“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.” II Corinthians 5:10
In almost every area of our lives we are responsible or accountable to someone or to a system. This accountability includes our parents, our spouses, our teachers, our friends, and even our government. Job evaluation is an on-going part of employment. The evaluation may result in advancement or demotion, more pay or less pay. We accept these as realities; however, very little thought is given as to our responsibility and accountability to God!
The Scripture is clear that everyone is accountable to God. This does not mean that everyone who has lived on earth will be evaluated for the same reasons, at the same time, and at the same place. This is surely a vital subject that must be “rightly divided” and comparative and contrasting Scriptures be considered.
This great truth can be approached through considering the place, the person, and the purpose.
The place specifically referred to in II Corinthians 5:10 is “the judgment seat of Christ.” This must be distinguished from “the great white throne” of Revelation 20:11. The judgment seat of Christ has to do mainly with the believer’s action while in this body, whereas the great white throne has to do with unbelievers and their eternal destiny. Both of these judgments take place in heaven; however, not at the same time for the same purpose. The Scripture teaches nothing concerning a “general” resurrection or a “general” judgment. When we think of place, we should not necessarily think of an exact location in God’s great space, but rather where discriminating and discerning decisions will be made. We often speak of a place of prayer, or a place of refuge without specifying an exact location in heaven or earth. The word “seat” implies that Christ will be a step above those appearing and He will have all the authority and the facts at His disposal.
The Person and Persons
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”
Of course, knowing that the Father and the Son are one (John 10:30, 38), and knowing that the Son’s judgment of sin at the cross is the basis of all judgment, we can readily understand the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Believing that “Christ died for our sins” by His substitutionary sacrifice, we can rest assured our sins will not be a basis for our appearing at the judgment seat of Christ. That price has been paid in full; however, our words and deeds after salvation will be accounted for at His tribunal. Christ is the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:30), therefore He is able to be decisive on every aspect of the believer’s life. It should also be noted that the word “appear” implies more than our just being present at His judgment. Appear means to be manifested or clearly seen and understood or evaluated. We shall be fully known through His infinite wisdom and full knowledge.
The reason or purpose for the believer appearing before the judgment seat of Christ is to be recompensed for “the things done in his body.” This, no doubt, will include things we knew to do and didn’t, and things we knew we shouldn’t do and did them anyway. The real basis will finally be if the deeds were done in His name and for His glory. The very attributes of God Himself, which include justice, righteousness, truth, and love will form the criteria for judgment of what we, as believers, have done. The apostle Paul said in this regard:
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.” (I Corinthians 4:5)
When we read in II Corinthians 5:11 that we are to know the “terror” of the Lord, it carries the meaning of our fearing or trusting the Lord. We needn’t be terrified of being cast out of His presence, but rather to have reverential trust and respect for His person and authority.
Paul goes on to say, “But we are made manifest unto God.” This shows that when we appear, He will already know all about us. We will not plead our case!
It cannot be emphasized too much or too often that “the judgment seat of Christ” will not be for the purpose of deciding whether we are saved or lost or to receive punishment for sins. We must never forget:
“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
We should look forward to this day, not dread it. As we have studied and stated, the purpose is to be evaluated by our Lord on the basis of His wisdom and justice as to our deeds here on earth in these bodies of clay. However, remember, this will be our first face to face encounter with the Lord! We will rejoice in this and look forward to walking with Him in Glory throughout eternity.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”