THE JUDGMENT THRONE (BÉMA) OF LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR HIS CHURCH, THE BELIEVERS Much of this study is derived from the notes on this subject of Dr. John Whitcomb Dr. Jobe Martin www.biblicaldiscipleship.org John C. Whitcomb, Th.D. “As born-again Christians, we truly rejoice at the thought of God’s wonderful promise and provision, that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV). But how does this divine provision relate to Christ’s confrontation with His Church, His Body and Bride, at the Judgment Throne? Does this mean that 1 John 1:9 eliminates the threat of losing a reward or a crown on that great day? This is a very confusing issue for many of God’s people today.” • The Bema judgment is not to see if someone is saved. The Bema is to judge believers who are already saved on the basis of the works that they have done as a Christian. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every 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. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Philippians 1:6 6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Romans 5:1-2 1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 We have peace with God [and peace with our past] through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have grace for the present [and that grace is sufficient for any test, trial or tribulation] 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. We have glory coming in the future! We will be with our glorified Lord, in our glorified bodies, in glory! John 5:24 24Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. In the present: life everlasting! In the future: no condemnation! Scriptures teach that we are secure in our salvation in Christ Jesus, so the Bema judgment has nothing to do with keeping or losing eternal salvation for Believers. It is a judgment of our works done after we became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. The Purpose of the Judgment Seat Confrontation Dr. John Whitcomb: “One point must be settled immediately – the issue is the gain or loss of rewards, not of salvation! Thank God.” Ephesians 2:8-10 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. We are saved by grace, through faith, not by works! The works which God prepared beforehand for us to accomplish should come after our salvation. The works are judged at the Bema throne judgment as “gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble.” Titus 3:3-7 4But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:8 8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. Believers in God are to “be careful to maintain good works.” Good works are to be a result of salvation, NOT THE WAY TO EARN OR GAIN SALVATION AS SO MANY BELIEVE! John 10:27-30 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and my Father are one. • Rewards for work well done is a great motivating factor in our lives as humans. • We are created to respond to the receiving of gifts and rewards. • We all desire to hear our Lord someday say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. The motivation to do your very best is The Prize! Colossians 2:18 18Let no man beguilef you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (f beguile...: or, judge against you) We are to be careful that we do not lose our rewards. 2 John 8 8Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wroughtb, but that we receive a full reward. (b wrought: or, gained) Watch-out that we do not miss-out on our full reward! Revelation 3 :11 11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 1 Corinthians 9:25 The “Incorruptible Crown” is for being temperate in all things (self-control). You keep your body “in subjection.” v.27 1 Peter 5:2-4 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. James 1:12 12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Revelation 2:10 10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. “STEPHANOS” The word, “STEPHANOS”, translated means crown and occurs 18 times in the N.T. “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne and worship him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns (stephanos) before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:10,11 THE FIRST AND LAST USE OF “STEPHANOS” (CROWN) Matthew 27:29 “And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail King of the Jews!” Revelation 14:14 “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” THE FIVE CROWNS (ETERNAL REWARDS) FOR TRUE CHRISTIANS The Incorruptible Crown The Crown of Rejoicing The Crown of Righteousness The Crown of Life The Crown of Glory THE FIVE CROWNS (ETERNAL REWARDS) FOR BELIEVERS IN LORD JESUS Incorruptible Crown = Paul Crown of Rejoicing = Paul Crown of Righteousness = Paul Crown of Life = James and John Crown of Glory = Peter Crowns are rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. Bema Seat Judgment of Believers: 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat [Bema] 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.” Crowns are rewarded based on the “works before ordained” that we as Christians should walk in them. Thus the works in no way achieve or guarantee our salvation, but follow our salvation in service to our Lord. What does this mean? This means that there is nothing that I can do before I receive Lord Jesus as my Savior to help to earn my eternal salvation. Salvation is a gift, it is not earned! – Attending church regularly won’t help, – Giving money to the church won’t help, – Giving money to charities won’t help, – Helping the poor and orphans and widows won’t help, – Attending Bible studies or fasting won’t help, – Donating my time to charities won’t help, etc., etc… Go back to slide #12 again: Ephesians 2:8-10! 