We have noted previously that the Rapture will mark the end of the Church Age (the Age of Grace) which began when Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after he had been crucified for the sins of the entire world on Mount Calvary in Jerusalem.
When Jesus returns in the clouds for those who are ready for His coming, graves all around the world will suddenly burst open and, to the astonishment and unutterable terror of onlookers, Christians who had lived their lives for Jesus, and had died during the centuries of the Church Age, will spontaneously be propelled upwards out of their graves and be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Then we who are still alive, and ready for and expectantly awaiting the return of our Lord, will be caught up together with them to meet Jesus in the air. We will instantly find ourselves in Heaven, and then we will forever be with the Lord. See 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17
Our first experience in Heaven: the Judgment Seat of Christ
The Judgment Seat of Christ has been much misunderstood by the Church. It is not a place where the Lord will punish people for their sins. That would be inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the cross where He totally paid the penalty for our sins. It is rather a place for the giving of rewards, or the loss of rewards, according to how each one of us has lived his or her life for the Lord. It is about how much fruit the Holy Spirit has been ‘allowed’ to produce in our lives, and whether we failed to receive His freely offered grace and therefore limited His work in our lives.
Jesus said, “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the person whose ears are open to My words [who listens to My message] and believes and trusts in and clings to and relies on Him Who sent Me has (possesses now) eternal life. And he does not come into judgment [does not incur sentence of judgment, and will not come under condemnation], but he has already passed over out of death into life.” John 5: 24, AMP.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is more for the bestowing of rewards than for the rejection of failure.
God graciously provides the means by which all believers may serve Him. The Apostle Paul wrote, “[… Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in You the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.”Philippians 2: 13, AMP.
We are free to decide whether or not to serve the Lord, and how far we are willing to be committed in His service. God rewards our diligence. Paul said about himself, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15: 10, KJV
It is significant that among the final words of the Book of Revelation, at the very end of the Bible, are these words of Jesus: “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be” Revelation 22: 12, KJV
The ‘Bema’: the Judgment Seat of Christ
Paul’s use of the words ‘Judgment Seat’ (Greek bema) in his letters, is in keeping with its original use among the Greeks in their athletic contests. In the games, contestants would compete for the prize under the careful scrutiny of judges who would make sure that every rule of the contest was obeyed. Paul wrote, “And if anyone enters competitive games, he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully (fairly, according to the rules laid down)” 2 Timothy 2: 5, AMP.
The victor of an event, if he had participated according to the rules, would be led by the judge to the bema (platform) where the laurel wreath was placed upon his head as a symbol of victory.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about the importance of having a disciplined lifestyle, “Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, TPT.
A summary of the Order of Events
The Judgment Seat of Christ, the bestowing of rewards, will be held immediately after we have been caught up to meet Jesus in the air.
#. The Rapture, which includes the instant glorification of our bodies as we are caught up to meet the Lord. Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…” See 1 Corinthians 15: 51ff, KJV
Jesus said, “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14: 13-14, KJV
#. The examination at the Judgment Seat of the fruit each one has borne in his or her life, and whether for God, or for themselves.
#. The bestowing of rewards for good fruit, borne for the Kingdom of God.
#. Serious loss of reward for believers who failed to avail themselves of the grace of God. It will be an encouragement to you if you can find time to look up the references to the Crowns and Privileges we may be eligible to receive, in the beautiful chart below:
What exactly is Jesus going to reward us for?
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul wrote a call to spiritual maturity to believers there who were “still dominated by the mind-set of the flesh… immature infants in Christ.. acting like people without the Spirit’s influence.” Apparently, the Corinthian Christians were quarrelsome, favouring one leader above another, taking up sides, jealous and self-centred. Paul states that it is Jesus Christ who is the foundation of our lives, and all must be careful how they build on that foundation. He goes on to explain that, “the quality of materials used by anyone building on this foundation will soon be made apparent, whether it has been built with gold, silver and costly stones, or wood, hay, and straw. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by blazing fire! And the fire will test and prove the workmanship of each builder. If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house” See 1 Corinthians 3, particularly verses 11-15, TPT. This Scripture throws much light on how the Judgment Seat of Christ will operate.
What will be the basis for the judgment of Christians?
Doctrine: How we put into practice the teachings of the Scriptures:
This Scripture is the key: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” James 1: 22, KJV
How we have been treating each other:
We will be judged according to how we react: whether we react to people according to our new nature, or in the flesh.
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ”Romans14: 10, KJV.
Our worldly traits and attitudes:
These are made unmistakably clear in the Amplified Bible: Paul wrote, “Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory. So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).” Colossians 3: 2-5.
Paul further urged the church to put right all that was wrong in their lives: “But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips! Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices” Colossians 3: 8-9.
Later in the chapter, the Apostle wrote on the qualities that will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ, “… tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony]” Colossians 3: 12-14
We will be judged according to our faithfulness to our calling:
Have we done what God asked us to do for Him? Have we fulfilled everything?
The Purpose of the Judgment Seat: to perfect the Bride
At the Judgment Seat of Christ the Bride will be totally perfected: “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5: 27, KJV
Are we ready for our Bridegroom’s return?
In the light of the Scriptures quoted in this article, let us pray earnestly for grace to be ready for the return of our Beloved. May we find grace to move in obedience on everything the Holy Spirit is endeavouring to draw attention to in our lives. He is always there for us, pointing us to Jesus, showing us what Jesus would do… how Jesus would react in any given situation. The Holy Spirit is simply yearning to help us. He wants to reveal further to us what the will of God is for our lives. He is our beloved Comforter, our Strengthener, the One called alongside to help us. There is always so much more that we could be doing together with the Holy Spirit for the Kingdom of God – so very much more!
There could be many things that we have been missing. All of God’s children have the call of God on our lives. Are we fulfilling our calling, by His grace? Are we even aware of what our calling is? Do we know what our loving Heavenly Father has planned in love for us to be doing for Him? He will show us if we ask Him. Paul wrote, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” Ephesians 2: 10, KJV.
Let us earnestly seek His face while there is still time. We understand what season we are living in, and that the Age of Grace (the Church Age) could end soon. The indications are that Jesus could return for us at any time. There is so much in the Bible about the importance of watching for His coming. Jesus will return soon for a Bride who is looking for Him, expecting Him, with oil in her lamp… Jesus is coming for a Bride who is READY!
Note from So Greatly Loved
The resurrection of Old Testament saints and their reward, will occur after the seven year Tribulation period. This is after Church Age believers in Heaven, having received their rewards, will return with the Lord to judge the earth. Compare Revelation 19:8 with Daniel 12: 1-2
Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation New Testament with Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs, translated from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts by Dr Brian Simmons. Copyright 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC. Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com.
Scripture quotations marked AMP are from The Amplified Bible copyright 1954 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.