Stephen Caswell © 2004
Not Home Yet
Henry C. Morrison, after serving for 40 years on the African mission field, headed home by boat. On that same boat also rode Theodore Roosevelt. Morrison was quite dejected when, on entering New York harbor, the President received a great fanfare as he arrived home. Morrison thought he should get some recognition for 40 years in the Lord’s service. Then a small voice came to Morrison and said, Henry —you’re not home yet.
Last Sunday we looked at the rapture. Today we will continue on from there. When John arrived at God’s throne he saw 24 elders seated on 24 thrones. They were clothed in white robes and had golden crowns on their heads. Who are these 24 elders? These 24 elders represent the saints before God’s throne. There were 24 courses in the OT priesthood. The song they sing tells of their own redemption. Angels aren’t redeemed.
Revelation 5:10: And the 24 elders sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.
These 24 elders have already been judged by Christ and rewarded. Today, we will see the when, why, how and what of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Firstly, When Will This Judgment Happen?
The 24 elders have received white robes, golden crowns and authority, for they are seated on 24 thrones. This shows us that God has honored these servants. They have received rewards and authority. The Bible tells us that every believer will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. He will judge our Christian service. 2 Timothy 4:1: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Firstly, Paul says that God will judge the living at His appearing. The living refers to believers. Secondly, He will judge the dead or non Christians at His kingdom. The kingdom commences after the Second Coming when He returns to the earth to judge the world and rule. Other passages tie Christ’s return with rewards for the saints.
Revelation 22:12: And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 1 Thess 2:19 and 1 Peter 5:1-4
On The Stadium
In races, athletes are not rewarded right below the stadium, but called up to the stage for their reward. In our Christian race, we are rarely rewarded on earth, but will be later!
Secondly, Why Will This Judgment Happen?
After we meet Christ in the air at the rapture we will proceed to His Judgment Seat. Is this necessary? Yes! Believers aren’t ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when we first meet Christ in the air. We need to receive white wedding robes first. So Christ will judge His bride first. Revelation 19:7-8: Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. The judgment seat is a necessary preparation for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This judgment will remove all blemishes from the bride.
Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Tragically, some believers won’t be ready when Christ comes. They will be embarrassed when Christ catches them up because of how they have lived. 1 John 2:28: And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. So, Christ will restore such believers before the Marriage Supper. This judgment provides fine linen for us the bride. It removes the spots and blemishes. Brides spend a lot of time before the marriage ceremony getting ready
Thirdly, How Will This Judgment Unfold?
Like Olympic Games. Such games have judges, athletes, rules and tests. It makes it fair.
a. The Judge
Romans 14:10b, 12: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
The Bema Seat
The term Judgment Seat, βῆμα, comes from a Greek word bema, which was the platform in Greek towns where speeches were made and decisions handed down by the rulers. The platform was raised a step above the ground. It was the place where the awards were given out in the annual Olympic Games. The judges sat on this platform and observed the athletes competing in the games. After each contest they would crown the winning athlete with a crown of laurel leaves. The judges observed the athletes performance to see who won the race according to the rules. Disqualified athletes weren't condemned to death or jailed, but they were put to public shame.
Jesus Christ is our Judge! He wants to reward believers for their faithfulness to Him. Revelation 22:12: And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
b. The Race
The Christian race is like a marathon. In our race God gives us many opportunities to serve Him. We have all received time, talents, spiritual gifts and possessions. One day God will evaluate how we used these things for Him. Some examples are giving, prayer, witnessing, serving, helping others, hospitality, etc. The Bible speaks of these.
Sharing the Gospel. Leading people to Christ, from children through to the elderly.
· 1 Corinthians 3:6, 8: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
· 1 Thessalonians 2:19: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
Serving. God’s Ministers, The Saints, The Needy
· Matthew 10:41-42: He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.
Giving to God’s Work. For God’s Servants, God’s Work, For the Needy
· Phil 4:15, 17: Now you Philippians know when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
· 6:19-21: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Suffering for Christ’s sake. Ridicule, Persecution, Martyrdom.
· Matt 5:11-12: Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
· Revelation 2:10: Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Sacrifices for Christ’s Kingdom. Houses, Lands, Family
· Matthew 19:27-30: Then Peter answered and said to Him, See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have? So Jesus said to them, Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Queen Keeps His Business
It is related that Elizabeth I of England once commissioned a rich merchant prince of her empire, to go on an important mission for the crown, promising him rich rewards for his services. The merchant sought to decline the appointment on the grounds that his business would suffer during his absence, but his sovereign assured him: You go and look after my business, and I will look after yours. On his return, he found that his queen had kept her promise: he was a richer man than he was before.
c. The Rules
1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
We are all running in the Christian race. Jesus Christ ran a good race and others have followed after Him. Paul says, run according to the rules, or suffer disqualification. 2 Timothy 2:5: And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. Christ examines our service to see if we kept the rules. A lot of things are done in Christ’s name and we are unaware of it. But God knows. He knows what’s been done and why. Christians must run a godly race; a disciplined race. We are not to judge our own service or our brothers. God will judge every man’s work.
Envious Of Nobler Toscanini
At a Verdi festival of which Arturo Toscanini was scheduled to conduct several of the concerts, an envious rival was approached to take one of the other performances. I will, he agreed, on one condition … if you will pay me one lira more than Toscanini receives. His request was granted and after the concert this conductor received his check — for one lira? Toscanini had conducted without charge out of respect and admiration for Verdi.