34 As true Christians we should be doing all the things, and more, listed on the previous slide in the power of our Lord Jesus and for His glory. We will be given the various crowns for the good deeds done as Christians. There are no crowns and there is no salvation even for deeds of righteousness which we have done before receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6a The Bottom Line Regarding Crowns: • At the Judgment of Believers (this is not the Great White Throne Judgment which is the unbeliever’s judgment; see: The Judgments at www.biblicaldiscipleship.org ) the Lord Jesus will give crowns for service done by His bride, the true church of Believers, in His power, within the framework of His Word and for His glory. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus! Dr. John Whitcomb says: “But someone might ask: Why do I even need a reward or a crown? Isn’t it enough to be assured of heaven with the Lord Jesus forever? Even if most Christians would not actually say this, they often act as if a reward provides no vital motivation for more faithful Christian living and service.” “The answer to such questions seems clear: the crown a believer might receive will be for His [Lord Jesus] honor, for we will “cast [our] crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor . . . ’” (Rev. 4:1011). Presumably, then, we will be ashamed to have nothing to cast down before Him! Even the Lord Jesus was motivated by the anticipation of a reward, for we are told that He, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 10For 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. 11Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. To the church at Rome, Paul wrote: “we shall all stand before the judgment seat (béma) of Christ . . . So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12). 1 Peter 4:17-18 Listen to the words of the apostle Peter: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the Gospel of God? If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 John 2:28 The apostle John warned his disciples: “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” The passive voice coupled with the expression autou suggests that a believer withdraws in shame. It suggests a shrinking back from Christ, perhaps from a sense of guilt, with the believer producing the action [rather than Christ putting the believer to shame].” Christ’s Qualifications for Judging us Christ’s Qualifications for Judging Us: One fact will be agreed upon by all Christians: our Lord is fully equipped to examine and evaluate the thoughts, motives, words and deeds of every member of his Body, the Church! “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), and He has “eyes like a flame of fire” (Rev. 2:14; cf. 19:12). Luke 12:2-3 The Lord Jesus told us that, “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops” Paul confirmed that “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 2:16). These “secrets” include the motives behind all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Our God is infinitely concerned about the true reasons why we do and say things! 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 Paul could assure the Corinthian believers that it was not so much what they thought of him that mattered. “He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels [motives] of the heart”. Luke 12:48 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. We should do everything possible to learn God’s will by reading and studying and believing what His Word tells us that His will is for our lives. Therefore, “the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.” Ignorance of God’s Word is No Excuse for Disobeying It God only gave us one book to obey One God to serve One life to live. It is that one Book, the Bible, that will one day judge us! John 12:48 48He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. Mere human courts and judges, of course, cannot begin to compare with the absolute perfection of His examination of people! That is because “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb.4:12-13). Colossains 3:23-25 At the béma our Lord will show no partiality. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he [i.e. the Christian servant] who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” The Father without partiality judges according to each one’s work and according to His Word! The Father without partiality judges according to each one’s work” (1 Pet. 1:17). And the Bible ends with this word of divine assurance: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). To which the apostle John, and hopefully every believer, responds: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (vs.20). “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire” 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Figuratively speaking, it is a person’s work that will burn, not the person himself. The focus of the illustration of 1 Corinthians 3 is the potential loss of reward for poor service, not the atonement of sin or the cleansing of souls. “Everything we have said, done, and even thought, as true Christians, must be brought to full light. Could it be any other way? Can our Lord be deceived by mere outward religious forms and appearances? If any final recognition or honor or reward or crown be granted to God’s servants at that day, must it not be done in loving perfection? “ Dr. John Whitcomh Will not all Christians, in that day fully glorified and thus sinless, agree totally with His final evaluation