The Examination of the Believer

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  5 : 1-10
Subject: Beam Judgment; Judgment of Believers; Final Judgment

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Jonathan Goforth (1869-1936) grew up on an Oxford County, Ontario, Canada on a farm as the seventh of eleven children. As a young man he taught school in Thamesford, Ontario. Hearing George Leslie Mackay a Presbyterian missionary to Taiwan, Goforth sensed a call from God to go to China. The Goforth’s were sent to pioneer the North Heman mission in 1888. Their work was difficult and they lost five of their children to sickness. But they labored on in the realization that there was a day of accountability to the Lord. You see, when Jonathan Goforth was fifteen years of age his father put him in charge of their second farm, which was about twenty miles from the home farm. “ Work hard,” said his father. “At harvest time I will return and inspect.” In later years Jonathan Goforth stirred many an audience as he spoke of his hard labour that summer, of his father’s return in the fall, and of how his heart thrilled when his father, after inspecting the fields of beautiful waving grain, turned to him and smiled. Jonathan Goforth said, ‘ that smile was all the reward I wanted. I knew my father was pleased.’ I wonder are we living and laboring in light of the Master’s smile of approval? Someone once asked the great statesman Daniel Webster about his greatest thought. Webster replied, ‘My greatest thought is of my accountability to God.’ Every single person faces accountability to God. For example, every human being is accountable to God by creation, but every Christian is accountable to God by conversion. Thus, one day, we will all ‘ appear before the judgment seat of Christ,’ to give an account of our life and service to the Lord. My …. is there not a danger today for us as believers to forget that great final examination day? The fact that we are saved and are in Christ, does not mean that will be no examination of our works. Rather our lives will be exposed to divine inspection and appraisal. That’s why John says ‘ Abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.’ (1 Jn 2:28) As Dr. Len Broughton prays ‘O God help us so to live that at the Bema we shall be able to look our Blessed Lord in the face.’ What a day that will be. For when we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ we shall appear as we really are.

Now this word judgment needs to be clearly understood. You see, there are many different forms of judgment. The Bible teaches that everyone will be judged but not all at the same time, nor in the same way, nor for the same reason, nor with the same results. There is

i. The Judgment of Sin:

This took place at the Cross. 2000 years ago the Lord Jesus came form heaven’s glory to shed his precious

blood for a world of sinners. He did not die for his Own sin for He knew no sin but he was made sin for us.

(2 Cor 5:21) My …. that question of divine judgment against out sin is over and we are free. (Jn 5:24)

ii. The Judgment of Sons:

For as Christians we are subject to our heavenly Father’s discipline and rule. (Heb 12:6) So there is a present judgment upon disobedient children of God, and this is a divine chastening by our Father upon us as sons.

(1 Cor 11:30)

iii. The Judgment of Subjects:

This is the judgment of the living nations when “ Before Him shall be gathered all nations.” (Matt 25:32) Now if the judgment of sin took place at the cross, and the judgment of sons takes place in our lives, then it seems the judgment of subjects takes place on earth. The New Testament also speaks about,

iv. The Judgment of Sinners:

And this seemingly takes place in space for John says,

“ And I saw a great white throne and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.”

(Rev 20:11) So we must distinguish between these judgments. (1) (2) (3) (4) It is however,

v. The Judgment of Servants:

That we are considering. Peter reminds us that “Judgment must begin at  the house of God,” (1 Pet 4:17). Therefore the first of these judgments has to do with believers only. As W. A. Thompson says, “It is a family affair and has nothing to do with anyone else.” You see, there is a time in the future when every believer will face the Lord. We know that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 8:1) so this future judgment of believers is to do with giving an account of to the Lord of our service and life for Him. This judgment seat will be a time of rejoicing or a time of disappointment. This theme is both thrilling and threatening, thrilling because of the awards which will be there apportioned, threatening because of the irreparable loss which may be there sustained. Now twice in the New Testament we read the phrase “ the judgment seat of Christ,” (Rom 14:10, 2 Cor 5:10)

This phrase constitutes a doctrine of vital importance to the child of God and it is one which should influence his life for the better. If we were to examine the life of the apostle Paul we would find that the controlling factor in his daily experience was his anticipation and expectation of meeting the Lord Jesus at this judgment seat. My …. every step Paul took, every act Paul performed, every ministry he exercised, he did anticipate a day of accountability at the judgment seat of Christ. The Holy Spirit used Paul to write upon this subject and it is obvious that Paul lived every day in anticipation of this event. Let’s have a look at this judgment seat, and notice,


