A STUDY OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST?
We read the term “the judgment seat of Christ” in two New Testament passages. Those are Romans 14:10 and II Cor. 5:10. Romans 14:10 reads, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ“. And II Cor. 5:10 reads, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”.
It is important to understand that there are three judgments that have not yet been fulfilled. 1) The day of wrath will be meted in the day of the Lord when Christ will appear in the clouds, 2) the judgment seat of Christ, and 3) the judgment at the great white throne after the millennium. Let us consider these three judgments.
1) The judgment of the day of the Lord will be when God reigns down His wrath on unbelievers only. Believers will escape that wrath by virtue of the rapture.
2) As we continue in our study the questions of who will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ and when that judgment will take place will be addressed.
3) The judgment at the great white throne will be, of course, after the millennium (please see Rev. 20:7). That will be a judgment of the raised (please see Rev. 20:12). Because those believers who will be alive during the millennium cannot die because they are believers and will have put on “incorruption” (I Cor. 15:54), they will not be raised after the millennium, i.e. a second time.
Now to the judgment seat of Christ. It is important to note that Paul includes himself and those to whom he wrote the epistles that mention the judgment seat of Christ in that judgment, i.e. they and he will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ. Because Paul and those to whom he wrote the epistles which speak of the judgment seat of Christ were believers, they will not be included in the judgment of the day of wrath, i.e. the day of the Lord. Because Paul and those to whom he wrote the epistles that speak of the judgment seat of Christ will not die during the millennium and therefore, will not be raised after the millennium, we know that the judgment seat of Christ will not be at the great white throne.
Thus far we have learned that the judgment seat of Christ will be the judgment of believers. We know from Jn. 5:24 that believers will not be judged in respect to their salvation. That verse reads, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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 unto life” (the Greek word translated “condemnation” is “krino: and means” to judge”, as it translated in verse 22, “For the Father judgeth no man….”). Therefore it must be rewards that are the subject of the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ.
As far as I can tell we are not told when the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ will be, but in my opinion it may be at the beginning of the millennium as that makes the most sense.
We come now to the question of whether the believers of the dispensation of the mystery will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ. Many believe that because the judgment seat of Christ is mentioned only in Acts period epistles that it is only the believers of Israel that will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. However, in my opinion, that belief does not take into consideration the many universal truths that are found in the Acts period epistle.
May I respectfully remind the reader that the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ is one of rewards. With that in mind let us consider the prize of the high calling, i.e. the prize for which we are told we should strive. Phil. 3:13-14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.
Some have suggested that the out-resurrection is the prize for the high calling. And some have suggested that the prize is the high calling itself. Let us examine those thoughts. Mr. Welch writes in the “Third Step” of the article mentioned above, “It is exceedingly difficult to find support from any passage of Paul’s epistles to suppose that the prize was itself the high calling. Just as the ‘reward of the inheritance’ in Col. 3:24, means the reward attached to an inheritance already assured by grace (Col. 1:12), so the prize of the high calling of God means the prize which is attached to the high calling already received and entered by grace.” On page 4 of the “Third Step” Mr. Welch nullifies the argument that the word translated “high” is an adverb, and adverbs qualify verbs, therefore “calling” must be a verb. He points out that in the Greek, adverbs do not qualify verbs only. I recommend that the reader study this page for himself/herself.
What then is the prize of the high calling? The best way to answer that question is to consider the only other occurrence of the Greek word translated “prize” in Phil. 3:14. That occurrence is in I Cor. 9:24-25, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible”.
Note the reference to a “crown”. That takes us to II Timothy 2:12 where we read in the NIV, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him…..”. This is the only prize mentioned in the prison epistles, there is no other mentioned specifically. If we endure we will reign with Him. That, in my opinion, is the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. That is the prize toward which Paul was pressing, i.e. to reign with Him.
We have learned that believers of the dispensation of the mystery are to strive for this prize. Do we ever read of believers of the dispensation of the mystery being judged? We do! II Tim. 4:1, “I charge thee therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” Let us also consider II Tim. 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing”.
In short, we read in the prison epistles that we, as believers of the dispensation of the mystery are to strive for the prize and that we will be judged.
With that in mind let us consider the contexts of the occurrences of the phrase “judgment seat of Christ”, as I believe the reader will agree, they both come in the context of universal, not dispensational truths.
Let us begin with Romans 14. In verses 1-6 Paul wrote of not judging a person as to whether they eat or do not eat certain foods. or whether they set aside a certain day or do not set it aside. Verses 7-9 summarize that argument, “For no man liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live we live unto the Lord or whether we die we die unto the Lord: whether we live or die therefore, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living”. Surely these verses are just as true for believers of the dispensation of the mystery as it was for those in past dispensations.
Let us continue then with verse 10, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ“. Because the nine verses that precede verse 10 are universal truths, I see no reason to not include verse 10. That is to say, the fact that the judgment seat of Christ is mentioned only in Acts period epistles, does not, in my view, erase the fact that this entire passage is not dispensational in character, but universal.
Now let us consider the context of II Cor. 5:10. Verses 1-4 speak of being clothed with our resurrection bodies. Verse 8 summarizes Paul’s point, “We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”. Certainly this passage too is universal, not dispensational truth. Let us continue with verses 9-10, “Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”.
Let me list the points that I have discussed in this section:
1) The believers of the dispensation are to strive for the prize of our calling.
2) The epistles written to the church of the dispensation of the mystery speak of believers being judged.
3) The contexts that speak of the judgment seat of Christ are universal in character, i.e. they are true for believers of every dispensation.
Given these facts, I believe that the believers of the dispensation of the mystery will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
We have learned that believers of every dispensation will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ and that judgment will be a judgment of rewards.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org