1 Corinthians 4:5: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
What will Christ evaluate? Our motives and our level of commitment.
· Are we seeking praise from men or God? Pride will disqualify many. Matt 6:1-21
· Are we faithful in using the gifts and talents that Christ gave us? Some bury theirs.
· Are we pressing on in our race? Paul pressed on to perfection. Philippians 3:12-14
· Do we serve the Lord joyfully or do we complain and grumble? Philippians 2:14-15
· Do we give cheerfully or grudgingly out of guilt? 2 Corinthians 9:7
· Are we serving in the Spirit’s power or in our own strength? Abiding life John 15:
· Does love motivate our service or envy or jealousy? Crucial 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
d. The Test
After the race all athletes are tested for drugs. Anyone that tests positive is disqualified. After we finish our race, Christ our Judge will test us. 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we 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.
Probably everyone here will remember how Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson broke the 100m world record. He beat a star studded field to win the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in record time. But his victory was short lived. Just after the race, he suffered disgrace and humiliation when it was proven that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs. All of the time, hard work and planning was in vain. He had not competed according to the rules. He was disqualified and forfeited his prize.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Wood, hay and straw grows on the top, like shallow Christianity done in the flesh. Gold, silver and precious stones are found down deep in the ground. They represent a deep commitment to Christ and service empowered by the Holy Spirit. Fire consumes wood hay and straw, but makes gold, silver and gem stones more valuable. Christ will test our faithfulness, love, perseverance, humility, cheerfulness in giving, joyfulness in serving; A life lived for God’s Glory. Any substitute for the Holy Spirit’s work will be exposed.
We can lose our reward, not our salvation. Rev 3:11: Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 2 John 8: Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
John Chrysostom said: Let us then imagine Christ's judgment seat to be present now, and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account to the judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but we must also be laid bare. Do you not blush? Are you not dismayed?
Fourthly, What Is The Outcome Of This Judgment?
Revelation 22:12: And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Christ will reward His faithful servants. He will give white robes to all his saints. Christ will also provide food and drink for us. He will give crowns to those who are worthy. He will bestow honor and positions of authority in His kingdom, to those who have earned it.
a. White Robes
Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments. Some believers will shine brighter in glory. If we let our light so shine to glorify God now He will give us greater glory for eternity. See 1 Corinthians 15:41-42 and Daniel 12:3 on this matter.
· Revelation 2:7b: To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
· Rev 2:17a: To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.
· Revelation 22:17b: Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
· The Martyrs Crown was promised to those who died for the Lord at the Church of Smyrna. I read Revelation 2:10 earlier. James 1:12: Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
· The Victors Crown is promised to those who exercise self control, show godliness. They run a disciplined race, denying themselves the pleasures of this life for the sake of the kingdom of God. This crown is called the incorruptible crown. 1 Cor 9:25.
· The Crown of Rejoicing is a Soul Winners Crown. 1 Thessalonians 2:19: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? See Philippians 4:1 also.
· The Crown of Glory is promised to faithful pastors in 1 Peter 5:1-4. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
· The Crown Of Righteousness is for all who love Christ’s appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8: Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. We will be privileged to place these crowns at Christ’s feet.
d. Positions & Honors
· A White Stone. Revelation 2:17b: And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. This will be like a memorial pillar made of quartz or marble inscribed with the persons name.
· A Pillar. Revelation 3:12a: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. A position of honor in the Lord’s presence.
· A New Name. Revelation 3:12b: I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, And I will write on him My new name. In the Bible a persons name describes their character. Our new names will relate to our Christian life. A bit like the names John Bunyan gave to the people in Pilgrim’s Progress.
· Authority. Revelation 2:26-28: And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations — He shall rule them with a rod of iron; Luke 19:16-17: Then came the first, saying, Master, your mina has earned ten minas. And he said to him, Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.
· Rule. Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, Revelation 5:10: And you have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. 22:5b: And they shall reign forever and ever.
· Inheritance. Revelation 21:7: He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
God’s Or Devil’s Wages
Billy Bray was once preaching with great effect to a large congregation, principally miners. In that neighborhood there were two mines, one very prosperous and the other quite the reverse, for the work was hard and the wages low. He represented himself as working at the poor mine but on the pay day going to the prosperous one for his wages.
Haven’t you been working at the other mine, the manager inquired? He said that he had, but he liked the wages at the good mine the best. He pleaded very earnestly, but in vain. He was dismissed at last, with the remark, from which there was no appeal. You must come to work here if you would receive our wages.
The minister then turned to the congregation. The effect was almost irresistible. People must serve Christ here if they would share His Glory here after. But if they would serve the devil now, to him they must go for their wages by-and-by.
Every born again believer has received eternal life. Salvation is a free gift. But we will all stand at the judgment seat of Christ for our service to be evaluated. How will we fare? Will you receive a crown? Will Christ bestow honor and authority upon you for your faithful service? When Christ examines your life will He find that you have shared the Gospel? Will He see that you have suffered for Christ or made sacrifices for the Kingdom? Will he see that you have helped others or given to further His kingdom? I trust that He will! Let us therefore labor for the Master while we still have time!
Revelation 22:12: And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.