Before sitting down to enjoy the marriage feast of the Lamb, every child of God will personally appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It has also come to be known as the Bema throne to more easily distinguish it for the Great White throne judgment that comes right at the end of the age. (“Bema”, is a Greek word denoting a platform on which a judge sits, including the person presiding at a competition and awarding the crowns or other tokens of honour.) Now let us take a closer look at this.
- What this judgement is not for
It is not to determine whether a person will be admitted to heaven or not. This is particularly important. Only those that are already, finally cleared for admittance to heaven will be brought before this throne. So, it will be God’s children, the Bride of Christ, who will be there.
They were, as we know, not saved on account of their good lives, but actually because they put no trust in their “good” works, depending fully on the free gift of salvation that Christ offered them; the offer based on the fact that He was punished in their place on the cross at Calvary.
… for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; (Rom 3:23, 24).
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1).
- It is for purging and evaluating the lives of God’s people
God is holy and just and He must be seen to act accordingly, even where it concerns His Bride, His children.
Some of us may have persisted in questionable words and deeds that went unpunished. Worldly people and other children of God alike, may have silently wondered: “But how can a holy God allow this?” Well here is the answer: They will lose out when it comes to rewards. He will first burn by fire, every attitude, thought, word and deed that had not been of the Spirit of God.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Cor 3:10-16).
The quoted portion of Scripture first of all applies to those like pastors, ministers, evangelists and the like, involved in making disciples and building them up in Christ (which, by the way, every Christian should be doing). Paul describes how their workmanship will be tested. A pastor may have been very zealous in preaching the Gospel but if he did so for personal financial gain, or to receive the acclamation of people, he will not be rewarded. He had performed “bad” good works.
This principle applies equally to every child of God for we are all building up our own spiritual houses (lives).
The picture of our achievements being tested by fire, is very vivid. Fire is impartial. We will each drag up our trolly to the Bema throne of Jesus. It may be stacked high with all the good things of a lifetime we hope to be rewarded for. He will then command an angel to cast it all into the fire of God’s Word, burning before His throne. For most of us, much of our works will be like wood, hay and stubble and will immediately go up in flames.
The Lord will then step closer and look for the diamonds, gold, silver, and other precious materials remaining in the ashes. Those, He will hold up for all to see. For those we will be rewarded. Those are the ones worked in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Oh my, then I have no hope of receiving any reward! Not so – let us see what God promises.
- The ambit of our rewards
We will receive abundantly because of the generosity of our Lord.
Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.” (Mat 10:42)
He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. (Mat 10:41).
Now isn’t that encouraging! That gives me hope! Our God is a generous God and gives abundantly, simply because He delights to do so. That is His nature. Secondly, He does not have to give sparingly for He will never run short of rewards. He has stacks and stacks of them in His storerooms. What He earned for us on Calvary, cannot be calculated in human terms.
- Basis and principle of our rewards
Once our unfruitful works have been removed and destroyed, our works done in Christ will be evaluated. Those are the ones Jesus picked up out of the ashes. He will evaluate them as a jeweler weighs diamonds, gold and silver and tells the owner what they are worth.
The Lord Jesus will evaluate the quality of the lives we lived after becoming Christians – please make sure that you understand this quite clearly or you will perpetually live in fear of punishment.
The main principle will not be how much spiritual fruit we acquired, but how much we lost of your old selves, our old natures. What counts is the extent to which we allowed ourselves to be emptied of our own will and be filled with His Spirit and with His plans. To that extent will we be crowned with God’s glory in Glory Land. This is great because it means that basically, we are not expected to achieve something, but to lose something, and losing something is more within our reach (although even for that, we need God’s grace).
Picture an “empty” jug – it is actually filled with air. If you wish to keep milk in it, you must displace the air, push some or all of it out of the jug; loose the air to gain the milk.
But what then about the Gal 5:22,23 fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control”, do they count for nothing? No, they do count, and they do glorify Christ, but the Holy Spirit receives credit for them. Are they not called “The fruit of the Spirit”?
We will of course also be rewarded for what the Holy Spirit did through us, because we surrendered ourselves to be used by Him for His purpose. Here we can, for instance, think about Mary who gave herself to the Holy Spirit to be used for the birthing of our Lord.
A last thought in this regard: most of our good deeds are tinged with some desire to receive acknowledgement or credit for it. You may have given a vast some of money from your meagre income for the spread of the Gospel or nursed a disabled person for scores of years and received truly little gratitude.
You may have grumbled in your heart and tinged your beautiful gift. The Lord knows all about it. Even an expensive car may have a punctured tyre, but it does not lose its value because of it. The Lord knows how much of self sacrifice that gift cost you and will compensate you accordingly, accompanied by a very special hug of His arm around you shoulders. Bless His Name.
- What kind of rewards can we expect?
Let me give just a few examples of persons that will be rewarded:
- Givers: Assets that are donated according to God’s will, become treasures laid up in heaven (Luk 12:33; 18:22).
- Soul winners will be rewarded for leading people to Christ. They will shine with exceptional brilliance (Dan 12:3).
- Those persecuted for the Name of Christ (Matt 5:11,12).
- The end use of our crowns and other rewards
We will not walk around heaven bragging with our crowns and rewards, but will cast them at the feet of Jesus for it will have been He Who had enabled us to perform the works for which we were rewarded (Rev 4:10).
Once our useless “works” have been burned and we have received our crowns and rewards and returned them to Jesus, we will be hungry and ready for the next event which will be the greatest of all feasts.