The Bema Seat Judgment
The Bible speaks of several last days or end times judgments. These are The Bema Seat Judgment, The Sheep and Goats Judgment, and The Great White Throne Judgment. The first of these future events is the Bema Seat Judgment. The books of Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians reference this judgment. In the book of Romans, we read:
"For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10-12).
Writing of the same event to the Church at Corinth, Paul wrote:
"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" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The judgment found in 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Romans 14:10-12 is often referred to as the BEMA Seat Judgement because the phrase judgment seat derives from the word BEMA in the original Greek text. More than not, Bema is a word picture of a stage or raised platform where an official renders judgment. In the ancient Greek world, it was the place where exceptional athletes received their reward. In this sense, the Bema Seat has a positive connotation. It was not a time or place when the Judge declared whether or not a person won a race; it was a time when the Judge rewarded athletes and announced what the winner had won.
The Bible teaches that all who accept Jesus into their heart as Lord and Savior will one day stand before God in what is known as the Bema Seat judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 reference this event. This time of judgment is not to determine if a person is a true believer—it is a time to examine a believer’s life work. God will examine every word and achievement. 1 Corinthians 3 speaks to this in poetic terms noting:
"[Our] work will be shown for what it is because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames."
(1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
Only that done, said, or given, in support of the Lord’s work, will survive the fire at the Bema Seat Judgement. That which survives will be commended and serve as our reward. Those who lived for self rather than to honor the Savior will stand in shame. Scripture notes that the faithful will receive crowns similar to athletes receiving a crown as a reward for doing well in the Olympics.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12)
Those whose life works survive the holy fire will receive the smile of God. There can be no greater reward than to hear the Father say, "Well done my good and faithful servant."
WHEN WILL THE BEMA SEAT JUDGEMENT TAKE PLACE?
The timing of this event is not specifically noted in Scripture. However, verses such as Revelation 22:12 seem to connect this event with the Rapture.
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done."
It is logical to presume that the Bema Seat Judgement will take place in heaven, soon after the Rapture, after believers receive their glorified bodies.
"I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
The Bema Seat Judgment awaits believers. The wise will ensure that they live well and finish well for Jesus.
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