The Bema Seat takes its name using imagery from Paul's day. During the ancient Olympics, the judge sat along the finish line. His purpose was not to determine whether or not the participants actually ran the race. If they got that far, then they completed the course. But the Judge at the Bema seat determined how they came in, first, second, and so on, and he handed out the rewards. That is the imagery that the Bible gives us of Believer's Judgment. It is at the Judgment Seat of Life that Christ metes out the rewards not the punishments that we earn in life.
The punishments He has already dealt with by shedding his Blood on the Cross for all those who were willing to trust in Him. Your rewards are determined according to your works. That is the only place in which your works have any bearing on your eternity. Works won't save you. Only faith in Christ's completed Work on your behalf will. But your works do have a bearing as to your rewards.
"But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3 v.10b-15) NASB Your gold, silver and precious stones are works done with the right motive and by dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
Rewards for Christians: The city of Corinth was famous for the Isthmian Games, a festival of athletic contests and events similar to the Olympic games. At the end of each contest or event, the athletes would appear before a large, ornately decorated platform called the bema. On this platform, the emperor sat on the judgment seat and gave out rewards to the victorious athletes for their years of dedicated and disciplined training and their perseverance and endurance in the heat of competition and battle.
In 2 Corinthians 5 v.10, Paul gives the Corinthians a similar image of the bema in relation to the future judgment of Christians when he states, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat (bematos or bema) of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Paul is saying that all Christians will stand before the bema seat of Christ. At the bema seat, Jesus Christ will bring to light every deed, good or bad that each believer has done on earth since he or she became a Christian. Every Christian will be rewarded based on his words, deeds, and faithfulness (see 1 Cor. 3 v.11-14).
Jesus illustrates judgment and regards in the parable He gives in Mat. 25 v.14-30. A man who is about to go on a journey entrusts his possessions to three of his servants, each according to his ability. These three servants represent Christians; the master represents Christ; and the possessions represent the time, talent, and treasures that Christ gives every Christian. In the parable, two of the servants are faithful with what the master gives them, but one is unfaithful. When the master returns and calls his servants before him, the two faithful servants are rewarded with more and are given rule or charge over many things. However, the unfaithful servant loses what he had been given and is cast into "outer darkness" (Mat. 25 v.30)
In this parable, those who are faithful with the time, talent, and treasures that Christ gives them will be rewarded with crowns (1 Cor. 9 v.24-27) and the opportunity to assist Christ in governing the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20 v.4). But those Christians who are unfaithful (Mat. 25 v.28-30) will have their rewards taken from them and given to those who were faithful, and they will be cast into "outer darkness," the place where there shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
In Revelation 22 v.12, Jesus Christ says, "I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Revelation 22 - Reward Are you ready to stand before the bema seat of Christ? Out of your love for Christ and appreciation for the gift of salvation, serve God faithfully now, and you will be rewarded later. The hope of winning crowns from Jesus Christ and reigning with Him should convince a Christian that running a faithful race is worth the effort. Being awarded any one of these crowns or opportunities to rule will be an honor beyond anything we can imagine. Let's go for it!
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