One of the questions that The Kingdom, Power and Glory hopes to answer is not only, “why are we here?,” but also “where are we going” and “what do we have to do to get there?” With this in mind, let’s examine some of the events that will occur at the close of this age, just before the Kingdom from Heaven begins.
First, there will be the Rapture––which is the surprise catching up of all the saints by Christ to be with Him always. 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 contains an incredible promise: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds [the whole body of Christ] to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”
Note Christ’s instructions that we are to comfort one an-other with these words: “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This takes care of any thought of a “partial Rapture.” In other words, we are all going to be caught up together in the air and we are all going to be with Christ forever!
This is the time we will receive our glorified bodies and, finally be freed from the presence of sin. Remember, at our “justification” we are freed from the penalty of sin by Christ’s Blood; through “sanctification” we will be freed from the power of sin; and at our “glorification” we will be freed from the presence of sin; i.e., the sin factor is removed altogether.
See Chart 13: What Happens After the Rapture
After the Rapture, the Tribulation will begin on the earth. This will be a time of trouble that the world has never before seen (Daniel 12:1). It will be a period of the worst famines, earthquakes, persecution, hatred, and lawlessness that the world has ever experienced.
While the Tribulation is occurring on the earth, the believers who have been raptured and taken up to heaven will en-counter two big events:
1) First, they will all be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ for their fitness, their worthiness, and their qualifications to inherit the Millennial Kingdom.
2) Next, depending upon the outcome of their Bema Seat Judgment, they will be escorted into the “Marriage of the Lamb,” which also occurs while we are in heaven and before we return to earth with the Lord. (Revelation 19:7)
Let’s explore these two events in a little more detail.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
The Judgment Seat of Christ or the “Bema Seat Judgment,” as it is often called, is the place where Christ will judge believ-ers. It is called the Bema Seat because that was the name given to the place where officials sat, judged, and sentenced people.
For example, Pilate sat on a Bema Seat, as did Festus, Gallio, Agrippa, and Felix. It is here that every Christian’s position in the coming thousand-year reign will be determined. Christ will be the judge and He will evaluate us by our fruits, our faithfulness, and our obedience while we lived on earth. At this judgment every Christian will either qualify for kingdom rule or not (2 Timothy 2:12). Christ’s Throne of Grace is re-placed here with His Throne of Judgment.
Many think that the Bema Seat is only a place of rewards and not judgment. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bema Seat actually means a “judicial evaluation” by a judge, not only of positive results and the giving out of re-wards, but also of negative results. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us “For we [Christians] 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.” The outcome of this judgment will determine our place, our role, our status, our position, and our authority within the coming kingdom.
Suffice to say, this Bema Seat Judgment is God’s gateway to the Millennial reign. As 1 Peter 4:17 says, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” Consequently, all Christians must appear at this Bema Seat and give an account of themselves (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 2:12-13).
Many Christians do not like to hear that there is going to be a judging of ourselves (not only for the good things we have done, but also for the bad). Those who are deemed “worthy” (again, the word, axios, which means “those who are prepared and fit”), will inherit blessings and privileges (Colossians 3:24). Those who are found not worthy will suffer loss.
1 Corinthians 3:13–15 tells us, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Loss here simply means, “to forfeit some-thing that is already in one’s possession.” Some may have had righteous works in their lives at one time, but because of a lack of perseverance, they will lose any reward.
God wants us all of us to inherit the kingdom by being sanctified and partaking of His Life here and now. That’s His will. However, It’s our own choice moment-by-moment, whether we accept His will or not. And if we don’t hold fast “to the very end,” it will affect the outcome of this judgment.
Tim LaHaye said in his Popular Bible Prophecy Workbook, “Many Christians have been lulled into a false state of complacency regarding this judgment. If Christians truly understood the eternal significance of ‘good works,’ they would radically alter their lifestyle.”
What Will Be Judged?
The Judgment Seat of Christ will be for revealing and then, rewarding the kind of Christian life the believer has lived. This judgment will be on the basis of a believer’s “works” only (i.e., the fruit that the Holy Spirit has been allowed to perform).
Our eternal destiny is never at stake at the Bema Seat. What is being weighed here is our worthiness, our qualifications, our fitness, our readiness, and our preparation for positions or levels of responsibility in the future kingdom. Our justification is never in jeopardy. We are eternally secure in that respect. This judgment is where our works (here on earth) will go through the refining test of fire and the Lord will search our hearts and minds and expose the truth. This is also the time that each of us will give an account of our faithfulness, our obedience, and our perseverance to walk in the Spirit (Romans 14:12).
We will be evaluated on the basis of what we did with the time, the talents, and the treasures that we were given by the Lord here on earth (1 Timothy 5:24–25).
Remember the parable of the ten talents? The Judgment Seat of Christ is where the reward (“enter into the joy of the Lord”) or the loss (“cast into the darkness outside”) is pronounced; but the actual carrying out of the sentence doesn’t happen until much later. Michael Huber from Dallas Theological Seminary said: “There is no special judgment for the believer after the Millennium begins, but simply the execution of the judgment already given by Christ at the Bema Seat.”
The Bema Seat judgment will be for those who didn’t take advantage of the forgiveness of sins that Christ provided at their new birth. Therefore, unconfessed sin will be judged because it quenched God’s Spirit and prevented any “works of righteousness” from being produced. Because these carnal believers didn’t apply 1 John 1:9 in order to cleanse their lives, they quenched God’s Spirit in their hearts and, consequently, no “fruit” could be produced.
The only exception to the outcome of this judgment will be for those who have already confessed and repented of their sin and given it to God. These are the believers who have daily relied upon 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God has already forgiven them, already cleansed them from all unrighteousness, and as a result, already produced “fruit” in their lives.
God is not only a loving God, He is also a just God. His Love brings us to Him as a gift, but His justice demands a review of our lives—every thought, word, and deed, whether good or bad.
Think of the Judgment Seat of Christ like a final exam or job review. The outcome of this exam influences our inheritance, our position and our privilege in the coming kingdom. The bottom line is: all God’s future blessings will be determined by our faithfulness, our obedience and our perseverance to do His will here and now.
To be continued: “Confidence at the Judgment Seat.” This article has been excerpted, in part, from Chuck and Nan’s new book, The Kingdom, Power and Glory.