it plain what we did, whether good or bad.
Paul compares this test to a fire that burns away the worthless things and leaves behind only the sturdy, valuable things. Fire is commonly used to test the quality of metals. Impurities are burned away and all that remains are the pure elements. That’s the way our work will be evaluated. Paul says in v.14 that if our work stands up to Christ’s scrutiny, we will receive a reward.
2. A Day of Terror
It’s a day of evaluation where individuals receive according to their deeds—good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). When the time comes for our service to be assessed, Paul says Christ considers all that we do in the body, whether good or bad. “In the body” refers to the works we accomplish in this life prior to our resurrection. In other words, He doesn’t just ask what did we do, He also asks what could we have done?
In the time we’ve been given to serve God, Jesus will recompense (or repay) according to what we’ve done, good or bad. If we do good things, serving Him faithfully, then we have reason to expect a reward. But if we do bad things – that is we do not serve Him faithfully – then we can expect a loss of that reward.
3. A Day of Damage and Loss – Loss or Gain
There’s a potential for loss or gain, where works might suffer damage, yet the individual is saved (1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 John 8). Paul says every good work we set out to accomplish must begin with the Gospel itself. So we cannot begin our work for Christ on any foundation other than on the mission to spread the testimony of Jesus and Him crucified. And then from there, we are in a position to earn reward.
Paul says in v.15 that if a man comes into that moment without a proper legacy of service to Christ, then all that he brings will be burned up. He may have been a Christian all his life. Attended church a Sunday here or there, prayed when he thought about it, threw a few bucks in the collection plate from time to time. But not much else.
Whatever he did, the test of his life reveals a wasted opportunity and so the fire of Christ’s judgment consumes everything the man accomplished. He may have done many great things…but they weren’t things that mattered to Christ and the Kingdom.
Paul says that man fails his test…so what happens to him? Praise the Lord, the man’s entrance into the Kingdom isn’t at risk. Paul says he comes through. He isn’t left behind, he isn’t shut out, sent away or rejected. He is saved, but he comes through like someone walking through a fire. They may have entered the fire clothed and holding many possessions. But they emerge naked and empty-handed, he receives no reward.
4. A Day of Shrinking from His Presence in Shame – Shame or Honor
A day where one’s confidence or shame in His presence at His coming is determined (1 John 2:28). v.28 John reassures these believers how? “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
5. A Day of the Burning Up of a Life’s Work – Burn or Remain
Works will be tested, and enduring works will be rewarded while perishable works will be burned (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). In v.13, Paul describes our coming test. The day Paul mentions is the judgment day, the day Christ assesses our life in service to Him, see point 1 above.
6. A Day of Being Saved but Only by Fire
Despite the loss, the individual is saved, yet as if passing through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). See point 1 and 5 above.
7. A Day of Being Judged by God Himself
The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ holds a significant place in Christian eschatology. It’s a time of faithful evaluation where believers’ works, motives, and obedience come under divine scrutiny. While it’s not a judgment of condemnation for believers, it carries weighty consequences, impacting rewards and positions in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Understanding this event prompts believers to live with accountability, seeking to honor Christ in their actions and teachings, aiming for works that endure the refining fire of the Bema Seat Judgment, and striving for an honored position in His Kingdom. Read “8 Profound Ways Intimacy With Jesus Empowers Your Lifestyle“ on how you can prepare for this judgement day.