The Judgment Seat of Christ

by Mike Ratliff

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:24-27, ESV)

As I stated in yesterday’s post, Submitting To The Authority of Scripture, cultural Christianity is not the same thing as Genuine Christianity. It has been the same all through the history of the Church. The Genuine Church has always been the “regenerate remnant” within the larger, unregenerate “visible church.” A few years ago Harold Camping was calling for the end of the world or the return of Jesus Christ to bring about the end of the world and even predicted it to come about on a certain date. When that date came and went he said he had been wrong and so changed it to another date. Of course, that date came and went. However, there was a certain “zinger” to his predictions that got a lot of Christian discernment people who are keen on eschatology very interested in what he was saying. One of his predictors that the “end was near” was the apostasy of the “church.” 

As the first date of his prediction was coming close I was really hearing it from some people because of the circus that the visible church had become while at the same time it seemed to be what had the large numbers of people, et cetera. I called into Dr. James White’s radio show, The Dividing Line that day and told him what I had been hearing. I, of course, did not believe what Harold Camping was saying, but that what he was saying was really causing confusion because it looked like he was actually on to something. Before I could continue Dr. White stopped me and simply used the Biblical examples of the Apostles. For instance, if we could go back to the time of Paul or John or Peter and what they were going through, as they dealt with those under them who they had left in charge of the churches they had planted and what they had to deal with, it would look to us that those in the larger house churches down the street with the richer flocks and the easier softer “gospel” message were doing quite better in the Greco-Roman world than those genuine churches planted by the Apostles themselves as well as those they had trained. In other words, the apostasy we are seeing now has always been going on in one way or another and we must be very careful to not look at the numbers or size of ministries to evaluate whether they are really of God or not. It is faithfulness that counts, not numbers, not money, and not size.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ESV)

Most Christians I know live as if this life in the temporal is all there is. However, in reality, while a believer is alive on earth he is away from the fullness of God’s presence. However, the Apostle Paul is not saying he had absolutely no contact with God because there is prayer, the indwelling Spirit, and fellowship through the Word. Paul was expressing a heavenly homesickness, a strong yearning to be at home with his Lord. I know exactly what he meant.

In v7 Paul tells us how we do deal with the reality of being in this temporal, evil world, while not being part of it. How do we do it? We can hope for a heaven we have not seen. We do this by believing what Sacred Scripture says about it and living by that belief. In v8 Paul again expresses that he would much rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. This enabled him to face whatever this life in this evil age had for him. He could face it with good courage no matter the cost.

Because of Paul’s right heavenly perspective we see in v9 that Paul’s goal for his life was to be doing what God wanted him to be doing and to do it well. His goal was not worldly ambition or to be recognized by men, but to be well pleasing to God alone. How many ministry leaders in our time could measure up to that one?

In v10 Paul describes how all Christians will appear before Christ at the judgment seat. What is this? The words “judgment seat” translate the Greek noun βήματος or bēmatos, the Genitive, Singular, Neuter case of βῆμα or bema. The βῆμα was an elevated platform where victorious athletes went to receive their crowns. It is also used in the New Testament to refer to the place of judging as when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:19; John 19:13), but here the reference is definitely from the athletic analogy since Corinth had such a platform where both athletic rewards and legal justice were dispensed (Acts 18:12-16) so the Corinthians understood what Paul was talking about.

The good or evil Paul used v10 is not referring to moral good and moral evil. Those matters have been completely dealt with by the death of the Saviour on the cross. Instead, Paul was comparing worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless ones. He was not saying that Christians cannot enjoy wholesome things God has given to all on this earth, but that they should glorify God in them and spend most of their energy and time with what has eternal value.

Soli Deo Gloria!







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