Believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ
I am amazed at the many Christians who believe that the grace of God gives them a license to sin. Accountability to God is probably the least preached about truth in Holy Scripture. We have spiritualized materialism, worldliness, and the flesh-life until cross-bearing and separated living is called "pharisaical" or "legalistic".
Worse than the above is the effort to make grace so cheap that it covers everything, including immorality, adultery, filthy habits, and careless living. This distorted idea suggests that since we are saved by grace, grace covers all of our acts and deeds and nothing can happen to separate us from God’s wonderful favour. Let’s look at the Book.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Romans 6:1-6).
It is imperative to renew our preaching about Christian accountability and the Judgment Seat of Christ. Judgment will not begin with our ungodly world; it begins with the Body of Christ (Church). The great "Bema" of Christ that our old-fashioned preachers of all denominations preached brought "Revival" and conviction of sin. This always resulted, and still will, in great spiritual renewal and awakening. Sometimes they overdid their denunciation of sin, but isn’t that much better than our under-doing it? We have created a climate in our churches where almost no one feels conviction about anything. If you really want to make people mad, start naming sin, and the war is on.
The Judgment "Seat" of Christ
The word seat as used in this context comes from the Greek word "Bema" (bay’ma_ which indicates a tribunal or throne where judgments are issued. It is place of accountability and rewards. Paul said, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:10).
The strength of the above statement is magnified by Paul’s words to the church at Rome.
"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. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12).
It is very apparent that the early church had a dim view of cheap grace. When an individual professed faith in Jesus Christ an obedient lifestyle was expected. Who made it clear that everyone was going to "give an account of himself to God." To even think about judging someone else was out of the question when such personal accountability was the responsibility of everyone.
Some Will Be Saved Without a Reward
It seems horribly embarrassing to think of standing before the Lord Jesus after His excruciating crucifixion for us and lose all reward because of sloth and selfishness. How can an honest individual, saved by His grace, deny Him the kind of surrender and loyalty He so richly desires? Paul said it would happen.
"Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
Jesus laid the foundation (grace); Paul said it was our responsibility to build upon it; "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble." (I Corinthians 3:12).
To talk about the grace of God while denying personal responsibility is completely false to the Word of God. James called that "faith without works" and said it was "dead, being alone." There will be many individuals who make it into Heaven but will lose all rewards and spends eternity in regret. If Heaven is anything, it is a place of eternal accountability.
Please remember that what the Holy Spirit is dealing with here is works not fruit. While grace will get you to Heaven without works it will not and cannot exist without fruit. Jesus settled that once and for all in His words recorded by Saint John. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:2).
Fruit as expressed in this truth is the product that is of like nature. A born again believer will produce the fruit of Jesus Christ because he shares His nature by virtue of this saving experience. The Lord will not tolerate a fruitless branch on His tree. Works has to do with labor and sacrifice in His Kingdom. Fruit is our holiness lifestyle as reflecting His Holy name.
Willful Sin is Not Tolerated
The Lord’s church needs to relearn that willful disobedience is not acceptable while professing to be His children. Paul said, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." (Hebrews 10:26).
Our right of choice is not destroyed when we become a believer. Discipline, self-control or temperance (used in the King James Bible for the first two words) is one of the strongest subjects in Scripture. Once grace has opened us up to the expanse of His Word, it is up to us to explore it and walk in His fullness. Fruit and works are meant to follow grace but they can do so only as we, the individual, determine. The same grace that saves will enable the believer to enjoy the fullest extent of the Father’s provisions and blessings.
A special parable that Luke recounts as told by Jesus is a beautiful picture of His demands for fruit and His patience in expecting it. "He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." (Luke 13:6-9).
The Lord deals with us tenderly but He also demands accountability. No wonder Apostle Paul said, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:31).
The Rapture of the Church
The Judgment Seat of Christ will transpire immediately after the rapture of the church. While there is no detail of this event it is clear that it happens during the seven years of the great tribulation. While the judgments of God are in the earth, the Lord of His church will judge, reward, celebrate, and prepare us for our return to reign with Him on the earth. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is replete with our preparation to return on white horses following Christ to set up His kingdom on earth. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." (Revelation 19:11-14).
The rapture of the Bride is a judgment in itself. In His infinite and omniscient wisdom, He will scan all the years of human history. Every man or woman who is blood washed and set apart to Him (dead or alive) will be resurrected, glorified, and caught up to meet him in the air. "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matthew 24:40-42). A judgment is involved in the taking and leaving.
Judgment Seat of Christ
Somewhere in the heavens every resurrected saint of God will appear together before the Lord of the Church. The Father Himself will preside at the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) of unbelievers but His Son will judge the Bride. The judgment will include reward and positions of authority. During the tribulation, the saints will judge the world. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" (I Corinthians 6:2).
When we return to the earth we will rule this entire planet in a glorious reign of righteousness. "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." (Daniel 7:27).
You are deciding your position in this kingdom right now. If you are living more for this life and world than you are for Jesus Christ, that is your decision, but you will regret such a choice. If you lay up treasures here then you won’t have them in the future. You cannot have it both ways!
Our position of authority does not end with the one thousand years that we will reign on the earth. It extends to the New Jerusalem that John saw coming down out of heaven. "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Revelation 21:2-3).
Every individual will enjoy for eternity the reward that he receives from the Lord. Everything we have done in this body since we were "born from above" will provide either subtraction or addition to our future estate. No excuse is acceptable and no act will be insignificant.
Quit Playing Games with the Creator
It is time to be accountable with our Christian faith. The Communists would not control over one-third of our world after only 70 years if they treated their commitment as many Christians treat theirs.
You are either a saint or a sinner because there is no Biblical base for others. A neutral zone may exist in a worldly war of neighboring countries, but there is none in this spiritual conflict. Decide today where your heart is and give it all you have got. You won’t be sorry when He says, "WELL DONE!"