I have been debating with some brothers in Christ the number of judgments, presented in the Bible, of saints and sinners. Dispensationalists believe there are three judgments: that of the Church (2 Cor. 5: 10-11-the “all” may equally refer to humanity in general); that of individual Gentiles (Mt. 25:31-46); and that of the dead after the Tribulation (Rev. 20: 11-15).
I disagree, and here is the argument I made to my friends:
BEMA SEAT JUDGMENT
|Judgment Seat (Gr. Bema, a step), a raised place mounted by steps; used of the official seat of a judge ( Matt. 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 18:12, 16, sq.; 25:6); of the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10); of the structure, resembling a throne, which Herod built in the theater at Caesarea, and from which he used to view the games and make speeches to the people (Acts 12:21)|
Judgment Seat of Christ This assize is spoken of in II Cor. 5:10. The manifestation of the believer’s works is in question in this judgment. It most emphatically is not a judgment of the believer’s sins. These have been fully atoned for in the vicarious and substitutionary death of Christ, and “remembered no more forever”(Heb. 10:17). It iis quite necessary, however, that the service of every child of God must be definitely scrutinized and evaluated (Matt. 12:36; Rom. 14:10; Gal. 6:7; Eph. 6:8;Col. 3:24, 25). As a result of this judgment of the believer’s works, there will be “reward” or “loss” of reward.
Unger”s Bible Dictionary, Unger, M. F., Moody Press, 1966, p. 622.
2nd Corinthians 4:6-7
- “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
- But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
If this treasure is judged at the Bema seat, all the credit goes to God, for all the treasure laid up is by the power of God. What merit then is of our own righteousness in our work? None. If our treasure be in Christ’s work, our reward will be for Christ’s Work. Better than anything we ‘of ourselves’ could dream of meriting by our own labor.
The fact is, there really is no Bema judgement for handing out rewards ‘versus’ a later white throne judgement to hand out punishments. The Bible is clear that there is one judgement of Christ, and it takes place at the last day. It is then that man will stand before the judgement seat of Christ to give account of what he has done on earth, whether good or bad. And of course, all those who were washed clean in the blood of Christ stand with ‘good’ works, being without fault before God, while the rest of the dead stand with ‘bad’ works, being guilty in the works of sins.
With all of this evidence of reward in Christ, one may then ask, ‘why is there this belief by some Christians in a multiple judgement?’ The answer is twofold. One, man in his pride and vanity wants credit for what he thinks he has done of his own (alleged) free will. And two, premillennial (and particularly dispensational) theologians, of necessity must create more than one judgement because they have Christ returning more than once. If Christ returns only once (at the last day), their need for multiple judgments disappear. Their eschatology of a thousand year reign of Christ on earth necessitates a double judgement. For they have some judged for rewards before the thousand years, and some judged after the thousand years. This is problematic if there is a pretribulation rapture and no Bema seat judgement.
©2002 Tony Warren, http://www.mountainretreatorg.net
Rom. 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:
” `As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,`every knee will bow before me;every tongue will confess to God.’  SO then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
2CO 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,  because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaran-teeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.
1 Cor. 4:3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
REV 22:10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.  Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”
 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
ISA 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.  They will say of me, `In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’ ” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
1JN 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
Can we insist that there is more than one judgment seat of Christ (we know that He is The Judge of all: Jn. 5:22-23; 2 Tim. 4;1; Act 10:42; and we know that there will be an end-time judgment: Acts 17:29-31; Rom. 2:16; Heb.9:27; 1 Jn. 1:31-18; Rev. 20:12)?
A careful examination of the relevant scriptures and their contexts can help us understand the apparent confusion about judgment, rewards, and believers’ punishments.
First, I think we must distinguish between the Rapture and God’s final judgment. Paul himself says, “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Was he speaking only to Christians? The O.T. context of his subsequent quote (Isa. 45:23) is not some “elect” group, but all mankind. Rev. 22:11 says, “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne…”–there is no indication that the saints (you and me) are excluded from this throng.
Consider this; Jesus told of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:41f) and described the dividing of the groups as occurring before sentencing. This is not the same as 1 Cor. 3, because there is eternal punishment in view here, as is true in Rev. 22:11f.
Second, I can’t find evidence internal to Scripture or outside it to indicate that “bema” ever was used to describe a non-judicial, evaluative process such as we see in 1 Cor. 3. All the significant pre-epistolary N.T. References are to a seat of civil or criminal judgment (Mat. 27:19; Jn. 19:13; Acts 25:5-7), providing both approval and condemnation.
Here’s one way to understand the significance of the two “judgments”:
- We can link 1 Cor. 3:10-15 with 1 Jn. 3:1-3. Purification is neither punishment nor judgment, but the final preparation for eternity.
- In regard to Mat. 25:41f, we can say that we arrive preapproved—we will automatically be placed among the sheep (right-hand).
I don’t think we need to debate pre-trib, pre-mil, post-mil in this (although Reformed thinkers do), since this approach tends to be non-theology specific.
A clear reading of 1 Cor. 3 will show that it is not our individual works that are in play, but the work, that is the edifice we have erected on the Foundation, Jesus Christ.
Phil. 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
1 Jn. 4:17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.