Will people that are saved be judged according to their works?
SALVATION: HELL VERSUS LAKE OF FIRE:
NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH
We were talking about believers coming up before the judgment seat of Christ, the Bema seat. Bema is simply the Greek word for judgment seat. It came from the Olympics – the seat of the judges. I stressed in our last lesson it’s a seat of judging not for Heaven or hell, but rather for what rewards we will receive. This will only be for believers and the Body of Christ who one day will come before the Bema Seat for rewards. We will definitely get rewards based on our Christian walk in this life here on earth. Of course, the rewards are going to come to their fruition primarily in the Kingdom economy. When the Kingdom finally comes on the earth and becomes active, Christ will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the world wide Ruler, and we will be ruling and reigning with Him.
Now here is where the reward aspect comes in, as we reign and rule with Him, our level of responsibility is going to be based on our faithfulness here. And that is why it behooves us as believers to labor, to work, and serve for the rewards we will use in the Kingdom Age. I think most people would rather be active as opposed to being inactive and sitting on the sideline. I know I would. I couldn’t stand sitting on the sidelines.
II Corinthians 5:10a
“For we (believers) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;…”
I think that word `judgment’ is an unfortunate translation in our King James, because the word here in the Greek is Bema. It was the Bema seat. Paul took that from the Olympics. Paul made many references to the Olympic games. So the Bema seat at an Olympic game was the place of the judges. As you watch a tennis match on television they have judges who sit on the line of the tennis court, and it’s up to the them to determine if a shot has gone in or is out of bounds. Now in so many cases you could say the judge is sitting on the Bema seat. They are sitting on the seat of a judge.
Now as Paul uses this analogy then, the Bema Seat, on which Christ will be sitting as the Judge, is not to determine heaven or hell. It’s not to judge us for our sins, because the believers sins have already been judged totally and completely at the Cross. We will never again have to face our sins. Now this doesn’t give license, not by any stretch of the imagination. We won’t come before the Bema Seat shaking in our boots wondering if we are going to make it or not. I had a gentleman in one of my classes share with me not too long ago that his father-in-law, I believe, was getting rather elderly, and had come to spend the remainder of his life with his daughter. The gentleman relating the story said, “Les would you believe that this fellow was a highly thought of well-known evangelist in his denomination. And yet I can still hear the old fellow as he walked across our living room bemoaning to himself, `Will I go to heaven when I die.'” Here he had been preaching to thousands of people throughout his lifetime, yet he didn’t have an assurance of where he would spend eternity. Isn’t that sad? There are multitudes like that. They profess salvation, and say, “Oh, yes, I believe in Christ,” But then they turn right around and think they have to work, work, work, hoping that somehow they can still make it. This is not the Gospel of Grace that the Apostle Paul preached. The Gospel of Grace says that Christ releases the power of salvation at our believing (and when I say believing I’m not just talking a mental accent. I’m talking about a genuine Holy Spirit opening of the heart, and we can without any reservation say, “I know that Christ died my death. I know that He rose from the dead, and that He had power to overcome sin and Satan.”). That’s the kind of faith God is looking for. When He sees it, our sins are judged, and we are cleansed of them. Then He seals us, and sets us on our way working, and serving Him. As a believer, the whole concept here is that we live a life well-pleasing now as a child, with the idea of gaining a reward for meritorious service. Finishing verse 10, we must all appear before the Bema Seat:
II Corinthians 5:10b
“… that every one (believers) may receive the things done in his body (while we as believers in this life), according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
So we will stand before Him to see if we are going to receive a reward. Let’s follow that back to I Corinthians Chapter 3. Here again the Apostle is writing to the Gentiles of Corinth, so basically he is writing to you and I. Again he uses the pronoun `we.’
I Corinthians 3:9
“For we are laborers together with God (now he points the finger at the believer and says): ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” You are something that God is working on.
I Corinthians 3:10
“According to the grace of God which is given unto me (Paul is speaking in reference to his own ministry), as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation (Paul is speaking about a building situation), and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”
In other words the foundation is there. And that is the basis for any kind of a building. But now comes all the various workers that are going to put their little bit into this building. Now verse 11. Notice Paul doesn’t claim to be the foundation:
I Corinthians 3:11
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
He is the basic foundation of all our works. And you can’t begin to build on that foundation until you have experienced His salvation. There is no such thing as working for that. But after God has imparted salvation and the power of God has been released into our very existence, then He expects us to serve him. That doesn’t mean we have to be a Billy Graham, or go to the foreign mission field, or have to be teachers or something like that, but in Romans 12, we’ve got all these areas of service that believers can fill. I’ve told my classes, over the years, every single believer has at least one gift that can be used in God’s service. Many times people are exercising their gift and seeing all the fruits of it and they come to me and say, “Well, Les, I wish I had a gift.” You’ve got a gift and you’re using it! Just keep on doing what you are doing, whatever it may be. People who are elderly and can’t get out and do much anymore, they can serve the Lord in just prayer alone! Prayer changes things. Older people could literally turn a nation around if they would pray. Others may have accumulated enough wealth that they can judiciously give and further God’s work.
