Q: What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?
In biblical times, a judgment seat (called the bema) was a raised platform erected at an athletic event where the judge presented an award to the winner. Likewise, the apostle Paul used the word bema as the place in heaven where Christ will sit and reward Christians for their service.
All Christians will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of their works on Earth (Rom. 14:10–12; 2 Cor. 5:10). They will not be judged for sin because their sins were forgiven at the time of their salvation (Rom. 8:1). Christians are secure in Christ and have eternal life (Jn. 10:28–30), so this judgment is not to determine whether someone goes to heaven or hell.
Rather, Christians will be judged completely (1 Cor. 4:5), impartially (Rom. 2:11), objectively, and separately (14:10, 12) in every area of their lives. The Lord will evaluate each person’s motives, character, conduct, words, works, and use of his or her gift(s) and talent(s) and reward each believer accordingly. Christ keeps an ongoing record of all things in each Christian’s life during our time on Earth (Jer. 17:10; Mt. 12:36–37; Heb. 4:13).
At this judgment, every Christian’s works will be examined to determine what type of reward he or she will receive or lose (1 Cor. 3:12–15). The rewards are described as crowns, and five types will be given for faithful service:
1. Victor’s Crown (1 Cor. 9:24–27). For those who lived a life of self-discipline and self-control in serving Christ.
2. Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). For those who looked fervently for the Lord’s coming at the Rapture and lived a life of practical righteousness and faithful service that glorified God.
3. Crown of Life (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). For martyrs and those who suffered persecution and triumphed over trials.
4. Crown of Rejoicing (1 Th. 2:19–20). For those who led souls to Christ and will rejoice over them in Christ’s presence.
5. Crown of Glory (1 Pet. 5:1–4). For elders who are faithful pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders.
Besides crowns, other rewards of position and authority will be granted to Christians who will serve in the Millennial Kingdom.
This judgment must take place after the church is raptured (1 Th. 4:13–17) but before Christ’s Second Coming because the church accompanies Christ when He returns, clothed in fine linen, clean and bright, which is the “righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). Thus, Christians will already have received their rewards.