Updated: Oct 20, 2021
The Judgment Seat of Christ
"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." (Rom. 14:10) " 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." (2 Cor. 5:10)
These are the two places in the Bible where we read the term "judgment seat of Christ." As you can see, neither passage speaks of hell or destruction for the lost. The later plainly states that the Judgment Seat of Christ is for receiving the things done in our BODY. That is, the Christian'sbody. If you have been born again through believing on Jesus Christ, then your body belongs to God (I Cor. 6:19-20), and God has commanded you to glorify Him in your body.
We are to YIELD our bodies to Him (Rom. 12:1-2). We are to DENY OURSELVES and be HIS disciples (Luke 9:23). So the Judgment Seat of Christ will TRY us and determine whether or not we have done our duty.
A fine companion passage for this is I Corinthians 3:11-15: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 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."
A Christian's foundation is his salvation in Jesus Christ (Mat. 7:24). Then after being saved, the Christian is expected to yield himself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit so he can be useful to Christ. If he does this, he will bear the FRUIT of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and please his Saviour. This fruit or good work is likened unto GOLD, SILVER, and PRECIOUS STONES, things of great value. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Godly Christian service produces TREASURE in Heaven for the Christian. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we (Christians) will receive our rewards. II John 8 says, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward." Most people are only concerned with going to Heaven or Hell, if even that, but the Bible instructs us to be concerned about our REWARDS. My eternal RESIDENCE was settled when I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, but my eternal REWARDS are only settled when I deny myself and serve God in the Spirit.
Notice that no one goes to Hell at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Some people lose rewards, but they are still SAVED (I Cor 3:15). This is like Lot, the righteous man who lost all he had, yet he himself was saved from the fiery destruction (Gen. 20; II Pet. 2:6-8). Jesus said there would be two kinds of saints in the last days: those who are faithful like Noah and those who are slothful like Lot (Luke 17:26, 28). Just as "one star differeth from another star in glory"(I Cor. 15:41), one Christian will differ from another in Heaven in regards to earned rewards.
In Revelation 3:11, the Lord Jesus says, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." (also see I Cor. 9:25, I Ths. 2:19, II Tim. 4:8, James 1:12, I Peter 5:4) Revelation 4:10 even has the elders casting their crowns at the Saviour's feet. Most Christians will have no crown to cast at the Lord's feet in that day, for they forfeited their heavenly rewards in order to live a more comfortable and conformable life in this present evil world.
The believer's judgment is threefold. At Calvary I was judged as a SINNER with Jesus taking my place and bearing my punishment. Today I am judged as a SON, being chastened by my heavenly Father when I am disobedient (Heb. 12:4-8; I Cor. 11:30-31). At the Judgment Seat of Christ I will be judged as a SERVANT, giving full account to my Master for my Christian service.
What "sort" is your service?
According to God's word in I Corinthians 3:13, the big issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ will be the "sort" of work that we have done while on this earth: "and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." God is interested in the QUALITY of our Christian service. Are we doing our very best for the Lord, or are we just doing "more good than bad?" Bob Jones Sr. once said, "It's always a sin to do less that your best." Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Christian, are you serving God with your "might" and doing your very best for Him? What "sort" is your service to the Lord Jesus Christ? Let's briefly consider the "sort" of work which God expects from us.
First, true Christ-honoring service must be done through a proper medium. The flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). Every Christian has God's Holy Spirit dwelling within them (Eph. 4:30; II Cor. 1:22; Rom. 8:9), yet not every Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit. Even though we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are yet commanded to be FILLED with the Spirit: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Eph. 5:18) We are told to mortify the deeds of the flesh and yield to the Lord (Rom. 8:13; 6:13, 16). The issue isn't what I do for the Lord, but rather what the Lord does through me. Jesus said, "without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) Friend, there is a proper medium by which we are to serve Christ, and that medium is the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zech. 4:6) Self denial is the first law of true discipleship. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23) There is a world of difference between doing religious things FOR Christ and allowing Christ to work THROUGH us. OUR will must yield to GOD'S will, not just on the day of our conversion, but on every day. Self denial is a daily sacrifice which allows for the filling and guiding power of God's Spirit. When self is not denied then the Holy Spirit is "quenched" (I Ths. 5:19) and our "Christian service" is that of the flesh, an improper medium. When we empty ourselves of all carnal efforts and yield to God's peaceful and guiding Spirit, we are truly serving the Lord.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23) Jesus said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Mat. 7:20)
Friend, are you bearing the true fruit of the Holy Spirit or are you yet attempting to serve God in the power and will of the flesh? "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Romans 8:13)
Also, our service to the Lord is to be done in a prescribed manner. That manner is faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Paul told the carnal Corinthians, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (II Cor. 5:7) This faith is not to be based upon our feelings or our own plans and purposes, but rather upon God's word. Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Our Christian conduct and service is to be based on the promises and commands of God's word.
For example, a man may be the best Bible teacher in his church and everyone may know it, but does he teach in God's prescribed manner? Does he labor to be a good teacher because he has great faith in the value of God's word in the lives of people, or is it because he enjoys tickling ears and impressing people with his knowledge? Is he really seeking to edify God's people with God's precious words, or is he just trying to meet everyone's expectations?
Does a Christian father exercise Biblical faith when he just assumes that his children will grow into godly men and women, or does he exercise Biblical faith when he endeavors to study and apply God's word in his home?
Friend, there is a prescribed manner in which we are to serve God in our daily lives, and that manner is applied faith based on the holy words of God. Anything less is sin, and, therefore, unacceptable: " . . . for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23)
In addition to serving our Lord through the proper medium and doing so in the prescribed manner, we must also have a pure motive. In laboring for the Lord, our purest motive is love. Hebrews 6:10 says, "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." True ministry is rooted in a true love for God. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Mat. 22:37-38) My motive for giving financially to the ministry should be that I love God, not that I need a good tax write-off. My motive for working to produce thousands of gospel tracts and booklets per month should not be to get a name for myself or to bring in more donations for the ministry. My primary driving motive should always be my love for God.
What motivates you to serve God? What motivates you to teach a Sunday school class or sing in the choir? Why do you really take your turn in the nursery or help to clean the church building? Do you serve out of necessity, or do you serve out of a genuine love for the Lord?
Christian, God knows the true "sort" of our conduct and service, and His word declares that our work will be tried at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Now is the time to examine our hearts and amend our ways. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be a terrible day for many Christians (II Cor. 5:10-11), but it doesn't have to be for you. Confess your sins to God and find forgiveness (I John 1:9). Then purpose in your heart to begin serving God through the power of the Holy Spirit, in Biblical faith, and with a devout love for God.
According to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, the Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal gold, silver and precious stones for some Christians, but wood, hay, and stubble for others. Some will have treasures, while others will have trash. What will YOU have when you stand before your Lord?