Who is qualified to judge us on that day? It won’t be the preacher, or our spouse, or our neighbor. The judge will be the Lord Jesus. You see when we turn to the New Testament, we discover,


Paul makes it clear that this examination is conducted before the presence of the Son of God. Look if you will at (5:10) The Lord Jesus Christ himself said “ For the Father judgeth no man but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” (John 5:22) Do you recall Paul’s message on Mar’s Hill in Athens? “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) There is no ground for supposing that there will not be a judgment or that

Jesus Christ will not be the judge. Paul exhorted Timothy to the faithful preaching of the Word of God because the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the living and the dead at his appearing. (2 Tim 4:2) Now remember that this was the last letter that Paul wrote. It has all the sober-mindedness of a friend’s last farewell. It is a solemn reminder that on a certain day in Gods program we will all come for examination when for loss or reward our service will be judged by Christ himself. To Him every man must one day give an account.


I mean, who is qualified to judge us on that day? The judge will be the Lord Jesus and its not difficult to see why. The task of passing final judgment on every believer staggers the imagination. Millions will be involved, each of whom differs from every other one in so many ways that the judge must of necessity be omniscient as well as perfect in his own nature and character. (John 2:25, 4:29)

For this very reason it is a sin for us as Christians to engage in spiteful criticism. Our Lord has left us with a very solemn warning “ Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged.” (Matt 7:1-2) Paul says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Cor 4:5) “Judge not,” said out Lord. “Judge nothing,” added the apostle Paul. Why those solemn exhortations? Because we are imperfect in our knowledge. We do not know all the facts therefore we are incompetent to pass judgment. Moreover, we are so faulty in ourselves. I heard about a lady who was very critical of other people and one day she said to her guest, “Would you look at those dirty sheets my neighbor just hung on the line.” Her friend looked out of the window and then said, “But my dear, the dirt is on your window, not the sheets.”

Often we see others through our distorted vision and become guilty of the very thing we are criticizing. But Jesus Christ is perfect in His perception. (a) (b)


Look if you will at (2 Cor 5:10) The words translated judgment seat come from the Greek word “ Bema,” and that was a familiar term to the people of Paul’s day. Now this Greek word “Bema,” was not borrowed from the courts of justice but from the classical Greek games. The term is not Thronos (Throne) but Bema the seat of an Umpire, not that of a high court judge. The Corinthians would be familiar with the Bema for just outside their city was a large arena where athletes from all over Greece would compete in the Greek Olympics. These arenas were a bit like modern day sports stadia where thousands of seats are provided for spectators. However, as Dr. Lehman Strauss reminds us ‘ in the large stadium there was an elevated seat on which the Umpire sat.’ From this elevated seat the umpire had a clear and unspoiled view of the activities and participants in the arena. You see, he could see every movement clearly.

Now after the contests were over the successful competitors would assemble before the Bema to receive their rewards or crowns their wreaths of laurel or parsley while those who were not successful withdrew into the shadows to avoid the judges gaze. You see the Bema was not a judicial bench where someone was condemned it was a seat, from which the awards were distributed to those who were victorious. Likewise the judgment seat of Christ is not a judicial bench where people will be brought to determine whether or not they are saved. All who come before the Bema will have been saved, therefore no one there will be condemned but rather examined. Did the writer to the Hebrews not have such a picture in mind when he penned (Heb 12:1) “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Now the Christian life is a race. We are in a race and the Divine Umpire the Lord Jesus is watching us and after the Church has run her course He will gather every member before the Bema for the purpose of examining each one and giving the proper reward to each. Our Divine Umpire the Lord is elevated and glorified and from His throne He is watching us as we “run the race.” He sees where we go, hears what we say, watches our every move. The “eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (2 Chron 16:9) “All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:13) This is the


Now that we know who the Judge will be, who all will be judged at this judgment seat of Christ? Paul mentions this phrase on two occasions. He talks about the judgment Seat in (Rom 14:10) and in (2 Cor 5:10) The “we,” in both of these verses is easily identifiable as having reference to believers only. (2 Cor 5:10) Now to whom is the apostle speaking? Let’s go back in this chapter and see those to whom the apostle is speaking. “We,” in (5:1) is speaking of those who have “ a building of God, an house not made with hands ….,” this could not have reference to the unsaved for they have no habitation in heaven but will be separated from God forever. “We,” are those in (5:5) who have received the “ earnest of the Spirit.” Now the Holy Spirit indwells only believers in the Lord Jesus. “We,” in (5:8) speaks of those who some day will be “ absent from the body,” but “ present with the Lord.” So we see from the context Paul is not speaking of an event for the unsaved but of an event that relates to those who are the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. My …. the theory of a general of a general judgment is not Biblical. The Spirit of God is careful to make a clear distinction between the Bema (Judgment seat) and the Thronos (The Great White Throne Judgment) So we see that there is not just one general judgment for all members of the human race to be carried out at one time. Rather future judgment falls into two broad periods. These might be identified as a Premillenial judgment and a Postmillennial judgment. Now the first of these judgments is the one that concerns us, the judgment seat of Christ.

