At the Judgment Seat of Christ Believers Get Backpay for their Work
Because I had no knowledge or teaching about the Judgment Seat of Christ, I was clueless when it came to some basic questions.
“Are there different degrees or levels in heaven?” asked my mother one day when I was still college age.
“If we’re saved by faith, why do many Scriptures say ‘God will render to every man according to his works?’ Isn’t this a contradiction?” I had big questions and no answers.
After graduating from Luther Theological Seminary in 1970 I went to a small non-denominational church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mel Amerine, a gifted pastor and teacher was teaching about “The Foundation Doctrines of the Faith” from Hebrew 6:1-2.
In my Lutheran background I was unaware of the doctrine of eternal judgment as listed in Hebrew chapter 6. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing about the judgment seat of Christ. But as the teacher kept speaking about the topic and drawing his congregation into the Scriptures, I realized that some of my biggest Bible questions were getting answers. I learned there are many judgments in Scripture, not just one big one at the end. I discovered that yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but we will also be judged for our works. Believers will be repaid for what they do, whether good or bad. Major portions of Scripture began to fall into place for me. What a relief!
Look with me for a brief intro to the Judgment Seat of Christ. A person is saved (justified) by grace through faith. John 3:16 plus many other Scriptures establish this foundational fact. Jesus took the full penalty for our sin on Himself! Later, every believer “must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed (rewarded) for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10)
St. Paul explains more about this judgment in I Corinthians 3:8-15. Notice the context is in relation to our works, our labor. It says our works will be tested by fire. Yes, there’s fire at the judgment seat of Christ. (That was news to me; I thought fire was only in hell.) Anyway, everyone’s work that survives the fire-test will be rewarded. If a man’s deeds are not approved, he will suffer loss. Loss of what? Loss of reward in heaven even though he himself shall be saved. Wow! This puts a fear of God in me. It also makes me happy—I hope to get rewarded!
The believer in Jesus Christ will be rewarded for his deeds, his service, his attitudes, his willingness, his motives, his words. Everything will be revealed, nothing hidden.
The Bible describes the rewards in various pictures or symbols: crowns, inheritance, nearness to the throne in heaven, degrees of glory, and level of authority in heaven. I began to read the Bible with new eyes. This whole subject of inheritance or rewards is a major Bible theme. How could I have missed it?
It all stems from the judgment seat of God where a believer is judged on the basis of his service!