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Rethinking the Judgment Seat of Christ

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, 2nd Corinthians 5:10.

Before we get into the timing of the judgment seat of Christ, it is important that we examine the term "Judgment Seat". Where did the Apostle Paul get the term? With his understanding of the need for Jesus Christ to judge every believer, why did Paul pattern that judgment after the Roman judgment seat?

The Roman judgment seat is mentioned 8 times in scripture. There is absolutely no need to reach outside of scripture to understand the term "Judgment Seat". The typical fundamentalist way of handling the judgment seat is to call it the "Bema". Keep in mind that every time a preacher substitutes a Greek or Hebrew word for the plain text of scripture, he is giving you a mini-lobotomy. He is crippling your understanding, not enhancing it.

I am reminded of college girls who after making a trip to Europe, speak with accents and with great affectation. It gives them status at their sororities. Likewise, our errant brethren substitute the Greek term for judgment seat. It may give them status among their peers, but it does absolutely nothing to enhance any listener's understanding.

The "Bema" they say is a place where laurels are given out. After jumping to the Greek term "Bema", and after lobotomizing some small little part of their hearers' brains, they then quote the commentaries on what happens at a Roman judgment seat. Never mind that what they describe has nothing to do with the 8 times that the Roman Judgment seat is described in scripture. They have lured their listeners away form scripture.

Any historian of Roman history can tell you that one function of a governor or magistrate when he sat upon the judgment seat was to hand out laurels at athletic events. That never happens in scripture, but what good lobotomist with his Greek and Hebrew lexicons has ever felt constrained to stick to the King James Bible?

I have heard them reason their way out of the plain text of scripture. They reason that since Christ has forgiven all of our sins, what could he possibly judge that was bad? Therefore all he can do is hand out laurels. It's kind of like T-Ball where everyone gets a hug for playing.

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, 1st Corinthians 11:31. Judged for what? We are judged for every time we walked according to the flesh. One of the purposes of the Lord's table is to sober Christians into examining themselves before partaking. Who among us has not walked less than worthy of Jesus Christ? Who among us has not contravened the very words of scripture in our daily walk?

We are damned according to the Apostle Paul, but not damned to hell. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23. He is damned in that he has cut off his relationship to Jesus Christ. He is now walking after the flesh. Should he continue therein he will die. 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.

What can a person do who has found himself outside of the grace of Christ? No, not losing saving grace and not dying spiritually, but he is damned in his relationship to Christ to the extent that he has lost all fellowship with Christ and the brethren. What he can do is judge himself before God. We have the promise that if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged.

That is exactly the same thing that the Apostle John said in 1st John 3:9; If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. A confession in scripture is not the Roman Catholic concept of kneeling and telling someone our sins. When Jesus witnessed a good confession before Pilate, he was not telling Pilate his sins. He was plainly stating a heartfelt truth.

If we plainly state our sins, not as we see them, but as God sees them, we have judged ourselves properly. We will no longer be judged for those things. Judged when? First, we suffer judgment in this life such as we are warned,

1st Corinthians 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

1st Corinthians 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Also, we can suffer judgment at the judgment seat of Christ; according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad, 2nd Corinthians 5:10. How can we escape such judgment? We can judge ourselves. Both Paul and John agree on this.

What then happens at the judgment seat of Christ? Look at scripture to understand the judgment seat. Pilate sat in the judgment seat to judge Jesus Christ. When a man sat in that judgment seat, he was empowered to speak for the Roman empire. What he judged could not be reversed by anyone other than the emperor himself. We see in Pilate that he had the power to pardon, and he had the power to crucify. Whatever he pronounced was backed by the power and might of the Roman empire.

We can see from Acts 18 that the judgment seat didn't apply to religious disputes. Gallio was only interested in actual wrong or lewdness. The judgment seat was not interested in violations of Jewish law. So will it be at the judgment seat of Christ.

Acts 18:12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

Acts 18:13 Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

Acts 18:14 And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

Acts 18:15 But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.

Acts 18:16 And he drave them from the judgment seat.

Acts 18:17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

We see that when Festus took power in Caesarea, he sat on the judgment seat to hear Paul's case. He held the power to release Paul, or the power to turn him over to Jewish jurisprudence. Turning him over to the Jews would have been Paul's death. Paul appealed to Caesar's judgment seat. 2nd Timothy spells out the doom of that judgment.

With these examples of the judgment seat clearly given and spelled out, untold numbers of the students of Greek mythology (the lexicons) see the judgment seat as a Bema where laurels are handed out.

We do know that there is reward at the judgment seat of Christ. The Apostle Paul said, whether it be good or bad. Barabbas found reward at the judgment seat. What we can't dismiss is judgment for all of those things wherein we never judged ourselves in this life. We suffer loss of reward for eternity.

When will the judgment seat of Christ be held? Your bible does not speak of a gathering of all saints during the great tribulation where they all watch each other getting judged. That comes from tradition. In your bible, a judgment seat is a one on one encounter between the governor who sits on the seat and the person who is being judged. How heavenly would heaven be if you had to wait 1500 years or so to see what Jesus thought of your life?

And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment, Ezra 7:26. Speedy judgment is a principle with God. No child enjoys an afternoon when his mother has said, "wait until your father gets home".

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2nd Corinthians 5:8. I will one day close my eyes in death only to open them to the face of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that I will be judged by him then and there. By what principle would he greet you in heaven but store up hidden judgments against you? Your spouse may do that. You may have friends and colleagues that do that, but that is not the nature of Jesus Christ.

A judgment seat postponed until every saint is gathered in the air by Jesus Christ wherein some saints have waited a couple of thousand years to see how they fare, and whereby we are judged one by one in the presence of all is a teaching made up out of whole cloth. A judgment is coming to the saints but it is not the abomination described by Scofield and Larkin.

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Glory to HIS name...... May we fear the LORD, and depart from evil. May we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in the fear of God. Knowing the terror of the LORD, may we first persuade ourselves before we seek to persuade others. Thank you for this post brother. May God bless you and strengthen you more and more to speak the things that become sound doctrine, for many have turned aside unto vain jangling... for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ: the One whose eyes are as a flame of fire and his feet are as fine brass, and out of his mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sw…

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I'm not real familiar with Larkin or Scofield.  So, basically, rather than teaching that it's a corporate thing in resurrected, perfected bodies at the end of the age, you're saying that the judgment to loss or reward is one on one between souls & the Lord as men die in Christ, & then a group (which is looking to be smaller day by day) at the gathering of those yet quick at the catching up. A thing to sober us, to remind us, like the taking of the commemorating communion, while also encouraging us to press on & not grow weary, to hear 'well done' rather than to be ashamed? - Yet I take it that this is separate from th…

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