THE BEMA SEAT OF CHRIST
[Bob Wilkin, 'Bad at the Bema?: The Nature of Our Evaluation at the Judgment Seat of Christ.', Audio Tape #SFW1, 2001 Grace Evangelical Society]:
God makes some pretty amazing promises in the bible. For example, we're told 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more', (Hebrews 10:17). And again, in Colossians chapter 2, we're told that He has forgiven us all, ALL trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirement that was against us, and He's nailed it to the cross. So we have forgiveness, we have total forgiveness of sins. And it's certainly one of the most blessed doctrines in the entire bible. And I think one of the reasons that's so... isn't it true that the more we grow in our Christian experience, the more we realize how far we still have to go? In fact the more we grow, don't we realize, more and more how sinful we are? And we gain an appreciation for the holiness of God the more we grow in Christ. It's wonderful to realize that He remembers our sins no more, and He separates our sins as far as the East from the West. It's wonderful to realize that we are perfected in God's sight, (Hebrews chapter 10).
But, BUT many Christians, unfortunately draw a conclusion from this which I feel is very much unwarranted. They draw the conclusion since all our sins have been forgiven, that means our sins cannot possibly be considered at the judgment of Christians known as the Judgment Seat of Christ. Or in Greek the word [for] Judgment Seat is Bema. I'm here to suggest, even though this isn't a popular topic that the bad deeds of believers will be considered at the Bema Seat of Christ. We might all prefer that that wouldn't be the case, but if it is true, don't we want to know it now? If it is true, we ought to know it now so that we won't end up ashamed of ourselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Now I have three major points today. The first two will not prove the case. The first two will merely show that forgiveness does not exclude accountability. The third point is where I try to show directly from Scripture that we have the accountability of all of our deeds good or bad.
FORGIVENESS DOES NOT EXCLUDE ACCOUNTABILITY
So first of all, forgiveness doesn't exclude accountability.... According to 1 John 1:9, 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Well, wait a minute, didn't Hebrews 10 say that He's forgotten ALL of our sins? Well, that's true in a positional sense [i.e., we are viewed as forgiven unto eternal life & viewed as already in heaven, (Eph 2:6)], but in terms of our fellowship with God and our experience, we must confess our sins in order to have fellowship forgiveness. So... our positional forgiveness does not exclude the need for fellowship forgiveness. Also under this point that forgiveness doesn't exclude accountability is [that eternally] forgiven people experience God's judgment here and now. I mean we could go to many verses, but how about 1 Cor 11:30? Paul's talking about the Lord's Supper and he says because some of them were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper and excluding others from having anything to eat, and they had a very flippant attitude toward the Lord's Supper - 'For this reason many are weak and sick among you and many sleep.' And the word for sleep is the Greek verb 'koimao' which is used of the death of believers in the New Testament. It's a figurative reference, obviously he doesn't mean they are taking a siesta. These people have died as a result of abusing the Lord's Supper. Clearly there's accountability even though there is positional [i.e., eternal] forgiveness.
So this doesn't prove the point [that our sins are judged at the Bema], but all it shows is the fact that... [having] total forgiveness does not mean I can sin with impunity now. There are consequences now. The Holy Spirit points out my sins now. I'm to confess my sins now.
CONFESSION OF SINS DOESN'T EXCLUDE ACCOUNTABILITY NOW
Confession of sins doesn't exclude accountability now. David was a man after God's own heart and yet he committed adultery and murder. And prior to his confession of the sins, he did not receive [fellowship] forgiveness from God. You'll remember in 2 Samuel chapter 12 that Nathan confronts him and says 'you're the man.' And he [David] acknowledges his sin, he receives forgiveness from God, but guess what? If you've ever studied 2 Samuel - the second half of 2 Samuel is a series of disasters for King David. He loses his son, he has a son that's trying to take the kingdom away from him, then he loses Absolom, and on and on and on. Did he have forgiveness? Yes. Did that eliminate accountability. No. And we can find many other examples. Let's say you're a believer and you go out and you rob a bank. And as you're leaving the bank, you sincerely confess your sin. 'Lord, I am sorry I stole this money. In fact, I'm going to take it back in there and give it back to them.' So you take it back in and they arrest you. And they take you to the police station. Well, is there elimination of accountability? No. If you commit armed robbery, even if you take the money back, even if you confess your sins; you're going to probably end up in Huntsville [prison inTexas]. And so what we need to realize is that confession of sins doesn't exclude accountability in this life.
