So what about the Judgement Seat of Christ? In the notes to me after this week's message, this was the most frequent question. The question came mostly from people over 60 who were formed in an era when Premillenial Dispensationalism was a dominant paradigm and prophecy conferences were in vogue. The idea in that paradigm is this:
"There are two judgements - one for believers, one for non-believers. As a believer, I will never go to the Great White Throne, I will go to the Bema Seat (also known as the Judgment seat of Christ) and never see unbelievers again. The Lamb's book of life does not apply because I am already innocent in God's eyes."
This view is a Biblically plausible view, but certainly not conclusive. Here's what we can know about the Bema Seat. The Bema seat is discussed in Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5 (listed below). In Corinth, there were Olympic-type sports. The person in the Bema seat would judge the athletes and determine who won the race. Then awards would be handed out for those who competed the best. Interestingly, the idea of a judgment seat is used not only as a reward stand, but also a place of judgement -even in the Biblical texts (See Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13). Technically, a bema seat is a raised area where judgements are made - pretty simple really.
So, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ (a.k.a. Bema Seat), that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
Romans 14:10, 12 says "You then, why do you judge your brother? Or whay do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat...So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."
Is this a different place than the Great White Throne? It is impossible to tell conclusively because the two judgements are never talked about in the same passage. I would even argue that it seems the opposite. In the above verse, it speaks of us ALL appearing before the Judgement Seat. Matt 25, in Jesus story of the sheep and the goats, it seems as though the sheep and the goats come to judgement together and then are separated. At the Great White Throne, it says that the dead - great and small - come for judgement (no delineation for beleivers and non-believers.) Because of this, I lean toward a view that we will all be judged together.
Now, I still think it is possible that there will be two different judgements. Even the passages above are not crystal clear. If there is, however, then when will the Bema Seat judgement be? Some think it is immediately at death and you time warp to the New Heavens and New Earth. Some think it is pre-millenium and then we rule with Christ before the New Heavens and New Earth. Some think it is simultaneous to the GWT judgement. Some think it is after the GWT judgement when believers are together in the New Heavens and the New Earth. But guess what? The Bible is not clear on this matter. Premillenial Dispensationalists spoke about this with far more confidence than the Biblical support would merit.
On another note, some have wondered whether good AND bad will be remembered at the Judgment seat. Romans 14 says one must "give account of himself". 2 Corinthians 5:10 specifically mentions good AND bad things done in the body. Let the text speak for itself.
Here is the best news of all though. Jesus died to cover the bad. He gave his life so you can go free. He is the ultimate rescuer of all who have done wrong. So we as believers need not fear judgement because our promised resurrection in Christ is secure. Now we are smart to rack up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6) and prepare for that moment when our deeds will be tested (I Cor. 3). But we need not fear death or hell, because Jesus has already paid the ticket for us. Yeah!
Some have wondered why I did not cover this in the sermon. Well, with limited time, there are only so many possibilities to cover, but I hope this blog moment has helped you!
I love it when Christians who have only heard one view put that view up against the Bible and begin to think new thoughts! Challenge one another and let the evidence guide your thinking!