June 7, 2020 The Judgment Seat

The Judgment Seat

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 5:9 – 11.

 

The apostle Paul has just encouraged the Corinthians with the eternal weight of glory that he says is waiting for them. We saw last week that the apostle used strong language to express how much glory awaits them. Literally, it is a glory that is “excessively into excessively,” or “excess into excess.” The thought of the glory that awaits us should cause us to have, as our aim – our vision – our goal, pleasing the Lord Jesus.

 

Notice what he adds: “whether we are at home or away.” This means whether we are in our bodies, that is, on earth right now; or away, that is, with the Lord in heaven without our bodies. This is interesting. The Lord has purposely revealed very little about the intermediate state for the faithful after we die. He has revealed more about what happens to the unbelieving and the unfaithful after they die. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man died after ignoring the plight of his fellow citizen, Lazarus, and finds himself in Hades in great torment.

 

The Lord also reveals much about the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. But of the time in between the death of a disciple of Christ and their resurrection very little is revealed. Here, Paul says that during this time, when we are away from our bodies, our aim will be to please the Lord. This means that we are not going to be sitting on a cloud playing a harp. We will be occupied with activities. What those activities will be we do not know, especially since we will not have bodies. But, by virtue of Paul writing that our aim will be to please the Lord, it means that we will still be making choices in heaven. And choices have to do with activities. I think we will be wonderfully surprised by our life there. We will not be bored. (Boredom is another word for “wasting time.”) We will be active. Yet, there will be choices to be made and we will choose to do those things that please the Lord, unless we are extremely foolish.[1]

 

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]

 

The Judgment Seat of Christ is one of the most neglected teachings of the entire Bible. It is so neglected that most Christians know nothing about it. I never heard a message about the Judgment Seat of Christ the first five years I was a Christian even though I always attended Bible-believing churches and never missed a Sunday. Most Christians think that there will be one great judgment determining heaven or hell and that everything is fine with them because they have trusted in Christ.

 

It is true that, if you have trusted in Christ, you are assured of escaping eternal perdition – more commonly known as hell. When most people hear the word, “hell,” they think of the place of eternal torment described in Revelation chapters 20 and 21. There it is called “the lake of fire.”

 

Trusting in Christ does bestow eternal life. There is nothing we have to do, no works, to be saved from the justice of God in sending sinners, deservedly, to the lake of fire.

 

Paul is not referring to the final judgment here in verse 10. He refers to the judgment that every believer will have to undergo when Jesus returns to the earth. This judgment is for determining rewards or discipline for his own people and has nothing to do with eternal life.

 

See what Paul writes: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” Who is the “we?” The “we” would be Paul and Timothy (2 Cor 1:1) and those to whom they are writing, the Corinthian church. He writes, “we must all appear.” It is every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ that must appear – Paul’s word – at the judgment of Christ. This will happen when the Lord returns to the earth (Col. 3:4,5,24,25; I John 2:28). We must appear! There is no escape. Every follower of Christ will appear at the judgment of his own.

 

We have just answered the question, “When will the judgment seat of Christ occur?” I wish to answer two more questions: “What will be the basis for our judgment?” And, “Where will the results of our judgment be carried out?”

 

What will be the basis of our judgment? Paul answers this query in verse 10: “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body.” The basis of our judgment will be what we have done! This is further evidence that this judgment is not a judgment respecting eternal life or forfeiture thereof, because that judgment is based not on what we have done but, rather, on what Christ has done. Eternal life is a gift based on the work of Christ, not our works. This judgment is based on what we have done.

 

Everything that we have done since we placed our faith in Christ will be reviewed by the Lord. Not only everything that we have done, but everything that we have said will be made known at the judgment:

 

2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. [3]

 

“Pastor, if everything I have ever done will be judged and everything that I have ever said will be judged then I am without hope. I am in trouble and I’m just giving up right now!”

 

I have good news for those who belong to the Lord Jesus! The Lord has provided a way for us to exclude those deeds that we know are contrary to the Lord’s will and those things that we said of which we are ashamed.

 

It is by confession. Not confession to another person (although sometimes that may be necessary, if we have sinned against someone), but confession to the Lord. The promise in I John 1:9 should be precious to every follower of the Lord:

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[4]

 

This wonderful verse is our great hope, for without this promise we would all be hopeless at the judgment seat. Memorize this verse and practice it!

