2 Corinthians 5: 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The term “judgment seat” is interesting, and its meaning would surprise many Christians. The Greek word for “judgment seat” comes from the word bema. Bema is sometimes used in the Bible to refer to a raised platform where a Roman magistrate or ruler sat to make decisions or to pass sentence, but in the epistles of Paul, his usage was more in keeping with the original use among the Greeks which was in athletic contests. The word bema came from the Isthmian games where contestants competed under the careful scrutiny of the judges who would make sure that every rule in the contest was being obeyed. The victor of a given event who participated according to the rules was led by the judge to the platform called the bema where the laurel wreath was placed on his head.
So the judgement seat for believers (not to be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment for unbelievers, Rev. 20:15) is really more of a rewards seat. While many Christians fear that day, there is nothing to fear. As a believer our salvation is secure because it was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). The only concern on that day is whether we receive any rewards at all, and that is determined by “the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5: 10b). In 1 Cor. 3:12-15 we read that we will be judged based on what we build here on earth. If what we build survives, we will receive a reward. However, “if it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (v 14-15)
Much like an athlete is rewarded for their performance, albeit with rewards that perish, the day we sit on the judgment seat, we sit with an opportunity to receive rewards – eternal rewards. At the judgment seat of Christ, we are rewarded based on how faithfully we served Him. The Bible speaks of five different crowns that we can earn:
- Crown of Righteousness – This Crown is for those Believers who “loved his appearing”, those who were ready & waiting for the Return of Jesus (2 Tim. 4:8)
- Incorruptable Crown – This is the Victor’s Crown for those who brought their bodies under control, those who were disciplined and had Self-Control (1 Cor. 9: 25-27)
- Crown of Life – This is the Martyr’s Crown for those who were Faithful even unto Death— those who Patiently endured Testings, Temptations, and Trials. (James 1:12)
- Crown of Glory – The Elder’s Crown – This Crown is for those Leaders, Pastors, Elders, and Teachers who were Godly Examples to the Flock of Believers who were entrusted to their care. (1 Pet. 5:2-4)
- Crown of Rejoicing – This is the Soul Winner’s Crown (1 Thess. 2:19; Dan. 12:3) – For Believer’s who were Obeying Jesus’ Great Commission to make Disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19)
We serve God out of a deep love for Him and an appreciation for what He did on the cross for us, however, the Bible spends considerable time speaking of the crowns that await those who obey Him and these rewards can be a legitimate motivation for us, especially when we face many trials often without seeing any earthly rewards. When you sit before the bema judgement, will you be one receiving a prize or will you be “only as one escaping through the flames”?