THERE IS NO PROMISE THAT CONFESSED SINS WILL NEVER BE CONSIDERED AT THE BEMA
Secondly, there's no promise... that confessed sins will never be considered at the Bema. There is no promise [in Scripture] that if I confess my sins then they're going to be hidden at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Now it's hard to prove a negative. I can't really prove this point to you, but I think I can give you some evidence to this..
We know Scripture doesn't contradict itself and... I've looked at all the texts that are... brought forward [i.e., are purported] to say if we confess our sins they won't come up at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I can't find a one [that actually does say this]....
But it's my conviction that there is not a single verse anywhere in the Old or New Testament that says that if we confess our sins they will not be considered at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If there is no such promise, that ought to give us pause, shouldn't it?
While these first two points don't prove the case, they simply show that forgiveness of sins does not exclude accountability.
THE SEVEN CATEGORIES OF SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENTS THAT PROVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SINS AT THE BEMA SEAT
PREVIEW OF THE SEVEN CATEGORIES
Now I want to bring some direct Scriptural arguments [to you], and I have... seven...
First of all, the bible says that everything which is done is going to be revealed. All the hidden things are going to be revealed.
Secondly, the bible says that there will be negative emotions and consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Third, there are warnings not to sin in light of the coming Judgment Seat of Christ.
Fourth, we have in Scripture, many examples of the sins of believers which are recorded forever in the Scriptures.
Fifth, the word Bema or Judgment Seat, does not mean an academy awards banquet where we are giving out a lot of trophies. It means Judgment Seat - that's why it's translated 'Judgment Seat'.
Sixth, according to 2 Corinthians 5:10 we're going to be recompensed for the deeds done in the body whether or good or bad. And the Greek word for bad there... means bad [even evil].
Seven, in Galatians 6:7, Paul says, 'Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he also will reap.' If that doesn't mean that there are consequences for our bad deeds in this life, then there is some problem with the sowing and reaping principle....
ALL THINGS WILL BE REVEALED
In First Corinthians 4, the first 5 verses, Paul talks about the coming Judgment. And at the end of it he says, 'Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart. Then each ones praise will come from God.'
Now notice he's going to bring to light the hidden things of darkness. [This] doesn't sound like good deeds to me. And He's going to reveal the counsels of the heart. So there is going to be a comprehensive judgment. Also in Luke chapter 8 verses 16, 17 & 18, the Lord says, 'No one when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.'
(v. 17) 'For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.
(v. 18) Therefore take heed how you hear for he whoever has to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.'
Notice how absolute the statements are here. He says, 'Nothing is secret that will not be revealed' - NOTHING. Nor is there anything that will not be made known and come to light. As far as I can tell there is no wriggle room here. We can't say, 'Well, I'm a believer, all my sins are forgiven, therefore, anything I do in this life that is a bad deed - it's going to get a free pass. No, everything is going to be considered.
Now all seven of these points stand on their own. In other words, if [one] point is true, I don't need any more evidence, right? If it's true that he [Paul] says that nothing is hidden that won't be revealed [then] end of story.
But let's say somehow I've misunderstood these passages and many others like it. There are six more lines of argument that are also equally strong....
NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES AT THE BEMA
The second one is negative consequences at the Bema or the Judgment Seat. Now, if all the consequences at the Judgment Seat were positive, then we could establish the idea that our bad deeds won't be considered. But if there are any negative consequences, it's my view that our bad deeds must be considered. Because you cannot have negative consequences resulting from good deeds. You may say, 'Well, wait a minute, maybe they're just sins of omission.' Fine. Aren't those bad deeds? If we have something which we are able to do and we're not doing [it]. [If] we say, 'Be filled and be warm,' but we don't give the person what's good for the body, is that not sin? And so, if there are negative consequences at the Bema then there are going to be our bad deeds considered at the Bema.
Let me mention three negative consequences at the Bema. The first one is shame at the Bema. There will be shame at the Bema. In First John 2:28 the Apostle John tells us, 'And now little children abide in Him so that when He appears we may have confidence, (or boldness), and not shrink back in shame at His coming.'
Two options: confidence, shame. Not all believers are going to have boldness at the Bema. Some are going to have shame. Keep in mind he's writing to little children, believers. Based on First John 2:12-14 there's no possibility that the readers are unregenerate people.
