12. The Judgments
A. The Bema Seat - Rewarding of Believers
B. The Great White Throne - Judgment of Non-Believers
A. The Bema Seat – Rewarding of believers
We are not sure when exactly this occurs. Maybe it happens after the Great White Throne judgment and at the beginning of the rest of eternity. Maybe it is as each person comes into heaven. We don’t know. However, we know that only believers are part of this session.
This judgment/rewarding occurs at the judgment seat of Christ, the Bēma. Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; and 1 Cor 3:10–15.
The bible mentions different crowns and levels of rewards given for believers who after their conversion labored for the Lord. There are many parables that also talk about this rewarding.
Different crowns mentioned in scripture are:
The Incorruptible Crown
This is given to those who exhibit faithfulness in self-control. I Corinthians 9:25-27
The Crown of Rejoicing
This is given to those who exhibit faithfulness in church ministry. I Thessalonians 2:19; Philippians 4:1.
The Crown of Righteousness
This is given to those who exhibit faithfulness in testimony. 2 Timothy 4:7-8. The fruit as a result of the testimony is not the basis of this crown, just the faithfulness in maintaining and proclaiming our testimony.
The Crown of Glory
This is given to those who exhibit faithfulness in pastoral care, tending those entrusted to you. I Peter 5:2-4
The Crown of Life
This is given to those who exhibit faithfulness in resisting temptation. James 1:12
This judgment is not to determine if a person should enter heaven or not. That is decided at the time of death or rapture. The purpose is not either to punish believers for sins done either before or after their conversion. No believer will have to pay for their sins, it has already been paid. Psalm 103:10-12; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 44:22; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:7.
The purpose of the Bema judgment is to determine whether or not a believer has been a faithful steward. I Corinthians 4:2. Every believer will stand before God and give an account about the way they have used their privileges and responsibilities, their gifts and talents from the point of their conversion. I Corinthians 3:10-15. We don’t need to lay the foundation – that has already been laid. But we need to persevere to build on that foundation.
What we have built will be evaluated at the Bema seat to see if it is eternal or temporal. The quality of our work will be evaluated. The motives of our work will be evaluated. Whatever was done for Christ will survive and whatever was done by the flesh for the flesh will be burned up.
Only what is eternal and doesn’t get burned will count for rewards.
B. The Great White Throne – Judgment of Unbelievers
Satan has been judged and put away permanently. The Satanic Trinity is now in hell. Demons are banished to the lake of fire. The group that has not been addressed yet are the non-believers.
John sees a great white throne and the One who sits on it. He does not reveal any description of the One who sits on it, but the power He holds will soon be manifest. In one profound sentence, John gives a description of the One on the throne who makes him unequivocally qualified to pronounce the destiny of many.
Heaven and earth flee from His presence. The omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God cannot be overstated.
All the dead have now resurrected. The Righteous Dead were the very first to rise at the Rapture, even before the Righteous Living. The Wicked Living endured through the entire tribulation period and saw the beauty of holy governance in the millennium, and possibly received one last chance to change. And now, the only remaining group of people to have missed all of the previous 1007 plus years, now rise up to face their destiny. Where their souls were since they died is unclear. But, they are here now and join with the non-believers that are still living.
Every single non-believer from the beginning of time is here now. Death, the grave and the seas give up their dead. When they died, they died in various circumstances – different ages, different time periods, different socio-economic statuses, different education, differing opinions. Now, the one common matter tying them all together and bringing them on the same plane is that they died without a relationship with Jesus. They will now face judgment for their choice.
The basis of the judgment is twofold.
First, books are opened, and every person’s actions are evaluated. This is a judgment about the inadequacy of works to make holy or to bring justification. Once the deeds of every person are brought into the open, (Heb 4:13), it is amply clear that each one has sinned against God, requiring infinite punishment.
The second part of the judgment is when God opens the Book of Life. This is a judgment about available grace that was spurned. Based on the deeds that were just uncovered, every person will be aware and recognize that their deeds could never take them to heaven and the way was freely given, by grace.
There is a fable about a professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course in his or her freshman year, regardless of his or her major.
Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously. This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman but was studying with the intent of going on to seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team and was the best student in the professor’s class.
One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. “How many push-ups can you do?”
Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
“200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know…. I’ve never done 300 at a time.”
“Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.
“Well, I can try,” said Steve.
“Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it”
Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy big kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it because was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”
Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”
Joe said, “Yes.” Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”
Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.
When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”
Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own pushups?”
Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”
Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”
Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”
With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten pushups.
Scott said, “Hey! I said I didn’t want one!”
Dr. Christianson said, “Look!, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.
Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”
Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”
Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?”
Steve did ten….Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.
Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each pushup to make sure he did the full ten pushups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.
Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “No! Don’t come in! Stay out!”
Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”
Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut”
Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”
Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”
Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity.
By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”
Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”
Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?”
Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?”
Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone, I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your pushups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”
“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?”
As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor. Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.
The offer for salvation is available for everyone. Anyone can take it or leave it. Those who choose to leave the offer on the table and walk away, have once and for all rejected the gift of salvation.
Anyone who’s name is not in the Book of Life, who spurned the offer of life that God extended will be thrown into the lake of fire. Heb 10:29-31.
Elmer Towns, https://www.biblesprout.com/articles/heaven/crowns/, Accessed December 6, 2019
Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012)