It’s a judgment in which the unbelieving world has no part. It is “a family affair and has nothing to do with anyone else.” Now it’s interesting to notice that in the New Testament the believer is subject to a three-fold judgment.

(a) The First Judgment is Past: His Judgment as a Sinner:

You see, when the believing sinner accepts the atonement of Christ for his sins he can never again come into judgment as a sinner. Do you recall the words of the Lord Jesus? “ He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death to life.” (Jn 5:24) Paul added “ There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment) to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

(Rom 8:1) So the purpose of the Bema judgment is not to determine whether a particular individual enters heaven or not, for every man’s eternal destiny is determined before he leaves this life. Still again, the purpose of the Bema judgment is not to punish believers for sins they have committed either before or after their salvation. Such an interpretation fails to see the efficacy and value of the death of Christ. When God redeems us he cleanses us thoroughly and completely “ the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Do you know how God removes sin? He does so completely and perfectly not partially. (Ps 103:12: Is 38:17 Micah 7 :19) Indeed so perfectly and completely did our Saviour’s blood cleanse us that God can find nothing in us for which to condemn us.

God cannot twice demand

First at my bleeding surety’s hand

And then again at mine

(b) The Second Judgment is Present: His Judgment as a Son

For all of us are subject to our Heavenly Fathers discipline and rule. The Bible says “ For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

(Heb 12:6) Do you recall God chastened some of the Christians at Corinth? They were turning the Lords Supper into an orgy of eating and drinking. Paul says “For this cause many are weal and sickly among you and many sleep.” (1 Cor 11:30) My …. do you think that you can fool around with God? God could take you home. But this is not what takes place at the judgment seat.

(c) The Third Judgment is Future: His Judgment as a Servant:

Now it is this judgment that takes place at the judgment seat of Christ. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” (2 Cor 5:10) Now remember this word is addressed to believers. It’s not a warning to the unsaved. The “we,” in (2 Cor Ch 5) appearing many times in this context is easy to identify. The epistle is written to “ the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints which are in all Achaia.” (2 Cor 1:1) The “we,” then are the saints. Contrasting the Great White Throne Judgment and the Bema A. J. Pollock uses a vivid illustration. He likens the former to a murder trial and the later to a flower show. You see, there is a vast difference between a murder trial at the Old Bailey and the Chelsea Flower Show. The object of the one is to establish guilt, that of the other to ascertain merit. The best one can do is to acquit, the best the other can do is to acclaim. There are no prizes at a murder trial, there are at a flower show. The Bema is a judgment for believers only. Its not to do with our sin, it is to do with our service. So there is the


Perhaps it’s this word judgment in our English Bible that has caused some to come to wrong conclusions about the nature of the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. Keep in mind that the purpose of the Bema judgment is not to mete out retribution. It is not to determine whether a person enters heaven or not. The purpose of the Bema judgment is not to punish believers for sins they have committed after they got saved. What then is this Bema judgment all about? It is all about,


Look if you will at (5:10) Look at,

The First Phrase: “The judgment seat of Christ,” the place where the Lord will sit to evaluate the lives of believers for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards.

The Further Phrase: “The things done in his body,” Paul was referring to all those activities Christians do during their lifetimes, which relate to their eternal reward and praise from God. You see, what we do in these temporal bodies in God’s eyes have an impact for eternity.

The Final Phrase: “Whether it be good or bad,” is not moral good or moral evil, for matters of sin have been completely dealt with by the death of Christ. Rather Paul was comparing worthwhile eternal valuable activities with useless ones. His point was not that believers should not enjoy wholesome earthly things, but that they should spend most of their energy and time with what has eternal value. Literally “ We must all be manifested without disguise.” William McDonald says, “Actually it is not just a matter of appearing there, but of being made manifest.” We could paraphrase it, “We must all have our lives laid open before the tribunal of Christ.” It’s one thing to appear in a doctor’s surgery, it’s quite another thing to be x-rayed by him there. My …. at this Bema judgment we will be reviewed.

