July 4, 2011
The Judgment Seat of Christ
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We have reviewed the contrast between the resurrection of judgment for unbelievers, and the resurrection of life for believers. We saw that unbelievers appear before the great white throne of judgment, where God sends unbelievers to the lake of fire, after heaven and earth have been destroyed by fire. Now, we will look at the resurrection of life for believers, who never appear before the great white throne for judgment.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord–
2 Corinthians 5:6
At Home in the Body. Recently I met a man who called himself an evangelist and a preacher. He had some questions about people who died in the Old Testament. He thought they were asleep in the ground, waiting for their spirits to be raised at the sound of the last trumpet, in the twinkling of an eye, and then they would go spiritually to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus. I realized right away that this man did not understand 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. You see, 2 Corinthians 5:6 makes it plain that when we are alive on earth, and present in our fleshly bodies, we are spiritually absent from the Lord Jesus, who is in heaven (Ephesians 1:20). Paul does not mean that Christ Jesus does not dwell within the believer, but rather spiritually we reside in our earthly bodies. In that sense, we are absent from the Lord. Every Old Testament believer remains absent from the body, but spiritually present with the Lord Jesus. As long as we call our bodies home, we are spiritually indwelling them. Remember that Jesus calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, because He is the God of the living, not the God of the dead (Luke 20:37-38). That means that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are spiritually alive and present with the Lord Jesus when He said those words in Israel while He walked the earth. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin: absent from the body, present with the Lord.
–for we walk by faith, not by sight–we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:7-8
Present with the Lord. When a believer dies, they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. Notice that immediately upon death, the believer shall be absent from the body and present with the Lord. The Bible never teaches anything about “soul sleep” or purgatory, or any other idea conceived by men, but never taught by God. In fact, the Biblical evidence here indicates that immediately we are spiritually present with Christ. Consider for a moment the thief on the cross. Jesus Himself made a promise to that thief who believed in Christ: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Notice the word “today” in the promise of Jesus. That thief went to be with Jesus the same day, although the body of the thief was still nailed to the cross and later decayed. To be absent from the body means that your physical body goes into the ground in a casket, but, as a believer, your spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus in heaven. Resurrection often refers to bodily resurrection in the Bible, because the believer’s spirit is already united with Christ forever, since the moment of death. The believer’s spirit goes home to Jesus at death.
2 Corinthians 5:9
Pleasing to Him. Paul always links the future to the present. For Paul to talk about eschatology (the study of end things–prophecy and apocalyptic literature) means that Paul will always draw out implications for living here and now in light of the future. In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul writes that because we will always be united to the Lord Jesus one way or another, and not even death shall separate us from Him for a moment, we should live with the ambition to please Him every moment of our lives. We shall be rewarded by Christ for all of the deeds we do for Him, which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in those good deeds (Ephesians 2:10).
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:10
The Judgment Seat of Christ. In contrast to the great white throne judgment pictured in Revelation 20:11, the Bible also describes the judgment seat of Christ where only believers appear. As you may recall, Jesus taught us that without faith it is impossible to please God, for you must believe that God is, and that God is a Rewarder of everyone who seeks Him (Hebrews 11:6). At the judgment seat (“βήματος“) of Christ, He rewards believers for their service to Him. Sometimes people refer to the judgment seat of Christ by the Greek word “bema.” It refers to a seat, often raised up, where judgments and verdicts were rendered. In this passage, Jesus sits upon the judgment seat and renders decisions about your deeds upon earth, and then gives you the appropriate reward. Please keep in mind that every believer shall never be condemned here, or anywhere else, because all of our condemnation has fallen once and for all upon Christ (Romans 8:1).
So we learn more about Judgments and Decrees today.
● To be absent from the body means we have died. To be present with the Lord means that we have died, and now are at home with Jesus for eternity.
● Every believer will stand for judgment before the Lord Jesus Christ, who will render rewards to every believer.
● Every believer will receive their rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, and their deeds will be evaluated there and then by Christ Himself.
Application for Today
My ambition for today will be to please Jesus in everything that I do. I will keep in mind that He will reward me when I appear before Christ at the judgment seat of Christ. I will be at home with Christ the moment I die. He will love me forever. Will your ambition be to live for Christ today, so that you may please Him today?