of each and every one of us? • Plainly, it is the unworthy works that will be burned, not the believers themselves! In fact, even though a believer’s “work is burned . . . he himself will be saved” (3:15). But does not that reduce the béma confrontation to total insignificance? No, for “he will suffer loss . . . as through fire.” But does this mean that some believers will be in a state of depression forever? “It would not be heaven if we were to spend eternity in sadness because of what we did not do. Undoubtedly there will be regret, but our overwhelming emotion will be the realization of the wonderful grace of God that saved us and brought us to heaven. There will be rejoicing in heaven instead of tears.” How, then, do we relate all of this to the forgiveness and cleansing He provides for us when we confess our sins (cf. 1 John 1:9)? Does this forgiveness and cleansing cancel out any potential loss of reward at the béma? 2 Samuel 12 King David had sinned grievously against the LORD by having one of his faithful generals, Uriah the Hittite, killed, in order to obtain his wife Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11)! When David refused to confess his sin, God sent Nathan the prophet to get his attention with a tragic story about a rich man who took a poor man’s “one little ewe lamb” to prepare it for a guest. David, of course, was enraged: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!” (12:5). “Then Nathan said to David: ‘You are the man! . . . Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife’” (12:7-10). That did it! David immediately saw the magnitude of his own sin, and cried out: “I have sinned against the LORD!” (vs. 13). Psalm 51 is a profound expression of David’s deep repentance to God. Did this genuine confession change anything? Yes! Nathan replied immediately: “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Then was everything wonderful again? No! “However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child who is born to you shall surely die” (vs. 14). Furthermore, “the sword shall never depart from your house . . . I will raise up adversity against you from your own house . . .” (vv. 10-11). Among the disasters that followed were the sins and rebellions of his sons Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah. “Question: Did the LORD truly forgive David? YES. Question: Were the full consequences of his sin totally wiped out? NO. That is the ultimate issue. When we truly confess our sins, God graciously forgives us and restores fellowship with us. But the full consequences of our sins must still be brought to light and dealt with by the LORD. That will be the function of the béma judgment.” Dr. John Whitcomb The Public Testimony of Believers What concerns our loving LORD is not only His daily relationship with us, but also the longterm influence and impact of our Christian lives and ministries upon others. For example, if a pastor commits a serious public sin, his position of leadership in the church is (with possible rare exceptions) finished, even though he might genuinely confess his sin to God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “a bishop [overseer] must be blameless . . . he must have a good testimony among those who are outside” (1 Tim. 3 :2, 7); and, “in purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12). And to the church at Ephesus: “do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph 5:3). And to Titus, “Appoint elders in every city . . . if a man be blameless, the husband of one wife . . .” (Titus 1:5-6). To be even more specific, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Finally, James, the pastor of the great church at Jerusalem, said: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). The public doesn’t know or even care about whether he has made a personal confession to his God. What they do care about – and will probably never forget – is his public sin. This deeply hurts and grieves our LORD, and will surely be a major factor in determining the gain or loss of a reward or crown at the béma. Thus, God intends the béma confrontation to motivate each and every believer – not just church leaders – to serve Him in spirit and in truth. It is not designed to be a horrible threat that produces depression and fear, but, rather, an encouragement to love and serve and obey Him from the heart. In this light, may we, as Christians, be more concerned than ever before about our testimony for the Savior who loves us with infinite love, and paid the ultimate price for our redemption and future glorification. 1 John 5:3-5 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? How does the Great White Throne Judgment fit into all of this? • 11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Revelation 20:11-12 The Great White Throne Judgment • 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. • Revelation 20:13-15 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 • 20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 • 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. The Last Enemy • The last enemy that our Savior, the righteous Judge, destroys is “death.” • The first enemy that came upon mankind as a result of Adam’s sin was “death.” • Death and Hell are cast into the Lake of Fire at the last judgment, The Great White Throne Judgment! • When there is no more death we who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior will live forever in righteousness and holiness in the New Heavens and New Earth in our “glorified” bodies which are eternal. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus! Amen and Amen!