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The Day of Christ - Part 3
The Judgment Seat of Christ

Judgment Seat of Christ

by Dennis Pollock

In Paul's epistles, the apostle made reference again and again to the Day of Jesus Christ. On this amazing Day, unlike any other day in earth's history, three great events will occur. First, the bodies of those who have died in Christ will be raised and perfected, and will clothe the spirits of the saints. Secondly the living believers will be transformed and taken from the earth in an instant, to be with Christ in the heavens. In this brief teaching we shall consider the third event of this amazing day – the judgment seat of Christ.

In Paul's day, kings and city rulers sat on special seats or thrones known as judgment seats to give out rewards for athletes for their superior performances, and also to sit as judge over legal controversies and accusations. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul used this concept to describe what would take place in the life of each believer on the Day of Jesus Christ. Christ shall sit as Judge, and we shall stand before Him as the judgee.

Why be judged?

The question that arises for many is, "Why should there need to be such a judgment seat? Are we not forgiven of our sins? Are we to be punished for them after all?" The answer is that we are indeed forgiven of our sins upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior. As Corrie Ten Boom used to say, "when we confess our sins, God casts them into the depths of the sea, and puts up a sign: NO FISHING ALLOWED." The Bible declares, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

The forgiveness provided for us through Jesus is thorough, complete, and goes far beyond a mere pardon. The blood of Christ washes us from our sins to such a degree that we are placed in a state as though we had never committed sin at all. Years ago a killer stalked the streets of New York who became known as the son of Sam. His real name was David Berkowitz, and he claimed that a powerful demon who possessed his neighbor's dog was giving him orders to kill women. The women of New York were terrified. For a year the city lived in fear until finally one day the police caught up with David. As they surrounded his car, his first words were, "You got me. What took you so long?"

Judgment Seat of ChristBerkowitz was sentenced to multiple life sentences and sent to prison. But while in prison a strange thing happened to this troubled man. He was given a Bible and began to read it, especially in the book of Psalms. He eventually gave his life to Christ and experienced a dramatic conversion. His very demeanor changed and David Berkowitz gave every indication that he had been truly born again. In the years that followed he became a model prisoner, served as a chaplain's assistant, counseled troubled prisoners, and served as a bright light in a very dark place. Now no doubt some would object to the idea of God forgiving a man who had committed such heinous crimes. His murders cut short the lives of precious young ladies, tore families apart, and left marks of grief that time will never heal. Surely this man does not deserve to be forgiven!

But of course that is the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness never comes to the deserving; it is always for the undeserving. And whether your sin is that of serial murder, or merely nagging your husband too much, the Bible makes it clear that the blood of Jesus Christ is of sufficient potency to cleanse, forgive, and remit all sins. John writes, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This forgiveness wipes out all penalties associated with sin. There will be no hell, no purgatory, no punishment nor even mention of our sins. You will be as though you had never committed sin. In Revelation we read, "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

This brings us back to the question, "Why a judgment seat?" If our sins are forgiven, and there is no penalty attached to them, what is the point of standing before Christ for a review of our lives? The incredibly good news for the believers is that this judgment seat is not for the purpose of punishment, but for the distributing of rewards for services rendered! Jesus declares, "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12). On the Day of Jesus Christ, after the dead have been raised, after the church has been raptured, the Lord Jesus shall sit down on His unique judgment seat, where we will stand before Him individually to receive our rewards. Paul writes, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body …"

Our life – a test

It seems the few short years we are given on this earth comprise a test, and we will be graded and rewarded (or in the sinner's case punished) according to how well we have done on this test. For the believer, the rewards we shall receive will be everlasting rewards that we will enjoy throughout eternity. What at amazing thing to contemplate! Small acts of kindness and service done here while "in the body" in our paltry 70 years or so, will make for blessings and privileges we will be enjoying a trillion, trillion years from now. It sort of gives you a new outlook on the so-called sacrifices we make for the Lord, doesn't it?