1. Our Motives will be Reviewed:

Look if you will at (1 Cor 4:5) Moffatt translates it like this, “ The hour of reckoning is still to come when the Lord will bring dark secrets to the light and reveal Life’s inner aims and motives.” How solemn to realize that on that day our motives will be examined. The question will be “ Why did you do that?” Why were you a pastor, an evangelist, a missionary? Why did you hold the office of elder or deacon or Sunday School teacher? Why did you preach, sing, testify? What was your motive in being a counsellor? Why? Was it for power, prestige, or pride? Was your motive to be noticed, lauded, applauded? Are we ready for such an inspection? Are you ready to answer the Savior’s why? Why all this preaching? Was it done for God? Was it to glorify Christ? Self?

Did I use the pulpit to throw stones? Did I use it as a social or political platform? What a day its going to be. What about all the praying? Did you pray that you might be heard only f men? To receive their Amens? When you stood up to pray were you man conscious, word conscious, God conscious? What about the giving? The witnessing? The contending for the faith? You see, what we do for the Lord is important but so is why we do it. Are you doing what you are doing for the glory of self , a denomination, the assembly or for the glory of God? The story is told of a desert wanderer who found a crystal spring of great freshness. The water was so pure that he decided to bring some to his King. Barely satisfying his own thirst he filled a leather bottle with the clear water and carried it many days beneath the desert sun before he reached the palace. When finally he laid his offering at the feet of his Sovereign the water had become stale due to the old container in which it was carried. But that King would not let his faithful servant even imagine that it was unfit for use. He tasted with expression of gratitude and sent away the loyal heart with gladness.

After the servant had gone others sampled it and found it stale. Why then did the King pretend to enjoy it? “ Ah said the king,” “ it was not the water that I tasted but the love that prompted the offering.” Many times our service is marked by multiplied imperfections but the King looks at our motives and says “ it is good.”

2. Our Service will be Reviewed:

Look if you will at (1 Cor 3:11-15) Incidentally this passage does not teach the false doctrine known as purgatory, for it is the believers works and not the believer himself that will be subjected to the fires.

There the tears of earth are dried

There the hidden things are clear

There the work of life is tried

By a juster Judge than here

Now it is apparent from these verses that God classifies the “ works,” of believers into one of the following six areas. Gold, silver, precious stones, and wood, hay, and stubble. Now there has been much speculation about the kinds of work down here down here that will constitute gold; silver; precious stones up there. What we can say for certain is that this six objects can be readily placed into two categories. The permanent and the perishable, the indestructible and the destructible. The former stand the fire test. (The scrutiny of the judge Rev 1:14) the latter do not. Can you imagine two workmen? Both are saved and building on the same foundation but they are using two different kinds of materials. The one serves Christ with pride, selfishness, and carnality, while the other in quietness, humility, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Now remember it’s not the outward appearance that make up the gold, silver or precious stones. A man may be gifted, possess a striking personality influence large crowds and have nothing but wood, hay, stubble at the judgment seat because his work was done in the wrong spirit for the wrong motive. Now though it is difficult to know what goes to make up a “ Golden Work,” or a “ Stubble Work,” we are nevertheless informed of certain general areas in which God is particularly interested. For example how,

1. We Treat our Fellow Believers:

“For God is not unrighteous to  forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name , in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister.”

(Heb 6:10, Matt 10:41) It is tragic but all to factual that often the shabbiest treatment suffered by a believer comes from the hand of another believer. My …. are you going for gold? How do you treat your fellow believers?

2. We Exercise our Gift:

Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:4) A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability to glorify God given by the Holy Spirit to the believer at the moment of salvation. Each believer has at least one gift. (Eph 4:7) In the light of the Bema are you employing your gift for Gods Glory?

3. We Use Our Money:

The Bible says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.” (1 Cor 16:2) Perhaps the most accurate barometer to measure the spiritual condition of a Christian is to observe his relationship concerning money. The Lord Jesus often dealt with money matters because money matters. Did you know that in the New Testament there are thirty eight parables? Twelve of them are about money. How much of our money belongs to God? Well according to (1 Cor 6:19-20) it all belongs to Him because we are His purchased with an awesome price. What does all this mean? Does it just mean that I am responsible for the tithe and offering? Or does it mean that at the Bema I will be held accountable for the rest? Tell me now are you still going for gold? What is a “Golden Work”? Well,

4. We Discharge our Responsibility:

Peter says to the undershepherds “ Feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint but willingly, not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensample to the flock. And when the chief shepherd shall appear ye  shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pet  5:2-4) There are elders here tell me are you going for gold? Do you take your duty seriously? Do you exercise it faithfully? God is interested in how…