Secondly, there will be disapproval at the Bema..... From 2 Timothy 2:15 'Approved workmen are not ashamed.' The word approved is the word, 'dokimos'. The word disapproved is the same word with an 'a' on the front which reverses it, 'adokimos'.... For example, in 1 Cor 9:27, the Apostle Paul says, 'But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become 'adokimos', dissapproved'. Well, if there is disapproval among believers, well that's a negative consequence. And in fact, we know from Luke chapter 19 with the parable of the minas, that while the first servant hears, 'well done', and the second servant hears, 'you also rule over five cities,' the third servant is rebuked and called a wicked, worthless servant. There will be rebuke and disapproval at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Third, and I have already touched on this. There will be rebuke. And the rebuke would be for example, the third servant in the parable of the minas in Luke chapter 19. In fact, in verses 22 & 23, the Lord says, '''Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?'''
And then the Lord takes the mina from him, gives it to the one who has 10. And there's rebuke here. There's loss of rewards. This person is not going to be ruling with the Lord Jesus Christ in contrast to the other servant. Now I must admit that some people take a look at the parable of the minas and say that the third servant represents an unbeliever; because they say, 'Look his mina is taken away from him, and he's not ruling.' Well, the problem with this view, and there are many, is the first two people are at the Judgment Seat of Christ and what's an unbeliever doing at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Secondly, these are all called servants of God. They're all entrusted with the stewardship. Unbelievers are not given spiritual gifts. They're not entrusted with any sort of stewardship. And third when you look at Luke 19, it begins with talking about enemies of the Lord Jesus who don't want Him to rule over them. Clearly, a reference to the Jewish people - like Jn 1:11: 'He came to His own, and His own received Him not.'
And then it says, He brought ten of His servants, obviously not in that group [that rejected Him]. And He gave them all a sum of money. And one of those ten wastes it - buries it - doesn't bring any return. Well, in Luke 19:27 when the parable is over, the Lord says, 'but bring here these enemies of Mine who don't wish Me to rule over them and slay them here in My presence.' Clearly, the third servant is distinguished from the ones who are slain who do not get into the Kingdom of God. So.... the third servant is a believer in Jesus Christ. He is a servant of God, but he is one who has not used his abilities as he should and he receives rebuke from the Lord Jesus Christ. So the idea that there will be shame, the idea of disapproval, the idea of rebuke all suggest negative consequences at the Bema which can only come if our bad deeds are indeed part of the consideration.
WARNINGS NOT TO SIN BECAUSE THE BEMA IS COMING
Now there's a third evidence... and it's also independent. That is that there are warnings not to sin because the Bema is coming. You're all aware of Romans 14:10-12. That's where we're told by Paul, 'But why do you judge your brother, or why do you show contempt for your brother for we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ?' That's the majority of manuscripts. Other manuscripts read, 'the Judgment Seat of God.' In either case, we are clearly talking about the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. Now, the interesting point is, that he is saying, 'Don't show contempt for your brother because we're going to appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ.' James picks up the same theme in James chapter 5... They've been grumbling and he says in James 5:9, 'Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be judged.' Well, now all believers are going to be judged... in fact, some translations say condemn ['lest you be condemned']. The translation should be something like, 'Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be found at fault. Behold the Judge is standing at the door.'
Now I know we think of Jesus as our Savior, and He is; and we think of Him as our Lord, and He is; but do we think of Him as our Judge? According to James 5:9, He's the Judge and He's standing at the door. That is, the door of history, and He's about to open it. The Rapture's going to occur at any moment. And when it does, we're going to be held accountable for grumbling against other brothers and sisters in Christ. So I would suggest that these warnings not to sin in light of the Bema suggests that bad deeds will be considered at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
BAD DEEDS RECORDED IN SCRIPTURE ARE A PERMANENT RECORD WHICH WILL CERTAINLY BE PART OF THE JUDGMENT OF THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO COMMITTED THOSE BAD DEEDS
Fourth, is the idea that believers' bad deed are recorded in Scripture.... Think for example in Acts 5 of Ananias and Saphira. They concoct a plan to sell some land, bring part of the money before the elders, and then to say they've given the whole sum of money. So Ananias lies and.... consequences fall.. he dies. Then Saphira comes in and repeats the same lie and she dies. It seems to me that it's inconceivable that at their judgment that will not be part of their consideration of what happens for them. Or think about David with his sin with Bathsheba and with killing her husband Uriah. Certainly, it seems to me, since those things are recorded in Scripture, that part of the permanent record of something that we will be studying forever, that it's going to be part of David's Judgment. Or Nadab and Abihu offering up strange fire in Leviticus chapter 10 and they become toast. Seems to me that's going to be a significant part of their judgment. After all it terminated their lives prematurely at the beginning of the Mosaic Covenant just like Ananias and Saphire had their lives terminated at the beginning of the Church Age - both as an example to the flock.