Imagine that upon graduation from high school we were all given a test that would determine our salary for the rest of our lives. Our scores on that test would govern the money we would be earning in our twenties, our forties, our sixties, and the entirety of our lives. All of this would be based upon our performance on that one solitary test. How important that test would appear in any sensible person's eyes! Anyone with the least bit of sense would study for that test like crazy. As the test approached, television would be ignored, sports contests forgotten, and social events neglected for the one supreme objective of scoring well on the test and securing for oneself a comfortable future.

Our Lord Jesus has assured us that this earthly life is just such a test. Our life on earth is a timed test. We have only the time allotted us by our Creator. But in school we knew exactly how much time was involved with the timed tests. Perhaps we were given forty-five minutes or an hour to complete the test. And if we were moving slowly we would check our watches frequently to see just how much time we had left. But the test of life is a timed test in which we are not told how much time we have. The buzzer could sound at any moment and the test will be over – "please put your pencils down!" And once the time is up, there is nothing left to do but wait for our appointment with the Professor of the Universe, when He will give us our grade. This will happen on the Day of Jesus Christ. We shall be informed of how well we have done, and the rewards associated with our service to Christ.

The Day will Declare

Paul writes, "each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Our works, the deeds we have done, will be tried by divine fire. Some will not endure. They will burn up, revealing that they were our own works, not Christ's works through us. Christ did not initiate them, the Holy Spirit did not empower them, and God does not claim them. They were works done with the wrong motivation, untouched by the Master's hand. They will not be able to survive the divine fire.

But other works shall endure. These are the works Jesus has wrought through us – acts of goodness, kindness, and faith initiated by the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. These are works done for the glory of Christ and not man, works produced through God's grace working in a man or a woman. They will come out of the fire like gleaming gold, and a special and unique reward will be given for each such work.

Repaid at the Resurrection

Our Lord considered this business of rewards a big deal, saying, "whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42). Even the smallest act of kindness done out of devotion to Christ will have its reward. Jesus tells us, "When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:12-14). Too often we do some noble deed and then hope God will show His appreciation with a check in the mail by next week. Then when the anticipated check doesn't appear, we wonder if God even noticed. But God's rewards are not always going to be given out during our days on earth. Sometimes they are, but oftentimes they are stored up, reserved for the Day of Jesus Christ. Ministering to poverty-stricken people who couldn't possibly repay us is one way of insuring that on That Day, we will have rewards in our account.

This is not to suggest that we somehow earn our way into heaven. Our salvation, through which our sins are forgiven and we receive eternal life, is a free gift based upon Christ taking our sins upon Himself at the cross and rising from the dead three days later. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. This gift comes to us through faith in Jesus without any reference whatsoever to our own works. But once we are accepted into the family of God and justified by faith in Jesus, we are then commanded to do good works and serve the Lord Jesus. And for this we shall be rewarded.

Sinner's Judgment

The ungodly will also stand before Jesus for judgment, but it will be an entirely different type of judgment. Whereas the Christian's sins will have been deleted and wiped off the books through Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf, for the sinner every sin he has ever committed will be listed and will be assigned an appropriate punishment in that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. While the believer's judgment will consist of only rewards and no punishments, the unbeliever's judgment will be comprised only of punishments with no rewards. So what about the good works he has done – the money given to charity, the time volunteered to that homeless shelter? Unfortunately for him none of his supposed good works will have any reward because they were not done in the name of Christ or for His glory. Jesus tells us, "Without Me you can do nothing," which means that whatever we accomplish apart from Christ is considered, in the eyes of God, precisely nothing.

It is Jesus' cross that makes the Day of Christ a time we can eagerly anticipate. The Bible tells us that "He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Jesus Christ is coming for us! He said that He would and He always keeps His word. And on that very special Day we shall stand before Him to be rewarded for our service. These few short years on earth we are given are vitally important. We must make good use of them, for it is those things we do while "in the body" which will determine rewards we will enjoy throughout eternity. What shall we say to these things? In the words of Paul, "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 15:58).

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