II Corinthians 5:9-11 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
I feel prompted to write this post because I see that a great many Christians misunderstand our future judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. I have heard from the pulpit, from individual Christians, and from study notes in well known Bibles that the judgment seat of Christ is going to be strictly for rewards. Also, I have heard a great many say that there will be no mention of any sin at the judgment seat of Christ since our sin has been put away completely by Christ due to His death on the cross. While I do not deny that if you have received God’s grace because of the death and resurrection of Christ, your sin has been forgotten on-purpose by God. But what does this mean for our future judgment?
I hear some say that this judgment seat of Christ is going to be all rewards, no condemnation. They insist that there will be no mention of anything that we did wrong, only the mention of the things that we did right. So we stand before the LORD and it will just be one big celebration, no regrets for anything we did (or didn’t do), but simply joy in the presence of the LORD. But is this what the scriptures teach? Allow me to present another facet of the future judgment for believers.
Notice the passage above, II Corinthians 5:9-11. We will receive what is due, it doesn’t mention rewards. We receive according to what we have done, accomplished, how we acted. Then notice the qualifying phrase, whether good or evil. If only our good is to be brought up, why this phrase “whether good or evil”? Then notice how the passage continues. “Therefore knowing the fear of the LORD.” Since we will receive according to what we have done, whether good or evil, we should live in the fear of the LORD. If what we receive is only rewards, nothing bad, why doesn’t it say “knowing the joy of the LORD”? Instead, there is this dread, this fear, this phobia (phobos) of what may or may not occur at the judgment seat of Christ. Our desire to persuade others of the message of Christ should be due in part to a fear of what we will experience at this judgment seat of Christ. So if we are only working for rewards in our ministry, why does Paul use such ominous language in relation to this future judgment?
Is this an isolated passage, or are there more? Let’s look at Romans 14:10-12 which is the only other passage which uses this phraseology. Instead of Paul encouraging others because of the rewards that they will receive, Paul is chastising believers because of wrongfully judging their Christian brothers. Paul questions why one brother would judge another based on a mere food choice. Paul appeals to the future judgment seat of Christ in order to deter Christians from wrongfully judging others in the here and now. Since every Christian will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give a personal account, why are you passing judgment? I see this passage as lending support to the idea that there is a future dread that should be envisioned when we speak of the judgment seat of Christ.
Finally, let’s look at I Corinthians 3:12-15. Surely there is no mention of someone losing their salvation in this passage. The loss to be suffered means loss of great time and energy that we have invested in this life (in the body, II Cor. 5:10), but the particular man will be saved. Instead of this judgment portraying all rewards and no sadness, there is a doom associated with this passage as well. First, these works that we have accomplished here are revealed by fire, or their true nature is revealed by fire. Are there any volunteers to enter the fire of this judgment? Second, the burning up of these works results in loss. Why such negativity at our future judgment? Note that the entire context relates that our foundation of Jesus Christ remains unscathed in the midst of this fire. It is what we build upon this foundation that can very easily be burned up because of the judgmental fire that believers will experience on that day. An even larger context will show that Paul is admonishing the Corinthian believers for their jealousy, strife, and pride; using this future judgment to strike the fear of God back into their assemblies.
I am not trying to undermine the doctrines of salvation, redemption, and sanctification, but rather trying to elevate the doctrines of the fear of the LORD, ongoing correction for believers, and future judgment for believers. After all, future judgment for believers is not all happy happy joy joy. There is some definite dread involved. Just read the passages.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman