What is the Role of Works/Rewards at the Final Judgment?

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Zondervan has always done a good job of publishing the Five Views Series. One of their recent offerings is called Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). I am eager to read this book. The topic makes me think of the following texts:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” -1 Cor. 3: 10-15.

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then,  each of us will give an account of himself to God.” –Romans 14:10-12

“For we must all appear  before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him  for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 2 Cor. 5:10

Most of contemporary discipleship has taught that the “gospel” denotes the “good tidings” of the kingdom of God and of salvation through the Messiah, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Peter 4:17). In other words, once the individual makes a decision to truly trust in Jesus for their salvation, they are justified before God (Rom 8:1). Furthermore, the sanctification process begins in this life, which will reach its culmination in the believer’s glorification (Rom 8:30; 1 John 3:2).

Unfortunately, the Church has not placed much emphasis on the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. In regards to the judgment seat of Christ, the Bible speaks of a time when God’s children will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be evaluated for their lives while on this earth (2 Cor.5: 10).

Paul used the Greek word ‘bema,’ which refers to a raised platform that was reached by steps. The raised platform was used as seat for a judge.  Bema also is used to describe as the place where law cases were judged. For Paul, when he used the word bema, he was aware that his audience was familiar with the place where the Overseers of Olympic and Isthmus Games would sit. [1] The athletes who participated in the games would come to the bema and receive the crowns on their heads. [2]

Therefore, we can conclude that the bema seat will not only be a time of reward but also a time of loss. Hence, the bema seat will be both positive and negative. Along with the texts above, there are several other passages that speak of rewards for the follower of Jesus. Peter left his audience with a strong exhortation when he said, “If you address the as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon the earth” (1Pet.1:17).

Pastors and ministry leaders should be required to take the time to make the Judgment Seat of Christ as a mandatory part of their teaching schedule. How many sermons are ever preached on such a topic? If more pastors and Christians leaders taught more on this topic, it would probably have a sobering and transforming impact on the Church. Realistically speaking, it is a challenge for Christians to actually adjust their lives as if they will one day be evaluated before the Lord Jesus Christ. Each Christian can never complain that they have been given nothing to manage in this life. God entrusts all his children with all that he has given them. Each Christian should come to the realization that they need to release everything they have to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the challenge of being a true disciple (Lk. 9:23).

Are you challenged at all? I know I am!

Sources:


[1] Paul B. Benware, The Believers Payday (Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG Publishers, 2002),170.

 

[2] Ibid, 15-17.

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