The Judgment Seat of Christ

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  5 : 9-11
Subject: Death; Judgment; Preparation for Eternity
Introduction

Dr. George Sweeting, Chancellor Emeritus, Moody Bible Institute, explains, “God gives Jesus Christ authority to judge all men because of who He is. Jesus is uniquely qualified to judge because He is God and has existed from eternity (John 1:1). As God, He knows everything, can be everywhere at once, and has unlimited power and authority. He knows everything we think and sees everything we do. Thus He can judge perfectly, with wisdom and full understanding and without error or partiality.

Christ is also uniquely qualified to judge because of what He has done. By dying for our sins on the cross, He demonstrated perfect love for all men. Thus, when He judges, His perfect righteousness is balanced by His perfect love.”1 John 5:22- 27 reads, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 reads, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”

Note three things believers are to do in light of the judgment seat of Christ.

I. We are to please God by faith.

2 Corinthians 5:9 reads, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” We also find the words translated “well pleasing” in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” He does according to His good pleasure and we are wise to live according to His good pleasure. But how do we do it? By faith. Hebrews 11:6 reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Dr. Keith L. Brooks (1888-1954) writes, “Some seem to think that if we are Christians, God is not going to bring up anything done in this life. It is all under the blood. Put everything on Jesus and live any way you please. Surely that cannot be right.”2

Colossians 2:18 reads, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” 2 John 1:8 reads, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

1 Corinthians 3:15 reads, “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” At the judgment seat of Christ there is the possibility of sorrow over suffering loss. 1 John 2:28 reads, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” At the judgment seat of Christ there is the possibility of shame over selfish living. Aren’t you glad we read in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

In heaven, there will be degrees of radiance. We will be shining saints! Daniel 12:3 reads, “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” Matthew 13:43a reads, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. . . .”

In heaven, there will be degrees of responsibility. We will be serving saints! From Jesus’ parable recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, we understand the Lord’s reward for faithful service in time is an increased responsibility in eternity. 

II. We are to present ourselves in fidelity.

2 Corinthians 5:10 reads, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Note, I said, “We are to present ourselves in fidelity.” There is a world of difference between “in fidelity” and “infidelity.” The motto of the United States Marines, “Semper Fi” is short for “Semper Fidelis”, a Latin phrase meaning “Always Faithful”. If only Christians would have the same resolve! 2 Timothy 2:11-13 reads, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”

In his book titled, The Promise of Heaven, Douglas Connelly explains, “The judgment seat of Christ will also reveal a Christian’s faithfulness and obedience to God. Some pastors or church leaders who have been wrongly treated will be shown to be faithful servants of Christ. Christians who have suffered persecution will be honored. Missionaries who have worked in remote areas with little response for their sacrifice and ministry will hear praise and acclaim from Jesus himself.”3

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 reads, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 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 hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” Hebrews 6:10 reads, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

Dr. Bruce Wilkinson shares the following in his book titled, The Life God Rewards:

1. God will reward you for seeking Him through spiritual acts such as fasting and praying (Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 11:6).
2. God will reward you for submitting to your employer as a faithful steward (Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:22-24).
3. God will reward you for self-denial in His service (Matthew 16:24-27).
4. God will reward you for serving those in need in His name (Mark 9:41).
5. God will reward you for suffering for His name and reputation (Luke 6:22-23).
6. God will reward you for sacrifices you make for Him (Luke 6:35). In fact, Jesus said that every person who sacrifices to follow Him will be rewarded a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29)!
7. God will reward you for sharing of your time, talent, and treasure to further His kingdom (Matthew 6:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:18-19).”4

As you think about rewards consider the following questions:

There is the who question. Who will be rewarded? The “we” in 2 Corinthians 5:10 refers only to believers, who will be rewarded. Unbelievers will not appear at the judgment seat of Christ for reward, they will appear at the great white throne judgment for retribution (Revelation 20:11-15).

There is the why question. Our motivation matters. The glory of God is the key motivational factor for everything God rewards. 1 Corinthians 10:31 reads, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

There is the what question. Paul reminds us that the God kind of love is the only basis for works God will reward. 1 Corinthians 13:3 reads, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

The time of the judgment seat of Christ is referred to as “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10); “the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5); “the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). 

III. We are to persuade men with fear.

2 Corinthians 5:11 reads, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”

Jesus said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5)

After recounting his conversion, Paul said, “‘Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’” (Acts 26:28). We must fearlessly persuade men with fear if they do not heed our compassionate pleas. Jude 1:22-23 reads, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” There are two approaches but one appeal. Our purpose is to know Christ and to make Him known!

