2 Corinthians 5:10. 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.
Tonight at dinner with some family and friends I asked them what they thought of the Judgment Seat of Christ. The words “scary,” “terrifying,” “I don’t understand it,” and “we never think about it” were all used. The words “Oh yeah can’t wait for it,” and “that’s funny, I was just thinking about the Judgment Seat today,” were not used.
Paul’s line of thought here in 2 Corinthians has been on our eternal glory in Christ, which far outweighs our affliction in the present. He has called us to look to the unseen things that will last forever, including our new body that we will receive at the resurrection. Until then, “we all with unveiled face are being transformed into Christ by beholding the glory of Christ (3:18).”
One day this ongoing transformation will be revealed. At the Judgment Seat. The bema.
In Roman cities, trials were held at the bema: a seat on a platform where the local governor would hear and judge cases brought before him. This actually happened to Paul in Corinth. He stood before the judgment seat or bema of Gallio. And it happened to Jesus at the bema of Pilate. Now Jesus sits on the eternal bema.
I know the Judgment Seat of Christ can be “scary” for many of us, or just plain confusing. And I was tempted to skip this verse and not even try to blog about it. But I humbly offer today’s submission. Let me give you some thoughts about the Judgment Seat of Christ in 3 groups of 3 thoughts.
What Paul doesn’t say about the Judgment Seat of Christ.
1. He doesn’t say when it will happen. We can assume that it will happen after the resurrection of the dead. But we should probably be careful about drawing out detailed timelines of the future.
2. He doesn’t ever seem to imply that in Heaven some Christians are stacking up more rewards than others, like it’s an elementary school field day.
3. He doesn’t ever mention any kind of punishment. In fact, our union with Christ means that we are never condemned, never punished, never shamed, and never held accountable for our sin.
John 5:24. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24 pictures us before Jesus but not coming under his judgment. Why? Because we have his eternal life. His own zoe.
What Paul does say about the Judgment Seat of Christ.
1. Christ is the judge. God is the righteous judge of all humanity (Gen. 18:25, Romans 2:6). But God the Father has handed over judgment of humanity to the son.
John 5:22. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.
Humanity will be judged by the God-man, Jesus. Why? Because it is what we do with Jesus that determines our eternal status.
2. Each person will be judged individually – we all….each one. No hiding behind your parents, or your pastor, or your friend, or spouse. Each of us will look Jesus in the eye.
3. What we do today matters. In fact, everything we do in the body, until the day we die, matters. Jesus will look at everything we have done in light of the faith that was behind it. Things done from faith in the grace of God will be classified as good. All else as bad. I can imagine we are all in for some big surprises here.
Exactly what Paul is describing is a bit hard to understand. He literally says that we will “receive back in the body what we have done in the body.” We also know that we will have a glorified body as we stand before Christ. I wonder if Paul is describing some sort of new understanding of all that we did in life. Will we, like Christ, be able to see the truth about all that we did? Will we be able to classify each action, thought, and word of our life correctly for what it really was – good or bad? Grace or works? This means an eternity free of all self deception, false guilt and pride.
Receiving the grace of Jesus our judge.
1. The Jesus who died on the cross is the same Jesus who will judge us. We will be judged by the crucified Christ and through the crucified Christ. And the crucified Christ will do what he has always done – bear our burdens while revealing our self destruction.
The Judgement Seat is the place of our appearing, that is, our revealing. We will be unveiled. And what will be revealed is the cross. All that we did by the power of the cross will remain. All that we did without the power of the cross will be annihilated by that same cross.
I can imagine that this will be a great and glorious day, as Jesus our Savior honors us for our faithful endurance through the suffering of a life lived apart from him for so long. Now face to face in all his glory we will see his faithfulness, and he ours. We have finally been fully transformed. Thank you Jesus!
2. The Judgment Seat of Christ is where God’s grace will be revealed. The fact that any of us will even survive the judgment of God through Christ is nothing but shear grace. But we will do more than just survive it. We will be glorified through it.
Listen, stop being afraid of the judgment of Jesus. Trust me, you want Jesus to judge you. It is at this Judgment Seat of Christ that we will find the Mercy Seat. The place where the final judgment is “Father forgive them” and “It is finished.”
3. Try to live your life in light of this day. Think about your day, your week, your month. What arguments have you had? What has made you angry? Worried you?
Now imagine yourself talking about these things in front of your crucified Jesus on judgment day. They suddenly seem pretty small don’t they? Even absurd. Will you try to justify these arguments, these broken relationships in front of him? These worries? Then why are you justifying them today?
“To live is Christ” means your total transformation into Christ. And that transformation will be realized at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Who’s excited?!
What do you think of when you think of the Judgment of Christ? Are you resting in his righteousness for that day? Are you excited to finally be made whole and fully alive?