5. We Win our Friends:

Daniel says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan 12:3) My …. are these not some of the things that go to make up a “ golden work?” Now tell me. Will your present service, what you are doing for the Lord now, will it abide the fire of the Bema? Will your works endure the test? T. Epp tells the story of a certain professor who in the early years of X ray was  asked to demonstrate this new invention as part of an evening’s entertainment. The professor asked some of the guests present to allow him to place their jewels under the X ray machine. When he turned on the current the rays revealed the true character of the jewels and some of the guests found to their anger and embarrassment that the jewels they had purchased as genuine were mere imitations. Think of this. In one sweeping view our entire life of service will be reviewed and revealed. I wonder will we discover then that we thought was gold is but wood, what we thought was silver is but hay, what we thought was precious stones is but stubble. How dreadful will it be to pick up the ashes of our worthless service and press them into the nail scarred hands of the Savior.

Shall I empty handed be

When before the crystal sea

I shall stand before the everlasting throne

Will I hang my head in shame?

As I answer to my name

Not a thing that my Redeemer there can own


This rewarding of the church must take place between the rapture and the return of Christ to the earth. The Lord Jesus said, “ Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:14 2 Tim 4:8) You see, the purpose of the Bema is not only to review saints but to reward saints. The nature of these rewards to be bestowed at the judgment seat is spoken of in the New Testament as five crowns. There is,

1. The Incorruptible Crown: to those who practice self control. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

2. The Soulwinner’s Crown: to those who are faithful in witnessing for the Saviour (1 Thes 2:19-20)

3. The Crown of Righteousness: to those who “ love his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8)

4. The Crown of Life: to those who endure trial (James 1:12)

5. The Shepherds Crown: to those who faithfully tend the flock (1 Pet 5:4)

Henry C. Morrison a forty-year-old veteran of missionary service in Africa was returning to the U.S.A. and happened to be traveling on the same ship as Teddy Roosevelt. As the boat entered New York Harbor the President received a great fanfare. Henry Morrison got no fanfare and he became quite dejected about it until a small voice whispered to him “Henry you are not home yet.” When you get home will you receive this abundant reward? This Judgment Seat


Look if you will at (1 Cor 3:15) No one will be sent to hell fire form the Bema but the fire test may lay in smoldering ruins the labours of a lifetime. Get this future picture in your mind. The great hour has arrived and we the people of God are all present. The examination begins. Could you bear it? Would you be ashamed, embarrassed, broken hearted? Truly as Dr. William Orr remarks “ If there are tears in heaven no doubt some will be shed at this time.” We often sing,

Bye and bye when I look on His face

I’ll wish I had given Him more

It will be too late then. Give the Savior more now. As we have said the words translated “ judgment seat,” come from the Greek word “ Bema.” Strangely enough the word that comes nearest to it in meaning is the word “ footprint.” What is the connection between the “Bema,” and “footprint?” Well, I believe that those who are going to be reviewed and rewarded at the judgment seat will find a place to stand alright. But there is more to it than that. Could it be that when the Lord is judging His servants, He will let us see the footprints of His own. That is His own service, and when we measure our footprints against His as Pastor Mullan puts it “ there will not be a big man at the games.” Do you recall what Jonathan Goforth the great missionary said? ‘ My father’s smile was all the reward I wanted.’

A brilliant young musician at an early stage in her career appeared before a high audience. When her performance ended the audience arose to its feet and the applause was thunderous. As a tribute to the soloist’s ability the orchestra arose, but the soloist stood motionless, her eyes turned in one direction, while applause seemed to leave her unmoved. She was gazing at one place in the auditorium where her teacher sat. At last she saw what she was looking for, he smiled and nodded with deep content.

My ….. a day of accountability is coming, when you and will stand before our Master and do you know the only thing that will matter? His smile, His approval, His commendation, ‘ well done ….,’ (Matt 25:23)

When I stand at the Judgment Seat

And He shows me 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 I checked Him there

And I would not yield my will

Shall I see grief in my Saviour’s eyes

Grief though He loves me still

Oh, He’d have me rich, and I stand there poor

Stripped of all but His grace

While my memory runs like a hunted thing

Down the paths I can’t retrace

Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break

With tears that I cannot shed

I’ll cover my face with my empty hands

And bow my uncrowned head

No. Lord of the years that are left to me

I yield them to Thy hand

Take me, make me, mould me,

To the pattern Thou hast planned