What Can We Expect at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
The Bible says that at Christ’s Judgment Seat, each of us “will receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether GOOD or BAD.” What does the Bible mean when it says “good or bad”? We all want to be rewarded for the “good.” The “good” here refers to those times when we let Christ live out His life through us: we obeyed Him, served Him, and worked for Him. All that you have done for the Lord that no one else saw, Christ says He will remember. In Mark 9:41 Jesus talked about the smallest deeds we have done for Him when He says, “Even those who give a cup of water in My name will not lose their reward.” Every deed you have ever done for Christ will be looked for, remembered and rewarded. And, as we will see, God is going to be more generous in His rewards than we could ever imagine.
Jesus says, whatever we do will be rewarded a hundred times as much. It will be fantastic. But then, the Bible also says we will also receive what is due us for the things done in the body that are “bad.” “Bad” refers to those deeds which are worthless, foul, wicked deeds. These will be brought up to show us the rewards we have forfeited. When we stand before Christ, we will realize the rewards God wanted us to have but are forever lost to us because of our sinful living. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 where we read that this Judgment will be like a fire which “will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss.” Notice, he will not lose Heaven, but what he will lose is reward. Paul says in verse 10 that a Christian “should be careful how he builds.” He compares our daily Christian living to building a house. As we live for Christ, our deeds of service to Christ are likened to valuable materials—such as gold, silver and costly stones. When we live selfishly and commit sins, the Bible likens these deeds to shoddy materials—such as wood, hay and straw.
The Apostle says someday our work “will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
Do you remember Ephesians 2:8,9? It says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
But then, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What does this mean? When God saved us, He created us in Christ Jesus to do good works. These works are opportunities and jobs He opens and brings to us and wants us to do. If we do them, God promises to reward us. If we live for Christ, take advantage of the opportunities that come our way, someday we can receive a full reward from God. But we don’t always live for Christ. We leave God out. We don’t read our Bible; we live selfishly, and commit sins. Such living will result in our forfeiting, losing, the rewards God intended for us to have. Again, please keep in mind, God is not speaking about your forfeiting salvation and Heaven. Those are totally gifts given by God. No one can earn them. But after we are saved, rewards are gained by our faithfully serving Christ.
Now, the next question people usually ask is, “What if I die with unconfessed sin? Will He be angry?” Well, again, we’re not going to lose Heaven. We are not going to be punished. Why? Because all of God’s anger and wrath was placed on Christ when He died on the cross and paid for our sins. But if we live with unconfessed sins, though Jesus paid for them on the cross and we stand forgiven, we run the risk of hearing His rebuke at the Judgment Seat. He disciplines Christians here on earth. I expect He will do so at His Judgment Seat. Such sins will cost us the loss of rewards we could have had. We will see our lives through the eyes of our loving Lord and He will know all. His judgment will take into account every circumstance, every motive, and He will judge fairly. At the Judgment Seat of Christ arguments, unresolved conflicts, unconfessed sins will be resolved by the Judge who knows everything. That’s why Paul advises in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong and there is no favoritism.” Our Lord’s judgment of our lives will be absolutely impartial. There will be no favorites.
As Erwin Lutzer has said, “This is one courtroom in which no one has an advantage. The Judge will fairly determine what we did with what He gave us.”