2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Today’s scripture is one that is rarely discussed, but it is not a minor topic in the New Testament. The meaning of the term “judgment seat” would surprise many Christians. The Greek word for “judgment seat” comes from the word bema. Bema is sometimes used in the Bible to refer to a raised platform where a Roman ruler sat to make decisions or pass sentence, but in Paul’s writings, his usage was more in keeping with the original Greek use for athletic contests. The word bema came from the Isthmian Games where contestants competed under the careful scrutiny of the judges who would make sure that every rule in the contest was being obeyed. The victor of a given event, who participated according to the rules, was led by the judge to the platform called the bema where the celery crown was placed on his head.
So, the judgement seat (for believers) is really more of a rewards seat. While some Christians fear that day, there is actually nothing to fear. As a believer our salvation is secure because it was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). The only question on that day is whether we receive any rewards at all, and that is determined by “the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10b). In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 we read that we will be judged based on what we build here on earth. If what we build survives, we will receive a reward. However, “if it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (v 14-15)
Much like an athlete is rewarded for their performance, albeit with perishable rewards, the day we sit on the judgment seat, we sit with an opportunity to receive eternal rewards. At the judgment seat of Christ, we are rewarded based on how faithfully we served Him, and the Bible lists five different crowns we can earn:
- Crown of Righteousness – This Crown is for those believers who “loved his appearing”, those who were ready & waiting for the Return of Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8).
- Incorruptable Crown – This is the Victor’s Crown for those who brought their bodies under control, those who were disciplined and had Self-Control (1 Corinthians 9: 25-27).
- Crown of Life – This is the Martyr’s Crown for those who were Faithful even unto Death— those who Patiently endured Testings, Temptations, and Trials. (James 1:12).
- Crown of Glory – The Elder’s Crown – This Crown is for those Leaders, Pastors, Elders, and Teachers who were Godly Examples to the Flock of Believers who were entrusted to their care. (1 Peter 5:2-4).
- Crown of Rejoicing – This is the Soul Winner’s Crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19; Daniel 12:3) – For Believer’s who were Obeying Jesus’ Great Commission to make Disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).
We serve God out of a deep love for him and an appreciation for what he has done for us, however, the Bible spends considerable time speaking of the crowns that await those who obey him, and these rewards can be a legitimate encouragement for us, especially when we face many trials often without seeing any earthly rewards. Will you be one receiving a prize, or will you be “only as one escaping through the flames”?