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Standing Before the Bema

By Merrill Olson

Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, was once asked what he considered to be the greatest thought that ever entered his mind. He stated, “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is ‘my accountability to God.’” Therefore, what gripped his mindset was the acknowledgment that one day he would stand before God.

To stand before God will be a humbling experience. No one will be exempt. Every person of the human race from the beginning of Adam and Eve will experience the judgment of God to give an account of one’s life on this earth.

Outside of the sheep and goats judgment of the Gentiles (Matt. 25:31-46) and of the Jews (Ezekiel 20:33-38) after Christ’s Second Coming, there are two other main judgments. There is the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10) and the “Great White Throne” judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). This “Great White Throne” judgment takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, before the eternal ages. All unsaved people from all the ages of time will have to stand before this judgment to be judged (v. 12). There will be no grace. All of them will be consigned to “the lake of fire” (v. 15). This judgment will determine the degree of punishment and suffering they will endure based on the nature of their evil actions while living on this earth.

The “judgment seat of Christ” for all born again believers takes place in heaven immediately following the “Rapture” (1 Thess. 4:11-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). The Scripture says, “For we [all born again believers saved from the Cross to the Rapture] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

This judgment is called the “bema.” This is the Greek word for “judgment seat.” In the ancient world, it referred to a raised step or platform. In New Testament times, a bema was used for three reasons. One was that it was the stand at athletic games where rewards were given and rules were enforced.

Someday all born again believers will stand before the Bema seat of Christ. The purpose of this judgment is not to determine whether a person will enter heaven or hell. He or she has settled this at the Cross. Instead, the Bema will be the place to judge the motives and essential character of the Christian. The Bible says “each one’s work will become manifest” (1 Cor. 3:13).

Thus, as believers, our works and how we have lived our Christian lives will be brought into judgment, called “the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). In other words, the Bema of Christ is not to determine what is ethically good or evil, but rather to manifest that which is acceptable or worthless/unprofitable to the work of Christ Jesus and one’s service for Him.

Therefore, in the evil age in which we are living, it is important to live a committed life for Christ (1 John 3:2-3), knowing there will be a day of reckoning for us.

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