Now, I don’t buy this thing of, “I’ll just put it out there and God’s knows my heart.” No, God has given every individual intelligence and discernment. You give where God directs you and give where it will be honoring to Him. Don’t just throw it out there someplace and think, “Well, this is good enough. I’ve given in the right attitude.” No, you are to be judicious even in your giving. There’s all kinds of places and ways to serve God. Ministering to the poor and sick are two ways. These are gifts of serving. Now, as we serve, come to verse 12:
I Corinthians 3:12
“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood hay, stubble;”
As we enter into this life of the Christian walk or service, God provides opportunity for six building materials. Wood, hay and stubble; gold, silver and precious stones. Those are the ones that are available. Now, of course, a lot of believers never get anything more than wood, hay and stubble. That’s as far as they ever get. But you see, others will get out and put forth some effort and energy and they’re going to drum up some gold, silver and precious stones. Here’s the way you have to look at these six materials; which ones can withstand the flames of the judgment fire? I’m not talking about Hellfire, I’m talking about the Judge’s eyes. He’s going to have eyes of fire that are going to penetrate our works at the Bema Seat. Which ones are going to survive those flaming eyes. Well, not the wood, hay and stubble because that’s going to go up in a puff of smoke. It’s the gold, silver and precious stones, whatever that may be. In other words, the things that have lasting value. The things that have really made a difference, maybe in your home, in the community, in your church, or whatever. That’s the gold, silver and precious stones. Now let’s read on again in verse 13:
I Corinthians 3:13
“Every man’s work (it’s the masculine gender, but includes everyone as a believer. Not for salvation) shall be made manifest (like being put under a spotlight. As we come before the Bema Seat to see what our rewards are going to be, we are put in the spotlight. Then the penetrating eyes of Christ will burn off the draught showing if you have gold, silver or precious stones left): 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.”
I Corinthians 3:14
“If any man’s work abide (survives His scrutiny) which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive (not salvation, but) a reward.”
I know a lot of people are turned off by the concept of rewards, but it’s very scriptural. The Scripture maintains that you and I are literally to work for rewards. Verse 15, but:
I Corinthians 3:15
“If any man’s work shall be burned (that has no reference to hell. That just simply says that if all we have is hay, wood, or stubble … we didn’t do things for the right reason for example. And the Lord looks at it, and our works shall be burned up and disappear), he shall suffer loss (not his salvation, but of his reward): but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
This person will be there, but he will not have earned the reward. Now let’s go over to Chapter 9. Here Paul is again going to use one of his many allusions to the Olympics. Paul must have truly loved the Olympics. Here he’s writing to you and I, the believers:
I Corinthians 9:24,25
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all (they all take off at the starting gun. But how many receive the prize?), but one receiveth the prize? (now who determines the winners? Judges who sit on the Bema Seat) so run, that ye may obtain.”
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things (what’s he talking about? Their training period, while they were getting ready for the race. They maintained good diet, exercise, and they didn’t overdo anything. The Scripture says, “that in all things be temperate.” We wouldn’t have so many of these health problems if people were just temperate). Now they (these athletes) do it to obtain a corruptible crown (you know what corruptible means, it doesn’t last); but we an incorruptible.”
Paul says, “We don’t run and work for something that is going to pass off the scene in short order. But ours is what? Incorruptible!” And even though Christianity has been on the scene almost 2000 years, the rewards that those early believers earned are still there. They are still waiting, and when we get there our rewards will be there also. Have you stopped to think about God’s rewarding for the believer at the Bema Seat, at the end. We don’t receive rewards as we come along. And do you know why? Because the next generation will benefit from everything that you and I do in the Lord’s service (if this world keeps going). The same is true for the wicked person. His activity is going to effect people of the next generation, and generations to come.
Sometimes I think of that dear old Pastor that first asked me to teach in Sunday School. Do you know that someday, whatever I’ve been able to accomplish is also going to go to his credit. And someday down the road, people whose lives I have touched, whatever they do, is one day, going to come to my credit. And so it is with every believer. And that’s why it will all come at the end. And now, I’d like to give this illustration. If you throw a pretty good sized rock into the middle of a fairly large pond of water, how far do the effects go? To every inch of shore line! And so it is with the believer. Everything we do will ripple out and have an effect on more and more people. Now verse 26: The Apostle
Paul then says:
I Corinthians 9:26
“I therefore so run (that I may win the prize.),…”