THE WORD 'BEMA' REFERS TO JUDGMENT SEAT = A JUDGMENT NOT LIMITED TO AWARDS
The word 'Bema' refers to Judgment Seat. I know that a lot of Christians have the idea that Bema means something like the Academy Awards Presentation and we're all up for best supporting actor... and we've all got a chance. There are number of references to the Bema... The term Bema means Judgment Seat.
What about Jesus appearing before Pilate's Bema? Well, Pilate wasn't giving Him any awards. Pilate kept trying to avoid condemning Him to death. But ultimately, Pilate caved in under pressure. didn't he? And at his Bema He condemned the Lord Jesus Christ to death. Paul appeared before the judgment seat of a man named Gallio in Acts chapter 18 because the Jewish people were saying he was preaching contrary to Judaism. And Gallio's answer was, 'No, seems to me, this is an internal dispute you're having. That this Jesus is a Jew and this religion is an offshoot of Judaism, or it's a natural progression from Judaism.' But when Paul appeared before his Bema or his judgment seat, it was not to get an award. It was to be judged. Remember later, Paul appeared before Caesar and he said he wanted to go to Caesar's Bema or Caesar's Judgment Seat. So there's no room in Scripture as I see it for the argument that a judgment seat means merely giving out of awards. Based on the other uses in Scripture, it includes a judgment which can have negative consequences.
BAD DEEDS AT THE BEMA ARE IN VIEW IN 2 COR 5:10
There's a sixth thing... mentioned earlier 2 Cor 5:10: That the bad deeds of believers will be recompensed at the Bema. Now I know this one's controversial. You've probably heard 2 Cor 5:10 taught differently... In 2 Cor 5:10, the Apostle Paul says, 'We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (That's the Bema of Christ) 'that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad.' Now obviously if the word 'bad' here means 'bad'... let's assume for the moment that maybe it's not a good translation.... Maybe it really means something like 'good or worthless' or something, or 'good and not profitable' or something. But if it really does mean 'bad', then the story's over, right? Because the bad deeds of believers will be considered at the Bema. It says so right here in one of only two passages that specifically mentions the Judgment Seat of Christ. So the question is, does this word 'bad' mean 'bad' or something else? Well, there are many people that suggest that the Greek word here... is a word 'falon' or 'falos' in the nominative. And that 'falon' means something like worthless. It's maybe a good deed done with the wrong motives or something which was morally neutral but not a bad deed - just a worthless deed. Well, I have some problems with that. I have two major problems. The first problem is the Greek word here is probably not 'falos' but a word that clearly means bad, 'kakos' or in the accusative, 'kakon'. It's supported by the majority of manuscripts. That's why if you read the King James or the New King James you're going to see clearly 'whether good or bad.' And it's also supported by some of the critical manuscripts like ß and P46. However even if we assume that 'falon' is the correct reading here, it still should be translated bad... because every time that 'falos' is opposite the Greek word for good 'agathos'.... it is always translated either 'bad' or 'evil' in every major translation.... the opposite of good is going to be bad.... And so either way, all of our deeds, good or bad are going to be considered. And some believers, their judgment is going to be that their life has not been lived in a manner that warrants the Lord's approval, His praise.
WHATEVER YOU SOW YOU REAP EVEN AT THE JUDGMENT AND THAT INCLUDES GOOD AND BAD DEEDS
Finally, the seventh point... is whatever we sew we reap.... Gal 6:7 says 'Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap." .... If you sow bad deeds you get bad stuff. If you sow good deeds you get good stuff. That's true now and it's true at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Well, you may say, wait a minute, he's just talking about here and now. Well, how come in Galatians 6:9 it says, 'Let us not grow weary in doing good for in due time we shall reap if we do not lose heart.' And in fact when we compare it with Galatians 5:19-21 we know that there is going to be rulership for some and inheriting the kingdom for some and not for others. And that the one who sows to the Spirit is going to have a full experience of everlasting life.
I would suggest that all seven of these points strongly support and prove the fact that our judgment, the Bema Seat of Christ will be comprehensive. It's not going to be a judgment that leaves out all the bad deeds we do and just has the good stuff left. But its going to consider everything we've done - all the hidden things - all the things we think we've hidden from God. We did it in secret, nobody here on earth learned about it and we think, 'Oh good, I got away with that.' No you did not get away with it in this life, and you won't get away with it at the Judgment Seat of Christ.