The Day of the LORD — The Bema Seat of Christ

“For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

[Matthew 16:27-28]

The Day of the LORD is the dawning of the coming Kingdom of God, when King Jesus leads all His redeemed in triumphant procession, riding the clouds through the wilderness from the east, and passing through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem before entering His Temple. It is a Day when Christ will sit down on His throne and take His rightful place as the Eternal King of Israel. As Isaiah says, “the government will be on His shoulder … of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom” [Isaiah 9:6-7].

One of the first orders of business in God’s new kingdom will be to gather the multitudes before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is the Day that we all must stand before our God and our Righteous Judge and give an account of our lives. It is the Day we receive either the due penalty or gracious reward for our words, thoughts, and actions while on earth. It is also the day that every knee will bow before the King of kings.

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

[Philippians 2:10-11]

For believers in Christ Jesus, there will be no condemnation at this judgment — but many of us likely will suffer a strong sense of loss for time wasted and for missed opportunities in the present age. Motives will be exposed. Deeds brought into the light, and every word counted before our God.

For unbelievers who survive the great tribulation and God’s wrath, this Day of judgment will be most dreadful indeed.

Jesus will Judge our Secret Thoughts

The coming Judgment Seat of Christ is a sobering reminder that nothing is ever done in secret. No deed goes unseen. No secret motive remains hidden. No sin is unnoticed. No one ever really “gets away” with anything. God knows all things, even the secret things, and our secrets will be judged on that Day.

“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

[Romans 2:15-16]

The Apostle Paul wrote more extensively about the Judgment Seat of Christ than anyone. He realized that he too would stand before the Judge of all the earth on that Day.

“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 Corinthians 5:10]

“For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

[1 Corinthians 4:4-5]

Even King Solomon understood the gravity of that Day when all men will give an account of their lives to God.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

[Ecclesiastes 12:13-14]

The Righteous will Receive their Reward

For God’s children — those who have trusted in God’s Only Son — the Judgment Seat of Christ will be the Day we receive our rewards before entering the Kingdom. Jesus taught extensively about how faithful stewardship in this life will determine how one is rewarded in the Kingdom. Paul also reminded the churches that everything we do in the body will be tested on that day.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each 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. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

[1 Corinthians 3:11-15]

As I mentioned earlier, the resurrected saints will not be condemned nor fear punishment at the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ, but many will suffer loss, knowing that more could have been done for the Kingdom.

On the other hand, the faithful will be rewarded on that Day. For sake of time, here is a short list of rewards that believers will receive.

  1. A New Name — [Isaiah 62:1-3, Rev. 2:17, 3:12]
  2. Authority to rule and judge in God’s Kingdom — [Luke 19:11-27, 22:28-30, Rev. 20:4-6]
  3. A Place at the Master’s Table — [Luke 12:35-40, 22:30, Rev. 19:6-10]
  4. Imperishable Crown of Righteousness — [2 Timothy 4:8]
  5. Imperishable Crown of Life — [James 1:12, Revelation 2:10]
  6. Unfading Crown of Glory — [1 Peter 5:4]
  7. Imperishable Inheritance — [1 Peter 1:4-5]

For the first time in human history, God will effectively reign on earth as it is in heaven, and all His people will be subject to Him and be given the privilege to participate in His Kingdom rule.

For the wicked, however, there will be no consolation.

The Wicked will Receive their Punishment

Like many scholars and Bible teachers, I draw a distinction between the “white throne” judgment mentioned in Revelation 20 and the Bema Seat of Christ. The white throne judgment takes place after the 1,000 years of the Messianic Kingdom and only involves the “dead” who must be ultimately judged for their unbelief and wickedness. The Judgment Seat of Christ, however, takes place immediately after His return to earth on the Day of the LORD, prior to the millennial Kingdom.

Both the righteous and the wicked will be present at the Judgment Seat. Let us turn to the Scriptures for some clarity.

In Ezekiel 34, the LORD gives a warning to the wicked shepherds who have abused and taken advantage of His people. God will judge between the sheep and goats and between the sheep and sheep, revealing who truly belong to Him — the Good Shepherd.

Jesus continues this idea throughout the gospels. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that judgment will be rendered according to the fruit that is produced. Each person who does not produce good fruit will be “cut down and thrown into the fire” [Matthew 7:19]. The Lord goes on to warn us about the severity of that Day.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

[Matthew 7:21-23]

Jesus paints the picture a little clearer in one of His parables.

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

[Matthew 13:41-43]

Evidently, the wicked will be judged and then cast out of God’s presence into the tormenting fire to suffer everlasting punishment. For those who must face the Judge of all the earth, it will be a Day of terror, knowing that there “no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” [Hebrews 10:26-27].

I will leave you with one of the most vivid scenes of the Judgment Seat of Christ in all Scripture.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world …

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

[Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46]

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