UNDERSTANDING THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
– IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE RAPTURE
Let me ask you a question? How can the Church go through the wrath of God when Jesus Christ has already taken our wrath at Calvary’s cross? Do you think the Lord would be so unjust as to subject His Church, His body, to the wrath of God the second time when Jesus Christ has already born the wrath of God for us at Calvary’s cross?
God’s Word makes it plain that every believer will be raptured out of this world before the judgements of the Tribulation period ever begins – the seal, the trumpet, and bowl judgements of Revelation. Yet, I have some people, those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture, tell me that the Tribulation is not God’s wrath on earth. Yet, it is specifically stated in Revelation 16:2 that it is God’s wrath on earth. “Then I (John) heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” Also, early at the start of the Tribulation in chapter 6 of Revelation, it tells us that all classes of society were seized with panic. Recognizing that God was pouring out His wrath, “they hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains (v.15).” They preferred to be crushed by “tumbling mountains and rocks (v.16)” than to endure the judgement of God and “the wrath of the Lamb (v.16).” Too late they realize that no rebel is able to stand up against the Lamb’s indignation. “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand (v.17).” I don’t think Christ could have made this statement any clearer – the 7-year Tribulation period is God’s judgement and wrath on earth.
Look, God has always delivered His own people from the flood waters of divine judgement. It didn’t rain one drop of floodwater until Noah and his family were inside the ark and the ark was sealed. It didn’t rain one drop of fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot was outside the city and safe on the hillside. Therefore, God will not permit the 7-year Tribulation period to begin until the Church is safe in the sky with the Lord Jesus Christ (caught up and taken to heaven).
Now, let us notice another event connected with the Rapture. If Christ Jesus were to come today, all believers would have to stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ. In Romans 14:10 it says, “We shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” And again, in Second Corinthians 5:10 we read, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Many times, you pick up the paper and you read of individuals who have died, and it says that they have gone to their reward. As born-again believers we know that when the Rapture takes place, we are going to receive our rewards for the way we’ve lived since we became children of God. In Revelation 22:12 Christ says “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” So, when Christ comes back, He’ll take us to the meeting in the air, to the Judgement Seat of Christ to be judged for the deeds which we have done in the body and we then will be rewarded according to our works. How do we know this? In Luke 14:12-14, reward is associated with the resurrection and the Rapture is when the church is resurrected. In 2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, rewards are associated with “that day” and with the Lord’s coming. Again, for the Church this means the event of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – the Rapture.
In Revelation 19:8, at Christ’s Second Coming to earth, when the Lord returns with His bride at the end of the Tribulation, she is seen already rewarded. Her reward is described as fine linen, the righteous act of the saints – undoubtedly the result of rewards. This clearly shows that the Rapture is pre-tribulational. How do we know this? When John was taken up to heaven and arrived at God’s throne, he saw 24 elders seated on 24 thrones. In Revelation 5:10 we read that these elders were clothed in white robes and had golden crowns on their heads. Who are these 24 elders? These 24 elders represent the saints (the Church) before God’s throne. As you can see these 24 elders have already been judged by Christ and rewarded. 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.
Look, after we meet Christ in the air at the Rapture, we will proceed to His Judgement 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. In Revelation 19:7-8 we read: “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 act of the saints.” The judgement seat is a necessary preparation for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This judgement will remove all blemishes from the bride.
MOTIVATION BEHIND OUR WORKS
The Judgement Seat of Christ will be a time of exposure. The Lord will put the searchlight on every phase of our life from the day that He saved us. Our eating, our drinking, our pleasure, our rest, our work, our play – every phase of our life will be brought to light. Now what’s the basis for this judgement? You will find this in First Corinthians 4:5 which says, “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.” That means the motives of the heart. At the Judgement Seat of Christ God is going to judge the motive behind all of our works. In First Corinthians 3:3 we read that, “Each one’s work will become manifest; 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.” Let it be clear to all born-again believers that someday you and I and every other saved person will stand in the presence of the Lord and all of our works will be tested by fire.
Let us grasp this whole picture. Here we are at the Judgement Seat of Christ. We have all been caught up to meet the Lord in the air. All opportunity for Christian service has ended. No more giving, witnessing, sacrificing as the day of rewards has come. The Apostle Paul tells us that our rewards will be determined by one thing and one thing only – the motive behind our works. The Scripture says that the fire shall try every man’s works. Now when it says that our works will be tried by fire that doesn’t mean our works will actually be put into a fiery furnace, but the fiery gaze of Jesus Christ will penetrate through our works, and He will be able to determine the exact motive, or motives behind everything we did. In that day many people are going to realize that they worked for their own glory instead of for the glory of God. It will be revealed that they were more interested in their own selfish desires than anything else. They wanted the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Yes, we each need to understand that the day is coming when all our works will be put in front of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the only kind of service that will be rewarded will be service that’s been done for the glory of God. How do we know this? It tells us in First Corinthians 10:31 that, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
TEARS IN HEAVEN
Look, the Judgement Seat of Christ will not be all “peaches and cream.” Many believers will be ashamed when they stand before the Lord. This is why we are told in First John 2: 28, “Little children, abide in Him (Christ), that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
Let me ask you this: Are you working for the glory of God today, or are you working for the glory of yourself? If you are working for the glory of God, you will have a reward at the Judgement Seat of Christ. However, if you are working for the glory of yourself, all your works will go up in smoke and you will stand before the Lord ashamed, red-faced, and embarrassed.
Did you know that the Bible speaks about tears in heaven? It is revealed in Revelation 21:4 that says, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes……” We need to understand that we, as believers, when we stand before the Lord, there is going to be some crying. There is going to be some weeping when we think of how much the Lord has done for us and how little we have done for Him. We are going to shed some tears when we think of all the time that we have wasted in the service of the world that could have been spent in the service of God. Yes, there will be tears at the Judgement Seat of Christ and many believers will be ashamed that day.
Even though the Judgement Seat of Christ, while sounding negative, is actually a positive place of reward promised to believers. Who among us would not want to bring glory to Christ for all eternity? Thought of in this way, the Judgement Seat of Christ is one more motivation to live well in this life.
In closing, I want people to understand that every born-again believer has received eternal life. Salvation is a free gift from God. I also want people to understand that we will all stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ for our service to be evaluated – for the way that we’ve lived since we’ve become children of God. 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!
I would like to urge all born-again believers to live for the glory of God. Honor Him and please Him. Make every minute count in the service of God. Then when you stand before the Lord, you will be rewarded for the fruits of your labor and you’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord (Matt. 25:23).”