 

What will be brought up at the judgment are those deeds and words for which we have not confessed, those for which we have not repented. This is why we must keep a short account with the Lord. Do not go to sleep at night without confessing your sins to the Lord. Yet, he has made it that simple. We are not under the old covenant where we have to bring a sacrifice to the Lord. We are under the new covenant and the Lord has made it easy for us. We confess our sin and we turn from it. That is all the Lord is asking us to do. I tell you, though, there are some followers of the Lord who will not do that. They are either lazy or their pride is too great to allow them to confess. Do not allow your slothfulness or your pride to exclude you from the kingdom. Our pride especially gets in the way of confessing our sins against those who are closest to us – our spouses and those in our immediate family. I tell you, many will receive discipline from the Lord on that day because of how they treated those closest to them!

 

The good news is that not every deed and word will be brought up at the judgment. Only those that we have not dealt with while on earth. All the failures and sins for which we repent will be forever behind us.

 

Having that good news, let us consider more fully what will be reviewed by the Lord at the judgment. I have already stated that this judgment will be for determining rewards or discipline for the follower of Christ. Paul alluded to this in his first epistle:

 

He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. [5]

 

Allow me to say a brief word about rewards before we consider this passage. Sometimes you hear people trying to be super-spiritual (more spiritual than Jesus!) when some will say, “I don’t do anything for rewards. I just do things because I love the Lord.” That sounds so high and pure. But people who say this overestimate their love for the Lord. Of course, every true Christian loves the Lord. But none of us love the Lord as much as we think that we do. If we loved the Lord more than our sin, then we would never sin. But, because we still sin this proves that we don’t love the Lord as much as we think we do.

 

The author of Hebrews says that we must believe that God rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

 

Moses sought the reward. Are the “super-spiritual” among us better than Moses?

 

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.[6]

 

Jesus Himself sought the reward.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [7]

 

Jesus looked to the joy that awaited him, that is, being seated at the right hand of God, in order to help him endure his suffering while on earth.

 

If One whose love for the Father was perfect looked forward to the joy that awaited him, how much more we , whose love is imperfect ought to look forward to the rewards that the Lord has promised? One man of God has said it so well:

 

“Reward is merely the tangible expression of the approval of God, and we may no more deny Him the pleasure of expressing that approval than we need renounce it for ourselves.”[8]

 

Now, let us consider our passage in I Cor. 3: Observe first that, in verse 8, he says that “each one will receive his wages according to his labor.” This is another assertion that our reward, our wages, is based upon what we do, our work on behalf of the Lord. This work is by God’s grace. It is not as if you have to perform it out of your own human energy. God gives you grace to happily perform the work. It’s not drudgery. It is enjoyable! Everything done for the Lord is a pleasure.

 

More, everything starts with Jesus Christ. He is the foundation. We are not promoting ourselves and we are not promoting religion. We are lifting up a Person. The most wonderful Person in the universe! But, once we lay that foundation we build upon it. We can build with good materials – precious metals and precious stones. Or, we can build with weak materials – wood, hay, and straw.

 

Pay attention to what Paul writes in verse 13: the Day – that is the judgment – will disclose the quality of the “work each one has done.” There is going to be a fire. That fire is the piercing analysis of the Lord. If our work survives the test (vs. 14) then we will receive a reward. What happens if our work was weak and doesn’t survive? We will lose our reward. But we ourselves will still be saved (vs. 15)! Praise God! We are still saved, even if our work is of little value.

 

So, the first thing that will be tested is our work for the Lord.

 

The second matter that will be tested is our love.

 

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [9]

 

In I Cor 13 Paul explains that all of our good works must be directed and filled with love. Here, in Luke 6, Jesus says that we should even love our enemies. We should love those who are ungrateful and those who are evil. If we love then our reward will be great! If we love then we will be kind and merciful to others. And, if we are to love our enemies, how much more should we love those in our families – our spouses, our parents? How much we have loved will be measured at the judgment. Just do not forget that love is more than a feeling. It is manifested on how we treat the one we purport to love.

 

Third, we will be rewarded according to our secret prayers.

 

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [10]

 

This passage is self-explanatory, is it not? We can say that secret devotion to the Father will always be rewarded. Do not neglect your private devotions.

 

Fourth, whether we forgive others will be brought up at the judgment. Just a few verses after this Jesus says:

 

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [11]

 

I believe you will hear words to this effect on that day: “You forgave [John or Susan or put any name there] of their offense against you. You, too, are forgiven.” But, you also may hear words just the opposite.

 

Fifth, our suffering for the cause of Christ will be greatly rewarded.

