January 27, 2019 The Judgment Seat of Christ Part Two



Last time we differentiated, as the scriptures do, the gift of eternal life and the rewards we are to receive based upon our faithful service to Christ. One is completely and totally separate from our works (the good that we do). So much so, that anyone relying on what they do, thinking that it will make them acceptable before God is actually rejected by God. We must come to God through Christ empty-handed, realizing how much in need we really are. We are destitute as unsaved persons.


Rewards, on the other hand, are based on works. Rewards, or lack thereof, are only for those who have already received a gift of eternal life freely. These rewards will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ which will take place upon his second return to the earth.


I would like to speak this morning on the subject of what the positive rewards will be for those who receive them. It is the Lord Himself who holds out these rewards as an incentive and a divine motivation. Jesus directly, as well as through the apostles, hold out rewards so often in the pages of the NT that we must reject “super spiritual” ideas that we sometimes hear verbalized or that we may have thought ourselves along the lines of “I only serve the Lord out of love for him and with no thought of rewards.” As was revealed last week, it is right and good to serve the Lord out of a love for Him. It is the highest and best motivation. But this is completely compatible with seeking rewards and we are, in fact, commanded to seek rewards because God knows our heart better than we know our own heart.


With these matters and view let us read Revelation 2:1-11;17. READ. PRAY.


Before we look more carefully at these passages in Revelation, it will prove beneficial to read a passage in Luke 20:34-35. READ. Observing something in this passage will help us to understand the letters to the seven churches. There is an age to come. It is an age between our current age and the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven to the earth. The Bible characterizes it as a golden age of unprecedented peace and prosperity. However, unlike the eternal state when perfection is finally realized, and death is completely conquered, there will still be some death and there will still be sin, although neither of which will predominate as they do now.


What I would like us to observe in this short passage in Luke is that Jesus says that it is only those who are considered worthy who attained to that age. The next age is for those who are worthy. Remember that eternal life is a gift for those who are not worthy. But, to rule and reign with Christ in the next age is a matter of proving oneself worthy. And that makes perfect sense. Even in our corrupt system of government we do not place people in positions of authority until they have proven themselves responsible and capable. How much more so in God's glorious Kingdom to follow this age.


Receiving positive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ has to do with attaining to the next age, the kingdom age, which follows this age. Now, let us turn our attention to our main passage this morning.


The first three chapters of Revelation or not as challenging as some of the later chapters which utilize apocalyptic imagery. Chapters two and three record letters that Jesus sends, through John, to the angels of the seven churches located in Asia Minor. The entire book of Revelation, though, concerns judgment. Chapters four through eighteen concerns judgment upon unbelievers. Chapters two and three deal with Christ’s judgment of His own.


From the first chapter, we are given clues that judgment is the theme. Starting at verse 4 we read: John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings on earth.


Jesus is the ruler of all people, even the kings of the earth. What does a ruler do? He makes decisions about the welfare and destinies of his subjects. In ancient times a ruler was a judge, unlike our modern division of power in government.


In verse 7 we read: Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Comment on both of these phrases.)


READ verses 12-16. Note verse 16.


Understanding the theme, Let us consider our text. Reread 2:1-2. To each of the seven churches, Jesus either says: “I know your works” or he begins by naming the works.


He lists several good works that the Ephesian church were commended for. Commended by the Lord himself!


  • They did not bear those who are evil
  • They tested those who claim to be apostles and found them to be false.
  • They bore up under persecution for the name of Christ.
  • They did not grow weary.
  • They hate the works of the Nicolations.


But they no longer had the love for Jesus that they had at first. Oh, brothers and sisters, do you love Jesus as much as you did at first?! You must! If you do not, fall on your knees and ask for mercy. He will restore the love that you once had if you truly desire. He called the Ephesian church to repent and he still calls all to repent who have fallen from their first love. All your good thoughts and good deeds mean so very little if you do not love Jesus.


Now see verse 7: READ again. “To the one who overcomes, Jesus will grant to eat of the tree of life”. Eating of the tree of life is one of Christ's rewards.


What is the tree of life? First, we must know what it is not. It does not mean eternal life. How do we know that it does not?


