What is the difference between the condemnation and damnation of the Great White Throne Judgment and the commendation and praise of the Believer’s Judgment?
THE BEMA OR AWARDS SEAT OF CHRIST
The first future judgment derives its name from two passages where the term “Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ” appears:
“For we Believers will all stand before the Bema Seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). “For we Believers must all appear before the Bema Seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
This cannot be confused with the other judgments because the Holy Spirit used a Greek word to describe the Judgment Seat of Christ that is peculiar and different from the Greek words used in connection with other judgments. Here the word used is bema. It appears in classical Greek to identify the judge’s seat in the arena of the Olympic games. The bema was the seat whereon the judge sat, not to punish contestants, but to present awards to the victors. When Christians stand before the Bema Seat of Christ, it will be for the express purpose of being rewarded according to their good works and good deeds after salvation. There is no idea of inflicting punishment and is actually an award ceremony.
It is not punitive. It is not to judge Believers for confessed sin of any kind. It all starts at John 3:16:
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have Eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.
He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation–he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.] The [basis of the] judgment (indictment, the test by which men are judged, the ground for the sentence) lies in this: the Light has come into the world, and people have loved the darkness rather than and more than the Light, for their works (deeds) were evil” [Isa. 5:20.] (John 3:16-19 AMP).
What happens when a Christian does commit sin? Are we to be sinless or sin less? Will a Believer be cast into the Lake of Fire because of unconfessed sin? Absolutely not! BUT he will suffer loss at the Bema Seat. Believers are to run to 1 John 1:9 as often as is necessary to keep a clean slate before the Father.
“[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].
If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]. If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” (1 John 1:6-9 AMP)
Scripture teaches that for the Believer God’s justice has already been fully and forever satisfied at the Cross in relation to the Believer’s sins. If God were to punish the Believer judicially for his sins for which Christ has already rendered payment, He would be requiring two payments for sin and would therefore be unjust. Such a concept (punishment for sin) erroneously disparages the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross. Christ paid the penalty for the Believer’s pre- and post-conversion sins. The Believer will forfeit rewards which he could have received, but he will not be punished in the judicial sense of “paying” for his sins.
Scripture teaches that all confessed sins, have been forgiven and taken care of by the work of Christ on the Cross so the Christian is to have the confidence that they will never face those sins again at the judgment.
“Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse–some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn’t touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing!” (Hebrews 10:32-35 MSG).
“As a good soldier of Christ Jesus you must endure your share of suffering. Soldiers on duty don’t work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:5 CEV).
This word bema was taken from Isthmian games where the contestants would compete for the prize under the careful scrutiny of judges who would make sure that every rule of the contest was obeyed. The victor of a given event who participated according to the rules was led by the judge to the platform called the Bema. There the laurel wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory. It was greatly sought after by each participant.
“You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win! Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last, but we do it for a crown that will last forever. I don’t run without a goal. And I don’t box by beating my fists in the air. I keep my body under control and make it my slave, so I won’t lose out after telling the good news to others” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 CEV).
In all of these passages, Paul was picturing the Believer as a competitor in a spiritual contest. As the victorious Grecian athlete appeared before the Bema to receive his perishable award, so the Christian will appear before Christ’s Bema to receive his imperishable award. The judge at the Bema bestowed rewards to the victors. He did not whip the losers. We might add, neither did he sentence them to hard labor. In other words, it is a reward seat and portrays a time of rewards or loss of rewards following examination, but it is not a time of punishment where Believers are judged for their sins. Such would be inconsistentwith the finished work of Christ on the Cross because He totally paid the penalty for our sins.
BEMA SEAT ANALOGIES TO CONSIDER
In order to dispel the many negative thoughts that have filled our thinking about the Judgement Seat of Christ, here are some thought-provoking analogies.
- A Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner. At a Thanksgiving dinner, each person eats a different amount, but each is satisfied. After our glorification, there will be no flesh to produce envy, or jealousy, or resentment, or feelings of dissatisfaction. We will each be enthralled with God and our glorified state.
- A Bat Boy at the World Series. Any young man who loves baseball would probably be thrilled to be a bat boy in the World Series, but he would not be jealous or resentful because he was not one of the stars of the game. He would just be delighted to be there and do what he was doing.
- A Graduate at Commencement. All the graduates are there and excited about graduating, yet at the time of rewards, some sorrow might be experienced, but it is quickly overcome by the joy of the event.
- A Soldier Receiving Hero’s Medals. Mention the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star or The Medal of Honor and it will make everyone’s heart skip a beat. If you are the recipient it brings an unspeakable sense of pride.
[In light of this teaching about the Judgment Seat of Christ, are you making the most of your opportunities, trusting Christ to bear lasting fruit through you?]
Part 2 of 2
 Some interpret 1 John 1:9 as referring only to the confession and forgiveness at one’s initial salvation. Most commentators see this passage as descriptive of the Christian life. Even if this text refers to initial salvation, the risen Christ exhorts erring disciples to repent; this would involve confession (Rev. 2:5,16;3:3,19). For a further consideration of the distinction between pardon and cleansing, see “The Believer’s Confession of Sins” – https://gracenotebook.com/the-christians-confession-of-sins/