JUDGMENT AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
How will God give us the reward? The time for us to be rewarded is when Christ comes again to execute judgment. Peter tells us that judgment begins from the house of God. In the future, God will judge the Christians first, before He judges the worldly people. Concerning what will God judge us? He will not judge us for eternal salvation or perdition. That judgment has been taken care of on the cross. All our sins have been judged on the cross, and the problem of eternal perdition has been resolved. But we Christians will be judged in the future. That judgment will determine whether or not we will participate in the kingdom. For some, not only will there not be participation in the kingdom, but there will be punishment as well. At that time, Christ will set up the judgment seat, and He will judge His believers at that judgment seat.
We will read two verses which are even clearer concerning this matter. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done through the body according to what he has practiced, whether good or bad." Every one of us who has believed in the Lord will be manifested before the judgment seat. The word "judgment seat" is bema in the original Greek. It means a raised platform. Bema is the place where matters are settled in the family. This verse says that we must all be manifested before the judgment seat that each may be recompensed according to what he has practiced. Eternal salvation or death is a matter of believing. But the judgment of a Christian is according to what he practices, whether good or evil. This is the judgment before the judgment seat.
Regarding the kingdom, there are a few things which we must know. Whether or not one can enter into the kingdom is one thing. Even if one can enter into the kingdom, there will still be a difference of position in the kingdom. If one cannot enter into the kingdom, he will go into outer darkness or will be chastised. Therefore, after we have believed in the Lord, though our good work cannot save us, it will determine our status in the kingdom. Thank God that the question of our eternal life or death is settled, but we will still be judged before the judgment seat of Christ. That judgment is not for determining our eternal life or death. It is for determining our position in the kingdom.
There are many other verses in the Bible that show us that believers will be judged by the Lord Jesus before the judgment seat of Christ. Among these verses, 1 Corinthians 3 shows us most clearly how we will be judged by the Lord before the judgment seat. First Corinthians 3:8 says, "Now he who plants and he who waters are one, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor." The subject here is how each one will be rewarded according to his own labor. Verse 10 says, "According to the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds upon it. But let each man take heed how he builds upon it." The foundation is Jesus Christ. Each one’s own labor is the way each one builds. The way we build is determined by the material we use. Verses 12-15 say, "But if anyone builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, stubble, the work of each will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire, and the fire itself will prove each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built upon the foundation remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is consumed, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." This passage shows us that everyone who is building on this foundation is saved. The work which some build upon it will remain, and those ones will be rewarded. The work of some will not remain, and it will be consumed by fire. They will suffer loss, even though they will still be saved. Let us remember that there is still a judgment before us. That judgment will not determine whether or not we will perish, but it will determine whether we will receive a reward.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 20, by Watchman Nee)