Conclusion

Romans 14:10 reads, “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.” Here, Paul deals with judging one another over doubtful disputations regarding diet and days also mentioned in Colossians 2:16-17. He is in no way promoting the toleration of blatant sin. We are to judge sin for what it is! 1 Corinthians 2:15 reads, “But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.” 1 Corinthians 6:5 reads, “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” James 5:7-9 reads, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

Martha Snell Nicholson (1886-1957) shared this on “The Judgment Seat of Christ”:

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ

And He shows His plan for me,

The plan of my life as it might have been

Had He had His way - and I see

How I blocked Him here, and checked Him there,

And I would not yield my will,

Will there be grief in my Savior's eyes,

Grief though He loves me still?

Would He have me rich and I stand there poor,

Stripped of all but His grace,

While memory runs like a hunted thing,

Down the paths I cannot retrace.

Lord, of the years that are left to me

I give them to Thy hand

Take me and break me and mold me,

To the pattern that Thou hast planned!5

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 reads, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Jesus Christ our Lord shares the following about rewards: Matthew 16:27 reads, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Luke 6:23 reads, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”

Hebrews 9:27 reads, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Dr. Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) writes, “The final chapter of human history is solely God’s decision, and even now He is everywhere active in grace or judgment. Never in all history have men spoken so much of end-time, yet been so shrouded in ignorance of God’s impending doomsday.”6

Dr. David Ford, a former associate of Dr. Stephen F. Olford, made me aware of the following story he discovered in the process of writing a book on “The Judgment Seat of Christ”:

“What is it about the word eternity that catches our attention; in fact, has the potential to influence an entire nation? Such is the story of Arthur Stace, an Australian born into a life of hopelessness at the turn of the [20th] century. His life was that of a bum, filled with petty crime and alcoholism between the First World War and the great Depression. All this changed when he met Jesus on August 6, 1930, and soon afterward heard his pastor cry, 'I wish I could shout eternity through all the streets of Sydney!' He felt driven to make this cry a reality.

Arthur would rise early each morning, pray for an hour, and leave his home between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. to go wherever he felt God lead him. For hours he would write one word, eternity, approximately every hundred feet on the sidewalks of Sydney. For more than twenty years his work was a mystery.  Who was writing this single word that caused countless thousands to pause and ponder its meaning, both immediate and long range? Had this mystery man captured the impact and portion of this single word’s power? It wasn’t unto 1956 that the puzzle was solved.

Two years after Arthur’s death in 1967, Sydney poet Douglas Stewart published these words and immortalized the word of this graffiti preacher:

That shy mysterious poet Arthur Stace

Whose work was just one single mighty word

Walked in the utmost depths of time and space

And there his word was spoken and he heard

ETERNITY, ETERNITY, it banged him like a bell

Dulcet from heaven sounding, sombre from hell.

A one-word sermon touched a nation. Arthur’s message was secured for generations by architect Ridley Smith, who put it in copperplate in Sydney Square. It was later viewed by over four billion souls worldwide as they watched the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics on television, and again when it was emblazoned in fireworks on the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the eve of the new millennium.”7 Rev. Ron Dunn (1936-2001) shares, “In a book a few days ago I came across a statement that gripped me. The statement was this: Do you realize that we are only one heartbeat away from a fixed state of reward, be it joy or shame. . . . More and more I began to think about this fixed state, realizing that where I take off in time, I take up in eternity.”8

Dr. Samuel L. Hoyt explains, “The judgment seat of Christ is a subject which places two great doctrinal divisions into juxtaposition. Ecclesiology [the study of the church] and eschatology [the study of end times] are brought side by side since the sobering event involves the future evaluation of the church. . . . The purpose of this awesome event is twofold: in the present to serve as a motivation for Christian living and in the future to review and reward each Christian individually. The prospect of this evaluation should incite believers to faithful and godly living against the backdrop of a future day of reckoning before the Lord Jesus Christ.”9

Are you prepared to stand before the judgment seat of Christ?

1George Sweeting, Great Quotes and Illustrations (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1985), 157.

2Ibid. 

3Douglas Connelly, The Promise of Heaven: Discovering Our Eternal Home (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 89.

4Bruce Wilkinson, The Life God Rewards (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2009), 38-39.

5Mark Hitchcock, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1999), 57.

6James S. Bell, Jr. and Stan Campbell, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Book of Revelation (Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2002), 119.

7John Bevere, Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count (New York, NY: Warner Faith, 2006), ix-x.

8Ron Dunn, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” Sermon Notes (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

9Samuel L. Hoyt, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Revised Edition (Duluth, MN: Gospel Grace Press, 2015), 13.

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on Amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and eBook]

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Miss-Revival-Spiritual-Awakening/dp/1462735428 &  http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Biblical-Preaching-Giving-Bible/dp/1594577684 / fkirksey@bellsouth.net   / (251) 626-6210

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