Recall the original tree of life that was in the garden of Eden. Adam had not eaten of that tree. But, before the fall, was he not immortal? Yes, he was! Death did not enter this world until Adam ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Therefore, the original tree of life’s main purpose was not for eternal life. Although, it has that power once man had fallen and death entered (Genesis 3:22).


What about the tree of life in the coming paradise - the one in our passage? This is a letter to those Jesus loves and freed from their sins by his blood (Chapter 1, verse 5). In other words, this is a letter to those who already have eternal life. Yet, he is promising to those who overcome that they will eat of this tree.


So, the tree of life is NOT eternal life. Before we say what it is, it is necessary to say a word about overcoming.


As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can either overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Or, we can be overcome by the world, the flesh, or the devil. We have the power to overcome whereas before we came to Christ we did not. The question is will we do so?


Some Christians will point to 1 John 5:4, which says “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world,” and take it as an absolute promise. But to take that as an absolute promise ignores the context in which it is written. There is a saying that goes like this: “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. What that means is that no one can take a text of Scripture and if you ignore the context in which is found (what the author is communicating leading up to the verse in question) then you can use many verses (using them - that is the pretext part) as proof for some ideas that were not intended.


In order to be clear about overcoming, let us very briefly consider the context of 1st John. Turn with me to 1 John 2:28 “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at His coming.” We see that John believed that it is possible to either have confidence when Jesus comes or it is possible to be ashamed when He comes. Whether we have confidence or are ashamed depend upon whether we abide in him. Once we believe in Jesus we must continue to abide in him. Not for eternal life but to overcome the world and have confidence at his coming because we have overcome.


Please turn to chapter 4 of 1st John. READ verses 16 and 17. The evidence that we are abiding in God is that we are abiding in love. You can have a real Christian, one who has been born again, but they do not love their brother or sister. If that is the case, then they are not abiding in God. Love is not perfected in them yet.


Note verse 17 which returns to the theme of 2:28. If they continue to abide in God then they will have confidence for the day of judgment. The reverse is obviously true: if they do not continue to abide in love (which is evidence of abiding in God) then they will not have confidence on the day of judgment.


Then we come to chapter 5, verse 2: READ. Keeping God's commandments shows that we love God. The “everyone” in verse 4 is not an absolute “everyone.” In context, it is everyone who abides in Christ and keep his commandments. Those are the ones who overcome the world.


Paul makes it even simpler in Romans 6:12. He is writing to “all those in Rome who are loved by God.” (1:7) he says: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies.” For him to command them not to let send reign in their bodies implies what? It clearly implies that sin can reign in a believer’s body if we allow it to! Would it make any sense for me to tell you to do something that it was impossible for you not to do? What if I said: “Make sure you fall asleep sometime in the next two weeks.” That would make no sense, because everyone will sleep at least once in a two-week period.


News flash: If sin is reigning in your mortal body then you are not overcoming.


Returning to our main passage, when Jesus is promising rewards for those who overcome, they are not automatic. They are for those who truly overcome. In Revelation 2:7 the first reward is a granting to eat of the tree of life.


In the garden, where we first see the tree, Adam was given dominion over the earth and all its creatures. The tree of life was to empower him to carry out his mandate for dominion. It takes life, energy, and power to justly and joyfully rule over God’s whole creation. Likewise, to co-reign with Christ over the nations of the world, will require an abundance of life, energy, power, and healing that, in ourselves, we are inadequate to meet.


This life, energy, power, and healing is not something separate from God, but it is God himself. It is Christ’s life made available.


God's original intention was that man should eat of the tree of life. Because of the fall, the way to the tree of life was closed to man. Through the redemption of Christ, the way by which man could touch the tree of life, which is God himself in Christ as life to man, was opened again. Eventually, in the final State - after the next age, all of God's redeemed people will enjoy the tree of life (we see that in Revelation 22).


The Lord in his wisdom made the enjoyment of himself in the coming kingdom a reward in order to encourage His believers to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.


The way to overcome the world is by returning to our first love. The way to return to our first love is by eating Christ. That is, by taking him in through the word and through meditating on his love for us as shown by his saving us and nurturing us. As we eat him we enjoy him.


After all is said and done with respect to this particular reward, the way to receive the reward of eating the tree of life in the next age is to eat of the tree of life now. By enjoying Christ as our life supply we shall overcome. The more we enjoy him the richer our lives will be, and we will have the life, the energy, and the power to overcome.