 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. [12]

 

When you speak up for Christ or his will and you suffer for it, even if you get passed by for a promotion at work (because your boss is not a Christian and knows that you are) or if your classmates at high school or college mock you for your faith, then you will be rewarded!

 

Sixth, godliness will be measured at the judgment. That is to say, how much have our lives been conformed, by the renewing of our minds, to that of Christ?

 

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.[13]

 

I train my body. I hope you are, too. There is value in it. But training for godliness will determine the quality of our life to come.

 

Let us now answer the last question: “Where will the results of our judgment be carried out?”

 

If we are faithful, if we are overcomers, then we will inherit the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is coming in its fullness in the next age.

 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.[14]

 

Inheriting the kingdom is the reward for faithfulness! Those who overcome will rule and reign with Christ in his coming kingdom.

 

I made this statement earlier: “This judgment is for determining rewards or discipline for his own people.” What is the discipline? Minimally, it is exclusion from the kingdom in the next age. That is, true Christians who do not overcome will have to wait until the Great White Throne judgment after the millennial kingdom before they can participate in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

But unrepentant sins can mean something worse than this.

 

I am going to end with the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. Before I read it, let me ask: To whom was the Sermon on the Mount spoken? The first verse of Matthew chapter 5 tells us: “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.”

 

The Sermon on the Mount is to his disciples.

 

In verse 13 he says, “You are the salt of the earth.” Unbelievers are not the salt of the earth. Unbelievers are the spoilers of the earth.

 

In verse 14 he says, “You are the light of the world.” Unbelievers are not the light of the world. Unbelievers are the darkness of the world (John 3:19-20; 8:12; 12:46).

 

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [15]

 

In verse 22, the word “hell” is Gehenna. This is not the lake of fire in Revelation chapters 20 and 21. Gehenna is not the final place of condemnation. It is a temporary place of suffering. This is made clear by verse 26: “…you (who? A brother [vs. 22]) will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” You can get out of Gehenna. You cannot get out of the lake of fire.

 

We have answered three questions today about the Judgment Seat of Christ.

 

 

  • When will the judgment seat of Christ occur? It will occur when Jesus returns to the earth.
  • What will be the basis for our judgment? At least six matters will be considered: 1. What we have done (our deeds). 2. Our love. 3. Secret devotion. 4. Whether we forgive others. 5. Our suffering. 6. Our godliness (our sanctification).
  • Where will the results of our judgment be carried out? If we receive a reward, we will inherit the kingdom of the next age. If we are disciplined, we will not inherit the kingdom and it is possible to be sent into Gehenna until we have learned to cease from sin.

 

There was a recurring dream that I used to have starting in Middle School. I had it in High School as well as college. I continued to have this dream even five to ten years after graduation from University. I dreamt that I was in school and I was trying to find my classroom. I have difficulty finding it even though it is already the end of the school year. I peer in this classroom and that one. The reason I have trouble is that I seldom attended the class. Finally, just before the bell rings, I find it and take a seat. I hear the other students talking that there is going to be a final exam today. I realize that I have not read the textbook. I have not paid much attention to the teacher whenever I was in class. And I had no notes. A great fear begins to arise within me and I think, "Why did I neglect this class?" The test gets passed out and I look at the questions and I do not know any of the answers. Then I wake up with my heart beating fast.

 

How foolish it would be to show up for a test in real life and be unprepared! Yet, it is a hundred times more foolish to be unprepared to face Christ at the judgment of his people and be unprepared! Yet, I fear this is the condition of so many Christians today! They are unprepared!

 

If you belong to Christ and you have neglected your service to Him and have neglected your sanctification, then delay no longer. This very day commit to live for Him, to be transformed, and to love your brothers and sisters, even your enemies.

 

If you do not belong to Christ, then receive the gift of eternal life by simply trusting in Him as both Lord and Savior. He died to take away your sins. And he rose from the dead to impart life and joy into you.

 

“Lord, prepare us and make us ready for that great day. Make us overcomers. We ask you to place the day of judgment at the forefront of our minds and to empower us to be ready. May your grace prevail upon us so that we will run the race and not stroll the course. May your grace prevail upon us so that we will win a crown. Amen.”

 

 

 

[1] Paul says that our aim now is to please the Lord. But we recognize that Christians fail in this regard. Death does not transform our souls. The transformation that we need must take place in the present, before death.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 5:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 12:2–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 1:9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 3:8–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 11:26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] D.M. Panton, The Judgment Seat of Christ (Schoettle Publishing, Hayesville, NC 28904. 1993) p. 7.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:35–36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:22–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 4:7–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:21–26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.